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Madam Minister by celticbard

Format: Novel
Chapters: 24
Word Count: 73,160
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Strong violence, Scenes of a sexual nature, Substance abuse, Sensitive topic/issue/theme

Genres: Drama, General, Romance
Characters: OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: Other Pairing, OC/OC

First Published: 03/15/2009
Last Chapter: 05/27/2012
Last Updated: 07/26/2012

Summary:







Amazing banner by the even more amazing Violet @ TDA.

"Well-behaved women rarely make history"-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich


At the end of the 18th century, Artemisia Lufkin became the first female Minister of Magic. She was a political genius, a top-notch Auror and a devoted disciple of the Enlightenment. But behind closed doors, she was also a hedonist, an adulteress and guilty of high treason.


Chapter 1: Prologue
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Author’s Note: Hello and welcome to the first installment of “Madam Minister”. I was first inspired to write this fic after reading about Artemisia Lufkin, the first female Minister of Magic from 1798-1811. Being an absolute nut for anything related to the 18th century and naturally curious about a woman named for absinthe, I just had to indulge in this bit of fiction. Unfortunately, Rowling tells us very little about Artemisia, except for her birth and death dates. Therefore, since I have no canon to adhere to, I’ve constructed my own.

And finally, as a warning, this prologue is exceptionally bleak, but the following story will certainly not be. Don’t let Artemisia’s initial angst frighten you away! ^_^ I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. All OCs mentioned herein belong to me.



Prologue

August, 1800 

Artemisia Lufkin sat with her back to her study door and wept. Fleetingly, she wondered if the servants could hear her, could trace her wails through the halls and out onto the slumbering grounds. But did it matter so much? Soon all of London would know why she wept, nay all of England.

It was over. In one minute. In one tempting flash of eternity. It was all over.

Her ministry, the first of its kind, had only lasted two years and Artemisia had no one to blame but herself.

That was the worst of it, sitting there in her ancestral family home, wallowing in sin.

It was her fault.

She wished she could blame her enemies in government. She wished she could blame chance, fate, or even God.

Yet there was nothing for denial.

Unsteadily, she raised herself to her bare feet and felt the stifling folds of her dressing gown slither down her legs. The night was wretched, muggy. A late thunderstorm had left the air charged, not cleansed, and even now the evening sky was thick with moody clouds.

Artemisia crossed to her desk and reached for a decanter of brandy. There was an empty glass left to the side, still sticky with the libation. She usually limited herself after partaking of wine during dinner, but what for it? Yes, she was due to sit for the Wizengamot tomorrow. And yes, she should be sober.

However, it seemed torturous to face the imminent onslaught of reproach, both public and private, without fortification.

She tried to pour the brandy into the glass, sloshing a few dark drops onto her papers instead.

Letters to the junior ministers. A half-written speech. A note to Henry.

In a fit of self-loathing, she drove these and the decanter onto the floor with one sweep of her arm. The glass shattered. A house elf came running.

She sent him away with a curse.

Wasted adrenaline thickened her veins. Artemisia forced herself to sit on the chaise by the window and watch the garden below. The constant, undulating movement of the summer breeze through the shrubbery lulled her into a state of feasible consciousness.

She had to be reasonable about this. There were things to take into account. The collapse of a ministry was no simple thing. Grogan Stump might be named as her successor, but he was young yet, impressionable and not likely to be popular with the Pureblood faction.

And then there was the war with France.

Bloody hell.

Artemisia flushed and flung the rest of the brandy out the open window. So this was the result of selfishness and insecurity and downright stupidity.

How could she bear to be alone with herself?

She tried to think beyond her life as Minister of Magic. What would happen after she resigned? She had no children to take comfort in, no husband, and no spinster sister. And after the news broke, who would dare associate with her?

Already she could picture the crude caricatures in the newspapers. The pamphlets passed around and sniggered over. The rebuttals. The condemnations. The damnations.

What was left? After twenty-five years of politics, she was forsaken.

And alone.

And forever stained.

There seemed no point in carrying on.

Smiling grimly, Artemisia lifted her hand and traced the length of her throat, wondering if age had already set into her skin. She was forty-six and her life was over.

The tears came swiftly. She rubbed at them with a sweaty palm. A jagged cloud passed over the moon and allowed a single beam of light to fall over the garden.

Strange, it all looked so cold to her now. The Italian statuary. The neat paths and trim flower beds.

Had she ever truly been happy here?

The great emptiness of the house was smothering and she realized she would give anything not to be alone.

Well, perhaps she had given everything already.

The note to Henry fluttered by the foot of the desk, held to the floor by a great splotch of brandy.

Henry. Would he wonder what had become of her? There was no fooling a man like Henry, even if he was a Muggle. Of course, the Obliviators would be sent in to destroy any memory he had of their time together. Her political supporters would try to sweep things under the rug, keep it from the press and the populace.

It was unseemly, after all, for the Minister of Magic to be an adulteress…and keep a Muggle lover.

In the end, it had come down to lust. To her unbridled vices. To the distractions she had been able to hide as a young woman, but no more.

Her meteoric rise was at its zenith and would end in disgrace.

Artemisia grimaced, thinking of the mess she had made.

Outside the window, the solitary moonbeam fell away and left the garden to deceptive shadows. She shut her eyes for an instant and tried to remember what it had been like to be young.

They had called her the great reformer, and true to her reputation she had washed the filth from the gutters of government and purified the corrupt.

The corrupt.

But she was one of them.

She pushed herself to a stand and approached the open window, anticipation stirring within her as the fitful wind swept through the house.

Suddenly everything seemed clear, a rare moment of complete understanding. Beyond the grounds of the estate, she could see the gentle lights flickering in the village, the fires guarding farmhouse hearths, the perfect steeple of the town church.

The air was tremulous. Artemisia realized then that her life had just been one grand exercise in abandonment, a great folly leading up to a terrible end.

It hadn’t begun that way. She could still recall her blessed youth, spending a year in France, reading Rousseau. Daring, yes, daring to dream of a new age.

No more.

And the fault was hers.

There was only one last thing she had to amend now.

Artemisia withdrew her wand from inside her dressing gown and pressed it to her temple.







Author’s Note: Thank you so much for taking the time to read. If you would be so kind, please leave a review. I’d love to hear from you.

In chapter one, we’ll travel back in time to the very being of Artemisia’s career and her first position with the Ministry that almost never happened. The next installment will be posted on Thursday the 19th. I hope you have a great weekend!

Chapter 2: The Duel
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Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. All OCs mentioned herein belong to me.

Chapter One The Duel

“It was in the reign of George III that these personages lived and quarreled; good or bad, handsome or ugly, rich or poor, they are all equal now.”-from ‘Barry Lyndon’ by William Makepeace Thackery


September 1772

It’s a horrid day for a duel, Dick Hart thought as he stood in a sheep pasture by Epping Forest. A brisk wind from the west tossed flossy clouds over the clean afternoon sky and the sun already blazed with promised summer warmth.

Had it been Dick’s choice and not the fault of pride and mischance, he would have given up the matter altogether. Unfortunately, his opponent would not offer an apology for her slight, and by the laws of honor, he would have to engage.

Slipping into a pair of old riding gloves, Dick waited with his second while the sanctioned third party inspected the wands. His was willow wood, thirteen inches, with a dragon heartstring core. The old fellow had seen him through years of intense Auror training and his subsequent placement in the office as junior secretary to the Department Head.

The offending party was a girl of eighteen.

“Ought to let the matter go,” his second, Mr. Hugh Brinton, commented, jerking his pointed chin in the direction of the girl.

“If the insult was not so egregious, I would have passed it by,” Dick replied.

The whole event made him decidedly uncomfortable, especially since the girl had effectively put herself on a course for confrontation.

From what he had learned, she was the youngest daughter of the Right Honorable Markham Lufkin. A retired Ministry bureaucrat of comfortable means, his eldest son worked as a lawyer defending wizard clients in civil cases. Miss Artemisia Lufkin herself had recently graduated from Hogwarts, a student of the Gryffindor House with exceptional grades now looking for work with the Ministry.

Dick frowned as he watched her moving restlessly about the opposite side of the pasture, her second reclining under the branches of an oak tree.

Although he knew little of Artemisia other than her family and academic achievements, he guessed her to be more than a bit rash and regrettably immature. Any young witch who sought to duel with a trained Auror had to be touched in the head.

Were he not a gentleman, Dick would blow her to smithereens.

He glanced at Hugh, who was squinting beneath the brim of his black tricorn.

“Is this all really necessary?” he asked.

Dick inhaled sharply and then his breath slipped out in a sigh. No, it wasn’t necessary, but what was a man to do? He might have been tempted to withdraw the challenge had Sir Julian Wenshaw not been standing by at the time of the insult. The officious bastard had put him up to it, after all.

“Too late,” he said, as the wand inspection concluded and both parties were summoned to the center of the pasture.

Dick and Hugh were forced to wade through ankle-high grass, avoiding the numerous rabbit burrows with difficulty.

Charles Gimly, the official witness, handed back the wands.

“All is in order,” he informed them. “And if I am correct, it has been decided upon by Mr. Hart that the duel shall end with first blood. No non-magical contact is permitted. Understood?”

Dick nodded slowly, watching Artemisia as she clutched her wand with white-knuckles. She was a young girl, tall, freckled, with yellow hair pulled back in a simple queue.

He felt like an utter villain.

“Twenty paces,” Mr. Gimly continued. “Since Mr. Hart has challenged Ms. Lufkin, he will cast his spell first. Are we all in accordance?” He glanced at Artemisia.

She nodded solemnly.

Dick’s neck suddenly felt stiff and he dipped his chin once.

Mr. Gimly fluttered his hands, the lace by his cuffs flapping in the breeze. “Backs together.”

Dick shrugged out of his coat and handed it to Hugh. The sweat on his forearms made his snowy shirtsleeves stick to his skin. He shivered a little as a particularly cool gust struck him. Behind him, he heard Artemisia readying herself.

Mr. Gimly cleared his throat. “Wands at the ready? Good. You may both strike out.”

Dick wrapped his fingers tightly around his wand and started forward. The dark green grass swam about his ankles. A butterfly drifted lazily past. He decided he would only attempt to disarm her first. With any luck, the blast would be strong enough to knock Artemisia off her feet and force her to capitulate.

He didn’t want to hurt her, after all.

On the twentieth pace, he stopped and turned smartly on his heel. Mr. Gimly and the seconds retreated to the shade of the trees ringing the pasture. Artemisia stood at the ready.

Stiffly, he managed a bow and watched her do the same.

A sheep bleated in the distance. Dick arched his arm and pointed his wand directly at the girl’s chest.

Great brute, he thought of himself, his cheeks warming suddenly.

His dry lips parted. “Expelliarmus!”

The spell streaked across the pasture with a faint burst of light, singeing several blades of dry grass.

Artemisia, for her part, did not try to duck or avoid it, but took the hit without flinching. As anticipated, she flew back into the air and landed a few feet from the oak tree. Her second rushed over, straining to help her up.

Shame swooped into Dick’s stomach. What had he done?

Surprisingly, the girl returned to her feet in a flash, bruised but not bloodied. She took up her place once more, dusting off the front of her grey waistcoat.

Dick saw her steady herself, saw her lift her arm and tilt her wand just so it pointed at his forehead.

For the first time, he felt a trickle of worry. Perhaps there was talent behind Artemisia’s confidence? After all, she had graduated top of her class.

The girl threw back her head, her tricorn falling from her brow. Her eyes narrowed. “Stupefy!”

The spell was a powerful one, but alas, her aim was off. Dick felt it whoosh past him, the hairs on the very top of his head standing on end.

Artemisia dropped her wand arm, now noticeably pale.

Dick squeezed his eyes shut. When would this business be over? He should have taken the insult in stride, should have shown true honor by being good-natured.

Damn that Wenshaw. This was all his doing.

“Mr. Hart!” Mr. Gimly called from his spot by the trees. “It is your shot.”

Dick clenched his jaw. “Flipendo!” he said through gritted teeth. Although he had intended the jinx to be gentle, his frustration unfortunately seeped through into his inflection.

This time Artemisia flipped head over heels and back into the trunk of the oak tree, causing the seconds and Mr. Gimly to scatter. For a long moment, she lay amongst the roots and didn’t move.

Dick lowered his wand. Bloody hell.

Mr. Gimly and Artemisia’s second both hurried to her side and in a few minutes they motioned for Dick to join them.

When he crossed the field, he found his opponent sitting in the dirt, blood streaming from her broken nose.

Without thinking, Dick reached into his pocket and found a handkerchief.

“Here, Miss Lufkin,” he said, holding it out to her.

Artemisia glared at him and waved it away.

“I believe we have satisfaction, Mr. Hart,” Gimly said with an expectant nod.

Dick stared down at Artemisia, unease settling into his gut like sour milk. “Indeed, Mr. Gimly,” he muttered, nearly choking on his reply.





On the Thursday morning after the duel, Dick returned to his office at the Ministry with little to say about the incident. Sir Julian Wenshaw had accosted him earlier in the hallway, demanding details. Dick made quick work of him and gruffly sent him on his way. Later, he worried about insulting the first son of a prominent Pureblood, but decided the goat had it coming anyway.

His colleagues, fortunately, seemed to share his attitude of discretion. Hugh Brinton was good enough to keep speculation at a manageable level, and just before noon he came into Dick’s office with a note from Head Auror Brutus Baddock summoning him to a meeting.

It wasn’t good news, Dick could tell.

He read the note with Hugh watching, and then took a minute to apply fresh powder to his wig. Neatness was a virtue amongst the King’s Aurors. It seemed rather ironic to Dick, who spent most of his time out in the field with dirt caked under his nails. Ministry policies, however, were not to be questioned.

“Don’t look so glum,” Hugh told him once they were out in the corridor, the heels of their shoes clacking along the hard wood floor. “Baddock can’t make a fuss over it. You were within the law.”

“I challenged a girl of eighteen to a duel.”

“But you had to. She insulted your honor.”

“Not intentionally,” Dick admitted, thinking back to the brief confrontation that had caused all the chaos.

It had happened three days ago, in the receiving chamber outside the Auror office. Dick had Apparated to the Ministry at half-past eight. Hugh Brinton was waiting from him, along with several esteemed colleagues and Sir Julian Wenshaw.

Dick had been feeling oppressed that very morning and wasn’t happy to see such a crowd. Pleasantries were exchanged. He tried his best to be polite but inwardly wished for an excuse to carry on his way unmolested.

At the same moment, a group of witches had been passing by. Judging from their youth, they were scarcely out of Hogwarts and Dick guessed that they were petitioning for positions with the Ministry.

His own crowd had parted to let them through at the same time one witch loudly announced that she thought it a shame the Ministry had done nothing about Tom Lankin, a poacher of some repute.

There was a general hush and Dick reddened, aware that the case had been given to him some time ago. Three months of trying to track Lankin down had yielded no results, and the matter was one of professional frustration.

A brief dispute followed between him and the offending witch. Dick had asked for an apology. Artemisia refused and once again affirmed that she thought the Auror in charge of the case was useless.

Had his peers, none of whom would take any insult lightly, not surrounded him, Dick would have let her go.

However, at the time, he was drunk with impulsion and poor Artemisia had no choice but to accept his challenge.

Outside the main corridor that ran down the length of the office, Hugh and Dick parted ways. Dick himself waited until his friend had disappeared behind his own door before slouching against the wood-paneled wall.

What a waste, he thought, feeling the full weight of his shame for the first time. Floating candles drifted down the hall, their wicks hardened with melted wax. The air was warm and not only his robes, but waistcoat and breeches smothered Dick. He rubbed his calves together to dispel the itchiness caused by his white stockings.

After a minute, the door at the end of the hall opened and Brutus Baddock stuck his head out, his wig grey with grease.

“Ah, Dick, my boy. Come on in lad.” The joviality of his tone was unexpected.

Dick followed him into the chamber, a bead of perspiration streaking down his temple. Baddock was pacing in front of his bookcases, mammoth shelves of mahogany that reached the ceiling and housed his special collection of Latin studies on the Dark Arts. A house elf busied itself by the stone hearth, sweeping ashes into a dustpan. On the desk in the center of the room, a quill pen moved lazily over sheets of parchment, bewitched to sign the dozens of official documents.

“Beastly weather,” Braddock said after Dick took his usual seat next to the desk. “Merlin’s bones, I hate London.”

“It is wretchedly warm,” Dick agreed, his parched tongue adhering to the roof of his mouth.

Baddock stopped pacing for a moment and chuckled. He was generally an amiable man and Dick always found his company agreeable. Somewhat past middle age, Baddock had developed a fair amount of paunch over the last few years, the girth of which now strained against his black waistcoat. For the most part, his tastes were simple. Cards, port and snuff, and his sense of unabashed honesty were both a virtue and a vice.

No matter how congenial he seemed, Dick knew Baddock wielded a firm hand with his Aurors. He kept the department’s standards righteously high and quickly disposed of those who rebelled against the rules.

Risk held no place in his life. He employed the motto, “Better safe than sorry”.

Dick swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing against his tightly tied cravat. Baddock settled himself behind his desk and plucked the quill from mid-air, letting it fall into a silver inkwell.

“I wanted you with me here today, Dick, because I know you to be a good judge of character,” he said.

“Character, sir?”

Baddock rubbed his chin with thick fingers. “The Ministry has been flooded with petitioners. Hogwarts turns out more wizards than we can afford to hire. I’m willing to take on five, but they must be accomplished--outstanding. The first of the flood arrives within the hour. Keep a sharp eye out for talent, solid talent, my boy. This department cannot afford noodle-heads.”

Dick withheld a sigh of relief. He had completely forgotten! This was a hiring year and the Ministry was looking to recruit. The Auror office in particular had been swamped with requests for commissions, although only the best would receive the prize.

He smiled gratefully. “You have it, sir.”

Perhaps the annoyance of the duel would fade away without notice after all.

For the next quarter of an hour, Dick suffered through Baddock’s small talk as they waited for the applicants to arrive. At one o’clock, Hugh Brinton knocked on the door and received order to admit the first petitioner.

Artemisia Lufkin was conducted into the chamber.

Dick froze when he saw her, the same tall, freckled girl with two vicious black eyes and a broken nose. Nonetheless, Artemisia introduced herself as though nothing had happened and took a seat opposite Baddock.

She then promptly presented them with letters of recommendation from several of her former professors, along with an assurance of good character from family friends and neighbors.

“I have also obtained my complete academic record from 1767 to 1771, pertaining to my third through seventh years at Hogwarts,” she concluded, handing over the last of the paperwork. “I hope you gentlemen shall find everything satisfactory and in order.” Her hands fell neatly onto her lap and remained there, though Dick noticed them twitch nervously.

In the silence that followed while Baddock looked over the documents, Dick allowed himself a moment of pure shame.

This was it then, his punishment. What a great brute he had been to call upon a girl of eighteen to duel. What could she possibly know of honor and the intricacies of the Ministry?

He ought to be strung up on Tyburn Hill with the likes of highwaymen and poachers.

The stream of sweat seeping from his brow quickened, and Dick was forced to dab at it fitfully with his handkerchief.

Baddock seemed to be taking his time, reading the papers over twice, inspecting the seals and signatures. Dick felt Artemisia’s bruised eyes on him. She had evidently tried to cover the marks with powder and compress the swelling with an anti-inflammation spell but to no avail.

Dick hung his head. What a disaster this whole affair had been!

Baddock summarily finished his inspection of the papers and handed them back to Artemisia with an indifferent grunt.

“Very well,” he said. “You’ve certainly got a fair mind, but it takes more than intellect to be an Auror, Miss Lufkin, much more.”

He steepled his fingers and smacked his lips once. When Artemisia didn’t respond, he continued. “It takes not only skill and endurance, but patience, my dear. A clear head. Fair judgment. As you are aware, Miss Lufkin, this department does not accept candidates on face value and I’m afraid I came across something rather troubling, a rather recent occurrence. You fought a duel not two days ago, provoked a member of this very office.”

Dick’s gut clenched. So here it was.

Artemisia flinched ever so slightly in her chair. “Sir?”

“Miss Lufkin, your temperament is not suitable for this position.”

“My most sincere pardon, Auror Baddock, but I-”

“Miss Lufkin,” Baddock interrupted her with a harsh cough. “Did you wish me to lie to you? Keep you here on false pretenses? If there is one thing I am opposed to, it is shilly-shallying about a matter. I pray you’ll accept my honesty. You are not suitable for this position.”

Artemisia seemed to deflate, her bony figure collapsing against her chair.

Baddock’s lips twitched with rare sympathy. “I must dismiss you now, Miss Lufkin. There are other candidates waiting.”

The utter pain and shock in her face was devastating. Artemisia rose stiffly, bowed and gathered up her papers.

“Thank you, sirs,” she said, flashing Dick a sorrowful glance, “for your time.”

The door closed quietly behind her and despite his searing guilt, Dick marveled at her self-control. Unable to sit still, he pushed himself off the chair and turned to Baddock.

“Sir, I-”

But the man wouldn’t let him speak. “You were within the law, my boy, and I know you do not make a habit out of dueling.”

“Miss Lufkin was within the law as well,” Dick protested, surprised at himself.

Baddock raised his keen eyes and smiled. “What’s this, Mr. Hart? You are defending her?”

“Not entirely!” Dick paced restlessly, his coattails swinging.

“But it was she who offered the offense.” The Head Auror opened his hands, palms tilted upward. “And it was she who refused an apology, even though you would have gladly accepted one. Any candidate that comes to us today must be pristine. Miss Lufkin’s record is marred.”

Dick exhaled sharply through his nose. “There is nothing to be done then?”

“I’m afraid not, my boy.”

Dick felt defeated, almost as if he had lost the duel. “May I have a moment, sir?” he asked. “The heat feels rather oppressive.”

Baddock had already busied himself amongst his papers and only waved his hand distractedly.

Dick quietly slipped out into the receiving room and turned, shocked to see Artemisia lingering by the staircase to the Atrium.

She had removed her tricorn and was patting down her powdered hair with her back to him.

Dick himself had half a mind to slip away without alerting her of his presence. But no, he ought to be a gentleman, ought to be honorable.

He stepped forward into her shadow and gently cleared his throat. “Miss Lufkin?”

She turned around; her face rendered even more battered by a haggard look of distraction.

For one dreadful moment, Dick’s mind went blank. He stood there and struggled to find words of comfort, or appeasement, but only managed, “If you are interested, the Department of International Magical Cooperation is accepting candidates and they are not quite so particular. Perhaps you’d think to call upon them?”

Artemisia stared at him, her expression maddened with incredulity. “Thank you, Mr. Hart,” she muttered. “I am forever grateful.” 





Author's Note: Thanks so much for taking the time to read. If you have a few spare minutes, please leave a review. I'd love to hear from you. ^_^

In chapter two, we'll jump forward another two years to 1774, when Artemisia is working as the personal secretary to the English ambassador to France. When Ambassador Honorius invites her along with him on a diplomatic trip to Beauxbatons Palace, Artemisia is forced to decide between her family and a career abroad. The next installment should be posted on Friday the 27th. I hope you have a great weekend!

Chapter 3: Pater Familias
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                                 Beautiful chapter image by Magpie @ TDA

Author’s Note: Just to avoid confusion--remember, this chapter takes place two years after the previous. I hope you enjoy!


Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. All OCs mentioned herein belong to me.


Chapter Two Pater Familias

Parents wonder why the streams are bitter, when they themselves have poisoned the fountain-John Locke

May 1774 


There was something about the rhythmic swaying of the coach that made Artemisia sleepy. She pressed the heels of her hands against her eyes and blinked hard against them.

Awake! Stay awake! 

It was no easy task. The day was sumptuously warm, a great reprieve after the cold of winter. With the window open, welcome breezes drifted into the interior, rendering the conveyance comfortable, not stuffy. Being the sole occupant, Artemisia dared to stretch her legs out and let her boots fall on the opposite seat.

The trip from London to Bath had been taxing, more so because of what she was on her mind rather than the rutted state of the roads. Artemisia had specifically asked Papa to send his coach for her. She hated flying and she needed time to ruminate, time that Apparation scarcely provided.

But here she was, so many days later and she hadn’t solved her quandary.

And damn it all, Ambassador Honorius expected her answer by owl tomorrow.

Artemisia leaned her head against the frame of the window and watched the road take on the familiar features she knew so well. Mrs. Birdy’s farm. The Muggle church. Then two luscious miles of unblemished countryside.

She sighed. Well, it was good to be home.

Months had past since she’d seen Papa for Christmas, although she had intended to come to Bath sometime in March. Her plans were dashed, however, when the Department for International Magical Cooperation became harried with activity. Relations with France were slowly being repaired a decade after the Seven Years War. It had been a Muggle conflict mostly, though a noticeable frostiness had developed between both the British and French Ministries. In fact, an official ambassador had not been stationed in France for six years.

Until now.

The coach rumbled around a long bend and Artemisia listened to the soft jangle of harness. Aging willow trees lined the narrowing road. She stuck her head out the window to catch a glimpse of the Lufkin estate.

The family was relatively new to the land. Their ancestral home had been in London and they were a city-dwelling people, until young Markham Lufkin married Ophelia Autumn, the daughter of a Hogwarts professor. With his tidy Ministry salary, Mr. Lufkin purchased his bride a house in Bath and the family became country gentry.

When the willows thinned, Artemisia spied the first of the outer gardens, great sweeping lawns with prim hedges and a statue of a nymph Papa had bought Mother after the birth of his son. Papa was an amateur botanist himself and kept greenhouses in the back by the stables where he tended to his flora and fauna.

The road widened as it climbed up a low hill, and then curved around into a long drive in front of the house.

Artemisia heard the driver hop off his seat as a groom came running to take the horses. She took a moment to snatch her hat off the seat beside her and fix it atop her head. The door to the coach jerked open, a small head with bulbous eyes peeking inside.

“Mistress Artemisia!” a house elf cried, bobbing on the balls of her tiny feet.

“Hullo, Sissy,” she replied, climbing out onto the dirt drive. The house, three storeys high and constructed of elegant red brick, loomed above her.

“Sissy has missed Mistress Artemisia,” Sissy bleated, hugging Artemisia’s knees. “Sissy wishes yous wasn’t always in London.”

“That makes two of us.” Gently, she plied the house elf off her legs and brushed the wrinkles from her jacket.

More house elves trotted from around the back of the house and helped the coachman with her luggage.

Artemisia hesitated before heading up the short set of stairs into the foyer.

She wanted to see Papa, but what would he think when he heard about France?

Never mind. She wouldn’t worry about the matter until after dinner, until after-

“I can scarce believe it!” A voice boomed from the foyer. “Is that my little daughter?”

Markham Lufkin paused on the top of the steps and studied her with the benign eyes of a lenient parent. “You’ve grown another inch, I swear!”

“Since Christmas?” Artemisia asked, letting herself fall into his ready embrace.

He was in his shirtsleeves and wearing a dirt-stained waistcoat. Artemisia smelled lilacs in his hair.

“In the gardens,” she sighed, letting him take her arm and lead her inside. “Papa, you’re a right mess, you are.”

“Insolent child,” Mr. Lufkin sniffed, his lips twitching.

Markham was a amiable man, a gentleman nearing fifty with his share of creases and discreet wrinkles about his blue eyes. His skin was unfashionably tan, his hands rough from weeding and he had the bearing of a tenant farmer, built well in the upper body with short, powerful legs.

“You were supposed to come in March,” he said, patting her hand once and then giving it a hard squeeze. “What kept you?”

Artemisia detected the undertone of sadness in his voice although he strove to disguise it. Papa, a seemingly strong man, had never done well on his own. And that worried her.

“Haven’t you read my letters? The Department has been occupied. France, you know,” she said vaguely, waving a hand. “We shall talk about it later. Is Tarquin here?”

“He is!” Her brother called from the parlor, rounding the door into the hall with a glass of sherry in hand. “Sister, there you are.” He leaned in for a kiss. “Look at you, a fair Londoner now, junior undersecretary to the French Ambassador.”

“Enough of your flattery,” she snorted. “I’m not accustomed to courtesy any more.”

Mr. Lufkin frowned. “Which is why I left London with your mother in the first place. Come into the parlor, both of you. I need to have a good look at my children.”

He positioned them both before the mantelpiece and remarked on how grown-up they seemed, Tarquin a lawyer and Artemisia employed by the Department of International Magical Cooperation.

Artemisia experienced a twinge of regret when he mentioned her career. It wasn’t her position of choice and although she had been with the Department for two years, she still lamented losing her chance as an Auror.

“Is there any dinner to be had yet?” she asked, hoping to turn the talk away from the uncomfortable subject.

“I should hope so.” Mr. Lufkin looked casually over his shoulder into the adjoining dining room. “Sissy, is the first course ready to be served?”

While he was distracted, Artemisia tugged on her brother’s sleeve.

“I must speak with you,” she mouthed.

Concern flitted across Tarquin’s face. “Later,” he whispered. “Not another duel, I hope?”

She jabbed him in the ribs just as Mr. Lufkin returned his gaze to them.

“Children, children!” He threw up his broad hands in protest. “Please, do be good to one another. I simply cannot countenance quarrels.” 













After dinner, a pleasant warmth still lingered in the air, allowing the family to retire outside to the terrace for a last drink. Mr. Lufkin had excused himself just as the meal was ending as he wanted to check the greenhouses one last time before the day was out. Artemisia was left alone with her older brother and she was glad for the privacy. If anyone knew how to solve her quandary, it was Tarquin.

The kitchen elves brought them a platter of fresh fruit to nibble on. Artemisia watched as Tarquin reclined in his chair, slender legs genteelly crossed. She couldn’t think of her brother as attractive, simply because he was her brother. However, she knew he had many female admirers and was never in want of a partner at dances.

Tall, lithe and agile, Tarquin had a graceful, if not roguish face. His eyes were their mother’s hazel, his hair their father’s youthful auburn. He sat sipping his port with exquisite refinement.

“I am beginning to think Papa loves you best,” he said. “Before you came he went on and on about your visit, about how much he misses you.”

Artemisia suffered through a pang of guilt. “That’s because your practice is in Bath and he sees you often enough.”

Tarquin scoffed as Sissy appeared on the terrace with a tray bearing two clay pipes and Virginia’s finest tobacco. He took one for himself and scowled when Artemisia reached for the second.

“Vulgar.”

“Oh hush, darling. It’s common in London.”

They passed a moment in silence. Artemisia stirred fitfully, wanting to seek his advice straightaway. But Tarquin was an intricate man, a true lawyer. He had to be cajoled in all things.

“You wrote to me of your practice,” she said, drawing her brows together in mock offense. “And yet you’ve asked me nothing of my work.”

Tarquin exhaled a silky stream of smoke. “You’re employed and my curiosity is limited.” He rolled his eyes at her. “I could never countenance Ministry bureaucrats.”

Artemisia laughed loudly, startling a lark in a nearby hydrangea bush. “Poor Papa, he needed to sire a daughter to follow in his footsteps.”

“Oh, I did have hope for you,” Tarquin replied. “After that duel with the man from the Auror’s office.”

Artemisia reached over the table and pinched his arm. “Villain!”

Tarquin jerked away, a droplet of port falling from his glass. “The Ministry hasn’t matured you yet.”

“Tarquin!” Artemisia employed a pout. “Damn your law books, they’ve made you a bore.”

“Better than a lackey,” he said.

She glared in the face of his jester’s smile. “I need to talk to you.”

“Chatty little thing. How many letters have you sent me over the past month?”

“This is different.” Artemisia puffed on her pipe, glancing once over her shoulder to make sure they were alone. Out on the lawn, a young doe nosed amongst the clover, silhouetted by the dying sun. “Well, it is about the Ministry. I just don’t want Papa to hear.”

For the first time, Tarquin’s face darkened. “Artemisia.”

“There’s no trouble.” She held up a hand. “Quite the opposite. You see, I’ve had an invitation from Ambassador Honorius. All that business with France…he’s been stationed at the Beauxbatons Palace in Marseilles as the English Ambassador and he’s asked me to come with him as his personal secretary.”

Tarquin’s eyes widened, his fingers slipping on the stem of his glass. “Merlin’s bones!”

“I know.” Artemisia settled back into her chair. “And I haven’t slept two nights in three.”

“Why? Are you not delighted?”

“Yes, but.” She drew her teeth over her bottom lip. “I’ve been thinking about Papa, Tarquin. He suffered so much when I moved to London. If I was to go to France--for an extended period of time--how should he react?”

Tarquin sighed and put out his pipe. “You cannot concern yourself with that, my dear.”

“But I have.”

He studied her for a moment, the ribbon that fastened his queue fluttering in the dusk breeze. “And now it’s settled into your mind like a boulder. Artemisia, what am I to do with you?”

“But you understand, don’t you?” Artemisia was insistent.

Tarquin uncrossed his legs and placed both feet firmly on the stone floor of the terrace. “In a manner. When we were both off at Hogwarts, our old governess, Mrs. Harris, used to tell me how forlorn Papa would get.”

“He is not a man to be left alone. He needs us.” And in saying so, Artemisia felt as though she would never leave home again. Ambassador Honorius could go to France on his own, that was just fine with her.

Poor Papa! He needed his family. He had only weathered the untimely death of his wife with his children’s fond and loyal presence.

Artemisia knew her brother was a good son and he had curbed his own ambitions to be closer to home. Therefore, what he said next shocked her deeply.

“My dear, you must go to France.”

Artemisia was so surprised that she reeled backwards, knocking the pipe from her hand. A house elf appeared from nowhere, snatched up the pipe and refilled it for her.

“How can I?” she asked, taking the fresh pipe.

Tarquin shrugged his narrow shoulders. “You are employed by the Department for International Magical Cooperation. If you ever wish to be a diplomat, you must go abroad.”

“But-”

“Artemisia, you are much too accomplished to spend your days dusting Ambassador Honorius’ collection of pamphlets on Cornish pixies.”

“I don’t do that every day,” she said indignantly.

Tarquin raised a brow. “Papa would want you to go to France. He’s worked all these years to educate you and someone needs to carry on the family legacy. Merlin’s bones, it shan’t be me!” He leaned back in his chair with a laugh.

Artemisia wanted to reply, but Mr. Lufkin came out onto the terrace then, wiping his soil-stained hands on a handkerchief.

“My naughty children, you’ve started without me,” he said, noticing their half-empty glasses of port and pipes.

“Sir, you love your flowers more than your offspring,” Tarquin said, his lips crooked with a grin.

Mr. Lufkin waved a hand. “Bah!” He took a seat between them and plucked a ripe grape from the fruit platter.

Artemisia watched him chew slowly, her muscles tensing. She could contain herself no longer.

“Papa, I’ve had an offer to go to France.”

Mr. Lufkin’s jaw went slack, his throat contracting as he swallowed.

“What’s this?”

“Ambassador Honorius has been posted at the Beauxbatons Palace in Marseilles. He wants me to accompany him as his personal secretary.”

“When?”

“In three weeks time. He expects my answer by tomorrow.”

Mr. Lufkin did not respond at once, but poured himself a glass of port. The sun slipped entirely beyond the horizon and for a brief moment, the trees hemming the estate were illuminated from behind.

Tarquin was the first to break the silence. “It is a generous invitation, Papa.”

“Indeed.” Mr. Lufkin smiled a bit too brightly. “You’ll make a diplomat yet, my jewel.” He reached over the table and patted her hand. “Won’t you accompany the Ambassador?”

Artemisia hesitated. “I will, Papa, but…to leave home, much less England, I…” She trailed off.

Mr. Lufkin’s face tightened. “Nonsense . You’re near twenty. It is time. Go now and send the good Ambassador an owl, but use mine, not one of your fat hens. They were never so speedy.”

“I will, but-”

Go, Artemisia.” This was Tarquin, strangely serious.

She forced herself out of her chair. “Please excuse me.” Her retreating footsteps echoed along the terrace. Artemisia turned into the house, but stopped in the dining room. Some thrifty house elf had opened the windows overlooking the lawn and from outside, she heard the whispered voices of her family.

“She needs to go, Papa,” Tarquin said.

There was silence, then.

“I know, Tarquin,” Mr. Lufkin replied. “But I won’t pretend that it doesn’t pain me.”













Author’s Note: Whew! That’s another chapter finished. In the next installment, Artemisia finds herself bored and isolated in France as the secretary to the English ambassador. Restricted to the opulent and overly-extravagant Beauxbatons Palace, she makes the acquaintance of a strange, young philosopher/lawyer who will undoubtedly change her life. With any luck, chapter three should be posted on Tuesday, April 7th.

Thank you so much for reading. If you have the time, please leave a review. I cherish all feedback. Have a great week!

Chapter 4: Beauxbatons
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                                     Fabulous chapter image by lotrfan185 @ TDA


Author’s Note:
Please keep in mind, that as far as this fic goes, Beauxbatons has yet to become a school. At this point, it’s the home of the French Ministry of Magic and will not become a magical academy until after the Revolution. JKR did not supply much of a history for Beauxbatons, so I have attempted to create my own.

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. All OCs mentioned herein belong to me.


Chapter Three Beauxbatons 

The English are predisposed to pride, the French to vanity-Jean Jacques Rousseau

September 1774, Marseilles, France

Artemisia dropped her quill pen back into the inkwell and surveyed the letter she had written to Tarquin. It wasn’t a neat thing--her penmanship had never been the best, and the parchment smelled faintly of honeysuckle. She did not know why the French insisted on perfuming paper. It was all rather garish in her opinion.

Artemisia read the letter over once to herself, and then out loud. No phrase must be out of place. Tarquin, with his lawyer’s mind, would tease her for even a few mistakes.

My dear brother,” she began, reclining in her high-backed chair. “I received your last several days ago. I sincerely hope you did not expect the return of the owl. The poor creature was caught in some foul weather over Paris and arrived at Beauxbatons greatly battered. I have been nursing him with milk and bread until he recovers.”

She paused and glanced at the covered cage she had borrowed from the palace owlery. The bird was most likely dozing, although she’d let him out shortly to catch mice in the gardens.

I was most happy to hear that you were successful in your endeavor to free your client, Mr. Raleigh, from the frivolous suit against him. You are fortunate to have things go so well. As for myself, I am…comfortable, if not without distraction.”

A derisive snort escaped her. Comfortable, yes. Artemisia was quite comfortable at Beauxbatons. She had small apartments adjoining the Ambassador’s and they had both been housed in a wing that was commonly reserved for visiting statesmen. Although, if she had to complain, her bedroom did overlook the stable yard and all night long she was disturbed by the constant clatter of hooves on cobblestone.

Tarquin needn’t know that, however.

I have settled into my apartments quite nicely, though I have been out more often than not. Dear brother, the stories of Beauxbatons’ splendor are true. Has Papa shown you the rough sketches I sent him of the gardens? They are to the west of the palace and quite large. You can imagine the opulence, I’m certain…manicured lawns, statuary and the most exquisite flower beds. There is a secluded copse known as the Grove of Aphrodite where lovers meet surrounded by twelve foot hedges. Living fauns and wood nymphs are employed to wander about playing flutes. It’s all very charming, if not overbearing. I linger out of doors when I can, though alas, my time is almost exclusively devoted to the salons.”

Artemisia stopped reading and put the letter down at once. Homesickness was as catching as the plague these days and she had been under the weather for nearly a month.

Yes, Beauxbatons was beautiful and yes, she was fortunate to have accompanied Ambassador Honorius abroad, but Merlin’s bones, she missed England.

Tarquin, however, needn’t know that either.

I spend most of my evenings in the salon of Camille Desjardins. He is the undersecretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. You would laugh if you saw him. He’s near as tall as you, but skinny and fond of opulent wigs. Wherever he walks, there is a trail of powder. Ambassador Honorius goes to play cards with him every evening, but drifts off to sleep after he has had a single glass of wine. He is roused only when his turn comes about, although I do not believe he is a skilled card player. Perhaps Desjardins would do better to let him be. But we have made progress here, so the Ambassador tells me. We are about to sign a trade agreement regulating the exportation of unicorn tail hair. The Ambassador has gone off to the opera tonight to celebrate.”

Artemisia found herself smiling as she read over the last line. She was glad the Ambassador had been invited to the opera, the poor man had scarce seen the outside of the palace walls in three months.

He was a genial fellow and she tended to think of him as the kindly grandfather she’d never had. When they were not in the salons or writing letters to be sent to the Ministry, he would tell her stories of his days in the American colonies, treating with Indian shamans. But Fredrick Honorius was nearing seventy and was swiftly losing what vitality he had left.

Artemisia secretly thought he was the wrong man for the job. Her opinion, although, did not matter.

As for the French themselves, I have not yet grown accustomed to their ways. Their entire government is centered at Beauxbatons. At any given time, the palace is home to ministers, bureaucrats, politicians and those seeking patronage. I don’t understand how any business is accomplished, to be truthful. Ministers spend their days attending concerts and lectures, devoting their nights to drinking, gaming and dancing.”

Was she being too direct? She wondered if she should perhaps soften the last paragraph with a jest. Tarquin would see through it, though. Her distaste for life in France was woefully clear. She felt rather wretched despite the general gaiety of the place, though then again, Beauxbatons was always in a state of celebration.

I have made few acquaintances so don’t you dare accuse me of laziness. You know quite well that my French isn’t up to standard, despite my diligence with the subject. Dear Tarquin, I make a poor diplomat, but say nothing of this to Papa! I remain, sir,

Yr Most Obedient Sister,
Artemisia Lufkin
Secretary to the Honorable Ambassador Fredrick Honorius


Alas, it wasn’t a very good letter, but she had long ago lost her taste for correspondence. She folded the parchment neatly on the polished surface of her desk. The window over her clothespress was open and through it came the sound of a coach passing through the stable yard, wheels grinding against stone.

With any luck, Tarquin would receive the missive and then cast it into the fire before Papa found it. Her father was blissfully unaware of her dissatisfaction with diplomacy. To him she only sent frivolous little notes, playful things so akin to the happy letters she had sent him from Hogwarts during her school days.

But not now.

Artemisia thought she’d take her own advice and go to the gardens. She placed her jar of ink back in the stand and cleaned the tip of her pen with a torn piece of parchment, noticing the dark stains on the cuff of her shirt.

“Damn it all to bloody hell,” she growled. Clothing was becoming an issue and she was almost tempted to add a postscript asking Tarquin for money.

But then he might get worried. And he might suspect that she wasn’t exactly adjusting to life at Beauxbatons where fashion was the order of the day. Since coming to France, she had been forced to spend a good portion of her Ministry salary on a new gown and coat. She was trying to save for an embroidered waistcoat, although the price of silk was rising.

Her attire wouldn’t have been a worry in London where British Ministry officials were not expected to keep up with fashion, unlike the French. At Beauxbatons, dressing for dinner in and of itself was an event. There was no getting by without a foppish wig and a face made-up to look like a china doll.

Thank Merlin Ambassador Honorius had not invited her to the opera tonight. Otherwise, she would have had to scrounge for paniers just to look suitable.

Artemisia pulled a jacket over her shirt and tucked her cuffs up into the sleeves. Hopefully, no one would notice. She was quite tired of getting looks in the corridors.

Before leaving her apartments, she removed the cover from the bird cage and opened the door. The brown barn owl blinked at her sleepily, his broken feathers fluttering in the slight breeze coming in from the window.

“Pick those French mice clean,” she told him, unable to ignore the satisfaction she felt at saying so.

Artemisia watched as owl hopped down from his perch and winged his way over to her bedpost. When he swooped out of the window, she became aware of the angry tears gathering in her eyes.

So much for diplomacy. She absolutely detested the French. 

 




And Artemisia Lufkin would have detested the French for the rest of her life…had she not gone walking in the gardens that night. As it was, her evening did not begin smoothly. While she was passing through the Hall of Illumination, which connected a large chamber used for formal audiences to the first of the governmental offices, she was forced to squeeze by a gaggle of ladies tittering behind their fans.

They were each dressed for the evening and even though it was an inherent tendency of hers to gawk at the outrageous fashion, she turned her eyes away.

Unfortunately, she was astute enough to catch a whispered quip or two.

La petite Anglaise,” one giggled.

The others agreed.

Artemisia sighed. She was not known by her proper name here at Beauxbatons, but by a series of childish sobriquets she found insufferable, the most offensive of which was “la bouseuse Anglaise”. Good thing she hadn’t told Tarquin about that one.

Discreetly crossing the path of the women, she forced her focus elsewhere to the unabashed splendor around her. It was almost too gaudy, this place. The Hall of Illumination itself was just one of many architectural masterpieces to be found at Beauxbatons. On her right, arched windows overlooked the magnificent gardens. On her left a series of nearly three hundred mirrors ran the length of the Hall. Gilded sculptures of Grecian nymphs and cherubs lined the walkway.

Artemisia had heard that their was a matching Hall of Mirrors at the King’s palace of Versailles. Louis XIV had built both structures in the late 17th century to complement each other, although French Muggles most assuredly never saw Beauxbatons.

It seemed a shame to her that such a place should be devoted entirely to governmental ministers who lived like royalty in indiscreet opulence.

Perhaps that was what made her dislike France the most. There was something about the British Ministry’s simple honesty, its age-old purity that was not found here and never would be. As it was, she couldn’t imagine the English and the French governments ever seeing eye to eye while they both existed under such alien conditions.

Artemisia paused by one of the high windows and glanced out into the gardens. The mermaid fountain, the main attraction of the garden, spouted clear water onto the gravel path around it, although on particularly festive occasions, it was often bewitched to spray wine instead.

How utterly ridiculous-

Footsteps sounded behind her. She half-turned, the palm of her right hand cradling her elbow.

A young man was hurrying through the Hall.

At first she only noticed the book he clutched tightly in his arm. Squinting, she read the title.

Du Contrat Social Ou Principes Du Droit Politique 

Intriguing, she thought and then shifted her gaze to the man.

He was most peculiar, with small features and a plain, sky blue coat. She watched him as he walked, his limbs rigid, his steps jerky, his free hand opening and closing convulsively. On the bridge of his nose he wore spectacles.

Artemisia stepped away from the windows. She had not seen this man before. He must be newly arrived at Beauxbatons.

A smile lifted her lips. He was almost beyond her view now, his determined stride carrying him far despite the shortness of his legs.

Where could he be off to?

On a whim, she decided to follow him. 

 




The palace gardens were enticing in late September. Artemisia was happy to cast off the heat of the summer in favor of the frost-tinted winds of early fall. The trees themselves were still full and green, though trembling with a promised chill. She felt comfortable in her jacket and breeches, going so far as to pull her tricorn off her head to let the breeze brush her brow.

The man was easy to follow. Although he moved quickly, his pace was no match for Artemisia’s long legs. She kept him in her line of vision, trailing his progress underneath a stone arch draped with graceful vines. Twilight touched the sky overhead, permeating the blue with dying light.

How very enchanting this all is, she thought, stealing through an elegant garden at dusk after a mysterious gentleman. She hadn’t been quite so excited in months, even though she wasn’t certain where the chase would lead.

Perhaps I would have made a poor Auror after all, Artemisia mused. I can hunt, yes, but little else.

The man suddenly rounded a neat shrub, disappearing for a perilous moment and leaving her breathless. But then he emerged once more, moving down a path that led to the sheltered rose garden.

She noticed how he deliberately swung his arm as he walked and how he held himself when stringent rigidness. His awkward façade only served to rouse her curiosity. She wondered, vaguely, what his name was.

Artemisia waited until he had entered the rose garden before she followed. He had picked up his pace now and was moving faster. She broke into a trot. The lane curved around a bend, then emptied into a basin of cool grass surrounded by oak trees.

Damn it all! She’d lost him. Where had he slipped off to? After a long minute of waiting for her quarry to resurface like a frightened pheasant, she turned on her heel…and nearly collided with the man.

“Are you following me?”

“Pardon?”

“Are you following me, mademoiselle?” He was not at all pleased. Anger flooded his watery green eyes.

Artemisia considered the gentleman. Should she tell him the truth? Why not? It was harmless enough.

“Yes, monsieur, I was,” she replied, “but only because I wished to see what book you were carrying.”

Seemingly out of reflex, he clutched the book tighter under his arm, his features narrowing.

No, he wasn’t pleased. She dropped into a bow. “Good evening, monsieur. I am Artemisia Lufkin the-”

“The personal secretary to Ambassador Honorius. Yes, I’ve seen you about the palace.”

Artemisia waited from him to return the courtesy and introduce himself, but he did not. So much for the etiquette of the French, she thought. At least she still had her solid English breeding.

“I am sorry to have startled you,” she said, by way of an apology.

“You did not.”

“Will you show me your book to satisfy my curiosity?”

Incredulity seethed beneath his pale face. “Are you a British spy?”

“No!” Now it was Artemisia’s turn to take umbrage.

He wavered a bit under her glare. “Rousseau,” he said, showing her the front cover with the name Jean Jacques Rousseau printed neatly across.

“A Muggle writer?”

“Yes. You have not heard of him?”

“No.”

The man looked offended. Artemisia suddenly had the urge to change the subject.

“Have you just come to Beauxbatons?” she asked. “I have not seen you in the salons before, nor at the concerts, nor at the lectures-”

“Indeed.” With a flick of his wrist, he pushed his spectacles up onto his forehead and stared at her. “I arrived only two weeks ago, from the provinces.”

“You must be seeking patronage then.”

“No. I am a lawyer. I was called here to give an account on the bread shortage in my parish.”

“Ah.” Artemisia experienced a welcome surge of nostalgia. “My brother is a lawyer. He works out of Bath. What manner of law do you practice?”

The man ignored her. “How long have you been here, Mlle. Lufkin? My friends tell me you came in the summer, but they were not specific as to the date.”

“I arrived in June. But friends? You say you have friends?”

He sighed and let his spectacles drop back down onto his nose. “Yes.”

Strange, Artemisia thought. This man lacked the usual warmth of human nature. He was entirely cold, detached and fascinating.

She especially enjoyed his accent, which seemed a touch more rustic than the lacquered tones she was accustomed to hearing in the palace.

“You have a lovely way of speaking,” Artemisia told him. She meant it as a compliment, but the man obviously took offense.

“Forgive me, but your French is atrocious. Did you learn to speak it at, ahem, Huagworts?”

She tried desperately not to laugh, but oh, he was delightful. He pronounced each word with such flair.

“Hogwarts, no. I taught myself.”

“Ah.” He nodded with understanding.

Artemisia knew she should be insulted, but strangely, she wasn’t. At least this gentleman wasn’t quite so boring.

She wondered what they might talk about, for strangely, she wanted to keep his company. He certainly did not have the temperament of an artist and was not nearly as flighty as the fops she had encountered. Once more, she glanced at the book in his hand.

“What an odd thing it is.”

His nostrils dilated slightly. “Yes?”

Du Contrat Social Ou Principes Du Droit Politique.” Gently, as if lifting a babe from the cradle, Artemisia slid the book from underneath his arm.

The man blanched, flinching at the sudden physical contact. “Mlle. Lufkin!”

The book’s binding was well-worn, the parchment creased and in certain places, marked with ink. Clearly, it had been read a dozen times. A faint citrus smell drifted up from the pages as she flipped through them. Oranges.

“Do you have another copy?” she asked him.

“No.” He stared at her, horrified.

Artemisia laughed and handed his dear treasure back to him. “Can you find me one? I should like to read this Rousseau.”

“Why?”

“I am an educated woman, monsieur. And if I am to learn anything of France, I must read. What? Did you think I was illiterate?”

He regarded her skeptically. “I make no promises.”

“I have not asked you to.”

“This is all highly irregular.”

“I did not know curiosity was condemned at Beauxbatons.”

The man tucked the book carefully under his arm. “We shall see,” he said, a trace of a sneer leaving his lips hard.

Artemisia, however, thought he looked terribly sad.

He bowed once and then turned back down the garden path.

“Good evening, monsieur!” she called after him, but to no avail. Watching his retreating back, the coattails of his blue jacket flaring with each measured step, she felt a stirring of sorrow.

Shame. She would be sorry if she never saw him again. 


 





Three days later, at half-past five in the morning, Artemisia was sitting at the desk in her bed chamber once more, fastening Tarquin’s letter to the owl’s leg. The bird had made a full recovery, much to her chagrin, for deep down inside, she enjoyed his silent companionship and liked to see him wing home every night with a French mouse clamped in his beak.

And yet, she couldn’t keep him at Beuxbatons. The owl was an English bird and didn’t deserve to be caged in the garish palace.

With last night’s wine still burning in her temples, she crossed to the window overlooking the stable yard and set the bird free. The creature dropped effortlessly into the sky without faltering, disappearing beyond the line of oak trees on the far side of the gardens.

Artemisia rested her elbow on the casement and allowed herself an ounce of self-pity. Now, she truly was alone.

A rapping sound alerted her to someone’s presence in the corridor outside. She turned and noticed a piece of parchment that had been shoved under the door. What was this?

Artemisia closed the window before snatching up the paper. It was a folded letter. Certainly nothing from home?

No, the parchment smelled of oranges.

She ripped open the seal and was surprised when several documents fluttered free. Gathering them in her hands, she brought the whole mess over to the desk and read the missive, her heart swelling with renewed appreciation.

Mlle. Lufkin,

I am afraid I was unable to find a copy of Rousseau’s Du Contrat Social Ou Principes Du Droit Politique on such short notice. However, I copied over the first three pages by hand so that you might read them at your leisure. If your curiosity remains, you might be interested in attending the salon of Madame Crevecoeur, who regularly gathers with her friends to discuss the writings of Rousseau every Thursday evening. You may as well be advised that I too will be in attendance, though whether you might find this a deterrent or not, I cannot judge. I remain,

Yr. Most Obedient Servant,
Maximilien Rondelet
"
 


 




Author’s Note: I’m thrilled to have this chapter posted, even though it is on the slow side. Many exciting things await Artemisia in France and the next seven chapters or so will completely cover her time at Beauxbatons. She’ll attend salons, be introduced to the Enlightment, learn how to be a politician and even fall in love.

I’d like to extend my most heartfelt thanks to my wonderful readers and reviewers. You guys are amazing! Chapter Four should be posted by Wednesday the 15th.

Have a great week!

Translations
La petite Anglaise: Little English girl
La bouseuse Anglaise: The English bumpkin (Special thanks to PeguinsWillReignSupreme for this one!)

 Du Contrat Social Ou Principes Du Droit Politique: The Social Contract
 


Chapter 5: Maximilien Rondelet
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Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. All OCs mentioned herein belong to me.


Chapter Four Maximilien Rondelet 


Man is born free, and everywhere he is in shackles.--Jean Jacques Rousseau


At precisely half-past seven on Thursday evening, Artemisia left her apartments and went to the salon of Madame Crevecoeur. She was unusually nervous about the gathering, having little to no idea what manner of guests she would encounter and what exactly the conversation would entail.

Would the company be much like Monsieur Rondelet, serious, stoic and bespectacled? Artemisia certainly couldn’t picture them as dandies.

She felt decidedly self-conscious about her French, considering that she might have to engage learned philosophers in debate. Over the past two days she had studied the first three pages Rondelet had copied for her. The excerpt hardly served to educate her properly on Rousseau’s work, although she was undeniably fascinated by the Muggle writer.

Hopefully, she wouldn’t make a grand fool of herself.

Madame Crevecoeur’s salon was located at the bottom of a wide staircase, off a ground-floor entrance to the gardens. Artemisia guessed that her hostess must be in high favor, or of some importance to the government. Apartments such as hers were reserved for either the very rich or the very powerful.

A liveried footman admitted her into a small antechamber that was decorated with bowls of fresh roses and gilt-edged chairs. She was asked to wait while Madame was informed of her arrival. It was then that Artemisia really began to worry.

What am I doing here, she thought, completely out of my element, an English ass in a French stable. Surely, I’ll be the laughingstock of Beauxbatons!

She was planning a hasty retreat when the footman returned and told her she was to be received.

“No escape now,” she muttered to herself in English and forced her features into a mask of calm neutrality.

The footman led her through a second door into a drawing room, announcing, “Madamosielle Artemisia Lufkin, secretary to Ambassador Honorius,” as he did so.

And then he stepped aside.

Artemisia was introduced to an elegantly dressed, middle-age woman and her gentleman companion.

The lady rose to her feet immediately and holding out her arms, embraced Artemisia like a daughter.

“Mlle. Lufkin,” she said, pecking her lightly on both cheeks. “What a sincere honor and a pleasure it is.”

“Madame Crevecoeur, I presume?” Artemisia replied, dropping into a bow as the woman moved away.

“Indeed,” Madame replied. “Please allow me to introduce my husband, Monsieur Crevecoeur. He is the French liaison to the Italian Ministry of Magic.” She gestured to the seated gentleman, who stood quickly and bowed.

Artemisia managed a smile.

“And you are already acquainted with dear Maxime,” Madame continued, stepping to the side to reveal Rondelet, who was sitting by the fireplace drinking watered down wine.

“Yes!” Artemisia said, happy to see a familiar face. She approached the lawyer, her smile widening. “I owe much to you, monsieur. Thank you for the pages of Rousseau.”

Rondelet did not meet her eyes, but examined the diluted wine in his glass. “Have you read the entire excerpt?”

“Indeed, nearly five times over.”

“And what is your opinion of Rousseau now, Mlle. Lufkin?” he asked, only to be interrupted by Madame.

“Maxime, can you not wait for my other guests to arrive?” she said, a merry twinkle in her grey eyes. “We shall have plenty of time for talk later. Mlle. Lufkin must get settled. Tell me, my dear, would you care for some refreshment?”

Artemisia’s initial awkwardness and tension soon began to dissipate as she was served some chilled wine and sweet meats. She found an empty chair next to Rondelet and answered Madame’s questions about England.

The company’s favorite subject was Hogwarts, a source of both curiosity and vexation for the French, who had only several small, scattered magical institutions of their own.
“And you study only magic at Hogwarts?” Monsieur Crevecoeur asked after Artemisia had rattled off the standard curriculum of her alma mater.

“Yes,” she replied, somewhat bemused by the obvious question. “What else should a student be taught?”

Monsieur Crevecoeur’s heavy black eyebrows darted upward. “That is a matter for debate,” he said, stretching out one long leg on the carpeted floor, his muscled calf bulging inside a silk stocking.

“I’m afraid I don’t understand,” Artemisia said, addressing her query to Madame.

It was Rondelet, however, who answered.

“He speaks of philosophy, Mlle. Lufkin. And Classics. Law. Art.”

Artemisia glanced at him with narrowed eyes. “Why, those are Muggle subjects.”

“Not entirely,” Madame put in.

“For English wizards they are.” Artemisia sipped her wine thoughtfully. “It is rather unfashionable for Pureblood children to study Muggle arts. I don’t imagine the notion would be particularly popular with many prominent families, including my own.”

“But you read Rousseau.” Rondelet stiffened in his chair and pushed his spectacles onto his forehead. “Is that unfashionable?”

Artemisia considered him for a minute before answering. “It’s not common,” she replied at length with a shrug. “Muggle writers lack an understanding of the world as a whole. They cannot comprehend magic, therefore, they cannot understand our society.”

Monsieur Crevecoeur laughed deeply, the sound like a brass bell in a church tower. “Mlle. Lufkin is not familiar with Rousseau’s theory of the natural man, I take it.”

“I would have thought it common sense!” Rondelet interjected.

“Oh, Maxime,” Madame cajoled. “You cannot expect everyone to be as enlightened as you.”

And then they all laughed, though Artemisia wasn’t entirely amused. Did they think her simple just because she wasn’t familiar with Muggle writers and philosophers? Well, then, she’d certainly show them.

Although, she had to admit, their ideas were…unique.

A short time later they were joined by several more guests. Another couple, Monsieur and Madame Lamont arrived, along with a bachelor named Girard who worked as a naturalist for the French Ministry’s division for the regulation and control of magical creatures. He and Artemisia had a lively discussion regarding the exportation of unicorn tail hair and they both agreed that the newly signed trade agreement was unprecedented.

When the company had been served wine and refreshments, Madame Crevecoeur brought them to order with all the quiet dignity befitting her station.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” she said, fan fluttering at her breast, “we are most fortunate to have amongst us Mademoiselle Artemisia Lufkin of Bath. Our Maxime has just introduced her to the writings of Rousseau, an excerpt from Du Contrat Social Ou Principes Du Droit Politique.”

“I wanted very much to get a copy of my own,” Artemisia said, heartily embarrassed by all the fuss, “but the book seems to be in short supply.”

“You could ask Maxime to part with his,” Monsieur Lamont said, “although I’ve heard tell that he sleeps with his copy underneath his pillow.”

Rondelet reddened as the company tittered and Artemisia felt a twinge of sympathy. The Crevecoeur’s guests may indeed be enlightened, but they were no less snobbish than the noodleheads dancing and drinking in the halls.

“Please, do not trouble our Maxime,” Madame implored with all the false earnestness of a pantomime. “I hear he has another speech for us this evening. Maxime, would you care to indulge us?”

Rondelet removed his spectacles for a moment and cleaned the glass with an embroidered handkerchief. “If the company is willing,” he said icily.

“We always are, Maxime,” Madame Lamont insisted.

Artemisia watched Rondelet’s face twitch nervously and again, she smelled oranges on him.

“I should like to hear you speak, Maxime,” she said, dropping all pretense of formality. “You were too brief in the gardens the other day.”

He raised his eyes to her and for an instant, a flicker of appreciation lit their watery green depths.

“Very well,” he said, returning his spectacles to their rightful place and rising. “This speech, as it is, was inspired by my meeting with Mlle. Lufkin. Perhaps she should be flattered.”

“I don’t know” Artemisia replied. “It all depends on what you have to say of me.”

Rondelet, as was his custom, ignored her.

Artemisia couldn’t help but notice the delicate hush that descended over the company. Fans stilled and stirrings ceased. An air of expectant tension spiced the already fragrant air.

Perhaps, even though Rondelet was teased, he was still respected. She at least felt a degree of reverence towards the man, even though he was practically a stranger. He certainly wasn’t charming, nor physically attractive and his movements were stiff and awkward.

But oh, he was fascinating. Arrogant, pedantic and (quite literally) almost blind.

And he was under her skin already.

Artemisia found herself holding her breath as she waited for him to speak.

Rondelet took up an aggressive stance, his hand dividing the air with a cutting gesture.

“With the arrival of Mlle. Lufkin and the goodly Ambassador,” he began, “I have cause to reflect upon the unrighteous disturbance that sundered our fortunes from the English to begin with. Friends, you know I have often spoken of the unnecessary divisions between magical communities, but now I do think the matter is more pressing then ever. We have faced, due to the purely Muggle conflict of the Seven Years War, a departure from reason. Is this age of militaristic value not founded in folly?”

Rondelet paused for a moment and inhaled deeply.

“What society of virtue may we form out of chaos? Is Mlle. Lufkin to return to her native land with no ties having been established at Beauxbatons? Shall Muggles carry on with their wars, while we, those of magical blood, stand idly by? I say now, unto you, that it is possible to live purely and united. What have we gained from secrecy? Have our nations not become more divided? This, yes, this is where the disease of corruption festers--amongst our kings. Have they any knowledge of the people? No. Why has the natural man been abused? Why does he remain shackled to the age of feudal repression? Because he is uneducated…and he is parted from his fellow.”

Once more, he stopped and sucked in his breath, turning to face Artemisia fully.

“Mlle. Lufkin alone is fortunate,” he said, his voice slow and tremulous. “She may return to England and her people with knowledge, with the wisdom that is already being birthed in the American colonies. And she can alter the course of history by endeavoring to live as Rousseau has proscribed. Civic virtue must not be cast away, even though our king would gift us with ignorance.”

 

 










After Rondelet’s speech, the rest of the evening carried on with little dramatics. Some of the guests, including Monsieurs Girard and Crevecoeur spoke freely about the writings of Rousseau, although they had not the oratory prowess of the young, country lawyer.

Artemisia, for her part, contributed to the discussion when she could, although she felt ill-equipped to. Surprisingly, Rondelet was the first to leave and he was followed by Girard. Artemisia departed shortly thereafter and was delighted when Madame Crevecoeur invited her back in several days time.

To her great amusement, she had become popular with the company.

When she had said her goodbyes, she let the footman show her out into the hall and was pleased to find Rondelet awaiting her by the staircase. He was standing three steps above her and for the first time, towered over her.

“Were you flattered?” he asked, holding his spectacles close to his dull eyes.

Artemisia smiled warmly, experiencing a faint squirm of excitement when he addressed her directly.

“Yes, you spoke very kindly of me, though I’m not sure I have the means to aspire to such greatness.”

Rondelet sniffed haughtily. “Of course you do. Everyone does. Before I became a lawyer I was poor orphan from a rural province. But education and study earned me a scholarship to a prestigious Parisian institute and now I’ve become a most celebrated defender of the down-trodden.”

Artemisia chuckled to herself. Rondelet did think so highly of himself, but then again, so did she.

“Thank you for inviting me,” she said. “I missed stimulating conversation.”

“I could tell.” For a moment, he removed his spectacles and stared at her plainly. “As it was, you were quite dull in the gardens the other night. Farewell, mademoiselle!”

 

 










Artemisia did not flatter herself in believing that Rondelet thought of her often over the next three days. She was shocked, therefore, on Friday evening when a house elf found her in the salon of Camille Dejardins and presented her with a package.

Stifling her curiosity, she waited until both she and Honorius had retired before ripping off the paper.

It was a copy of Rousseau’s Du Contrat Social Ou Principes Du Droit Politique. A note had been tucked between the first pages.

Mlle. Lufkin,
Forgive me, but my hand has tired of copying lengthy passages for your pleasure. I hope this will suffice instead. Perhaps I shall see you in the gardens again? I remain,

Yr. Most Obedient Servant,
Maximilien Rondelet


That night, when she went to sleep, Artemisia tucked the book under her pillow.

 

 










Author’s Note: A shorter chapter, but the previous three were whoppers and like Maxime, my tired hands needed a break from writing. ^_^

Artemisia’s over-the-top infatuation is actually based on the fanatical admiration many Parisian women held for Maximilien Robespierre during the French Revolution. Although he was neither charming, nor handsome and showed little interest in romance, he did have a veritable female fan club that simply adored him. (And, if you haven’t guessed it already, Rondelet is indeed a wizard version of Robespierre.)

In chapter five, Artemisia finds herself inspired by the writings of Rousseau and does some politic wheeling and dealing of her own. Meanwhile, her affection for Rondelet continues to blossom. I hope to have the next installment posted by Friday the 24th.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read. If you have a spare moment, please leave a review. I’d simply love to hear from you. Have a great week!
 


Chapter 6: The Social Contract
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                                  Fantastic chapter image by Anna_Black @ TDA

Author’s Note:
Since Artemisia is reading Rousseau’s work in this chapter, Du Contrat Social Ou Principes Du Droit Politique is mentioned by its English name, The Social Contract.

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. All OCs mentioned herein belong to me.

Chapter Five The Social Contract

“Take the course opposite to custom and you will almost always do well”-Jean Jacques Rousseau

Over the next three weeks, Artemisia buried herself in Rousseau’s writing when she had the opportunity. It was slow going for the most part, as her French was only adequate, though soon the pages began to shed their secrets at a satisfying rate. Artemisia devoured The Social Contract, surprised by her own fascination. She’d never been on for philosophy, in truth. At Hogwarts, she had let the writings of the venerated wizard scholars such as Flamel and Slytherin pass her by with frivolous disdain. Surely those doughty old men knew nothing of how she thought. And yet here was a Muggle, gifted with perfect eloquence, pleading his case for social order.

Artemisia was enchanted.

Besides providing her with a second education, Rousseau’s work served to distract her from the regular boredom of life at Beauxbatons. Honorius still insisted on spending his evenings at the salon of Camille Desjardins, although negotiations regarding the presence of French Aurors in British Canada had hit an impasse. The French Ministry argued that since the Seven Years War had been a purely Muggle conflict, France’s wizard population in Canada still needed protection. England, needless to say, heartily disagreed.

So far Artemisia had taken only a polite interest in the state of affairs. She had never been one for diplomacy while her aspirations favored Auror work. And why oh why should she care about a few poor wizards in Canada? Colonialism was so very dull.

On a Wednesday evening in October, the salon was particularly quiet. Ambassador Honorius had fallen asleep after a single round of cards and some helpful house elf had propped his gouty foot up on a stool. Artemisia dutifully took his place at the gaming table, where Monsieur Desjardins was regaling his guests with a story of his recent hunting trip.

“It is not often you find such glorious specimens of geese in this area,” he commented, while deftly picking through his hand.

The candlelight was low and Artemisia gladly accepted a third glass of strawberry wine from a servant. Her luck was running sour tonight and she wasn’t inclined to bet the rest of her money which she had carefully set aside for a new grey silk gown.

The other guests were likewise feeling frugal.

“Will you accept this, Camille?” a woman to Desjardins’ right inquired. She plucked a silver snuff box from her pocket and laid it on the table. “It is from Provence, goblin-made, of course.”

Desjardins tested the weight of the box in his palm. “The bet is sufficient,” he remarked, “and, in that case, I fold. The game is yours, Mlle. Lufkin.”

Artemisia hid her surprise well and laid her cards face down. Ha, she hadn’t even been bluffing!

“How delightful,” she replied, shepherding the coins into her pocket. The snuff box she kept out to inspect. “Why, there appears to be some residue within.”

“Silly dear, that is snuff,” the woman supplied.

Artemisia had never partaken of snuff before and out of curiosity, she dabbed a bit on the back of her hand and inhaled.

The powder flew into her right nostril and she promptly projected it with a sneeze.

The company laughed. Artemisia turned a horrid shade of red, disguising her embarrassment as nonchalance while she glanced at the drawing room door. Another guest had arrived, a stout, ruddy fellow who she immediately recognized as Fabre. He was a veteran Auror of some distinction and promise, and was also head of all overseas affairs pertaining to magical law enforcement.

Artemisia realized that this was just the man Honorius would want to speak with. She turned around in her chair to rouse the Ambassador, but stopped when she noticed the book Fabre discreetly clutched.

The Social Contract.




She was taking a risk. A great risk. And if she failed, she could bid any career with the British Ministry of Magic farewell.

Artemisia surveyed the simple note she had written, fighting an overwhelming urge to tear it to shreds.

“My dear Fabre,
At the salon of Camille Desjardins, I could not help but notice your copy of Rousseau’s
The Social Contract. Are you familiar with his work as I am?

Fredrick Honorius
"

She had forged the note, the signature and the very content of the message. Honorius knew nothing of it. He was too old and traditional to deal with Rousseau. Artemisia, however, couldn’t help but wonder if this was the key to reaching Fabre and winning his support for Britain once and for all.

Since she had spied Fabre in the salon last night, Artemisia hadn’t been able to put the him out of mind. A strange hunger for prestige had seized her, as she watched the Auror make his way around the gaming tables like some grizzled, yet dignified lion. Fabre was deferred to, respected.

And there she sat, a useless secretary to the impotent British Ambassador.

It was embarrassing. It was infuriating.

She suddenly felt the need to take control of the situation.

It wasn’t exactly in her line of duties to negotiate with foreign ministers, that was a matter left for politicians alone. But secretly, Artemisia wondered if she could do a better job than Ambassador Honorius. She respected the man, yes, but had trouble swallowing her own ambition.

Auror work had always captured her interest and here she had the chance to treat with a member of an elite French unit. This could certainly be to her benefit…if no one discovered her trickery first.

Artemisia grimaced in frustration. There was little hope for advancement at Beauxbatons and she wondered if her career was destined to be lackluster. Perhaps Tarquin was right. Was it better to be an independent professional as opposed to a Ministry lackey? For now, she couldn’t decide…but she could send the note to Fabre and hope for the best.

A knock on her door sent her to her feet at once. She opened it and was confronted by a pair of bespectacled eyes that peered into her apartments from the corridor.

Artemisia’s heart bounded into her throat. “Maxime! What are you doing here?”

Maximilien Rondelet offered her a stately bow before stepping over the threshold. “Good afternoon, Mlle. Lufkin. I wanted to see how you liked the book.”

A wave of inexplicable heat washed over her. So he had been thinking of her. Well, this was indeed thrilling, for scarcely a night past when she didn’t lull herself into a doze without picturing him, cutting such a smart figure in his blue coat.

Unable to restrain herself, she gently touched his shoulder. “I love it! Rousseau’s flair for republicanism is appetizing. Surely this is not what you meant when you spoke at Madame Crevecoeur’s salon?”

Maxime was instantly flattered, though he fought to conceal it. “I am pleased, then,” he replied. “You must come to Madame’s salon sometime soon. I find the conversation to be quite lacking lately.”

Artemisia ushered him over to a small chair by her desk. “I shall, I promise. You must forgive my absence. Progress has been slow for the Ambassador, but ah, I won’t trouble you with trifles.”

Contrary to her expectations, Maxime appeared intrigued. “I’m sad to hear such,” he said, adjusting his spectacles.

Artemisia, for all her strength and independence, basked in his aura. The autumn air was spiced with his pleasant citrus cologne and she was perilously drawn to his austerity. She wanted to stroke his smooth cheeks, to revel in his youth which was both delightful and severe. Such a man she had not met before, a man, it seemed who had a touch of renown about him.

For the first time she saw him withdraw his wand--willow, nine inches--and cast a cleansing charm upon his already pristine shoes.

Yes, he was finicky. It made her smile.

But as he went to pocket his wand, he turned slightly and noticed the note upon her desk.

Artemisia’s heart plummeted from her throat straight into her gut.

“Fabre?” Maxime held the missive between his long fingers. “I did not know Ambassador Honorius was familiar with Fabre.”

Artemisia narrowed her eyes. Damn it all to bloody hell. “I do not know, I only suppose. Honorius asked me to the deliver the note…I have not read it.”

And oh, she really didn’t want to lie to Maxime. But he was French, after all and she couldn’t stand to have her secret operation put in jeopardy. With any luck, he’d let the matter be and return to his usual indifference.

But today, Maxime was a bit too curious.

“The tone is awfully informal,” he mused.

Artemisia shrugged artlessly. “Honorius was never a poet. He spent his youth trading with Indian shamans in the colonies. Oh, I heard they practice dreadful magic over there…scalping their enemies and using the hair for poisonous potions.”

“I know Fabre,” Maxime interrupted her. “He is an intelligent man who possesses a keen understanding of society and how it will inevitably change. Tell me, Mlle. Lufkin, why are you trying to contact him?”

Artemisia’s jaw dropped open. She whirled away quickly to hide her shock, but it was too late.

“That’s rather presumptuous of you,” she sputtered. Behind her, Maxime rose slowly.

“Strange, you don’t seem suited for intrigue.”

“I’m not.”

“Are you trying to further your own cause or your country’s?” He posed his question so deftly that Artemisia felt compelled to respond.

“It would be a blessing if we both succeeded.”

Maxime paused a mere step behind her. Artemisia listened to his measured breathing which chilled the back of her neck. She tugged at her cravat.

“You have an air of wit about you,” Maxime noted, “and yet you are not without substance. I think you could make a grand politician.”

“Not here,” Artemisia mumbled, trying to shake off what she perceived to be flattery.

Maxime sighed. “No, you are correct. Beauxbatons may be grandiose, but beneath she is an old, ugly maid. I think, however, I may be able to help you.”

Artemisia turned on him. “Why,” she stammered, blood throbbing in her reddening ears, “would you do so?”

“I have a very selfish reason,” Maxime replied primly. “You’re a promising witch, Artemisia and I think you may do a great deal of good for your own people some day. I want to ally myself with you while I can, in hope that when the time is right, we may both serve our countries well.”

Does he sense the same greatness I find in him within me as well, she wondered. The mere notion left her faint.

And yet, she was captivated by the tremulous air about this man.

“Very well,” she managed to reply.

Maxime only nodded. “You must let me correspond with Fabre,” he said, taking his wand and taping the note. Her forged handwriting vanished. “Tell me, what it is you want from him?”





Fabre was pacing across the long, narrow lawn outside the conservatories, ankle deep in dry, autumn grass. One of his nimble servants charmed a fist-sized stone into the moody sky and the veteran Auror arched his arm, wand pointed upward with perfect precision.

Even from where she was standing, concealed by hedges, Artemisia could see the fine wrinkle that appeared on Fabre’s brow as he cast a non-verbal spell.

The stone shattered and powder painted the walkways. Staccato applause echoed from his trio of servants.

“Well done, monsieur! Have another go?”

“Indeed.” Fabre’s voice was deep-throated, the growl of an alpha wolf and his hands themselves were more like giant paws squeezed into leather gloves. “Fetch me the oak,” he ordered and was handed a second, longer wand.

Again, another, smaller stone was propelled into the sky. Fabre shot it from the air in an instant, his spell stinking of ozone.

Artemisia tried to take a deep breath. She was nervous, yes, but determined. Maxime had worked too hard, after all, for her to turn tail and run. For two weeks he had whittled away at Fabre with notes and stolen conversations, persuading the prickly man to meet with Ambassador Honorius’ secretary.

And now, finally, it was all upon Artemisia.

Nervously, she patted her dry lips with a handkerchief.

A third stone had been sent into the sky and it was small, only just visible against the low-lying clouds.

Fabre squinted. “Dammit! I cannot see the blasted thing!”

Sensing her chance, Artemisia stepped out from behind the hedges and sent a spell at the rock. It exploded with a rumble like soft thunder.

Fabre whirled around to glare at her.

“Pardon me, monsieur!” she called, feigning innocence.

Fabre raised a thick eyebrow. “Was that you, mademoiselle?” He looked surprised. “A fair shot.”

“Thank you.” She bowed lowly. “The wind carried it to me. I shouldn’t have seen it otherwise.”

“Hmm.” Fabre looked skeptical. He handed his wand back to the servant. “Are you Fredrick Honorius’ girl?”

“Yes, his personal secretary, Artemisia Lufkin.”

“Rondelet told me I could expect you. He’s a shrewd man. I’m surprised he would have anything to do with an Englishwoman.” Fabre pronounced the last word with a certain degree of distaste.

Artemisia ignored the barb. “I haven’t come here on behalf of England, monsieur.”

“For France, then?”

“No.” Artemisia folded her hands in front of her as a stiff breeze stirred the grass. “Rondelet has informed you of my position, I believe. I am concerned, of course, with the state of the magical community.”

“You speak for yourself?” Fabre said, his shirtsleeves rippling.

“I think I speak for all,” she replied plainly. “I speak for the natural man, at least.”

Fabre’s nostrils twitched. “What does Rousseau have to do with several French Aurors stationed in Canada?” He seemed to be quickly losing interest in the conversation.

Artemisia fought back her nerves. “Everything, considering that the very presence of those Aurors has corrupted relations between the English and French colonists.”

Fabre stared at her for a long moment. “You must be sincere, Mlle. Lufkin,” he concluded at length. “Rondelet wouldn’t trust you otherwise. But, in truth, I’m not entirely sure what I can do for you.”

Now she was flushed with triumph. She had him! Taking a step back, she lifted her head slightly to look Fabre in the eye. “If you’ll speak with Ambassador Honorius about this matter, he will in turn discuss the lifting of all inter-colony trade tariffs so that your fur traders may ship their pelts down British rivers without harassment.”

Fabre gawked at her. “Those negotiations have stalled.”

“We are willing to make concessions.”

Another dreadful minute of silence passed. Fabre shifted his weight from foot to foot. “You know, it is not the place of a secretary to treat with those beyond her station.”

Once more, Artemisia weathered the insult with neutrality. “Well, monsieur, if I may be permitted to quote Rousseau, ‘Take the course opposite to custom and you will almost always do well’.” 



Author’s Note: Thanks so much for taking the time to read! If you have a spare moment, please leave a review. I’d love to hear from you.

In Chapter Six, Artemisia will make a momentous decision about her relationship with Rondelet and go to Madame Crevecoeur for advice. I should have it posted no later than Tuesday the 5th of May.

I hope you have a great weekend!

Chapter 7: Madame Crevecoeur's Advice
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Lovely chapter image by the fabulous laPeach @ TDA

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. All OCs mentioned herein belong to me.

Chapter Six Madame Crevecoeur’s Advice

A heart full of love, a heart full of song
I’m doing everything all wrong
Oh God, for shame!
A night full of you, a single look and then I knew. 

“A Heart Full of Love” from the musical, Les Miserables, composed and written by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil



In November, the French Ministry officially removed all standing Aurors in England’s Canadian colonies. In return, certain trade restrictions were lifted from those French fur traders still trapping in North America. Ambassador Honorius was beside himself with joy. He told Artemisia, often and fervently, that he was surprised Fabre had come over to their side so easily. It was a matter of great reflection, he said, that the French were making concessions towards friendship. Perhaps the diplomatic outlook wasn’t so bleak after all.

Artemisia herself was internally thrilled by her secret success. It was a small victory, but an important. She’d had her first taste of power, of the intricate dance of politics. And oh, she was wooed by it. If she could move and place pawns in a position of little repute while exiled at Beauxbatons, then what might she accomplish in London?

Artemisia wrote a happy letter to Papa and Tarquin, telling them that she thought she’d found her calling. She also told them of Maximilien Rondelet and how he was a funny little fellow who had turned into a much-needed friend.

Dear Maxime! Artemisia knew she owed her triumph to him as well, although the man refused to take any credit. Instead, he asked her to keep him in mind in the future.

And, for the first time in her life, Artemisia began to feel a stirring of desire.

At first, she wondered if it had more to do with a longing for further political advantage than romance. It seemed likely, after all. She had been seduced by affairs of the state and the tact required to institute policy. But as the days passed, she found herself quite absently thinking of him who had intrigued her from the first.

It was his words that struck such a passion within her. Artemisia knew that most young ladies of her age wouldn’t find Maxime physically attractive. He was slight, pale and short-sighted. But he was also a master orator.

Artemisia tormented herself over him for three days, keeping to her bed chamber with the excuse of a cough. November had brought cold, humid weather with it and she watched chilly rainstorms drench the stable yard at night, leaving the cobblestones glittering like onyx. And when the sun came up on the third morning, drying the eaves of the stable and baking the bricks along the walls, she made her decision.

She wanted Maxime as her lover.

But would he have her? This question troubled Artemisia more than anything. Having no mother or sisters to turn to, she wandered the halls in the early morning, hoping for an answer, or at least, some manner of distraction.

It was then, in passing through a narrow hall which gave off into the stable yard, that she met Madame Crevecoeur.













Artemisia was not one to make friends with women. She disliked her own sex a great deal and had never sought to join the ranks of those she dubbed noodle heads. Perhaps it was because she had grown up without a mother, or perhaps it was because she had distinguished herself from her companions so easily at Hogwarts. Whatever the reason, she now realized that for the first time in her life, she would have to ask another woman for advice.

Ugh, what a dreadful notion!

But Madame Crevecoeur didn’t seem so bad. She was a married lady and, therefore, not competition. Artemisia watched her dismount from a chestnut mare near the stables, the skirts of her riding habit fanning out elegantly on the still damp cobblestones.

Suddenly, Artemisia realized that she was wearing only a wrinkled pair of nankeen breeches and a mousy brown coat. And oh, her hair wasn’t even powdered.

Something of her opposition towards women sparked to life within her. She felt cornered and harassed with no clear reason. But if she was going to do something about Maxime, she needed help.

Discreetly, she stepped from out of the hall and into the stable yard.

“Good morning, Madame.”

The matron turned from her horse, one hand flying to her head as she patted back wispy strands of blond hair. “Mlle. Lufkin! How lovely it is to see you.” She paced forward, clasped Artemisia’s hands and kissed her. “You have not come by the salon in quite a while. I feared I had offended you in some way.”

“Not at all,” Artemisia was quick to reassure her. She took a small step back and tried not to wrinkle her nose. Madam smelled a bit like manure. “I’ve been most distracted. You’ve heard tell of England’s new treaty on the French fur trade I assume?”

“Indeed.” Madame laughed high and loud as a groom came out into the yard to take her horse. “I told my husband he must purchase me a new fur hat, now that he has no excuse. Tell me, have you kept up with your reading?”

“With Rousseau?” Artemisia turned slightly back to the hall and was pleased when Madame followed her. “Yes, thanks to dear Maxime. He secured me a copy of The Social Contract. I must say, my eyes were opened.”

“Splendid!” Madame began to pluck her gloves from her smooth fingers. “You’ve kept up your acquaintance with Maxime. I hope you do not think me unkind, but I am surprised. He is not a sociable gentleman. My husband was at great pains to persuade him to attend our salon.”

Artemisia listened to her frivolous chatter, happy that the topic of Rondelet had been brought up. She had a burning question though and it began to work its way down from her brain to her lips. And before she was quite aware of what she was doing, she had blurted it out.

“Does Maxime have a mistress that you know of?” she asked.

Madame arched her neck in shock, a tittering, nervous laugh causing the creases about her mouth to tighten. “I beg your pardon, Mlle. Lufkin?”

“Oh.” Artemisia blushed furiously, realizing exactly what she had done. But before she could think up a suitable excuse, Madame had taken her arm and led her across the hall to a secluded alcove.

“I think you would be very good for him,” she said in a keen whisper, her cool, grey eyes alight with sudden promise. “Yes, very good indeed.”

Artemisia choked. “Madame?”

“Please, do call me Lucille.”

“Lucille, I-”

“It’s exactly what you meant, yes?” Lucille clasped Artemisia’s hands tightly in her own. “I do not blame you. Maxime has a certain…aura about him.” Her face slackened.

For the first time, Artemisia realized that she was not the only woman attracted to Maxime. A sharp barb of jealousy stung her and she felt her courtesy for Lucille lessening.

“But I am happily married,” she was quick to add, “and can only think of Maxime as a dear friend. You, Artemisia, are young, however, and sweet and charming. And Maxime needs a lady. He’s so awfully morose. You would be a good influence on him.”

Artemisia didn’t know if she should feel flattered by Lucille’s babble. Instead, she nodded solemnly, keeping her interest hidden beneath a fine layer of indifference. “So I take it he doesn’t have a mistress, then?”

“No, he is quite unattached.”

“Ah.”

An awkward space of silence passed between them. Artemisia heard a bird twittering in the gardens, a robin maybe, and felt her arms prickle as a chilled breeze rushed down the hall.

She knew what she wanted to say next, but how could she speak without thoroughly embarrassing herself? Her situation was unfair. She had no idea how to entice a man and even though the mechanics of love-making were known to her, she couldn’t imagine actually engaging in the act with Maxime. How was it to be started? Did she simply walk up to him and inform him, quite plainly, that she wanted to make love with him?

And then, there was the issue of saving her maidenhood. Ladies were supposed to give their virginity to their husbands alone. Artemisia had learned that from a particularly prudent professor at Hogwarts who had made it her responsibility to instruct her charges in morality.

Now, however, she couldn’t really reconcile the notion with her predicament.

Her silence seemed to alert Lucille of the conflict, who sighed knowingly.

“I have heard tell that the French do differ from the English in the ways of love,” she said. “I suppose that is true. We Frenchwomen are more engaging in our manners while English girls are not.”

Artemisia let her embarrassment and confusion fuel her umbrage. “The British are fair breeders,” she insisted. “We’re descended from Romans and Celts, both very voluptuous races.”

“I did not mean to insult you,” Lucille replied. “But you are young. I’m certain you’re mother has instructed you wisely.”

“My mother died when I was two.”

“Then your sisters.”

“I have only a brother.”

“Well.” Lucille placed a hand on her breast, the lace from her cuff leaking down her wrist. “I’m sure you’ve witnessed the manners of the French long enough to know that we captivate our men differently. We are a romantic people…perhaps a bit different from you English in small ways. I must dress for breakfast, but would you take a single turn with me through the topiary garden? I can tell you something of our traditions, at least, how we women charm our men so thoroughly.” She smelled gently. “Would you find that agreeable?”

Artemisia pretended to be only slightly interested, although she truly was grateful for the advice. “Yes, but I must attend to the Ambassador shortly. I do hope you understand.”













Artemisia yawned, feeling not the least bit seductive. She was sitting on bench in the Hall of Illumination, watching couples float by with languid elegance. Dipping a hand into her pocket, she withdrew her watch and checked the time.

It was nearly eleven.

She would give Maxime another hour and if he didn’t show, well, then she’d go to bed with or without him.

Despite her conversation with Lucille that morning, the intricacies of flirtation still eluded her. The French might be the masters (or mistresses) of the carnal arts, but their ways seemed thoroughly unromantic to her.

Everything Lucille had told her seemed so…stupid.

Of course, she knew enough to wear a fetching gown and to bath her skin in expensive (yet overwhelming) perfume. But then there was this whole business of fans. Supposedly, an astute gentleman should be able to tell her exact thoughts from the delicate twitch of her fan. For some reason, Artemisia doubted that Maxime, a Spartan country lawyer, knew much about fans,

Lucille, however, had assured her that she would win his affection, or at least inspire lust in him if she followed proper Beauxbatons’ etiquette. She should be direct, but coy. Discreet yet amorous.

It seemed rather contradictory, really and Artemisia wondered if bedding a man was really worth the trouble. Perhaps she should wait until she was a rich old lady and then arrange a marriage for herself with some handsome young man.

The notion certainly appealed to her…until she saw Maxime crossing the Hall in his sky-blue coat.

Her heart strained against her tightly tied stays.

With a flutter and great rustling of her grey silk gown, she rose to her feet.

“Maxime, you kept me waiting.” She waved to him, her fan dangling from her wrist.

Maxime spotted her by the bench, furrowed his brow in practiced concern and crossed the corridor.

“Have you just come from dinner?” he asked, his words plain, unadorned by pretension. Directing his gaze to her fashionable gown, (the only one she owned) he frowned slightly.

“Yes,” she said, affecting a curtsey. “It’s a bit of a hassle to dress so every evening. I do not know how you French manage. In London, our dining clubs are much more modest.” Artemisia allowed the last word to roll suggestively off her tongue.

Maxime fiddled with his spectacles. “I heard that the Ministry signed the official agreement with your English government today concerning the Aurors in Canada. Congratulations.”

“Oh, lah!” She forced a laugh and with a snap of her hand, opened her fan. “Tonight is an evening for celebration, then. Walk with me in the garden?”

Maxime agreed. Artemisia knew he was fond of flowers. He always kept a vase brimming with fresh blooms in his chambers, or so he had told her.

The gardens were a degree or two warmer than they had been that morning, but damp. Misty clouds hung languidly before a sliver of moon. Braziers lit along the pathways provided some illumination. Despite the humidity, Artemisia felt the chill slice through her and in her silk gown, she shivered.

Maxime, however, was quite comfortable in his frock coat.

He was surprisingly chatty that night and he followed her wherever she walked, speaking in his high, slightly wavering voice.

Apparently, he had been ruminating over a bit of Voltaire he had recently read. The piece in question reminded him of one legal case back in his home town, when he had to defend a merchant’s usage of a vanishing charm on some of his goods, which had, at the time, been illegal.

Usually Artemisia was enslaved by his words, but tonight she had a difficult time keeping up with him. Flicking her fan just so and supplying coy remarks every now and then kept her busy. In fact, the whole business of flirtation was distracting. She disliked being coy, hated it in fact.

Lucille Crevecoeur insisted on a woman using sly wit to ensnare a man, though Artemisia thought it perfectly reasonable to state her purpose outright. Why make a charade of the whole thing? Maxime certainly didn’t seem to be noticing her little signals.

By the time they discreetly arrived in the Grove of Aphrodite, she was fairly wound up.

Acting so coquettishly made her feel alien and uncomfortable. She didn’t think she was getting her point across, which was, quite simply, that she adored Maxime.

In a fit of uselessness, she stopped in front of the decadent fountain in the center of the copse. It was barely tasteful, a display of stone satyrs amidst plump, pretty nymphs. Artemisia could not reconcile her own emotions of admiration in their leering, lustful faces.

Maxime seemed oblivious as to their whereabouts. He had stopped by a bush of lilacs, charmed to keep their flowers all year long.

She watched him bend and raise the blossoms to his nose.

Artemisia stepped back from him and experienced a sudden jolt of reality. But the warning that struggled to reach her fell on deaf ears.

When Maxime raised his face, she kissed him.

It was a clumsy, feverish movement. Artemisia did not confine herself to his lips, but kissed his cheeks, his forehead, the bridge of his nose. His spectacles were set askew.

“Mlle. Lufkin!” He turned his head to the side and stayed her attentions with his collar.

“I’m sorry,” she bleated, realizing that he was flushed with shock.

Maxime stared at her ,and for a brief instant, was utterly without words.

“I have work to attend to this evening,” he said, breaking the painful silence with brusqueness. “Good night.”

And she watched him go, furious with herself and in her rage, tossed her ugly fan into the fountain. 













Author’s Note: Just to clear up any potential confusion, Rondelet is not homosexual, he just has issues with intimacy. There is much historical gossip surrounding the love life (or lack, thereof) of the real Maximilien Robespierre whom Rondelet is based on. Robespierre was popularly known as the “Incorruptible”, seemingly beyond reproach in his morals and lifestyle. He was said to have been engaged to his landlord’s daughter, Eleanor Duplay, although nothing “immodest” ever passed between them. There is also a rumor suggesting he may have had a mistress at one time, though due to his discreet behavior, he dumped her rather unceremoniously.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read! I cannot get over the abundance of reviews I’ve received for this story. You guys are fabulous!! I feel at a loss to express how truly grateful I am.

In Chapter Seven, Artemisia will continue to pursue her beloved Rondelet, eschewing the misguided advice of Madame Crevecouer for her own instincts. Engaging in a philosophical debate on the nature of love, she challenges Maxime to accept her offer to become her lover. I should have this installment posted no later than Tuesday the 12th. Have a great weekend!

Chapter 8: Incorruptible
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                         Wonderfully romantic chapter image by stealingEternity @ TDA

This chapter is dedicated to Maximilien Francoise Marie Isidore de Robespierre, who celebrated his 251st birthday on May 6th. Bon anniversaire, Maxime!


Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. All OCs mentioned herein belong to me.

Chapter Seven Incorruptible

I don’t know how to love him, what to do, how to move him
I’ve been changed, yes really changed
In these past few days, when I see myself, I seem like someone else 

From “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.


She gave herself a day and a night to be desperate. A single day and a single night in which she wrung her hands, rent her hair and pummeled her pillow until the feather stuffing littered her chamber floor. The house elf that arrived at dawn to stoke the fires hid his shock appropriately well, although he did offer mademoiselle a cup of tea or something stronger, if she wished.

Artemisia was furious at herself for having failed to charm Maxime. And then she became furious at Lucille Crevecoeur for giving her such shoddy advice in the first place. What did the French know? Nothing!

She should have followed her British instincts.

But alas, the problem still existed, and for the first time in her short life, Artemisia faced a wave of unutterable fear and despair.

She was losing Maxime.

And why oh why did this distress her so?

He was a man, like any other man she had encountered in her twenty years. As it was, Artemisia wasn’t one for mindless flirtation, and she kept her dealings with the opposite sex business-like. Of course, she preferred the company of men rather than women, who tended to get on her nerves. However, it seemed to her that the male species was noticeably flawed. What good, intelligent gentlemen she had been acquainted with at Hogwarts soon gave themselves over to idiocy in the presence of ladies. They allowed themselves to be led about by the nose, fawning over their mistresses like dumb dogs.

Their felicity repulsed Artemisia, but Maxime‘s severity attracted her. He wasn’t a fool. He wasn’t mindless. And he wouldn’t abandon her for a woman with a prettier face.

No, she mustn’t lose him.

She decided to try and approach the situation logically, present Maxime with her own treatise on the matter. His curiosity would certainly work to her advantage, although this time she decided to plot her movement away from the public arena.

Artemisia had little trouble finding Maxime’s apartments. He had mentioned once in passing that he lived on an upper floor and she found out from a helpful valet that all petitioners from the provinces were housed three levels above her own room. She also heard from Madame Crevecoeur that Maxime was likely to be in his room right before dinner. He always ate on the later side and otherwise kept himself occupied with work, writing letters to ministers pleading for more fresh flour at lower prices for his fellow townspeople.

Artemisia knew he would hate to be disturbed, but she couldn’t help herself. At eight o’clock, she climbed three flights up to his floor, turned left down a burgundy corridor trimmed with gold and came across a narrow hall with a dead end. Maxime’s door was opposite a window overlooking the back of the stables.

Artemisia spent a tense moment pacing outside his apartments. She knew what she wanted to say, yes, but the words were elusive. How could she possibly frame her distracted feelings properly? She could express her emotions only in gestures of adoration, in glances of open admiration and respect. But would Maxime be able to interpret her signals? Or were men and women two separate creatures, forced to pantomime affection in cold kisses and caresses?

The matter seemed utterly hopeless and a new kind of fear raced over her. She could not lose Maxime. He was her match, of this she was sure. But how to tell him so?

Eschewing trepidation, she stepped boldly up to his door and knocked. On the other side of the threshold, she heard footsteps and the scraping of a chair across the floor. The knob twisted and Maxime yanked the door open. He was holding a bloodied handkerchief to his nose.

“Maxime!” Artemisia almost forgot her apprehension at the sight of him. “What’s happened to you?”

Maxime rolled his eyes impatiently. “My nerves, mademoiselle.” With his free hand, he gestured at his nose.

Artemisia understood. Dear Maxime! He was a delicate fellow. She elbowed herself into his room.

“Why haven’t you staunched the flow?” she said and at once, her composure melted. She could no longer keep herself from him. Gently, Artemisia touched his forearm and tried to draw the bloody handkerchief away. “Let me see.”

“I do not know the spell,” he grumbled, flushing slightly.

“Maxime.” Artemisia smiled at him, reaching for her wand. Prying his hand further away from his nose, she muttered, “Episkey.” The blood ceased. She produced a clean handkerchief from her pocket and handed it to him.

Maxime cleaned away the trail of crimson from his upper lip, returning his spectacles to the bridge of his nose as he did so.

“You are a darling,” Artemisia mumbled.

“And you are keener than I thought,” he replied, looking about haplessly. “I must invite you in, I suppose.”

“I should like that.” She followed him into the chamber, which was much like her own, if not a bit Spartan.

Maxime had obviously taken little luggage with him from his hometown. There was a trunk at the end of a curtained bed, a small bookshelf that contained law books and the obligatory philosophical tomes. His desk was neatly arranged with parchment, an inkstand and a simple quill pen. And over the small fireplace was a portrait of Maxime himself.

Artemisia raised her eyebrows at this.

Maxime cleared his throat hastily. “By my sister’s hand,” he said.

“It is lovely.”

“Hmm, her technique could be improved.”

“I did not know you were versed in art.”

“I am not.”

He invited her to sit in one of two winged chairs by the bookshelf. Artemisia planted her feet on the small, round carpet and watched as he settled himself across from her. He was noticeably tense, his hands clenching convulsively, his neck and head held rigid.

“Have you come to apologize?” he asked pointedly.

Artemisia gripped the upholstered arms of her chair. “No.”

Maxime allowed himself a look of surprise. “Then why?”

She drew in a deep breath, her thoughts suddenly muddled. “I wish to be frank with you.”

“Very well.” He raised a hand, urging her to continue.

Artemisia dug the heels of her shoes into the carpet. She wanted to proceed, but how? Her head ached and she felt flushed.

“It is evident to me,” she said, the words straining her throat as she tried to form each one, “that we were meant to be allied.”

“I do not believe in fate.” Maxime crossed his legs, a position strictly forbidden to men and women alike at Beauxbatons. But oh, he was only a country lawyer, a dear boy with a sage’s seriousness.

“Neither do I,” Artemisia rambled on, “but you must…you must acknowledge that there are instances when life arranges itself in a particular order and is a man not a fool to ignore opportunity? Just the other day you spoke of aligning yourself with me. Maxime! Oh God, how can I make you see?”

She was suddenly overcome with desperation, unable to express the most primal of emotions in words that would suit his discerning ears. Furious at herself, she fisted a hand in her hair.

“Is it impossible to make you understand?” she mused aloud.

Maxime shifted in his chair ever so slightly. “Mlle. Lufkin,” he said quietly, “why do you go to such pains to say something I should think was rather simple?”

“But it isn’t!” Artemisia slammed her palm down on the arm of her chair. “You think it is, I know. You think I am a licentious woman, you think I want to bed you to gain political favor. I don’t!”

Maxime’s face pinched. He played with his spectacles nervously. “Artemisia,” he said, this time adopting the air of an elder brother, “you are very young.”

“Five years your junior!” she spat back at him. “And this is not the foolish notion of an empty-headed, vain child. I have better things to do than torment myself and you, for that matter.”

“I never said you tormented me,” he replied.

Artemisia shook her head in disgust. “But I offended you.”

“I believe you are too severe on yourself, mademoiselle.”

Artemisia stared at him, her languid features alive with determination. “I should not care if you rejected me,” she insisted, “if only I could make you understand.” And then her body seemed not her own as she slid to the floor and wrapped her long arms around his legs. “If only you would understand,” she repeated miserably.

Maxime trembled when she touched him and tried his best to untangle himself from her grasp. But Artemisia splayed her hands against his waist, her chin dropping down on his knees.

She was frightened, terribly frightened…of herself. Never before had she lost her composure, never before had she given herself over to such a state of vulnerability. By all means, she should be ashamed of herself.

“I don’t know what I’m speaking of,” Artemisia admitted, “but I feel struck…as I was when I first read Rousseau. And…and when I first saw you passing through the garden at twilight, the notion came to me that I should never find a man such as yourself again, that within you resonated what for years has kept me alive. You and I, we were cast from the same mold, Maxime and I would lie if I did not confess how enthralled I am…how much I do adore you.”

She hesitated and then reached for his hand, holding it to her cheek. “See, what do you feel?”

Maxime stared at her. “Your skin.”

A smile lifted her lips. “Yes, my flesh. I can bare it for you, I can endure your touch. You do not frighten me, Maxime. You do not make me feel so utterly alone. We are already joined. We are the only two people on this earth who can exist this way. I can trust you. Do you not feel the same?”

Maxime touched her cheek for an instant, then drew away quickly. “Get up, mademoiselle,” he said.

She did as he said and sat back on her heels, watching as he stood and paced away from her.

“You do not know what you ask of me.”

“Only what I would ask of myself.”

“I do not want an amorous liaison.”

“And neither do I.”

Maxime stopped by the foot of his bed, tapped the trunk with his fingers and glanced at her over his shoulder. “Your dramatics are most unbecoming. Life is not a Greek pantomime.”

And in hearing this, Artemisia was enraged. “You call me a fool for detecting an affinity? Monsieur, it was you who first spoke of greatness!” she scoffed. “Do not tell me that I am the only one who sensed it.”

“Do not hide bawdy sentiments behind grandeur.” But Maxime was losing the argument and he knew it. At once he turned his back on her, striking a pose of uncomfortable opposition.

Artemisia forced herself back up into her chair, her knees now weak. “You see it now,” she said faintly. “We are of a kind.”

Maxime flinched again. “Artemisia.”

“You understand me.”

“Artemisia.” Maxime ran his hands along the sleeves of his striped coat. “I was six when my mother died. The following year, my father parceled out my younger siblings--my sister and brother--along with myself to our maternal relatives. We never saw him again. Before I attended the college in Paris, I tended pigeons. They were my only childhood companions.”

At last, Artemisia realized why Maxime had always struck her as sorrowful. Instead of pitying him, she felt a surge of deep admiration.

“We are solitary creatures,” she said, rising from her chair and crossing the room to meet him. Carefully, she slid an arm around his waist, resting her forehead against his shoulder. “We both waited for this moment, didn’t we? Maxime.” Deftly, she slipped in front of him, touching her long fingers to his heated brow. “Maxime.”

He looked away. “I cannot tolerate sentiment.”

“Neither can I.”

“You are a woman.” He grabbed her wrist with shaking fingers. “It is in your nature to cultivate romance.”

Artemisia smiled gently and leaned into him, her lips close enough to his cheek to smell the soft powder on his wig. “I do not wish to be wooed.”

“I can offer you nothing.”

She shook her head. “But I want nothing.” Standing near him, Artemisia realized she wasn’t holding up her end of the bargain. She had promised to accept his rejection if only to make him understand her.

Unwillingly, she moved back and tried to stitch together her composure. “Forgive me,” she said. “I’m not so eloquent in expressing my designs.”

Maxime inhaled and for a moment, the tension seemed to leave his body. “Artemisia, you are above reproach.”

He let her kiss him this time and as their lips met, she tasted his need, his emptiness which broke upon her in waves of ice.

But still, she held him tight.

“If we are to be allied,” he said and seizing the lead, pressed her upon his bed, “we must be above reproof.”

“Entirely,” she murmured.

As Artemisia had guessed, Maxime himself had not yet been tested by the rigors of love. With unsteady hands, he began to unbutton his trousers.

But Artemisia was impatient and feared mightily that his nerves would get the better of him. Raising herself upon her knees, she plucked the wig from his head and to her surprise, revealed a soft mane of chestnut curls. His green eyes sparked to life.

“Pretty Maxime,” she said, wondering if anyone had bothered to call him such in his life, his short, tense existence that had thrived on the determination of the spirit alone.

She pushed the coat off his shoulders, grasped him by the folds of his shirt and let him topple down on her.

The weight of his body was shocking, heavier than she had expected and she felt the breath crushed out of her lungs.

Maxime finally mastered himself, propping his torso upon arms stretched out on either side of her.

“Above reproof?” he muttered.

Artemisia threw her arms around his neck. “Incorruptible!” 

 






Author’s Note: Argh! I haven’t written romance in quite some time. Forgive me if this was horrid. Maxime is hard to pin down when it comes to love. The historical Robespierre was a modest prig and yet he wrote sappy love poems dedicated to roses, so go figure. One thing I am certain of, however, is that he loved being worshipped. And since Artemisia so clearly adores him, he probably would be more inclined to accept her affection.

This chapter was greatly inspired by Andrzej Wajda’s film Danton. There’s a wonderful scene in the movie when the brutish Georges Danton tries to wine and dine Robespierre while the two are feuding over the direction the French Revolution has taken during the Terror. They have a fantastically tense debate and the scene just reminded me of Artemisia’s discussion with Maxime in this chapter.

In Chapter Eight, Artemisia accompanies Maxime to Paris and witnesses first-hand the utter destitution of the populace. Despite feeling sympathetic to their plight, she is troubled by Maxime’s stern sentiments of change. With any luck, I should have this chapter posted by Tuesday the 19th.

Thanks a million for the reading! I hope everyone has a terrific weekend!
 
 
 


Chapter 9: Paris
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Totally awesome chapter image by italian bella @ TDA


Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. All OCs mentioned herein belong to me.


Chapter Eight Paris 

Look down and see the beggars at your feet
Look down and show some mercy if you can
Look down and see the sweepings of the street
Look down, look down, upon your fellow man. 

“Look Down” from the musical, Les Miserables, composed and written by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil


January 1775

Artemisia entered Maxime’s quarters without knocking, her right hand pulling the door tightly closed behind her. “It’s utter nonsense, really,” she declared. “Utter and complete nonsense!” Groaning, she tore the itchy wig off her head and ran her palm vigorously over her hair.

Maxime was sitting at his desk, as usual, pouring over a letter. He had his jacket off and was leaning somewhat in the direction of greedy fire burning in the hearth. The shutters were closed tightly over the windows, though even now they moaned against the winter wind.

“Did you hear me?” Artemisia said, speaking a little louder when Maxime failed to respond. “It’s the colonies, if you care. They’ve called a convention of some sort and now the delegates have resolved to boycott all British goods. Trade has all but ceased. All this fuss over the Coercive Acts. I swear, the Muggle Parliament must be in the throes of agony now!”

And then she waited, folding her arms over her middle, her wig dangling from a finger. “Maxime?”

“Human ingenuity at its best.” He glanced up at her fleetingly. “Nature has been restored to its predestined courses. A tyrant will be overthrown.”

Artemisia threw her wig into a corner. “Maxime, you simply cannot say that,” she protested. “Yes, England’s Parliament was wrong to act so, but we must not be treasonous now.”

“You mustn’t be treasonous, you mean? I assure you, I am quite within my bounds.”

Artemisia opened her mouth to reply, but stopped herself with a smile. Dear Maxime, he was as sharp as ever! Even now she hated to debate him. He put many good men and women to shame.

And oh, how she loved him for it.

“I need some wine,” she said with a dismissive sigh, surrendering the argument to him. “My nerves are all but frayed. I just came from Desjardins’ salon, if you care. Oh, the gossip that abounded! It makes me sick. They’re all calling my king an impotent fool. Ha, impotent! And your king hasn’t even sired an heir. Where do you keep your wine?”

Without looking up at her, Maxime raised a goblet that had been sitting by his elbow. “You know I hardly drink. This is the last of it. You may have it.”

Artemisia took the cup from him, swallowed and grimaced. “Dammy, it’s mostly water.”

“I can smell brandy on you as it is.”

“I cannot very well play cards sober.” Artemisia handed him back the empty goblet. “Poor Ambassador Honorius. He is besides himself. All trade negotiations have fallen through and rumor has it that the French Ministry sympathizes with the colonies.”

Maxime set one letter to the side only to pick up another. “With good reason.”

“Don’t be so prickly.” She leaned in and kissed the top of his wig.

Two months had passed since they had become lovers and Artemisia couldn’t be happier. They made a wonderful pair, cutting their teeth on both politics and diplomacy. Over the weeks Maxime had taught her a great many things and she found that although he could be a bit fanatical at times, he truly believed in the many virtues of the human race.

If this was love, then she was entirely pleased. They had both gotten over the initial, virginal embarrassment of intercourse, though Maxime was often shy when they went to bed. Artemisia had become an expert at coaxing him into her arms, where he would quite clumsily and nervously yield to affection.

And despite the vexations of life at Beauxbatons, Artemisia allowed herself to be content, although in dark hours, when she was alone, she wondered just how long bliss would last.

Things were not going well for the English of late or so she had gleaned from letters she received from Tarquin. There seemed to be some manner of trouble in the North American colonies over the issue of taxation. The Muggle Parliament had come down hard on the dissenters and protesters, though the conflict seemed to be festering and spreading. In the back of her mind, Artemisia worried that the rebellious sentiments would lead to greater trouble than she could have ever imagined,

But right now, she wanted to stay with her lover.

Maxime flinched when she touched his shoulder. Artemisia had quite gotten used to his jumpy ways by now. She knew his resistance had nothing to do with an aversion towards her, or the pleasure they gave to each other. Rather, it was something deep down inside him, a wild, frightened thing.

And of course, Maxime was a stuffy man.

Lightly, Artemisia plied the edge of his wig, revealing tantalizing hints of burnished hair beneath. After a moment of teasing him, she slipped her fingers entirely underneath the stiff horsehair and brushed his scalp.

Maxime started, but kept his eyes upon his letter.

She watched his tiny lips framing the words, his spectacles pushed high on the bridge of his long nose,

Artemisia laughed out loud. “Pretty Maxime, you’re such a little treasure.” Carelessly, she flipped off his wig, the stale powder briefly dusting the air around them.

“I am reading.”

“You’ll strain your eyes in this dark. Humph, as if you weren’t blind enough!”

“This is important, Artemisia.”

“Don’t lecture me. I won’t countenance your sour temperament. Sweet Maxime, you make a hypocrite out of yourself.”

She had him now. He placed the letter upon his desk with a frown.

“I’m not a hypocrite.”

“You are. You would raise men to the gods if you could, if you weren’t so preoccupied with your…mistress.”

“You’re not my mistress.”

“Indeed. Mistresses are beholden to masters. I am your lover.”

Maxime removed his spectacles and rubbed his diluted eyes. “Artemisia.”

She touched his smooth cheek. “Why are you still so skittish?”

“You are goading me, madamosielle.”

“Yes….is it working?”

Now he laughed and it was a rare thing. His Adam’s apple bobbed against his cravat. Artemisia took care to untie it.

“Aren’t you flattered that I love you so?” she asked him. His cravat was now free and his shirt fell open at the collar.

Almost out of habit, Maxime began to undo the buttons of his waistcoat. “Troublesome woman,” he groaned, although Artemisia sensed his appetite. “It’s no wonder that Helen ruined Troy.”

“Only because Paris seduced her.” Artemisia moved towards his bed and parted the heavy curtains. She was immediately assaulted by his warm scent in the sheets and blankets. Citrus mingled with ink and hair powder.

She did not realize Maxime was right behind her, now in naught but his breeches and shirt.

“Silly Maxime,” she told him. “You are indeed a hypocrite.”

He didn’t respond, but looked at her with overwhelming uncertainty.

It was always like this, always up to her to take control of things and seduce him anew. In truth, it made her a little uncomfortable. Artemisia had never been one to openly bestow physical affection upon any person. She felt a little silly during the whole intricate dance, but then passion came into play and she could lose herself.

It was easy, she realized, to love such a great man.

“Maxime.” She kissed him softly, adding an edge of urgency as she pressed harder against him.

Slowly, she felt him respond in kind.

Things moved quickly, the mattress sagging beneath his weight, then hers as she toppled onto him. Undergarments were shed with hands that still trembled, ridding them of the last vestiges of formality and ceremony. What remained was primal and Maxime had never been one to encourage instinct for all his talk of the natural man.

Artemisia guided him as best she could, bestowing gentle kisses on his lips and forehead. She felt a fluttering thrill when his hand brushed her stomach. Leaning over him, her long, unbound hair fell across his shoulders.

For a short time, Artemisia was able to forget her nagging worries of rebellious colonists and devote herself entirely to Maxime. She absorbed every movement of his body, his hands on her waist, the smooth, pale surface of his chest and torso.

He spoke her name once, then twice, pulling her hips closer and together they reveled in their youth, which now seemed untouched by the fury of the storm howling about the palace, threatening to tear crowns from kings.

At last, Artemisia settled herself against him, her head resting in the curve of his neck. A great fear was awoken in her as she realized just how fragile their world was and how the balance was now being disrupted in a land far away.

Maxime was likewise silent, although he did reach for his spectacles and placed them upon his nose.

“I have been called to Paris,” he said crisply, beckoning her from the tempting touch of sleep.

Artemisia jerked awake. “You are leaving?”

“Only for a day. Have I ever mentioned my friend Philippe Delmas to you?”

She propped herself up on an elbow, pushing the heel of her palm into her eye. “No. No, I don’t recall him.”

“Ah.” Maxime reached for his shirt and slipped it back over his head. “I went to school with him. He is a lawyer and a journalist, although his writing fairs better than his practice. I received a letter from him this evening…the very piece I was reading when you came blundering in. Poor Philippe, he’s a admirable writer. Having a bit of trouble with his paper, as it is. He’s asked me to come visit him and his wife for a day. Perhaps I can sort things out for him.”

“Paris?” Artemisia buried herself amongst the blankets, chilled by the very shriek of the wind against the shutters. “Surely you won’t fly there, not in weather like this.”

“Certainly not. I’ll Floo. But that isn’t the point. Will you come with me?”

“To visit your friend?”

“Yes. I think you should meet him. He is very devoted to the work of the philosophes, Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu. And I think his wife would enjoy the company.”

“I’m flattered,” Artemisia replied and truly she was. Maxime was not a social creature. She was surprised that he wished to introduce her to his friends, honored, in fact. “But I shall have to make arrangements with Ambassador Honorius.”

“I’m certain he won’t say no.” Again, that rare smile of his. “And after all, my dear, you really should see Paris.” 

 

 






Paris! Artemisia had been in France for eight months and she had yet to see Paris. Being English, she kept her excitement hidden beneath polite curiosity and as often as she could, she sang London’s praises to Maxime.

But Paris! She did not doubt the city would meet up to its reputation and within the ostentatious confines of Beauxbatons, she dreamt of the Champs-Elysees, the Palais des Tuileries, the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Paris Opera.

Maxime warned her that they wouldn’t have much time for touring the city. He wanted to be back at Beauxbatons before midnight and was certain that Philippe would keep them occupied all day.

Artemisia, for her part, did not complain and was secretly ecstatic when Ambassador Honorius gave her leave to go. On a cold, clear morning at the end of January, she rose before dawn, dressed in a simple but stylish suit of clothes and met Maxime in an antechamber which hosted all magical traffic in and out of Beauxbatons.

They had to wait in line with half a dozen other travelers until a fireplace was freed for their use and when a valet finally indicated that it was their turn, Maxime glanced casually at Artemisia over his shoulder.

“Do you have any valuables on you?” he asked rather calmly, fiddling with his spectacles. “Any jewelry?”

“Only my pocket watch,” Artemisia replied, surprised. She was not in the habit of adorning herself with garish ornaments, though she thought his question quite out of place.

Maxime quirked an eyebrow and without another word, stepped forward into the empty hearth. Taking a handful of Floo Powder from a basin nearby, he loudly called, “Rue Saint-Honore!” In a flash of brilliant green, he was gone.

Artemisia stared at the bare stones of the fireplace and shuffled forward. Dipping her hand into the basin, she took a fistful of Powder and moved to the spot where Maxime had stood.

Feeling flushed and more than a little giddy, she let the Powder loose and cried, “Rue Saint-Honore!”

At once, she was snatched away and hurled through space. After a moment of aimless floating, Artemisia was pushed through a narrow, filthy fireplace and out into a deserted alley.

The very first thing she noticed was the smell, the wretched, rank smell.

Perpendicular to the alley ran a boulevard of some sort and Artemisia spied Muggles moving along on foot and in carriages. Certainly, this place seemed like a city.

But this couldn’t be right, could it? This could not be Paris!

Glancing up and down, she moved out of the alley and onto a wide street crowded with beggars, cripples and starving children who assaulted her with the dissonant wails of the destitute.

Maxime was at her side then, ushering her away from a gutter clogged with mud and manure onto a less crowded avenue.

“God,” Artemisia muttered, taking a perfumed handkerchief from out of her pocket and pressing it to her nose, “where are we?”

Maxime’s face was stern. “Welcome,” he said, “to Paris.” 

 

 





Paris. Artemisia was stunned. And heartbroken. This was Paris. A collection of winding streets and overwhelming avenues jammed with the poor. In every corner, pestilence boiled in the form of sickly urchins and prostitutes and toothless hags who trembled in the thinnest of rags.

When Artemisia asked Maxime why he hadn’t taken her amongst wizards, he smiled, appearing sadistic for the first time, and said that he thought she should see things as they were. Besides, his friend Philippe could not afford to isolate himself from Muggles as wealthy wizards often did. In Paris, everyone lived side by side or they didn’t live at all.

When he asked her if London was any different, she did not know how to reply.

Yes it was…or was it? Artemisia understood then that she was indeed privileged. She had been raised in the most fashionable English resort city and she had not properly known those without magic until she met Muggle-borns at Hogwarts. London for her was a comfortable flat on the Thames and dinner clubs and the theater. But what was London for everyone else?

She didn’t know.

Maxime, although himself an avowed country mouse, knew the city fairly well. He had spent his youth studying at a small, but prestigious college where he had been licensed to practice magical law. With a surprisingly good sense of direction, he led her through a labyrinth of streets, taking care to point out any sights he thought worth noticing.

A short half hour into their trip, Artemisia realized why he had wanted to know what valuables she had on her. No less than five times had an urchin attempted to pick her pocket. At first, she felt saddened that such young children should resort to thievery. However, after she saw the animalistic cunning on one lad’s grimy young face, she did not hesitate to keep her wand close at hand and took to discreetly casting small stunning spells every time a hand dipped inside her coat.

To distract herself from the utter misery around her, Artemisia began to question Maxime as much as she could.

“What sort of writer is Philippe?” she asked as they past down a lane that had clearly been set aside for the use of several butcher shops. The air was thick with the stench of stale blood and fat rats ran the length of the gutter searching for bits of meat and bones.

“A journalist,” Maxime replied once they were out in a more open square. “He has a small paper and writes pamphlets when he can.”

“What…what sort?” Artemisia prodded, doing her best to hop over a particularly evil looking puddle. She hadn’t read many native newspapers upon arriving in France, though Ambassador Honorius had told her that the government controlled the press.

Recently, both Muggle and magical writers had taken to protesting the monarchy through their work. These libels were viciously crafted, leveling the most horrendous charges against the royal court and, occasionally, boasting slanderous engravings of the king and queen.

Artemisia, therefore, felt more than a little concern when Maxime did not answer her.

After making a sharp turn off the square into another dank alley, he led her between two rickety stalls in which fruit vendors tossed their most rotten products onto the street.

Maxime groped inside his breast pocket and at last produced a folded pamphlet along with his wand.

Placing the tip of his wand on a crumbling column that supported an abandoned brick house, he directed his eyes to the parchment and mumbled a Latin phrase.

At once, the column split in half and the fruit stalls inched slowly away to reveal a heavily graffitied old door.

Maxime smiled widely and absentmindedly handed her the pamphlet as he reached forward to knock.

Artemisia studied the faded block lettering on the front cover, her heart sinking into the pit of her stomach as she realized exactly what she was holding.

People of France,” it demanded. “Take up arms!”

The engraving below showed a noble-faced commoner in poor rags forcing a bayonet into the stomach of the plump Louis XVI.

 

 





Author’s Note: Eh, this was a bit of a filler chapter. Sorry, guys! I do promise that chapter nine will be more exciting. In the next installment, Artemisia meets Maxime’s friend, Philippe Delmas, a man with a taste for revolution and an illegal printing press hidden in his flat. Later on, Maxime intentionally breaks the Statue of Secrecy to help a Muggle, leading Artemisia to question his radical opinions. Hopefully, I should have chapter eight posted by May 30th.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! If you have a spare moment, please leave a review. I’d love to hear from you. Have a great week!
 


Chapter 10: The Radical Pamphleteer
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Awesome chapter image by Arithmancy_wiz @ TDA


Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. All OCs mentioned herein belong to me.

Chapter Nine The Radical Pamphleteer


The staircase was impossibly narrow and winding and in such a state of disrepair that Artemisia thought she might fall to her death. Magic had most assuredly been employed to keep the moldy steps together, though the banister did rattle fiercely every time she dared to touch it.

“Can’t we Apparate?” she asked, her breath searing her laboring lungs as she mounted yet another flight of steps.

Maxime stopped to dab his forehead with a handkerchief. “Not unless you wish to have every English bone in your legs broken. These stairs are hexed.”

“Like a bloody fortress,” Artemisia ground out. “I daresay Monsieur Delmas is a bit paranoid, eh? Even Gringotts isn’t this hard to get into.”

Maxime glanced at her once over his shoulder. “Philippe is not paranoid, on the contrary. Do you know what happened to one of his colleagues? The French Ministry’s secret police broke into his home and tore it to pieces, beam by beam. His family was out begging on the street three days later. Thriftier Parisians have learned to protect themselves.”

From their own government? Artemisia mused to herself and felt a familiar churning in her gut as she leafed through the pamphlet once more. “Maxime, this paper of his, it’s illegal, isn’t it?”

Maxime did not answer at once. After two more flights, he stopped at the top of a dreary landing before a heavily barred door.

“Philippe’s writings have been censored by the government,” he said at length. “There is no free press in this land.”

Once more, he removed his wand from his breast pocket and touched it to the doorknob.

A chill dashed down Artemisia’s spine, bringing with it an icy sweat. “Oh, I shouldn’t be here,” she muttered. “If Ambassador Honorius ever found out!”

Maxime’s brows jumped together. “And you wished to be an Auror? Where is your courage?”

Artemisia jammed herself between him and the wall, annoyance bringing her blood to a simmer. “I have a reputation to uphold.”

Maxime tapped his wand against the doorknob, muttered another Latin phrase and stepped back.

What followed was the sound of abused metal scraping against stout wood, the clicking of old locks and bolts being drawn back. A long minute passed before the door was fully unbarred and when it was finally free of each fastening, it opened onto the hall hesitantly.

“Hello?” A young, olive-skinned man poked his head into the stairwell. His wide brown eyes reminded Artemisia of a deer’s.

“Philippe.” Maxime pushed his spectacles back from his eyes and peered at the gentleman.

“Oh, Maxime.” Philippe heaved a sigh in relief. “How I’ve awaited you’re arrival. My God, I thought you were a Ministry man come to dismantle my press.”

Maxime’s head snapped back in shock. “You have it in the house? Does Cordelia know?”

“She insisted upon it.” Philippe opened the door fully and in doing so, revealed Artemisia. He started violently.

“Now Philippe,” Maxime was quick to assure him, “you mustn’t be afraid, this is the witch I spoke to you of in my letter, the Englishwoman.”

Anglais?” Philippe’s gentle eyes widened. “Here, Maxime?”

“Trust me, my friend.”

Artemisia was feeling more unwelcome by the minute and much to her surprise, she wished she was back at Beauxbatons. Paris had failed live up to her expectations and the citizens of the foul city seemed to be unnaturally skittish.

“You had better introduce me properly,” she told Maxime, trying her best to render her poor French harmless.

Maxime dropped his spectacles back down over his eyes. “Philippe, this is Mlle. Artemisia Lufkin,” he said, his voice sounding less grandiose now that they were standing in some rotten stairwell and not a lavish salon. “Artemisia, this is Philippe Delmas. We went to school together. Go on, don’t be so uncouth. You both look ridiculous standing there.”

Philippe bowed, half-extending his hand as he did so.

Artemisia shook it lightly. “Monsieur Delmas, a pleasure indeed.”

“Come in,” Philippe said and he allowed them to pass over his muddy threshold. “And please excuse the state of things. We’ve been awfully on edge these last few days.”

Artemisia followed him into the main room of the flat and was shocked to find that it served as a drawing room, kitchen and dining room. The single fireplace was crowded with cooking pots and nearby sat a washing tub of dirty water. Stockings hung over the fire to dry and the stink of wet wool made her gag. There was a table and a set of chairs pushed into one corner of the room, along with a bookcase and a faded print of Voltaire. A writing desk sat underneath the only window, littered with half-empty ink bottles, crumpled parchment and broken quills. The uneven floorboards were disguised by a ratty carpet. Another door by the bookcase led to what Artemisia guessed must be the bedroom.

She glanced once at Maxime, but he avoided her gaze.

Uneasiness left her jumpy as she slipped out of her cloak. She didn’t know what bothered her more about Philippe’s flat, the fact that its inhabitants were frightened in their own dwelling or the notion that these lodgings would be considered superior to the droves living on the streets.

Artemisia blushed thinking of her stylish apartment on the Thames.

Philippe arranged three chairs around the only decent piece of furniture-a moth-eaten winged chair-and told them to seat themselves.

He then scurried off in the direction of the bedroom door, calling, “Cordelia, my pet, our guests have arrived.”

Promptly, a young, pretty woman emerged, smoothing the front of her day dress.

“Maxime,” she said, swooping over to kiss Maxime who had settled himself in the winged chair.

Artemisia experienced a surge of jealousy. She never liked it when other women fawned over Maxime. She hated it, in fact.

“Dear Cordelia,” he replied primly, “it is so very lovely to see you again. Your husband has been fair to you, I hope? Does he know what a treasure he possesses?”

Coredelia laughed softly, her grey eyes alight with quiet dignity. “A treasure I am indeed! Look at my hands.” She held them up for his inspection. Her palms were blotted with black ink. “I’ve been at the press all day. Philippe’s assistant quit, but I’ve kept things running. Hmm, some marriage bed. We’ve been hiding the press in our chamber and sleeping by the fire.”

“See my fortune, Maxime.” Philippe stepped behind Cordelia and rested his hands on her shoulders. “It’s not every woman who can work a printing press, though I must say, her sewing spells are disastrous.”

“Ogre!” Cordelia tapped him on the arm. “So rude before our guests. Please, tell me, who is this lady? Artemisia, is it? I remember her from Maxime’s letter.” Cordelia smiled pleasantly at Artemisia, who only shifted in her seat.

She felt very much like a creature in a menagerie, a spectacle to be gawked at and inspected.

But Cordelia proved herself to be gracious. “Mademoiselle, thank so very much for coming. Maxime tells us you are the sharpest mind at Beauxbatons--cleverer than the King’s own ministers. I think this must be true, for you look so very wise.”

Artemisia was not one to be flattered, but she nodded in return. “Oh, he exaggerates, I’m certain,” she replied. “For one thing, I can’t work a printing press.”

“But she reads Rousseau,” Maxime interjected. “That is enough to set her above any Ministry man or Royal, for that matter.”

Philippe suddenly grimaced. “The Royal family, bah! How can it be called such anymore when an Austrian cow has been made queen?”

Artemisia gaped at him. “Marie Antoinette, you mean?” she asked, wondering how anyone could employ such illiberal language against his own sovereign. Of course, the French and Austrians were notorious enemies, but surely the union between the Bourbon and Habsburg houses had smoothed over some of the hostilities.

“Yes, the Austrian spy,” Cordelia replied for her husband, demurely seating herself beside Maxime.

“Surely you jest!” Artemisia sputtered, unable to contain her shock any longer. Did these people truly believe such lunacy?

“Not at all,” Philippe said solemnly and he glanced at Maxime. “Have you told her nothing?” 






The next three hours were among the most strange in Artemisia’s life. Besides feeling horrifically out of place, she could not help but wonder just why Maxime hadn’t spoken of how radical his friends were before their visit to Paris.

As she gathered, Philippe was a failed lawyer. Although he had received a good education like Maxime, his unpredictable temper gained him few clients and less notoriety. With his practice suffering, he now supplemented his income by publishing a small, but successful newspaper and various political pamphlets. Unfortunately, he dedicated his writings only to blasphemous material, slandering his king and queen while promoting sentiments that were, frankly, treasonous.

But what troubled Artemisia most was the popularity of Philippe’s ideas, which he claimed stemmed from classical thinkers such as Cicero and Livy. She herself had read a little of Roman literature as a child, although she never drew from it such unorthodox opinions.

And to her utter dismay, Maxime supported Philippe’s paper, even if he did not agree with his friend’s stance on popular violence. Her lover, however, promoted any type of free press in France, even one founded in sedition.

It was a dangerous game, Artemisia decided. Didn’t Maxime realize the effect this could have on his own prestigious career? And oh, he could end up in the Bastille for such nonsense!

After Cordelia and Philippe had alternately briefed Artemisia on their radical activities, their discussion turned to the matter at hand, which was frightfully perilous.

“It happened five days ago,” Philippe said nervously, his foot bouncing as he sipped his coffee. “I cannot imagine who reported us to the Ministry. They’ve ignored us, for the most part, but something in the last edition must have troubled them.”

“Indeed,” Artemisia murmured as she leafed through his latest paper, in which there was talk of rioting and the arming of every “good citizen”.

“The police followed Philippe’s assistant to his office,” Cordelia continued. She poured Maxime another cup of coffee, lamenting that she could offer him no sugar. “They would have arrested him, had he not confessed and directed them to the press. It was destroyed, we think, or taken to their headquarters for further examination.” She paused and reached across, squeezing her husband’s hand. “Fortunately, we were able to borrow this printing press from another dear friend. But oh, Maxime, I know they shall come again!”

Artemisia raised her eyebrows when Cordelia’s voice wavered with the threat of tears. Really, such dramatics! How could Maxime stand these people? Certainly, he was more patient than her.

“My sweet Cordelia,” he said at once, uncrossing his legs and planting both his feet firmly on the frayed carpet. “You mustn’t let their threats sway you. I have read your husband’s letter detailing the situation and I have noted the repressive air at Beauxbatons. I would suggest that you continue printing and I will make a case for you at the Ministry.”

“Maxime!” Artemisia sat bolt upright in her chair. “You cannot mean to do that!”

He stared at her calmly. “Why not?”

“Because…because…” She trailed off, realizing she couldn’t reply without offending the Delmas’. “Oh well, it’s your business, I suppose.”

“Indeed it is.” He set down his empty cup on the arm of his chair.

A moment of tense silence filled the tiny flat. Artemisia felt as though the curiosity of her spectators had turned to distaste.

“Is there nothing that you are passionate about, Mlle. Lufkin?” Philippe asked at length, earning a disapproving look from his wife.

“Husband,” Cordelia clucked. “You need not answer his query, Artemisia. Goodness, you can be a brute sometimes, Philippe.”

“It’s quite fine,” Artemisia ground out, realizing that she was being challenged. “I am passionate about government, Monsieur Delmas.”

“But not politics?” he prodded. “If you were, I daresay you’d be petitioning your Parliament to revoke the tyrannical taxes imposed upon the American colonies.”

Maxime cleared his throat abruptly. “Artemisia is against the Coercive Acts,” he said softly. “She told me so herself.”

“Yes, I am,” Artemisia replied. “But I will not threaten Parliament with violence simply because I do not agree with their every act. It is…”

“Treason?” Philippe supplied, raising a dark brow. His temper was beginning to show, sundering his beguiling, sensitive nature.

“I believe it is wrong,” she said, allowing a bit of heat to enter her own voice.

“So you will remain silent while the colonies suffer? How very hypocritical.”

Artemisia tightened her fingers around her coffee cup, turning her knuckles ivory. “I am free to voice my stance on the Acts in England,” she said slowly. “And I will do so. But to threaten Britain’s ministers, well monsieur, I should rather be damned.”

Another length of silence passed. Philippe seemed to shake off his anger as he stood and placed his empty cup on the mantle. “You are fortunate to be able to speak freely, Mlle. Lufkin,” he said mildly. “We in France do not have such a…luxury.”

Luxury! Oh, Artemisia hated the word. It was like an accusation. A poisonous snake of a phrase.

Maxime seemed to notice the hidden insinuation of Artemisia’s aristocracy, for he suddenly was eager to depart. “We really must be getting back to Beauxbatons. The sooner I can present the matter, the better. But Philippe, will you show me what you’ve been printing all this time? Perhaps I can take a copy back with me.”

“Of course.” Philippe rose, along with Maxime, and the two men left the room, entering the closed off bed chamber.

While they were gone, Cordelia tried her best to fill the stale air with frivolous talk laced with misplaced femininity. Artemisia was hard put to respond in kind and she kept her ears trained on the other room, hoping that she might be able to discern an echo of Maxime’s conversation with Philippe.

What she heard did not please her.

“…are you certain, Maxime? Artemisia, she…English spies, these days…not to be trusted.”






An hour later, she was crossing a bridge that spanned the Seine. It was snowing and Paris had been plunged into early shadows as a long winter night stretched its fingertips over the city. Since leaving the Delmas’ apartment, Artemisia had not shared a single word with Maxime.

Not a single word.

The silence was unnerving, but at the same time, she felt too muddled to speak.

How could Maxime keep such friends? How could a mild-mannered, country lawyer vow to defend radicals?

She was unsettled and sick at heart. The spell had been 
broken and now she snuck worried glances at the stranger walking besides her.

Just who was Maximilien Rondelet?

Halfway over the bridge, with an unfriendly wind threatening to lift the hat from his head, Maxime stopped and approached the brick railing.

“Come stand with me, Artemisia,” he said.

“It’s bloody freezing,” she moaned in reply, pulling the collar of her coat up to her cheeks.

“Just a minute. I only need a minute.”

She joined him by the railing, ducking her head against the storm. Oily street lamps illuminated the opposite bank and a destitute Muggle woman, wrapped in filthy rags, made her way along the street.

Artemisia felt a surge of pity, garbed as she was in a fine suit of clothes and good leather shoes.

Maxime made a tiny noise in the back of his throat. “Pardon me,” he said, withdrawing his wand from his pocket and pointing it at the woman.

“What-” Artemisia began, trailing off as a warm jet of white light streamed forth from the tip of the wand.

He had transfigured the topmost layer of the woman’s rags into a patched cloak. The woman paused, stretched out her arms and touched her new garment with obvious disbelief. And then, clasping her hands before her, she fell to her knees on the pavement to give thanks.

Artemisia was shocked by the sight. She grasped Maxime by the forearm and whirled him around.

“My God, you’ve broken the Statue of Secrecy!” she hissed, her breath rushing through her teeth in a delicate vapor.

“A small price to pay to offer a wretch some comfort,” he replied, his voice uncharacteristically harsh.

Artemisia stepped back for him. “Maxime, are you mad?”

“No.” He dropped his wand back into his pocket and arranged the folds of his own cloak. “Wouldn’t you have done the same?”

“I…I don’t know.”

Maxime’s face soured. “Then I might ask the same thing of you. Are you mad?”

Artemisia said nothing, but slumped against the brick railing. It was too much, first Paris, then the Delmas’ and now this…doing magic in plain view of Muggles.

Well, she had always thought that Maxime was a queer fellow.

A sudden, tempestuous fear gripped her as she realized that her lover belonged not only to her, but to the world. And the world was wicked, threatening to take him and change him. Everyday, she risked losing him.

Emotion caused a sob to bubble in her throat. “I am frightened of this…this,” she managed.

Maxime wrinkled his long nose. “Please, do not be dramatic. Fear is most unbecoming. It makes you sound like a simpleton.”

“Sometimes I wish I were.” She angrily jammed her hands into her pockets. “Must you jeopardize yourself for a newspaper?” And must you jeopardize us for seditious ideals? she thought riotously, hoping he could read her envy as it was.

Maxime surveyed her plainly and then, without having to be cajoled, he rested a steadying hand on her shoulder.

Artemisia wrapped her arms around him and buried her cold nose into his warm neck, feeling the hot pulse of blood against his flesh.

“You must be mine,” she told him. “I need you more than anyone.”

She heard him sigh, but it was an understanding sigh. Sympathy made him gentle once more.

Together, they walked arm and arm through the streets of Paris as the wind piled treacherous snowdrifts at their feet. 





Author’s Note: So, any idea who Philippe is based on? No? All right, I’ll tell you. ^_^ Philippe Delmas was modeled after Camille Desmoulins, a radical journalist/politician and one of Robespierre’s close friends. In July of 1789, he urged Parisians to take up arms against the Old Regime, effectively starting the riots that led to the storming of the Bastille two days later. However, he had a fatal falling out with the Incorruptible during the Danton affair and was sent to the guillotine in April of 1794.

In Chapter Ten, Ambassador Honorius expresses his concerns over unrest in England’s North American colonies, while Artemisia is forced to consider her opinion of the coming conflict. And at last, the unstable peace is shattered one April morning in the small Massachusetts town of Lexington, when the shot heard round the world signals the start of a revolution.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! I cannot possibly express how grateful I am for the support this fic has received. Chapter Ten should be posted no later than Tuesday the 9th. I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Translation: Anglais: English

Chapter 11: Rubicon
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Stunning chapter image by horizonblvd @ TDA

Disclaimer:
I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. All OCs mentioned herein belong to me.

Chapter Ten Rubicon

“The die has been cast”-Julius Caesar

Artemisia tried not to think of the dissent in the North American colonies, even though Philippe Delmas, along with many others, seemed preoccupied with it. For a while, she was able to successfully ignore the frighteningly rebellious sentiments that brewed in Boston. Winter ceded to a tepid spring at Beauxbatons and she began to consider her time spent in France.

Almost a year had past. A long year.

And in the back of her mind, she wondered how much longer it would last. Of course, ambassadors stayed abroad for extensive periods of time, although Honorius seemed to have outlived his usefulness. For nearly two months, he had failed to introduce any new proposals to the French Ministry and work on the Anglo-Gaul treaty had all but ceased.

Artemisia began to worry.

If a new ambassador was appointed to Beauxbatons to support a more aggressive foreign policy, then she would certainly be returned to England.

The matter shouldn’t have bothered her. She didn’t like France. The people vexed her, the language was troublesome and she had spent too much money on fashionable clothing and gaming. By all rights, returning home to England and her family, should have thrilled her.

But oh, she was in love.

Maxime, dear Maxime. Her little odd fellow. Artemisia wondered if he cared for her as well. He wasn’t affectionate, even though he clearly enjoyed her company. He was poor at expressing his emotions and often he swore that he was devoted only to the people of his province, who so sorely needed his aid in regulating flour prices and alleviating the bread shortage.

If she left France, would he even bother to write to her?

Artemisia dismissed her ruminations as meaningless distractions and vowed to savor the time she had with Maxime. And as the snow began to melt and the hedges in the garden promised buds, she forgot her worries.

But then March came, the month in which Caesar was slain.

On the last day of the month, she went to see Ambassador Honorius in his chambers. It was a Wednesday and he normally attended to his correspondence in the middle of the week. As she was admitted into his study, Artemisia steeled herself for several hours of letter writing. Honorius wasn’t fond of self-dictating quills and he trusted his words to her hand alone.

She sat herself by his great cherry desk, uncorked the ink bottle and stirred the black liquid with the tip of a fresh pen.

And then she waited. A good ten minutes passed before the Ambassador entered from his sitting room. He was still in his dressing gown, wigless, with a scroll of parchment dangling listlessly in his right hand.

“Dear sir!” Artemisia pushed herself to her feet when she noticed his pale countenance. A fine sheen of sweat glazed his brow and his skin was mottled with shock. “Ambassador, are you ill, sir?”

She was truly alarmed. Honorius, although an old man, possessed a strong constitution. He had spent his youth in the wilds of North America, trading with the Iroquois on behalf of the Ministry and he boasted of having taken the Mississippi down to the French port city of New Orleans in a single summer.

And now, the poor fellow looked entirely defeated.

“Oh lass,” he moaned, one hand touching his chest. “Must those Ministry fools be so unfair? Here, read for yourself, that damned Sir Julian Wenshaw, that young pup. Well, he may be the new Deputy Minister of Magic, but he won’t last long with sentiments such as these.”

Honorius handed her the parchment and Artemisia read it, anxiety infecting her fingers with a palsied tremble.

To the Honorable Ambassador Fredrick Honorius,

It has come to our attention that you have failed fulfill His Majesty’s expectations regarding the agreement of a new treaty under the Magical Ministries of England and France. Therefore, in accordance with Marcus Willowyn, Minister of Magic of Great Britain, you are hereby allotted four weeks to secure preliminary discussions for the treaty and, if successful, a following month to present the completed treaty to the Ministry for approval. We expect you to keep us informed of any imminent developments.


The Office of the Deputy Minister of Magic of Great Britain
Sir Julian Wenshaw


Artemisia laid the letter carefully on the desk, her heart suddenly throbbing in her ears.
“But have you not already approached the French Ministry with preliminary discussions of a new treaty?” she asked, knowing she was out of place posing a question to her superior.

Honorius ignored her insubordination.

“The French won’t budge,” he said weakly, lowering himself onto the throne-like chair he had imported from his residence in Glasgow. “I cannot convince them to accept the most standard of agreements. They simply refuse to negotiate! I’ve tried, Miss Lufkin, oh, how I have tried.”

Artemisia clutched the desk behind her. Honorius seemed as though he would weep. And then, the issue she had so dreaded, the matter she had struggled to ignore, reared its seditious face.

“Lass, I swear, this is the doing of the colonies,” he said, a great sigh making his barreled chest heave.

“Impossible, sir,” she tittered. “The French…they’re stubborn arses, I should know.”

“I have heard from too many politicians that they sympathize with the American colonists,” Honorius continued, undeterred by her paltry profanity.

“Yes,” Artemisia mumbled, remembering Philippe Delmas and his fiery proclamations.

A house elf entered, bringing them both tea. Honorius waved the creature away without a word.

“It’s a matter of revenge,” he said, wiping his sweaty forehead on his sleeve. The underarms of his snowy shirt were stained yellow. “The French would ally themselves with the devil himself if only they could vex England. Damn Wenshaw…no man could treat with these animals.”

Panic began to gnaw at Artemisia. She fidgeted where she stood. Was Honorius giving up so easily? No, she couldn’t let him…she couldn’t leave Maxime.

“Please, sir,” she said, coming to kneel by his chair, a desperate petitioner before a dying god. “I have faith in you. And…and we have time, an abundance of time. You haven’t even been officially recalled. Write to Minister Willowyn himself, tell him of your efforts. You’ve been an ambassador for Britain for nearly thirty years, sir. He cannot refuse you.”

But Honorius slumped in his throne, weary, wasted. “Ah lass,” he muttered. “Thirty years indeed. I’ll do what I can, but you shouldn’t concern yourself. You are young yet. Enjoy Beauxbatons while you can. Ah, things would be different, I’d wager, if I was treating with the Iroquois again.”





The tide was turning. And the world was changing. Changing too fast. Artemisia clung to the precipice and dangled above the jagged rocks of loss. For a day she kept to herself, moaning miserably.

Honorius would eventually be recalled to England and she would be forced to go with him. She’d beg Maxime to write her and love her from afar. And Maxime would go back to his law practice and gain prestige and marry a comely young woman from his parish. Another woman, yes and he would forget that silly English girl.

Oh, darling Maxime.

Briefly, Artemisia entertained the thought of staying in France with him. But to what end? Her French was passable at best and she had no prospects in the foreign land. Papa and Tarquin were waiting for her back home. She had solid opportunities with the Ministry.

No, it was all rather obvious.

Silencing her self-pity, she went to visit Maxime on Friday. He was busy with his flour prices and the bread shortage in his province and he received her in his customarily harried fashion, spectacles pushed high on his forehead.

“I’ve received half a dozen owls this week alone,” he said, thrusting the scrolls of parchment under her nose. “All from my neighbors. The poor are starving and I can only get the Ministry to allot twenty extra sacks of flour. It’s an outrage!”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Artemisia replied. She sat on his citrus-scented bed and watched him scuttle about his desk in distraction. “Have you heard from Philippe?”

“Mmm, I have.” Maxime knocked over his inkwell in his haste and was forced to siphon off the spilled liquid with his wand. “He’s still distributing his paper, although it has become perilous. Ah and he has written another pamphlet. Used a penname, of course. Would you like a copy?”

“No,” Artemisia snorted.

“It might interest you. He wrote about the North American colonies.”

“The colonies!” She threw her hands up. “Maxime, I cannot stand to hear of them.”

He paused, pushed his spectacles back down over his eyes. “What is wrong?”

“Nothing at all. Never mind. I’m interrupting your work.” She rose to leave.

Maxime turned back to his desk. “Stay, you help me think.”

“Oh.” His kindness made her smile. “You flatter me.”

Maxime sat by his desk. “How am I to answer these letters? Should I tell my neighbors that their government does not give a damn about them?”

“Hold your tongue, Merlin’s bones! You’ll be thrown into the Bastille.”

“Oh come now, don’t be dramatic.” He dipped his pen into the inkwell. “That’s the least of it, my dear. Why, whatever is the matter with you today? I’ve never seen you this put out.”

Artemisia sighed, raising her hands in defeat. “I did not wish to tell you.”

“What?” For a moment, his face froze. “What is the matter?”

Hmm, he is concerned about me, she thought. Perhaps he’s not so emotionless as one would think. 

She frowned, letting her upset show for the first time. “Things go poorly with Ambassador Honorius.”

“Is it his health?” Maxime raised a brow.

“No, not at all. The British Ministry isn’t pleased with his work. There is a good chance he will be recalled in April and I along with him.”

Silence then. She waited, unable to look at him and instead fixed her eyes on his portrait above the mantle. The artist had used yellowish creams for his face, making his skin look sallow. But oh, he was like a lily in person, the thin veins around his temple hinting at his delicate, sensitive nature.

“I’ll have to leave,” Artemisia said at last. “What…eh, what do you think of that?”

“Pardon?” He flinched ever so slightly.

So he wouldn’t say it after all. Or mayhap he would.

Either way, she did not possess the resolve to hear him out.

“Never mind,” Artemisia gulped, hoisting herself off his bed once more. She left his chambers without saying another a word so that he would not hear the tears straining her voice.





On the night of April 19th, Artemisia was roused from a fitful sleep by Honorius. The Ambassador stood at her door in a wrinkled waistcoat, his shoulders dusted with stale powder from his wig.

“I’m sorry, lass,” he said, heaving a sigh that sounded much like a death rattle. “It’s all over for us. The Bostonians and our troops have had it out.”

“What do you mean, sir?” Artemisia asked, pulling her dressing gown over her flimsy shift. The window overlooking the stable yard was open and a mild nighttime wind caused gooseflesh to rise up on her arms.

She helped the elderly man into her chamber and sat him by the nearly dead fire.

“A letter from the Ministry,” he said softly, grasping her hand with surprising strength. “General Gage, the Muggle military commander of Boston, sent some of his boys out to seize weapons that the Yankees had hidden away somewhere in the countryside. It started out all peaceful like…but…someone fired a shot. Men were killed. I hear we got the worst of it. Our soldiers are now surrounded in Boston city. It’s open rebellion, lass.”

Artemisia did not respond. With some difficulty, she pulled her hand free from Honorius and paced across her room.

Yes, she decided, this was one of those nights, when the hours stretch taut and men go wild. It suddenly occurred to her the Ambassador has spoken of their colonist brethren as a separate people.

She supposed that was when rebellion truly started, when nations split apart and defined themselves as opposites instead of men.

It made her sick.

“What does this mean for us?” she asked, shocked by her own shrewdness.

Honorius groaned quietly. “The Muggle government doesn’t know yet, it’s too early. But the Ministry is in a fair uproar. I would guess…when things settle down, that it is, I shall receive some notice of…”

“Recall,” Artemisia murmured.

“I’m sorry lass,” was all Honorius could say.

Shortly after dawn, as expected, the letter came by owl. Ambassador Honorius was ordered to return, with his staff, to England within the week. A replacement had already been selected whom the Ministry thought might handle “this most tremulous situation” with better efficiency.

Over night, Great Britain had been turned into a country at war.

Honorius left her chambers a broken man and Artemisia was finally alone. For an hour she sat at her desk, staring at a blank piece of parchment. She could not bear to see Maxime now. A letter would have to do.

She kept it brief, told him of the uprising in Boston and the termination of Ambassador’s position in France. And after she was satisfied with the terse lines, she sent it along with a house elf to Maxime’s apartments.

He wrote back to her within a half hour. Trembling and weeping, she held his reply in her hands.

Dear Mlle. Lufkin,

Will you marry me?

Yr Most Obedient Servant,
M. Rondelet
 




Author’s Note: Surprised? Disappointed? Excited? Confused? Please let me know! I’d love to hear your reactions to this chapter.

As always, I must extend my most heartfelt thanks to all my wonderful readers. You guys rock!

Chapter Eleven should be posted no later than Thursday the 18th. Have a great week!

Chapter 12: L'amour de Moi
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Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. All OCs mentioned herein belong to me.

Chapter Eleven L’amour de Moi

“And we loved with a love that was more than a love”-from ‘Annabel Lee’ by Edgar Allan Poe

Maxime was not in his room when Artemisia went looking for him. Nor was he in the Hall of the Illumination or the Chamber of Provincial Delegates. After searching most of the ground floor of Beauxbatons, she began to wonder if he had lost his nerve and Apparated.

Either that or Maximilien Rondelet honestly loved her.

And he wasn’t one to love.

Why, then, had he asked her to marry her?

It took an hour for Artemisia to find him, and by then she was striding into the garden on shaky legs, his note crumpled in her white-knuckled left hand. Maxime was sitting on a bench with his copy of The Social Contract. As she drew nigh, she noticed a slight tremor infecting his fingers.

She stopped an awkward foot away from him and took a deep breath. “I need to know why.”

Maxime looked up, adjusting his spectacles. The book snapped closed. “Artemisia, my dear, why do you always insist on posing troublesome questions?”

She gaped at him. “Me? Merlin’s bones, Maxime! You are the most pragmatic man I know.”

A hint of a convulsive smile moved the indifference from his face. “Ah, you see, I was…how do you say, teasing you?”

“Have you lost your mind?”

“No.” He gestured to the space on the bench next to him.

Hesitantly, Artemisia sat. They were alone in this particular lane and the high lilac bushes guarded them well from prying eyes. Artemisia took out her handkerchief and promptly began tying it into knots.

“I need to know why because, because….”she trailed off, unsure of how to properly explain her confusion.

Maxime sighed. “You must know why because it is in your nature. Please, let us not waste our time questioning the questions themselves.”

“Agreed.” Artemisia flicked her tongue along her dry lips. “And do understand, I’m not rejecting you.” She wanted to make that point inarguably clear. Even now, she wanted to stand up on the bench and shout to all of Beauxbatons that she would marry Maximilien Rondelet.

But they must consider things first. And she must know why he had proposed to her. Maxime was a sensible man with a reason behind everything.

What, then, was his reason for marrying her?

“I never said you were rejecting me,” he replied.

“But I must settle things in my mind.”

“I admire you for your logic.” Maxime shifted slightly and, amazingly, placed a soft hand on her forearm. “Dear Artemisia, you appear entirely befuddled.”

“I am shocked,” she admitted, “although I’ve weathered worse. Maxime, we must discuss this.” She lifted his hand from his arm and pressed it into her own.

“Well, I would think the most suitable query to pose is why exactly do people marry?” Again, that hint of a smile.

Artemisia struggled to quell her rising excitement. “Right.”

“All right then. Why do people marry?”

“For wealth,” she supplied. “But oh, you despise money. I assume you have no designs on my prosperity.”

“Indeed.” He moved his hand slightly, resting his thumb on top of hers. Slowly, he began to stroke the backs of her fingers. “Why else?”

“For position.”

“Neither of us have one,” Maxime said. “And you know my stance on the nobility. The world should be better off without them.”

“For an alliance,” Artemisia continued, “whether between families or nations.”

“Unless you have a trick up your sleeve, I assume Ambassador Honorius hasn’t drafted us into any treaty.”

Artemisia rested her chin on the heel of her palm. “Children,” she said. “People marry to secure their legacy.”

“That’s awfully primitive,” Maxime replied, “although I suppose you are right. The argument does not stand, however. We both have brothers who might carry on our family names.”

“You’re making this rather difficult, you know,” Artemisia said, still fighting her exhilaration with little success. Her voice had jumped an octave higher.

Maxime shook his head with a patient grin. “On the contrary, I should think it was rather simple.”

“But it isn’t!” She could contain herself no longer. Jumping to her feet, she paced before the bench, her handkerchief flapping like a dove’s wing. “You are a most complex man, Maxime.”

“It is you who have complicated things.” He paused to push his spectacles further up his nose. “Can you not say it?”

“What?”

“The obvious!”

Artemisia stopped and for a brief instant, allowed blind euphoria to overtake her. But then she remembered who she was and just why she was standing there. Clasping her handkerchief over her mouth, she dared to mutter, “You love me.”

Maxime, at last, looked satisfied.

Artemisia was not.

“You must explain it to me,” she demanded.

He scoffed, “Such a bother you are! Tell me, do you not believe me?”

“It is not a matter of belief, but rather expression.”

Maxime raised his eyes heavenward, his chest heaving with vexation. Around him, early spring flowers graced budding boughs. “You must acknowledge that there are instances when life arranges itself in a particular order and is a man not a fool to ignore opportunity?”

Artemisia hesitated. She knew those words! But from whence had them come? In frustration, she flung her handkerchief down at her feet.

“We are already joined,” he continued. “We are the only two people on this earth who can exist this way.”

And suddenly she remembered. The words were hers and she had spoken them to Maxime in her desperation to make him understand just why they belonged together.

“Oh,” she said simply. Her agitation suddenly left her and she sank back down onto the bench. “Oh, Maxime.”

“Is the matter settled for you now?”

“Entirely.”

“Then may we proceed?”

Artemisia would have liked to say yes, but reason stayed her impulsive tongue. “There is one more thing I must know,” she said slowly, afraid that he would at last lose his patience and abandon her for good. “How are we to do this?”

“In the usual manner.” He took her hand again. “You forget that I am a lawyer. I can have the marriage certificate drawn up tonight. There is an officiator in the town not far from here. He can perform the ceremony tomorrow if you wish.”

“That is not what I meant.” She shifted closer to him, the tip of her long nose just touching the first row of curls on his wig. “How are we to be married? I…I cannot stay in France. Will you come with me to England?”

“No, I have my practice. I fear we must approach this problem plainly. Until either of us might join the other to cohabit, we shall live apart. It’s a simple solution, not ideal, but necessary. I will visit you in England as often as I can and perhaps you will come to me here in France. Do you find the arrangement satisfactory?”

“No,” Artemisia admitted, but then she lifted Maxime’s hand to her breast and pressed it fast against her. “But oh, see what a wretch I am! If it must be this way, then I shall weather the separation. Yes, Maxime, oh yes, I will marry you!”








The act of marriage itself was relatively simple. Maxime took full advantage of his position as a lawyer and had a colleague draw up the marriage certificate in haste and secrecy. He also made an appointment with a local notary and arranged to have the discreet ceremony performed in the town hall of a small village ten miles away from Beauxbatons.

Artemisia, for her part, had very little to do. She spent the day before her wedding alone, packing her effects and planning her return to England in two days. Ambassador Honorius had failed to retain his post in France and his replacement was set to arrive within a week. The hustle and bustle of their imminent departure kept Artemisia from worrying too much, even though she did torture herself over whether to write Tarquin or not.

Maxime had informed his sister Charlotte of his intended marriage, although he did not expect her to attend the ceremony. It was decided that they would keep their union quiet and avoid any unnecessary gossip.

Beauxbatons often bred salacious rumors, destroying reputations indiscriminately and Artemisia could guess what would be said of her. Whispers of pregnancy or indiscretion did not suit her in the least.

And so, feeling awfully guilty, she refrained from writing her brother or father and even lied to Honorius about her absence the day before their leave-taking. The poor man was too harassed to give her sojourn to the nearby village any deep thought.

On the morning of the twenty-second, Maxime hired a coach to take them from Beauxbatons. He insisted on using inconspicuous Muggle transportation and spent the ride discussing with her the finalities of their union.

Artemisia wished she could remain as calm as he, although she did notice that he kept his handkerchief out to dab the sweat from his brow.

They arrived at the village shortly after noon and were considerably delayed at the town hall while the officiator took his midday meal. By three o’clock, both bride and groom were pale and trembling.

Only when the ceremony started did Artemisia realize she was wearing the most dowdy black coat and breeches, fit perhaps for a pauper’s funeral.

Maxime wore his sky blue coat.

Vows were exchanged quickly, with a preciseness they both approved of. The officiator’s secretary stood in as a witness and afterwards, the notary passed them the certificates to sign.

In a matter a fifteen minutes, Artemisia became Madame de Rondelet.

Only after the documents were embellished with the crimson seal of the notary’s authority and the wedding pronounced complete did she think to cry.

On their way out of the town hall, her empty stomach dropped to her knees and she held on tightly to her husband’s arm in stifled silence. The air was light and kind, spiced with the balminess of late April and the gentle beckoning of an eager spring.

They both stood by the town well and stared at each other.

Artemisia, unable to help herself, posed the most obvious question.

“Well, what are we to do now?”

Maxime was busy slipping their certificates into a ledger. His gaze darted up to her, reaching over the rim of his slipping glasses.

“I’ve taken the liberty of securing us a room at the local inn for the night. I hope you don’t mind.”

“No.” She shifted her feet awkwardly. “I don’t feel like going back to Beauxbatons now.”

“So I thought.”

They ate a rustic dinner of lamb, soup and stale bread in the main room of the tavern. The innkeeper, upon hearing that they had just been married, rushed off to his own pantry and produced his best wine. He was a widower of forty with no children and only too happy to share in their cheer.

For dessert, they nibbled on dry fruit and cheese, quite different for the standard fare at the palace ten miles away.

They retired at nine up a narrow staircase to the largest room the innkeeper could spare. Maxime paused while opening the door.

“I believe there is some manner of tradition,” he said mildly and without warning, tried his best to lift Artemisia over the threshold.

He was, after all, a slight man, and their entrance in the room comprised of much frantic stumbling.

Artemisia wriggled herself free from his arms. “That’s quite all right, Maxime. You made a valiant effort. I’m very nearly taller than you, as is.”

Maxime flushed slightly. “Well, it is of no consequence.” He removed his jacket and laid it across the back of one of the straw-bottomed chairs.

Artemisia raised a brow. Perhaps matrimony had enlivened his appetite for intimacy?

He seemed to guess her thoughts and instead, pulled a small locket from out of his breast pocket.

“I have a gift for you,” he said. “It’s by my sister’s hand, so it isn’t very good…but perhaps it will keep you company in England when I cannot.”

Artemisia took the locket from him and opened it. Inside was a miniature of Maxime. The portrait, she guessed, was at least a few years old, as the sitter’s face was still freshened with adolescence.

She smiled through her tears. “Thank you, husband.”

And then she was embracing him and he her. Trembling arms pressed their bodies closer and need, not born from passion, but from the fear of separation, made them weep together.

After they had made love, Artemisia left Maxime dozing on the narrow bed in their room and went downstairs in naught but her shift. The innkeeper had fallen asleep at the table with his empty bottle of wine and only the dogs by the hearth stirred sleepily as she passed them by.

In the cool of the night, she stood in the doorway and watched a bent peddler cross the town square. From somewhere far off, evening birds twittered in their trees and a horse whinnied lowly.

Artemisia shut her eyes for a minute, shut them against the world that was spinning too fast and drowning her even now in restless waters.

“I could stay with him,” she said to herself. But when the words left her lips, she tasted the fallacy and heard her own hopeless lie. 






Author’s Note: A shorter chapter, but I did not think there was any reason to draw out the fluff. ^_^ Hopefully it wasn’t too awkward. Like I said, I haven’t written romance in ages.

*sigh* Well, Artemisia and Maxime are married. Originally, when I first started writing this story, they were only supposed to be lovers for a short while, but I simply couldn’t resist making their relationship more permanent. After all, it should make the Reign of Terror much more interesting. ;)

In the next chapter, Artemisia will be back in England where she will receive a visit from her brother Tarquin. As always, I must extend my most heartfelt thanks to all my readers and reviewers. I love you guys! Chapter Eleven will be posted no later than the 27th. Take care!

Translation: l’amour de moi-my true beloved

Chapter 13: London Lodgings
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Fantastic chapter image by the talented shalena @ TDA


Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. However, I do own all OCs mentioned herein.

Chapter Twelve London Lodgings

London is a dainty place,
A great and gallant city.
All the streets are paved with gold
And all the folks are witty.
-Excerpt from “London” performed by Steeleye Span


June 1775 

Artemisia was at the door before he could knock and she threw it open, leaping directly into her brother’s arms.

“Tarquin!”

Her weight knocked them both down the first few steps and caused his cane to clatter noisily onto the landing below.

“Merlin, Artemisia, you simply cannot do that anymore,” Tarquin groaned, lifting her back up the few steps and depositing her in front of her apartment door, “not when you’re nearly as tall as me, at least. But look at you, look at you!”

“Darling, I do believe you are crying,” Artemisia said, her voice thick with her own tears.

Tarquin cuffed her on the back. “Nonsense. It’s this dreadful London air. Such a stink! It would have any man in a consumption within a week.”

“Come in then. I brought enough perfume from France to make all of England smell of roses.”

She took him by the hand and led him into her dwelling, shutting the door behind them with her hip. Once she was sure the lodgers down on the lower levels were out of earshot, she put her arms around her brother again and stifled a sob.

“Tarquin, Tarquin, I didn’t realize it had been so long. Nearly a year. Oh God, I missed you and Papa!”

Artemisia buried her head in his stylish cravat and smelled his manly cologne…so very different from Maxime’s.

“There, there, baby.” Tarquin patted the space between her shoulders, tugging playfully at her braid. “I’ve missed you too, something awful. And you must consider revising your letters, they were terribly dry and downright boring. I had a mind to fly over to Beauxbatons myself to scold you.”

“You should have.” Artemisia took his hands and kissed them. “Let us go into the parlor, I should like you to see my new lodgings. Do you like them? The rent is not half so bad and I have a lovely view of the Thames.”

“It is very fashionable,” he said as she lead him from the wainscoted hall into the parlor with it’s dainty powder blue walls and dark wood furniture. A window on the far side of the room looked out over the river, while another gave them a view of a courtyard fenced in by wrought iron gates.

Tarquin seated himself on the cream-colored settee, leaning his walking stick against the wall and running a finger over the delicate three-legged table to his right. A chilled crystal decanter stood upon it, filled with claret.

Artemisia put the golden screens over the ashy hearth and leaned against the mantle.

“It is convenient,” she said. “Not quite so far from the Ministry. I have yet to get a house elf though. Can we go to a dinner club to eat? I dare not cook.”

Tarquin raised his chestnut eyebrows, looking every bit the gentleman lawyer in his green silk frock coat and black breeches. “Dear God, you’ve grown,” he said. “I would swear it.”

“You mean to say that I am plump?” she threw back at him, crossing her arms playfully over her chest. “I did eat many pastries in France.”

“No, stupid girl.” Tarquin set his hat on the back of the settee with a muted sigh. “You have changed…matured, I suppose. In a way, I hardly recognized you.”

For the first time, Artemisia felt a twinge of uncertainty. Changed? Nonsense! She was very much the same…although now a married woman.

Surely, Tarquin couldn’t tell that just by looking at her. Or could he?

Artemisia lifted one foot and stretched her calf. She was supposed to tell him now about her marriage to Maxime. It would be so much easier face to face, or so she had hoped. News such as this could not be sent in a letter. But now that she was standing across from her brother, she felt her mouth go dry with nerves.

This was going to be difficult.

After all, she had only left Maxime in France a little over a month and a half ago. And oh, what a bitter parting it had been. The union brought on by marriage was one thing, but the very real separation of many miles was devastating. Artemisia did not know how she could cope with it and her pining was only now soothed by Tarquin’s visit.

“See, you have changed,” he said, helping himself to the claret. “I have never known you to stay silent for so long.”

“I’m sorry.” Artemisia rolled her shoulders. “I was just thinking of how very long I was gone. I did miss England.”

“Do you regret going now?”

Damn him! Damn Tarquin and his lawyer’s tricks. Oh, he was keen of mind and crafty. Her brother knew just where to prod her.

“Not at all. I think I learned a great deal.”

Artemisia moved away from the fireplace and seated herself in a winged chair. “It needs something,” she said, gesturing at the empty wall space above the mantle. “A family portrait, perhaps?”

Tarquin now raised both eyebrows. “You certainly were homesick.”

“How is Papa?”

“Little fiend! You have not even asked after me.”

“Tarquin.” He was deflecting and she knew it. A second seed of unease burrowed in her chest. She glanced at the window and saw the Thames running silver through the city.

“He is fine, Artemisia.”

“Really? Then why did he not ask me back to Bath the moment I returned? And why did you come to meet me in London? You hate London, Tarquin.”

Her brother handed her a goblet of claret. “Here.”

A nervous smile made Artemisia’s lips twitch. “I learned to drink in France, you know.”

Tarquin sipped his drink with a frown. “I do not want you to worry yourself sick, darling. Everything is perfectly fine. Papa has been in St. Mungo’s for a little while. He had a brush with smallpox, they think, but certainly nothing treacherous.”

“Smallpox!” Artemisia was on her feet then, some of the claret spilling onto the hardwood floors. “Oh God…no.”

This time, she turned away so Tarquin wouldn’t see her cry.

“Artemisia, I promise you, it is nothing to be vexed over. Wouldn’t I be worried otherwise? Papa is well, he is going home next week. He…he wants you to visit him.” Tarquin leaned forward and touched her knee.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Artemisia pouted angrily.

Tarquin lightly stepped on her toes with his boot. “It wasn’t at all serious. Papa knew you were just back from France and busy finding new lodgings. He did not want you running back and forth to the hospital just to sit and weep by his bedside. You would have never known if I didn’t tell you now. Trust me, he’s perfectly well. Fit as a spring colt.”

“Don’t talk like that,” Artemisia sniffed. “You sound like a country bumpkin.”

“Fresh.” Tarquin sat back, his eyes glinting. “What else did you learn in France?”

“How to play cards. I’m rather good at it.”

“Gamble the family fortune away.” He reached into his pocket, produced his wand and siphoned up her spilt claret. “Really, darling, you need a house elf. Let’s not be so glum now. Wait until you see Papa. He has been so cheery lately. You should be too.”

“I am,” Artemisia replied, facing her brother once more. She wet her parched tongue with the claret and swallowed. “You two think you can get away with anything when I am not around.”

“Only because we know you would forgive us.”

Artemisia fidgeted a little. Now was certainly not the time to tell Tarquin of Maxime. He wouldn’t be pleased and with the added weight of their father’s illness pressing down upon them, he might react harshly.

And why was she sitting her moping over love affairs? Poor Papa was stuck in St. Mungo’s. Guilt seared Artemisia’s already frayed nerves.

“I shall bring Papa some books to read. They are in French, but he speaks the language well enough. I know he’ll just love Rousseau.”

“Ah, that French Muggle philosopher.” Tarquin waved a hand about. “To where have your wizard sensibilities fled to?”

“Oh, don’t be vulgar. You would feel the same way about Rousseau if you read him. He does not speak in terms of wizards and Muggles. He does not have to.”

“That is because he does not know we exist.” Tarquin tapped his nose. “Do not tell me you are turning into a radical now or I shall send you off to the colonies.”

“Please do not speak to me of the colonies,” Artemisia said sulkily. “I was sad to come back and find England at war with her own children.”

Tarquin finished his claret and set his goblet down noisily next to the decanter. “You are a moody thing. What do you care? The colonies are an ocean away…quite literally.” He crossed his legs genteelly.

Artemisia stared at her brother, slumping down in her chair. Dear Tarquin, he was clever, but not worldly. Concerned only with his law practice and the state of his native Bath. Otherwise, he didn’t give a pin as to what went on in wider world and he never would.

Papa was much the same, Artemisia mused, preoccupied with his botany and greenhouses.

From whence, then, had her notion of foreign affairs sprung?

The answer was obvious. She had learned her worldly ways from Maxime.

Artemisia rubbed her eyes with her free hand. Tarquin smiled at her.

“We won’t talk politics then,” he said. “Or perhaps you would prefer to?”

“I don’t know, darling. I only wish the Muggles weren’t sending over droves of their redcoats to shoot muskets at our colonial brethren.”

“Artemisia the pacifist. Hmm, it does not suit you. Is this Ambassador Honorius talking?”

She experienced a jolt of reality at the mention of the name. Ambassador Honorius? He had retired from the Ministry a month ago, but not before Artemisia had tendered her resignation.

Tarquin did not know of that either. She wasn’t keeping him in the dark to be mean, but rather to prepare herself.

Artemisia could have easily found gainful employment with another official of the Department for International Magical Cooperation. But diplomatic work wasn’t necessarily her forte. 

She rose from her chair, set down her goblet and approached her writing desk. Rifling through her pile of correspondence (and stealthily hiding a letter from Maxime) Artemisia found what she was looking for and handed it to Tarquin.

“Read it,” she said.

He frowned thoughtfully, but unfolded the letter and held it close to his face.

Dear Miss Lufkin,
The Department of Magical Law Enforcement has received your application for the position of Auror along with your multiple references and testimonies of good faith from fellow employees. We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected for further consideration, pending a final interview with the Head of the Auror office. Please report to the Ministry on the date of August 9th bearing with you this letter.

Secretary to the Chief of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement,
Harrington Crowley



Tarquin laid the letter in his lap. “My God.”

Artemisia grinned like a loon. “I owe it all to time…and the war, oddly enough. The Ministry is in dire need of new Aurors now that they’re shipping a great many of them to the colonies.”

“You are really going to do it then?” Tarquin handed her back the letter. “I must say, I’d rather you safe in an office someone.”

“I can take care of myself.” Artemisia folded her treasure neatly and stuck it in a desk drawer. “And please don’t tell Papa until I’m certain that they shall hire me.”

“Do you think I am mad?”

“No. Do you think I am?”

She knelt by his chair and let him take her hand.

“I think I preferred it when you were in France,” Tarquin said.

Artemisia looked away, thinking. Tell him of Maxime now. He must know.

“Tarquin,” she began, but he stood suddenly.

“I cannot bear this news on an empty stomach,” he muttered. “Come, let us go out. It’s awfully stuffy in here as is.”

Artemisia sat back on her heels. Damn. “Very well. There is a new dinner club a few streets from here. Would you mind if we tried it?” 







Author’s Note: A transition chapter, but it was necessary and I did miss writing Tarquin. ;)

Thank you all so much for the inspiring feedback! I really do appreciate all the kind, thoughtful reviews I’ve received. ^_^

In chapter thirteen, Artemisia returns to the Auror office for her final interview and is shocked to encounter a familiar face. With any luck, I should have the next installment posted by July 11th.

I hope you have a lovely weekend!

Chapter 14: The Auror Office
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Lovely chapter image by stealingEternity @ TDA

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. However, I do own all OCs mentioned herein.

Chapter Thirteen The Auror Office

We do not know really what is good or bad fortune.-Jean Jacques Rousseau 

August 1775

The Ministry of Magic had changed substantially since Artemisia had last been there. When she Floo’d in on August 9th, the Atrium was indecently crowded with personnel from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Harried Aurors came and went, sweating in their new, war-time issued uniforms which greatly resembled the fine crimson coats Muggle soldiers wore. One particularly short man stood on the rim of the golden fountain, a parchment longer than he was tall spilling from his hands.

“Ladies, gentlemen!” he called in a reedy voice, “I have the list. If you’re company is called, then line up and wait for further instructions. The rest of you are expected to report the training grounds. We have three regiments going to the colonies, the 14th, the 28th and the 70th. I repeat, the 14th, the 28th and the 70th. Line up now and please, let us keep things orderly!”

Artemisia was pushed roughly to the side as the crowd began to arrange itself into some complicated standing formation. She caught hold of one passing Auror’s sleeve, earning an annoyed grunt from the man.

“Me regiment’s been called,” he mumbled, “Leave off, will you?”

“But where are you going?” she asked him anxiously.

The Auror laughed hoarsely. “Boston, I wager, for a two week shift. We’re supposed to be keeping the peace. Hard to manage what with the Yankees shooting hexes at us. Now make way, lass, make way!”

He thrust her to the side, causing her to stumble, her wig slipping underneath her hat.
So it had happened.

This uprising in America, this revolution of sorts had involved the wizarding the world at last. Artemisia couldn’t remember the last time wizarding Britain had joined a Muggle conflict. After all, they had stayed prudently neutral during the Seven Years War and that clash had brought nearly all of Europe into the fray.

The thought made her feel more nervous than she previously was, for now she was not only heading to a much anticipated interview, but also facing a troublesome moral dilemma.

If she did indeed become an Auror, what would happen if she was called abroad to fight?

Well, I simply wouldn’t go, Artemisia thought to herself, but then realized just how childish and selfish her argument sounded.

If she swore herself to England’s service, then she might have to endure battle in the colonies. But how could any loyal Englishwoman clash with her colonial cousins?

It was then that the true horror of civil war dawned on her.

Artemisia shut her eyes for an instant, but was soon jostled further into the throng by the press of bodies. Struggling to gain her breath, she separated herself from the mass of people and headed to the Auror office. With any luck, the department would be entirely emptied of workers. She didn’t think she could stand being gawked at as she waited to be called for her interview.

Her stomach was already twisted into painful knots and she couldn’t help but remember that most unfortunate incident three years ago, when she had been refused employment because of a silly little duel.

But I must appear contrite if the matter comes up, she reminded herself, even if I don’t like the bastard that caused all the fuss. 

What was his name again? Hert? Hart?

Oh well, no matter now.

Sweating in her smart business robes, she found the main staircase fashioned out of cool, grey stone and hurried down to the second level. A great golden plaque on the wall marked the domain of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and she followed a paneled corridor down to the Auror office.

As she had guessed, the place was mercifully quiet, the small atrium outside the Head Auror’s chambers empty except for a house elf who was busy lighting the floating tallow candles.

Artemisia found a seat on a cushioned bench and watched the portraits go about their business, the tiny figures of wizarding heroes such as Siegfried, Beowulf and Roland all doing battle over a disputed game of chess.

The heat in the closed off room made her slightly dizzy. She took one of many spare handkerchiefs from her pocket and wiped her brow, surprised when the linen came away yellow with sweat. Tucked under her arm she kept her official records in a neat ledger, not unlike the one Maxime had used to store their marriage certificates.

Hmm, what would her pacifist husband think of her if she became an Auror?

Artemisia could just imagine his pert, feline face narrowing as it did when he was flummoxed. She thought of his twitchy hands and tense shoulders and his ever-slipping spectacles.

Dear, darling Maxime!

Laughter rose to her lips and unintentionally, she began to chuckle. The arguing portraits stilled and stared at her.

“Touched in the head,” the gallant Roland in his French armor said gravely to his companions.

Artemisia was about to respond when the door to the Head Auror’s office opened.

She was on her feet in a flash.

“Ah, good morning, Miss Lufkin.” A tall, lean man emerged, resplendent in a turquoise suit, his waistcoat embellished with tiny threads of gold. “You are Miss Lufkin, I assume. Splendid! I am Mr. Hugh Brinton of the Auror office. Will you come this way please?”

“Of course, sir.” Artemisia waited until Mr. Brinton’s back was turned before she dusted the stray wig powder from her dark clothes. She followed him into a well-appointed office and sat in the chair opposite a gracious, stylish desk of light wood.

The chamber was much more airy than she had remembered it, the furniture having been changed to reflect the current fashion and the walls painted eggshell white to give the place a sense of openness.

Artemisia felt herself begin to relax.

No worries. No worries at all. I belong here.

Mr. Brinton himself did not sit, but rounded the desk with a warm smile.

“Thank you for being so punctual,” he said. “I cannot tell you how very much we appreciate your coming. New recruits are few these days, even though the Department is looking to hire.”

“Why is that?” Artemisia asked, wondering if she sounded foolish for posing such a query.

Mr. Brinton did not seem to think so. “Oh, this ghastly business,” he said, a slight grimace tightening his soft features. “The colonies, you know. No one wishes to be sent abroad. But it is a matter of duty and one must expect to be called.”

“I see.”

“Surely you are aware of that, Miss Lufkin.”

“Must assuredly, sir.” She handed him her records.

Briefly, he flipped through them and then laid the ledger on the desk. “Everything seems to be in order. You passed the initial Auror exam with an exceptional score. And I see you have completed all primary rounds of training. Nothing is lacking. You should be ready for service at the end of the month.”

“Truly, sir?” Artemisia found herself sitting on the edge of her chair. Excitement and relief erupted within her and she felt as though she would fling her arms around Mr. Brinton’s neck in gratitude.

She would be accepted. Accepted!

Her lifelong ambition would come to pass. She would be an Auror for Ministry of Magic. An Auror!

The thought made her faint. She folded her shaking hands on her lap and smiled brilliantly. “Thank you, sir!”

Mr. Brinton laughed lightly. “This is not our usual hiring process,” he said, a flicker of thoughtfulness coming to his light blue eyes. “Training is expected to take a year, at least, but we simply do not have the time. And since you have worked for the Ministry in extensive diplomatic relations and come with such high recommendation, we are quite willing to take you on. You shall have to work rigorously for the rest of the summer and then be partnered with another Auror for a time.”

“Of course,” Artemisia nodded readily. She would do anything they said, anything. If she had to crawl across Scotland on her knees then so be it.

“Enthusiasm, that is what this Department needs,” Mr. Brinton said heartily, his wide smile reflecting hers. “I shall just fetch Head Auror Hart for his interview and then we shall make it official, yes?”

“Yes…” Artemisia trailed off, her jaw slackening. “Er, Head Auror Hart?”

“Indeed. He must speak with you before you are hired. It is standard policy. We may get away with less training these days because of the conflict in the colonies, but you still must be approved by the Head of the Auror office.”

And then he left, shutting the door behind him with such ringing finality that Artemisia thought she’d leap out of her skin.

This was surely some matter of trap to test her mettle. It had to be.

The last time she had seen or heard of Auror Hart, he was only a mere deputy to the head of the office.

I must be calm, she told herself. I must not show any distress.

If she truly was expected to sit before Auror Hart, a man who had dashed her early hopes, then she must do so with ease and grace. A slight flare of temper or fear might very well finish her for good.

“Dear God!” Artemisia lowered her head and stared at her thighs. “I came so close.”

And now, all might be lost.

The door opened behind her once more and Artemisia sat up in her chair, straight as a ramrod, an unassuming smile plastered on her sweating face.

A handsome gentleman in his thirties swept into the room with the careless mien of a young lord. Unlike most of his colleagues, he was not wearing a wig, but had tied back his soft brown hair in a simple queue. His skin was slightly tanned, suggesting a fair bit of activity out of doors, although his eyes were sweet and kind.

Artemisia, however, only got a quick glimpse of the man. For some reason, she found she could not look him directly in face and she set her gaze somewhere just below his crisp, white cravat.

“Miss Lufkin,” he spoke her name gently, a hint of laughter adding a charming lilt to his voice. “Do you remember me?”

Merlin’s blood! Here it is.

Artemisia forced her chin upward, hoping to show attentiveness and not defiance. “Are you Head Auror Dick Hart?”

He nodded slowly, a pleasant twinkle in his eyes. “Richard Hart, yes.”

“I am sorry, Richard.”

“Never mind. I much prefer the sobriquet.”

“Ah…well, I will be frank. Yes, I do remember you.” Artemisia felt her body go rigid as she spoke. An unmerciful chill flooded her bones despite the heat and she nearly shivered. “There is little use dancing around the issue, is there?”

“Quite right.” Auror Hart settled himself in his chair, pulling back his coattails as he did so. “You are looking much better than when I last saw you. No bruises. I hear you went to France on diplomatic work?”

“With Ambassador Honorius,” she supplied. Her jaw was irritatingly slack, causing her to gulp in air like a fish out of water. “And you, sir, I recall you as a deputy to Head Auror Baddock.”

“Long since retired. I replaced him a year ago.”

“Congratulations are in order.”

“Indeed.” Auror Hart interlocked his fingers, tossing his head slightly to push the fringe of his hair out of his eyes. “It is a lucky turn for you, Miss Lufkin, that he no longer holds this office.”

“It is, sir?” Artemisia knew she was gawking at him, but she couldn’t help it. Was this yet another facet to his wit? Was he trying to lull her into a false sense of security only to spring some steely trap?

She tested his words and bearing for danger, but found none. Odd.

“It is,” he echoed, lifting up her records and opening the ledger for inspection. With his eyes bent upon the papers, he smiled. “For now, I can hire you myself.”

The unfriendly temperature and her treacherous nerves finally conquered her. Artemisia blinked once, the room blurring about her and then slumped forward in a dead faint. After a moment of darkness, steady arms lifted her off the floor and righted her head, Smelling salts were held carefully under her nose.

Artemisia gagged and awoke with a jerk.

“Dammy,” she muttered as Auror Hart grasped her shoulder, keeping her in her chair.

“How flattering,” he said. “I have never caused a woman to swoon before. Mr. Brinton, please fetch some water.”

The man, who had been standing anxiously by the door, left to summon a house elf.

Artemisia shook her head numbly. “I am well.”

“Forgive me, I should have been straightforward.”

They waited in silence until Mr. Brinton returned and pressed a chilled goblet into her hands. She drank it down slowly.

“If you have recovered, I shall risk telling you that have indeed been hired,” Auror Hart continued, sitting back against the lip of his desk once he was sure she was steady.

“I don’t believe it,” Artemisia said in wonder, her shaky fingers caressing the patterns cut into the glass goblet. “The Ministry must truly be desperate for new Aurors.”

“Yes,” Auror Hart allowed. “But my motives are not so simple. Forgive me, I am going to sound like an arrogant beast, but I thought you should know. After our, ahem, disagreement, I asked Baddock to hire you. He refused, of course, leaving me wretched with guilt.”

“So you are hiring me now to assuage your conscience?” She was being cheeky and knew it, but Artemisia simply could not stand becoming an Auror without rightly deserving it.

Auror Hart flushed slightly and drummed his hands on his desk. “Not at all. I thought you should have been hired three years ago.”

“Even after our duel?”

“You stood your ground that day. It was impressive. But do not think I was hesitant. Impulsiveness on your part was a concern. And yet, three years have passed. You have worked successfully for the Ministry here and abroad. Furthermore, it is quite obvious you feel some regret over our unfortunate quarrel. Otherwise, you would have been unaffected when you saw me.”

“You have a keen mind,” Artemisia admitted, “one that works in my favor, however.”

Auror Hart frowned. “Come now, tell me you still do not dislike me.”

“Of course not!” she blurted out, rising to her feet. “It just all seems like a rather impossible turn of fortune.”

“Then that will be your first lesson,” he said, leaning forward determinedly to emphasis his point. “Do not live by fortune alone. Agreed?”

“Oh, yes!” Artemisia did not know whether or not to trust her happiness. “And thank you. But I must clear the air and apologize for-”

“The duel?”

“Yes.”

Auror Hart turned suddenly grave. “I forbid it! Why repent for a sin that was in fact your saving grace?”

Artemisia regarded him with sharp, curious eyes. “What strange logic you have.”

“Do you think you can stand me, then?” he asked, suddenly grave.

Artemisia smiled through her tears of joy. “I shouldn’t have it any other way.”

“Very well.” He extended his hand and took hers. “Welcome to the Auror office, Artemisia. And now, congratulations are indeed in order.”










Author’s Note: And so begins Artemisia’s career as an Auror. I am very excited for it. In the following chapters there will be much more action, new characters and, of course, tons of 18th century goodness.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! If you have a spare moment, please leave a review. I would love to hear from you.

In Chapter Fourteen, Artemisia struggles to balance her new career along with her American sympathies. To complicate her internal conflict, a surprise visitor arrives at her flat to further test her values. The next installment should be posted no later than July 28th.

I hope you have a great week! Enjoy the summer!

Chapter 15: Rebellion
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                             Awesome chapter image by Sarah_Bee107 @ TDA


Disclaimer:
I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. However, all OCs mentioned herein belong to me.


Chapter Fourteen Rebellion

Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war-John Adams

November 1775

Artemisia pulled the brim of her hat down, guarding against the raindrops pelting her cheeks. A cold, autumnal mist settled about her shoulders, leaving her shivering in her boots. Warm, damp bodies pressed upon her as the theater crowd left a popular matinee.

She frowned.

They’d never find their man at this rate.

A sense of claustrophobia assaulted her and with difficulty, Artemisia forced it away. Turning her left shoulder into the crowd, she kept one hand clasped on her discreetly pocketed wand and waded through the theater goers.

“Lovely performance!” one dandy gentleman was crowing.

“Proper Shakespeare at last,” another agreed.

“Oh, bother this rain.” A large lady wearing several yards of elaborate brocaded fabric batted about her hands uselessly. “Are there no cabs to be had?”

As if in response to her complaint, a stagecoach trundled over the cobblestones, the large wheels churning in the sludge that clogged the street.

Artemisia smelled the sweat rising off the horses, saw them straining their mouths against the bits and fussing between the traces.

The large woman was helped into the conveyance by the driver and in a moment, they had sped off. For an instant, Artemisia was afforded a clear view of the broad London street. The crowd parted and she noticed a tall, stone-faced girl with cropped black hair standing on the other side of the gutter.

They exchanged curt nods.


Establish a perimeter. Flush out the Fox.

Artemisia understood what she had to do.

Breaking from the crowd, she took to the gutter, her boots steeped in muck. The rain quickened as her partner Pervall joined her. Walking side-by-side down the avenue, they kept a distance of two feet between them when possible. Riders trotted their hacks down the road, scattering urchins and peddlers alike. Beneath her feet, Artemisia felt the subtle pulse of London.

It was different from Paris, yes, less beguiling. Brash. Honest. And undeniably English.

A hint of a smile touched her lips, but quickly faded when Pervall paused.

Artemisia watched as the woman touched her left hand to her nose.


The signal

The Fox was twenty paces ahead of them, but otherwise separated by a wagon bundled high with firewood. He wasn’t an impressive wizard by the looks of it, but had somehow managed to garner the unusual sobriquet of “Fox”.

Without a word, Artemisia separated from Pervall. It wasn’t enough to bag the Fox out in the open like this. Too many Muggles. An alley would do, or a secluded doorway.

Keeping her eyes on the Fox, she approached him in a wide circle, casting nonverbal Dispelling Charms to drive the Muggle pedestrians into the gutter. The Fox was haplessly swept up by the changing crowd and he moved away from the wagon, crossed the gutter and slipped down a side-street.

The smile returned to Artemisia’s face. Jolly good. She’d be back at the Ministry in time for tea.

She followed the Fox down the side-street, waiting until the din from the crowds lulled to hum a before extracting her wand from her pocket. Halfway down the lane, she stopped and pointed it directly at her quarry’s back.

“Timothy Fledge?”

The Fox turned around, revealing himself to be a short, chubby balding man of about forty. He looked at her with curious eyes.

“Yes?” His plain, American accent jarred her slightly.

“You are hereby placed under arrest by the Auror Office of Great Britain for suspicion of sedition. Kindly surrender your wand.”

Fledge hesitated. “I beg your pardon?”

Artemisia shifted her stance so she that could see the rest of the ally behind Fledge. A tall shadow at the other end told her that Pervall had gotten there already.

With any luck, they would be able to make quick work of this.

“Your wand, please,” she said, this time a bit more firmly.

Pervall moved closer, her boots striking the cobblestones.

Fledge whirled around, his eyes now wide. “I say, what’s all this? I’m not rightly guilty of anything.”

“Filthy spy,” Pervall spat, her wand now pointed directly between Fledge’s eyes. “Bloody American.”

Artemisia sensed the growing anger in her partner’s voice and it made her uncomfortable.

Fledge, although suspected of feeding information to the newly formed Continental Army in the colonies, had been convicted of nothing.

“You’re to be brought in for questioning,” Artemisia said, realizing that Fledge wasn’t prepared to come quietly. Damn it all!

Pervall raised her green eyes over Fledge’s pudgy shoulder and glared at her.

Artemisia knew that she’d have to stun the man.

But Fledge, surprisingly, was quicker. In a sudden whir of flesh and reddish fur, he had transformed into a fox. With a saucy flick of his tail, he bounded down the alley, deftly hopping over puddles and darting between moldy barrels.

“Merlin’s bones, Lufkin!” Pervall shrieked. “Stun him! Stun him!”

“Damn it,” Artemisia growled to herself, casting a sloppy stunning spell after Fledge. He dodged it easily.

Pervall was already racing down the alley, sending spells careening after the beast.

Artemisia leapt after her and together they splashed through the gushing rainwater leaving the air stinking with ozone from misfired spells.

“We’re going to lose him,” she moaned miserably, watching as Fledge jumped from the lid of one barrel to another.

But their quarry paused a moment too long to flash them a cocky smile and Artemisia cast the first spell that came to mind.

Accio fox!”

Fledge was jerked by the scruff of his neck backward and straight into her outstretched arm.

“Levicorpus!” Pervall cried in return and Fledge was suspended by his right hind-leg from midair.

Artemisia released him in time to avoid his snapping jaws and doubled over her knees, entirely winded.

“Nasty little bugger,” she panted.

Pervall smiled grotesquely. “What do you expect from a traitor, Lufkin?”

Artemisia, for her part, did not reply.










It took an hour for Artemisia and Pervall to hand Fledge off to guards outside the courtrooms. Once they did, the man was promptly put into a holding cell with six other criminals awaiting arraignment. As a parting gesture, Fledge spat on Artemisia’s boots.

Pervall banged the bars of his cell with a roar, causing the other inmates to cower at her rage.

“It is fine,” Artemisia mumbled under her breath, tugging at her partner’s sleeve. “We ought to be upstairs. File our reports.”

Pervall wrinkled her pert nose as they climbed the stairs up from Level Ten. “You are getting better, Lufkin,” she commented airily. “That was some creative spell work.”

Artemisia shook her head dismissively, her hand sliding over the polished banister. “If only he hadn’t transformed, We had a tip that he was an Animagi.”

“Still.” Pervall threw an arm around her shoulders. “We got the dirty American bastard. He won’t be selling secrets across the sea anymore.”

Artemisia laughed weakly, her heart dropping a notch as she did so. What an utter farce. She’d been an Auror only since September and already she had been assigned the task of hunting down five suspected traitors to the Crown. This rebellion…this trouble in the colonies had made the Ministry paranoid and this business did not suit her at all.

Though God forbid she mention such to Pervall. Perhaps then she’d be lodged next to poor Fledge.

“Do you think he is guilty?” she asked lightly as they entered the Atrium. It was quiet this time of the day, with the companies of Aurors having already departed for the colonies in the morning hours. Artemisia disliked the silence of the place, the way her footsteps echoed over the hard, cold stones.

It made her feel watched.

“As sin, surely,” Pervall replied. “He’s a Yankee.”

“I know.” Artemisia nibbled at her lower lip, tasting stale sweat. “But doesn’t it strike you as odd? Not six months ago we still called the Americans our brethren. What has changed?”

Pervall raised her sharp, black brows. “Dammy, Lufkin. Are you daft?”

“No.”

“In June, the Muggle Yankee rebels killed nearly one thousand redcoats at Breed’s Hill. If you ask me, they are the merciless whoresons, not us.”

“Quite right,” Artemisia replied half-heartedly. She shouldn’t even tempt Pervall with the discussion. Although she liked her partner well enough, the woman wasn’t the swiftest.

Sure, she could cast the right spells at the right time and hunt down the most villainous of criminals, but she knew nothing of the world.

And it was minds like hers that were ruining England.

Fortunately, Dick Hart was the Head of the Auror office and he had a good head on his shoulders, if not the best. Much to her surprise, Artemisia had fallen in with the man in a few short weeks and he had become an unlikely friend. They thought alike most of the time and when they didn’t, a good, lively debate was in order.

Who would have guessed that she would find the man she had dueled with companionably?

Certainly not Artemisia.

Passing through the Atrium, the two Aurors moved to another staircase that led down to the Second Level.

Pervall was still fuming about Fledge’s final gesture of disrespect.

“Such insolence,” she growled. “Do you know what I heard Lufkin? The Frenchies are looking to join up with them. Damn their blood, I swear. Treacherous snakes.”

“The French?” Artemisia bleated.

Oh dear.

Now this was most assuredly a topic she wished to skirt.

Artemisia dropped her hands into her pockets to disguise their trembling. She could find herself in a right bit of trouble for not disclosing her marriage to Maxime to the Ministry. The Auror office was very particular when it came to the wizards and witches they hired. Those married to foreigners were always treated with the most careful scrutiny.

And as it was, Artemisia had not disclosed her marriage to anyone. Not even dear Tarquin and Papa. From what she knew, Maxime’s family was aware of his new wife, though not the least bit curious. In his letters, her husband briefly mentioned his sister Charlotte, though he never sent any tidings from her.

Of course, Artemisia had considered telling Dick of her wedded state, although she was always conquered by mindless fear in the end. With the Ministry in a state of such vigilance and paranoia, she could not afford to tarnish her standing.

“Oh, Lufkin! The list is up!” Pervall was standing at the bottom of the stairs outside the Auror office, gazing keenly at a long scroll of parchment that had been tacked to the wall.

Artemisia felt her stomach flip over. She clenched her fingers into fists inside her coat pockets.

Every day, more and more Aurors were being shipped to the colonies. And every day, Artemisia expected to be called.

Now that would be simply intolerable. At home, she could politely avoid discourse about the war and keep her opinions to herself. However, in backwater Boston, things would be markedly different.

“Which companies are they sending now?” she asked quietly, cold sweat beading her brow.

Pervall pressed a bony finger to the parchment and examined it. “The Forty-Fourth, but I heard last week that they were bound for Canada. Ah, there is a substitution! I was wrong. The Forty-Fourth is going to Nova Scotia. We, my dear, are marked for New York.”

Artemisia’s knees trembled and she sank down onto the last step. “What?”

“New York City, Lufkin. We’re both going to New York. I’ve heard tell that it’s a great deal like London. Oh, how very exciting! ”










Artemisia filed her report on Fledge in haste and fled the Auror office, heading down to the tiny tea room off the Atrium. It was a popular gathering spot for politicians of all standing, although Artemisia often found herself there after hours, straining to overhear what Ministry gossip she could.

Today, she kept to herself in the corner and had a house elf bring her a scalding hot pot of tea and some scones. And as she stared into her china cup, she saw her face reflected in the amber liquid, saw her panicked frown and wild, wide eyes.

Oh well, she had known this was coming for a long time.

But now what? How long would she be in the colonies for? And Merlin’s blood, what would happen there?

War, yes, war would happen.

There was no avoiding it.

Artemisia wrenched off her hat and flung it aimlessly across the small room. She had expected to hear it hit the floor with a thud, but instead, a muted gasp sounded.

“Violence,” Dick Hart laughed as he twirled her hat in his hand. “Such unnecessary violence.”

“Sir!” Artemisia hopped to her feet, blushing. “Forgive me. I-”

“I assume you have seen the new list then?” Dick placed her hat on the table and lowered himself onto a chair across from her. “You know, I could have guessed you would give me trouble, Auror Lufkin.”

Artemisia dropped back into her seat and stared at her hands. “I won’t sir,” she replied. “Not if it is my duty.”

“Dammy, Artemisia, you are not that mindless.”

She said nothing, but poured him a cup of tea. Dick sipped it, pursing his lips against the cup.

“You are bound for New York City in a week. Most of the Muggle forces of our army have concentrated there. They were forced to withdraw from Boston after Mr. Washington built his earthworks and pointed heavy artillery at the town. Imagine! Our great army running from a few ragtag rebels.”

“The King and his ministers must be incensed.”

“Hmm, it is all a grand farce.”

“Quite my sentiments,” Artemisia dared.

Dick surveyed her calmly. “Indeed. You are an odd one. Although I must say, the war is not popular.”

Artemisia played with her spoon, tracing circles around her saucer. “You think I am seditious, sir?”

“Good Lord, no…well, not unless you intended to kill me with that hat.”

Artemisia’s blush deepened. “I must sound entirely ungrateful. A year ago I would not have dreamed of a career as an Auror. And now that I have it-”

“You are not satisfied?” Dick steepled his fingers.

“I am!” Artemisia replied readily.

“But you do not support this war?”

She hesitated, mulled over his question. It was a dangerous one.

“I support England in all her endeavors.”

Dick smiled widely. “Very well. I can see that I have backed you into a corner. I’ll leave off. But I’m afraid I cannot have disgruntled Aurors in the colonies. This is no time for uncertainty.”

“I understand, sir.” In one gulp, Artemisia downed the rest of her tea, her eyes stinging as it burned her throat.

“And yet you’ve worked well for the department,” Dick continued. He laid one of his hands flat on the table, palm upward.

Artemisia felt her eyes widened. “You are awfully considerate, sir.”

“Not entirely.” Dick took one last sip of his tea and then turned the empty cup upside down on its saucer. “I like to think that I am pragmatic. You should strive to be the same. Emotion does you no good.”

“I understand.”

Dick rose slowly, his smile fading a little. “No more complaints then?”

Artemisia withheld a sigh. She knew she could not pick and chose her assignments. If this was the best that the Auror office had to offer now, then she would have to accept it.

“None, sir,” she replied.

The colonies awaited her.










After her meeting with Dick, Artemisia found herself in a sour mood. She finished up her work at the Auror office and headed home to her flat just as twilight began to fall. On the shadowed stairs outside her apartment, however, she noticed that her door had been left ajar.

Of course, she had locked it that morning.

Instinct kicking in, Artemisia withdrew her wand and hugged the wall on her way up the stairs.

The glow from a single candle spilled out into the hall, silhouetting a solitary figure standing in her parlor.

Artemisia strained her eyes against the darkness. “Who is there?”

The figure started and whirled around, a long traveling cloak dusting the floor.

Artemisia dropped her wand. “Maxime!”










Author’s Note: Argh! Sorry it took me so long to post this chapter. I actually had it finished last week, but I was away for the entire weekend on a short vacation. And of course, being my usual nitpicky-self, I could not post this chapter without obsessively reading it over twenty times, haha. ^_^

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! If you have a spare moment, please leave a review. I cherish all feedback.

The next chapter should be posted no later than August 25th. I hope you have a great week!

.

Chapter 16: The Great Divide
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

                           
                             
Awesome chapter image by the very talented Mrs. Lovett @ TDA

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. However, all OCs mentioned herein belong to me.


Chapter Fifteen The Great Divide 

A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over -- Benjamin Franklin


“So this is England?” Maxime mused. He was sitting on the bed, still in his dressing gown, his nightshirt open at the collar. On his lap was the morning Daily Prophet. Since his arrival yesterday evening, Maxime had professed a slight interest in learning his wife’s native tongue, although now he was increasingly put off by what he deemed “inelegant prose”.

“This is London,” Artemisia corrected him. She was leaning against the window sash, watching the rain lash the fogged panes. Taking a sip of coffee from a white teacup, she watched her husband from the corner of her eyes, smiling as she noticed his spectacles perched on the tip of his nose.

This was the marital domesticity she longed for, something akin to what she imagined her parent’s marriage was like before her mother died. It was simple. Comforting. For a bittersweet moment, Artemisia gave herself over to the fantasy of coming home every night to her husband or meeting him at his office where satisfied clients commended his skill with the law. Children would come later, of course. It was expected of any married couple. Maybe then they would move out to the country, somewhere by the Lufkin estate and become part of the local gentry.

It was a pleasing reverie, though no entirely realistic. Artemisia knew that her ambition for a place in government would forestall family life. And certainly, Maxime’s restlessness for reform kept his mind elsewhere.

He was not the type to embrace the life of the gentry, as it was. Even now, he seemed uncomfortable amongst her finery, smothered by her feather bed and damask curtains.

She set down her cup on the nightstand and climbed back into bed, kneeling comfortably by the headboard.

“I suppose I shall have to go to France next time, to your rustic little province.”

Maxime glanced up at her, abandoning the Prophet. “I am not quite sure how Charlotte would feel about that.”

“But is it not your house? Your sister only keeps it for you.”

“That is true.” Maxime shrugged. Without his stately wig to cover his brown hair, he looked much more like a boy and not a the serious lawyer. “But at least I am no longer at Beauxbatons. Bah, that wretched palace life did not agree with me.”

“But you did manage to lower the taxes on flour in your province.”

“Only a little.”

He was ever so serious, measuring his success as failure. What would he think of her then, unable to summon the courage to tell her family of her marriage? But having him here made her brave somehow. Artemisia fell back against a pillow. “Maxime, what are we going to do?”

“I’ve been here less than a day and already you are fretting.”

“I cannot come with you to France. The Auror office would dismiss me. They are not too keen on foreigners these days.”

Maxime sighed, his face twitching slightly as it always did when he was nervous. “Yes, you are a soldier now.”

“An Auror. It’s not quite the same thing.”

“And yet, Aurors are being sent to the colonies every day to oppose the rebellion.”

Artemisia said nothing in response, but felt a twinge of fear in her gut. She had not yet told Maxime of her appointment in New York. No, that would make things harder to bear. As it was, she was full of secrets these days and each one was starting to take a toll on her.

“I have not told my family about our marriage yet,” she said slowly, watching him closely, fearing his reaction and the recriminations that would follow.

“Artemisia!” Maxime fiddled with his spectacles.

“Please do not think I am ashamed of you. Papa had a brush with smallpox, you see, and I don’t care what Tarquin says, he is still not well. Everything is about timing, timing.” She was trying to be earnest, to impress upon him her regret even as it threatened to swallow her whole.

“I see.” Maxime breathed sharply out of his long nose, pragmatic as usual.

Artemisia experienced a surge of guilt then. She truly did not want to upset him, when, after all, it was an absolute joy to be in his company.

“I’m sorry,” she said, pressing her forehead to his shoulder. “You must think I am a horrible wife.”

“My sister does,” he said, a hint of amusement in his voice. Artemisia could feel it reverberating in his throat as he spoke. “She had a fit when I came home, but then again, she has always been exceedingly jealous. She wanted a French girl for me. My cousin Louise was a suitable candidate, not some strange girl from a place called Bath.”

“I am not strange!” she protested as he laughed at her indignation. “The Lufkins are a very respectable family with a proud lineage. I shall owl her a copy of my family tree if need be.”

“I assure you, Charlotte has little interest in your ancestors.”

“And your brother?” Artemisia prodded.

Maxime laughed. “He is at school. I wrote him a letter. Poor boy. He is a brainless youth yet. But he said he was happy to have a sister-in-law and wished that you might be kinder than his natural sister.”

“So there is a rivalry already,” Artemisia groaned.

Maxime rested his arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer. Artemisia minded that he still smelled of citrus. “Indeed, but who are we to judge rivalries? England and France have been at each other for centuries.”

“I cannot talk politics now,” Artemisia said. “My head is spinning as is.”

“As you say.” Maxime directed his gaze at the dying fire, the embers of which littered the hearth with ash. “God, it is freezing in here. Where is your house elf? I thought you said you had one.”

 

 





Maxime stayed with Artemisia in London for a week and fortune was kind enough to keep her away from the Auror office most of the time. After she had successfully apprehended Timothy Fledge, she was given no new case or person to pursue. Artemisia assumed this was because she was being prepared for the colonies, although when she saw Dick, he informed her that he was “shuffling things about”.

Artemisia usually returned her flat at two in the afternoon and found her husband in the parlor, struggling over his English. He did, however, have a remarkable aptitude for language and she was convinced that he would be able to handle a simple conversation in a fortnight or so.

They spent their afternoons touring London. Maxime complained bitterly about the rain, but was fascinated by the city. Even though he was attracted to the usual sites such as Westminster and Diagon Alley, he most enjoyed the coffee houses from which sprung the life blood of the English Enlightenment. For hours at a time he would sit and listen to learned wizards and witches speak, although Artemisia often had to translate their speeches for him.

It was on one such evening, when they were leaving a coffee house frequented by some Muggle MPs, that Maxime first brought up the war.

They were strolling along, shoulder to shoulder, through the mist of a cloudy, autumnal twilight and Maxime had a woolen scarf wrapped around his head to guard against the chill. As they passed through the courtyard outside Artemisia’s flat, it began to snow.

“Winter,” she grunted, turning her face away from the wind that was stinging her cheeks. “I could never countenance the season.”

“It will be a hard one. France has had a series of poor harvests. The people will starve.”

When Artemisia said nothing in response, Maxime turned on her, his feline features suddenly pert and angry. “Do you mind their suffering?”

“I do,” she said, caught unawares by his keen ferocity.

The lion in him reluctantly retreated, leaving his face soft once more. “Forgive me. I am on edge.”

“Quite.”

“The world is changing.”

Artemisia looked away from him, wrenching the door to ground floor open. The scent of stewed mutton bled out into the crisp air and she noticed the sconces along the stairwell had not been lit. Once they had stepped inside, she withdrew her wand and sent tiny tongues of fire to each candle wick. A dusky glow enveloped them.

“You sound like a weary prophet. All this coffee house talk has made you too excited. I’d swear you were running a fever.”

“It is not the coffee houses, Artemisia. It’s this business in the colonies you’ve been ignoring.” Maxime pulled himself up the stairs behind her, one hand clamped to the banister, the other gesticulating wildly. “Your own department sends hundreds of Aurors to America each week. This isn’t a peasant uprising, this is a war.”

“I am quite aware of the fact.” She stopped on the landing outside her apartment door. “And if you wouldn’t mind keeping your voice down. I am sure my landlady thinks I’m a whore, entertaining strange gentlemen at all hours.”

“You just changed the subject.”

“Do you think I am ignorant?”

“I think you are frightened.” Maxime’s eyes were indeed feverish, leaving her to tremble slightly under his fanaticism.

“Come,” she said evenly. “You need a cup of tea.”

Inside the flat, Bitty, Artemisia’s new house elf, had stoked all the fires and set out a tray with brandy in the parlor. They both handed off their damp coats to the elf in the hall, Maxime dawdling in the doorway to fix his wig.

Artemisia abruptly moved off into the parlor, found the brandy and poured herself a glass. Maxime needed a moment to collect himself. She hated it when he became agitated. Passion was one thing, but his nagging morality was quite another.

She tasted the brandy, played with it on her tongue until the fire became too intense and swallowed. Maxime was standing in the parlor door now.

“I am quite aware of the war,” Artemisia told him, refusing to turn about and meet his gaze. “My company was called into service last week. We are bound for New York.”

Mon Dieu,” he muttered. [1]

“I never wanted to go to America. It was not my choice.”

“Artemisia.” He stood behind her now, his hands falling on her shoulders, cradling her neck. She felt the cold on his fingers. “Let me help you.”

She laughed into her glass. “How? If the Ministry knew you existed, I would be penalized for not disclosing my marriage in the first place.”

“I have no influence in England,” he replied lightly. “Why, I barely have any in my own province. But this is not a matter of position and power. We can help each other…as a husband and wife should.”

Artemisia drained the glass of brandy and turned to face him. “Maxime, I am frightened.”

His face suddenly became shrewd. “I know. That is why I came to see you. There are undercurrents in France. Stirrings of sympathy for the Americans. No one can tell with whom the King will side, but if the rebellion in the colonies survives the winter, support will follow.”

Artemisia felt a chilled sweat touch her brow. “What are you saying?”

“You can help us. You work for the Ministry of Magic. Any information you can give me, the number of companies being sent over, diplomatic details.”

Her heart was pounding. The empty glass slipped from her hand and fell to the floor, rolling across the small rug beneath her feet.

“I can use anything you give me, channel it along to my friends. They shall print it in their papers and soon, all of France will support the Americans. This war will be stopped!”

Artemisia took a step back from him. So here it was. The line drawn in the sand. A great divide spanned between them. A gapping chasm.

Oh, how she had feared this.

He was French. She was English. For centuries there had been contention between their people, hate that sometimes spilled out in the form of wars and bloodshed. Artemisia had never recognized it before in her and Maxime. She had told herself that they could overlook society and a long history of abusive culture. But now the veil of illusion was parting and they stood in her parlor, to very different people on different sides.

Her anger was a needful thing, begging for release, surging against her conscience until she could no longer withhold it.

“You want me to spy on my own country just so you can feed filthy lies to likes of Philippe Delmas and his obscene paper?”

Maxime’s mouth flapped open. “Artemisia…”

“And this…this was the reason for your visit.” She threw back her arms, kicking at the fallen glass with her heel and sending it clattering to the hearth, where it shattered. “How can you ask this of me? Do you not see that I cherish England’s sanctity more than any selfish comfort? I am no Judas and you shall not make one of me.”

He gazed at her with sharp eyes then, the eyes of an opponent, an adversary. “I thought my wife would champion the good of the downtrodden over some bloated leech of a monarchy.”

“I am loyal to my king.”

“Then you are a blind fool, dwelling here in your opulence, feeding the very evil of our time…this absolutism.”

“Maxime.” Artemisia whirled away. She needed to stop this now, dampen tempers and soothe fresh wounds. “Maxime,” she repeated, lowering her voice, battling her inherent sense of righteousness. “We must not discuss politics.”

“I had thought my wife would defend such a cause, a cause we ought to agree upon.” The line of Maxime’s body was tense and he squinted at her, his eyes slightly distorted behind his spectacles.

Artemisia was scalded by the venom in his expression. “I do not understand,” she said. “Are you suggesting that I must support your politics over my own?”

“Our politics were the same. You acknowledged the virtues of Rousseau.”

“Yes, but I did not agree to live by them.”

“Then it was a lie, that day at Beauxbatons. You swore we were cast from the same mold.”

“I never lied to-”

“You swore we would be above reproach, you spoke of affinities and alliances. And now you’ve turned from me, like some wild dog.”

“Have you gone mad?” Artemisia spat at him, all to aware that her voice was raised and that her nosy landlady must be at her door, listening to her tenants squabble.

She tried to slow her breathing even as her heart pumped fresh blood into her face, staining her cheeks crimson. “Why are you angry with me?”

Maxime also had calmed himself some. He was pacing now, looking more exhausted than enraged. “I think you are overlooking an important opportunity.”

“To spy?” And in saying it, Artemisia despised the word. Spies were wretches and she was certain a circle in Hell had been reserved for them, for who, just who, would turn against their own country. “I could never do such a thing,” she continued. “I may oppose the war in the colonies, but I would never hamper England’s progress in subduing the uprising.”

“Then you will go to New York. Then you will be King George’s pawn!”

“I should rather be a pawn of my king than some horrid malcontent who trades lies for slander!”

Too late did she realize the power of her words. Maxime glared at her, wounded and bleeding.

“Oh, Maxime!” Artemisia reached for him. But he had turned on his heel and fled to the door. Outside, on the landing, she heard a smart crack and upon rushing out to the stairs, she found him gone.

Back inside the parlor, Bitty had emerged and was sweeping up the bits of broken glass into a dustpan. 

 

 





The next morning, Artemisia dragged herself over to the Ministry, her puffy eyes disguised by talcum powder. It was a clear, crisp day and all of London seemed to be in high spirits. Horses trotted through the streets with their tails raised and children played games in the alleys, shrieking like seagulls.

Artemisia couldn’t bear to watch them, nor could she stand to gaze at the eggshell clouds that skirted across the sky. It all made her heart ache. All of it.

Dick was waiting for her inside the Atrium, a smile on his lips, his hands folded neatly behind his back.

Artemisia wondered what the hell he had to be cheerful about.

“Good morning, Auror Lufkin.”

“Sir, good morning.”

Dick snaked his arm around hers and led her through the crowd of Ministry workers milling about.

“I am so glad I caught you early,” he said, leaning closer so that she could hear him over the general hubbub in the Atrium.

“You have good news?” Artemisia said lifelessly. Dick was leading her over to the fountain now and she found herself dragging her feet, wishing she could return back to her flat and bury herself in her bed that still smelled of him.

Oh Maxime!

“Yes indeed.” Dick squeezed her forearm. “I’ve managed to arrange it, though it was quite a task. I hope you do not disappoint me!”

“Arrange what?”

She saw now, sitting on the edge of the fountain, what looked like a Muggle soldier, his coat resting on his knees as he flicked knuts into the basin of water.

“I have found work for you in England,” Dick said, gesturing at the soldier who was now getting to his feet. “You will not be going to the colonies after all, though mind, this case is rather unfavorable.”

“Aye!” the soldier barked, planting his feet apart and staring at Artemisia as though she were a fine horse up on the auction block. “You’ll be working with a squib, you will.” 

 

 






Author’s Note: Finally! An update! I’m so, so so, sorry, everyone. It’s not like me to take such a long time. I was completely distracted while finishing up two of my longer fics and then I was under the weather for a few weeks and unable to write anything at all.

As always, I must thank all of you for taking the time to read and review. Your generous feedback and support truly means the world to me.

Chapter sixteen should be posted within two weeks. Take care!

Translations

[1]
Mon Dieu-My God
 


Chapter 17: The Gentleman Soldier
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

                          
                                                   
Awesome graphic by .kapowi @ TDA

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. However, all OCs mentioned herein belong to me.

Chapter Sixteen The Gentleman Soldier

And the drums are going a rap a tap tap
And the fifes do loudly play
-Excerpt taken from the traditional folk song, “The Gentleman Soldier”



The man on the opposite seat was watching her. Watching her closely. Artemisia grunted as a warning, pulling her traveling cloak up over head.

She did not wish to be disturbed.

It had been a long journey from London to Yorkshire. A long journey. And she was not at all pleased with her mode of travel. Of course, she wouldn’t mind so much if she were riding in her father’s personal coach, outfitted with its own magical accoutrements to make the trip smoother. But now she was packed in amongst five Muggles and their luggage, her legs going numb from the unrelenting cold.

The woman next to her refused to stop chattering. Chattering away about nonsense like bed curtains and the importance of a morning’s constitutional.

Artemisia thought she might hex her in a minute. To hell with the Statute of Secrecy. And to hell with bloody highwaymen!

This is better than New York, her conscience chided her. You mustn’t blame good old Dick for this, he went to great lengths to get you this position. 

And what a position it was.

Artemisia shifted on the hard seat, all too aware that her bottom was becoming frostbitten. The coach rumbled past a field of sheep, their wool coats thick for the winter. Mud splashed up against the windows.

She grimaced, longing for London and love that was not unkind.

So sentimental, she thought. You’re worse than a novel, filling your head with rubbish. Let Maxime stew a while in France and see how he likes it.

But oh, Artemisia knew she was a hypocrite. If he husband appeared before her right now, she would certainly be the first to apologize.

Even though she wasn’t at fault. Or so she thought…

No matter. As it was, Maxime was nowhere to be found and she didn’t have the time to play peacemaker

Artemisia was traveling to Yorkshire on a mission for the Auror Office, a mission not one of her colleagues wanted. Surprisingly, the case had a bit of prestige about it, having been picked up by all the London papers, including the Prophet.

If the war in the colonies had been going better, the populace surely wouldn’t be interested in something as commonplace as a highwayman. Unfortunately, the Muggle commander, General Sir William Howe, had failed to defeat the Continental forces at the Battle of Breed's Hill, despite the rebels running out of musket powder before the end of the day.

And to make matters worse, although General Howe managed to take the ground that day, his losses nearly doubled that of the rebels.

Perhaps the Americans would make of go of this revolt after all.

But Artemisia couldn’t allow herself to be distracted by seditious thoughts now. She had a highwayman to a catch, a highwayman that had robbed his way from Blackheath to the northernmost corner of England. Hopefully, by the time she arrived in Kilburn, he would still be in Yorkshire and not in Scotland.

But what made this highwayman so uncommon was his magical abilities. Yes, Captain McGreevy (as he had dubbed himself) was a wizard, using not only his rapier and pistol, to harry his victims, but a wand as well.

And the situation was getting too serious for the Ministry to tolerate. Captain McGreevy had recently stolen a trunk of goblin-made jewelry belonging to Lady Fenshaw, the wife of a high-ranking Ministry official and a member of the nobility.

The task of capturing this rogue was handed off until it fell rather haphazardly into Artemisia’s lap two weeks. If she would not go to America, she would brave the moors of Yorkshire and bring McGreevy to justice.

Even so, she wasn’t entirely enthusiastic about the job. She had been matched up with a new partner…only because Head Auror Dick Hart was too much of a gentleman to send her off into the wild on her own.

Her accomplice was a squib. A rough, rugged Irishmen whom she had met two weeks before at the Ministry. Artemisia had gathered little from their hasty introduction, except that Martin Farrell was a captain in His Majesty’s army, conveniently garrisoned in the small Yorkshire town of Kilburn with his company.

Dick explained that Captain Farrell had long acted as a liaison between the Muggle army and the Auror Office. When Artemisia had asked why the man wasn’t involved in the American rebellion, Dick simply dismissed her, saying, “He was the wrong man for such work.”

For her part, Artemisia couldn’t care less what this Captain Farrell was suited for. She was in a melancholy mood, having left things poorly with Maxime during his last visit. And since then, she had not heard from her husband.

Perhaps, she thought, this case would provide her with a distraction from her martial troubles. The skeptic in her, however, sincerely doubted it. 

 

 






At half past five on a Wednesday evening, the stagecoach trundled wearily off the main highway and into Kilburn,. The passengers were left off at the town’s only tavern, outside of which Artemisia noticed a fair number of Muggle soldiers. The men were leaning against the low stone wall separating the high street from the tavern yard, drinking from tankards and playing dice. Pipe smoke mingled with the falling shades of twilight.

Artemisia had little luggage with her, only a small bag in which had packed a change of clothes and some items for her toilette. She was wearing a heavy-skirted riding habit and a small cocked hat, an outfit more popular amongst Muggle women than Ministry witches, who often wore their robes over knee breeches.

Lingering outside the tavern, Artemisia tried to catch the eye of one of the soldiers. She was supposed to meet with Captain Farrell at his company’s barracks, although she hadn’t the slightest notion where the man was staying. Officers usually resided apart from their troops, that she knew, but Farrell had given her no indication as to where she might find him.

She waited until some of her fellow travelers had drifted away before she approached a particular lean, young Corporal. His face was pock-marked and he left his tunic unbuttoned, despite the biting cold. His hands, wrapped around an earthenware mug, were heavily calloused.

Artemisia knew it was highly inappropriate for an unescorted woman to make conversation with a lowly foot solder, but she wasn’t one to hold back on account of social morays.

Smiling pleasantly, she edged closer to the man. “I beg your pardon, Corporal, but do you know if Captain Farrell is staying in town?”

The Corporal stared at her, uncertainty entering his eyes. He took a sip from his mug and swallowed noisily.

“Aye, ma’am.”

Artemisia shifted her feet on the hard-packed dirt road. “Do you know where I can find him?”

The Corporal began to shake his head, but then raised his hand and pointed at the tavern. “Inside, ma’am.”

“In the tavern?”

“Aye.”

Artemisia rolled her stiff shoulders. She wasn’t in the mood for raucous revelry at the moment, although she rarely turned down a drink herself.

Lifting her cumbersome skirts, she stumbled through the gate and into the tavern yard, all too aware that the Corporal was still watching her.

“Who is she?” Another soldier lisped.

“Captain’s mistress?” A second supplied.

“She’s bonny!”

Artemisia was shocked to find she was blushing. Really! Couldn’t she handle a few coarse comments? Was she not an Auror in the service of His Majesty, King George? And yet, she felt degraded…separated from the men in uniform gathered about the yard.

She almost wished she could sport a pretty red coat herself and not have to struggle with her ungainly Muggle disguise. Perhaps then the Corporal wouldn’t have stared at her with such confusion. Perhaps then she would be welcomed more readily into their ranks.

You are a madwoman, Artemisia told herself as she headed up to the tavern door. They’d send you off to Bedlam if they saw you all trussed up in a soldier’s garb.

She began to feel increasingly frustrated for Muggle women, who did not enjoy the same liberties as their men folk, who could not be soldiers or politicians or sailors.

Pity them.

Artemisia shook her head distractedly. She was acting like Maxime, worrying over every little thing, every little injustice she could not change…

The door to the tavern swung open, nearly catching the hem of her skirts. Yellow light, the color of hay baked in the sun, fell out into the darkening yard. A large man stepped over the threshold.

“You’re early, Lufkin,” Captain Farrell said.

Artemisia recoiled as she caught a whiff of ale on his breath. “I didn’t know where to find you,” she countered.

“Well, you haven’t lost me yet. Come inside. We can’t talk here.” He turned around abruptly, his crimson coat tails flashing out like a banner.

Artemisia set her jaw. Damn squib. 

Once inside the tavern, she was greeted with more stares from soldiers, all of whom were bent over mugs of ale. One tall sergeant even had a fiddle upon his shoulder.

“This way, lass!” Farrell barked. He was halfway up a set of stairs, his head sticking over the wooden banister

Artemisia hurried after him, casting a wry smile at the soldiers.

When she reached the second floor, she heard the talk downstairs gradually resume, along with a cheerful jig. A few of the soldiers began to sing.

Farrell was awaiting her down a short corridor, one arm holding a door open. “In here.”

Artemisia dropped her bag at his feet. “I am grateful for your courtesy.”

Farrell grimaced as he shut the door behind them, kicking her luggage inside. They were in a small sitting room with a fire burning in the hearth and an engraving of Benjamin West’s The Death of General Wolfe above the mantle.

“Poor General Wolfe,” Artemisia muttered, observing the handsome, young officer reclining in the arms of his loyal soldiers as he surrendered his life at the Battle of Quebec.

“The Frenchies got him,” Farrell noted. To his credit, he had poured Artemisia a glass of brandy and fetched her a chair by the fire.

“That they did,” she replied, thinking of Maxime.

She seated herself and enjoyed the brandy while Farrell found a chair of his own. “Are you quartered here, Captain?”

“Aye,” he said distractedly. “Small town, Kilburn. Small garrison too. No proper officer’s house.”

“I am not complaining,” Artemisia said. The room was tiny, yes and thoroughly masculine. A pair of muddy boots stood beneath the window and there was a riding crop on the floor near the writing desk. “Is there room at the inn for me?”

“Well, I can secure the stable if you need to give birth.”

“I was not quoting the Bible.”

Farrell sat down opposite her, his hands on his knees, his sandy hair poking out of a messy queue. “You can stay at the tavern while we are working together. What do you know of this McGreevy fellow?”

Right to business, Artemisia thought and she threw down the rest of her brandy.

Farrell laughed. “Who taught you to drink?”

“The French, surprisingly,” she replied. “I was stationed at Beauxbatons for over a year as Ambassador Honorius’s personal secretary.”

“Fredrick Honorius? Good man. He was an Auror, aye?”

She nodded slowly. “Retired now.”

“He taught you how to duel?”

Artemisia raised a brow. “I taught myself.”

Captain Farrell rubbed his chin and she noticed that his cheeks were dusted with a bit of stubble. “Dick Hart said you were competent. My sainted aunt, I hope so. This isn’t going to be easy.”

Artemisia wasn’t sure how to reply. Instead, she lifted her hands to the fire and felt the heat bring life back into her aching fingers. “I traveled by stagecoach for a reason,” she said. “Talk is rife amongst the Muggles. Merchants are afraid to take to the roads.”
“With good reason.” Farrell leaned back in his chair. “McGreevy is bold. I set my men on a patrol, posted sentries on every road. He evaded every one and still managed to rob a passing lawyer.”

“He must be using Disillusionment Charms.”

A frown pulled Farrell’s lips down. “Mayhap. That’s your business, not mine. If we’re going to catch him, we shall have to do it quietly, away from Muggles…unless you happen to be particularly handy at Memory Charms.”

Artemisia stared at the uneven floorboards. There were ghosts of footprints leading to and fro, pacing the length of the room and back. “I’ve never worked with a Squib before,” she admitted.

Farrell scoffed. “Afraid you’ll catch something?”

“No.” She glanced up at him, feeling both offended and abashed. “I just thought…well, considering how things are…it might be difficult for us--”

Something akin to annoyance touched his eyes. “You think I’m useless because I cannot perform magic, aye?”

“No.” Artemisia put her empty glass down on a side table.

They sat for a moment in silence. Downstairs, she heard the merry fiddle. The men were singing of familiar, jaunty tune.

It's of a gentleman soldier as a sentry he did stand
He saluted a fair maiden by a waving of his hand [1] 


“It’s uncommon for Muggle women to be entertained by soldiers,” Farrell said at length. He stood and leaned against the mantel, his burnished gorget glinting in the firelight. “I’m going to my lads that you’re my mistress.”

“Fine,” Artemisia replied evenly.

“You do not mind?”

“Of course not.” She offered him an indifferent expression. “I am an Auror in the service of His Majesty, Captain. We are one in the same.”

Farrell laughed at her. “Not likely, lass.”

Artemisia was surprised to find herself indignant. With some difficulty, she held her tongue. There was no need to thrash her new partner just yet.

Farrell, however, seemed to sense her discomfort. “If I might be honest, Lufkin,” he said. “Its you I’m rather worried about. Can’t have you waving your wand in front of my lads every time you think you see a highway robber.”

“I have no intention of doing so,” Artemisia replied with a sigh. They were getting absolutely nowhere. Exhaustion weighed down upon her and she felt the last of her patience slipping away.

Farrell flashed her a crooked smile. “As long as we understand each other.”

He took her out into the hall again and showed her to her chamber several doors down from his sitting room. Downstairs, the soldiers continued to carouse.

And despite herself, Artemisia realized she was beginning to envy Captain Farrell’s fine red coat.

 

 






Artemisia was roused the following morning by the sound of drums. Drums and fifes. The cacophony of music was unpleasant to the civilian listener and she found herself casting a Silencing Charm around her room if only to snatch another hour of precious rest.

In the hazy space between sleep and wakefulness, she tried to imagine herself lying next to Maxime in a house that was all their own. But instead, she found herself curled beneath a patched quilt in a drafty tavern so far away from the regularities of domesticity.

And it was then that she began to feel very sorry for herself.

Not long after, the parade music stopped, only to be replaced with the heavy stamp of boots on the stairs. Reluctantly, Artemisia cast off her blankets and found her discarded traveling cloak to wrap around her shivering frame.

Someone was knocking on her chamber door.

“Lufkin! Get up!”

Captain Farrell, of course.

“What is it?” she barked back, all too aware of the frog in her throat.

She thought she heard laughter on the other side of her threshold.
“We had two more robberies last night. Best get to work...or whatever it is you intend to do.”

Artemisia found herself scowling and she snatched her wand up from the nightstand, enjoying it’s weight in her hand. “What I intend to do,” she muttered.

Several sparks flickered about the tip.

 

 






Author’s Note: My goodness! It has been a while, hasn’t it? I do sincerely apologize for this terribly delayed update. I somehow came down with whooping cough in September, which kept me away from HPFF for far too long.

However, I’m back now ! And because I’m being a NaNo rebel this November, there will be plenty of updates for your reading pleasure. ^_^

I would like to thank all my patient readers and reviewers for your continued support. Thank you all! Your feedback means the world to me.

The next chapter shall be posted soon. Take care!

[1] The song referenced in this chapter is in fact a fantastic old folk ditty titled “The Gentleman Soldier”. Although it’s been covered by many contemporary artists, Steeleye Span’s version happens to be my personal favorite. ;)
 


Chapter 18: The Highwayman's Hide-out
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Stunning chapter image by the wonderfully talented MrsLovett @ TDA



Disclaimer:
I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. However, all OCs mentioned herein belong to.


Chapter Seventeen The Highwayman’s Hide-out

“She met her true love all in the plain,
Stand and deliver, kind sir, she said,
Stand and deliver, kind sir, said she,
Or else this moment you shall die.”
Excerpt taken from the traditional English song, “The Female Highwayman”.


“This is madness,” Artemisia said. She was standing in the tavern’s common room with a mug of tar-colored coffee in her hands.

Farrell was straddling the threshold, his head and broad shoulders stuck outside in the cold. “I shall say one thing for this Captain McGreevy, he is a lively fellow. Two men in one night.”

“Probably robbed himself a king’s ransom,” Artemisia grumbled. The green of Kilburn was once more alive with the sounds of drums and fifes. Soldiers were forming up on the road, their breath streaming out in vapors that briefly fogged the otherwise clear, winter air. Through the paned windows, Artemisia caught a glimpse of their fine red coats.

“I’m set to take a patrol along the highway,” Farrell said, stepping into the tavern once more and letting the door shut behind him. “But dammy, McGreevy has likely gone to ground already.”

“You’ll never flush him out.” Artemisia drained her rancid coffee and shuddered. The fire in the common room hearth needed tending. Lifeless ashes darted over the stone floor.

Farrell frowned at her, crossing his muscular arms over his chest. “You are very critical, Lufkin. I expect we should both stick to what we know and see where that leads us.”

“I’m not complaining,” Artemisia replied somewhat tersely, although in truth, she was glad her comment had ruffled her partner. Didn’t he see that she was at a clear disadvantage in this situation? She couldn’t very well call of company of men to arms and tramp about the countryside like a lofty lord. No, she was restricted to more quiet means of investigation, which she now realized was becoming greatly hindered due to her gender.

In the wizarding world, being a female did not always restrict one’s progress in society. Two of Hogwarts founders had been women, after all. Unfortunately, Muggles were a good deal harsher on the fair sex and Artemisia was decidedly unused to their awkward customs.

Farrell seemed to guess her predicament. “Do you plan on spending your day here?” he asked, a cheeky edge to his voice.

Artemisia exhaled sharply through her nostrils. “The men who were robbed last night, what are their names?”

“Pardon?”

“Their names. I want their names. And do you know where I might find them?”

“They are both Muggles,” Farrell said. The fifes were starting to make an awful racket out on the green. Rolling his eyes, he opened the door, stuck his head out and shouted an order.

All was silence.

“I don’t care if they are trolls,” Artemisia said with a little more warmth than she had intended. Damn the fire, she thought, glancing at the barren hearth. I’ll provide what heat we need. “Who are they?”

“A silversmith, Mr. Thomas Stoneking and a merchant’s clerk, Mr. Samuel Bridges.”

“Are they in Kilburn?”

Farrell stared at her for a minute, clearly debating whether he should divulge what he knew.

It was then that Artemisia lost her patience. She slammed her boot heels against the leg of a chair, upsetting a pitcher of water on a nearby table. It tottered for a second before tumbling to the floor and breaking into three distinct shards.

Farrell stared at her and Artemisia found herself blushing. She had never used to hysterics to get her way. The tactic was crude, uninspired and she much preferred using persuasion and wit.

But so far, Captain Farrell had parried her clever tongue with indifference, and (dare she fancy it?) boredom.

Maxime certainly would have been impressed by her verbal dexterity, but not Farrell. And so she had resorted to smashing pottery.

Surprisingly, the man reacted to her histrionics.

“Very well,” Farrell said coolly, a hint of amusement making his lips fold up in a half-smile. “Neither Stoneking nor Bridges are in town. Stoneking has gone on to York and Bridges is staying with cousins three towns over. It will take you an hour to ride there and back.”

“I shall Apparate,” Artemisia responded, freeing her wand from her pocket and clearing up the bits of broken pottery on the floor. They mended easily, leaving not a single crack. Artemisia smiled, noticing the look of sharp contempt in Farrell’s eyes.

Without a word, he left the tavern and went to join his soldiers.

 

 






Samuel Bridges was indeed staying with several cousins on the outskirts of the village of Winsby, which was about an hour’s ride by horseback from Kilbun. Though somewhat acquainted with equestrian arts, Artemisia choose to Apparate to the farm just to spite the squib, Farrell.

Dick certainly wouldn’t have been happy to hear that she was already getting saucy with her new partner, but in all honesty, she felt she had no choice.

Military men, she was learning, were altogether different from their bureaucratic fellows. And despite Farrell’s sharp tongue and stubbornness, Artemisia truly liked him. He was more like her in ways that Maxime couldn’t understand, forthright, comanding and confident.

He wasn’t the sort of horse you had to lead to water, but rather, showed himself the way.

Artemisia appreciated his independence, though at the moment, it didn’t suit her. McGreevy was proving himself too clever to be captured by just one pursuer. If they ever wanted to bring the highwayman in, they would have to work in tandem.

Approaching the farmhouse through a stile, Artemisia wished she could have a partner with her now to defer any questions that might arrive. Certainly, strange Muggle women did not normally turn up on doorsteps asking for information on notorious highwayman.

She’d have to be careful as to how she played things or else she could expose herself as something other than a Muggle woman, or worse, she could come up empty handed.

Outside the house in the stable yard, she spotted a girl struggling to raise a bucket from a stone well. Artemisia hurried forward.

“Here, let me try,” she offered, taking the frozen rope in her hands.

The girl bit her lip, her cheeks rosy from the chill. “I think it might be stuck in the ice. I can’t get it out. Oh, Mama will be sore! She says Uncle Samuel needs water.”

“Well, in that case, let me take a look,” Artemisia replied, bending over the rim of the well. Truth be told, she couldn’t see down into the dark depths, but the girl was probably right.

Discreetly, she pointed her pocketed wand at the icy waters and muttered a heating charm.

The girl tugged on the rope once more and up came the bucket, filled to the brim with water.

“Thank you, Miss!” she cried with delight.

Artemisia smiled and helped her carry the pail to the front door. Glancing sidelong at the child, she guessed her to be around seven at the most, and a sweet-tempered, industrious youngling at that.

In truth, she couldn’t ever recalling being made to fetch a pail of water herself at such a young age. She blushed, thinking what Maxime might make of her privileged upbringing.

Attend to the matter at hand, Artemisia chided herself harshly.

“Is anyone at home?” she asked the girl. “Is your Uncle Samuel in?”

“Oh yes,” the child responded, puffing with effort. “He had a horrible fright last night. Mama’s put him to bed.”

“And where is your Mama now?”

“Out in the fields. Our sheepdog took sick last spring and died and we haven’t a shepherd to watch the fold.”

“She left your Uncle Samuel alone?”

“Yes, but I expect he’s sleeping now.”

Artemisia helped her bring the bucket into the kitchen and set it down by the fireplace. The room, she noted, smelled faintly of stale embers and sweat. Bunches of dread herbs dangled from the low rafters overhead. “Perhaps I should go and look in on your Uncle Samuel,” she said. “I can bring him his water.” Turning, she saw a row of earthenware cups on a sideboard and took one to fill with water.

The little girl was busying herself by the large, wooden table. A lump white dough and flour was rolled out on the surface and she had already tucked her hands into the mess to knead it into bread.

“He would like that, Miss,” she said.

Artemisia marveled at her fortune. How lucky to find only an innocent babe at home! Children were truly without guile or pretense and they accepted what help was offered them with great appreciation and no suspicion.

It reminded her of Rousseau’s words, although modesty is natural to man, it is not natural to children. Modesty only begins with the knowledge of evil.

She filled the cup with water from the bucket and tip-toed her way into the hall, the stone floor of which was still wet from scrubbing.

By the parlor door, she noticed a pair of riding boots and a gentleman’s hat. Two saddlebags rested nearby. It seemed as though McGreevy hadn’t made off with everything after all.

A little way down the hall, she found a modest bedchamber off to the right. The door was only cracked a bit and Artemisia tried to peek inside. There was a skinny young man resting on a narrow bed by the window, his brow covered by a length of white linen. One of his eyes was completely swollen shut.

Carefully, she opened the door. It creaked miserably, making her cringe.

The man on the bed stirred and began to groan.

“Oh, I’m so very sorry!” Artemisia tittered, bustling into the room as though she had every right to be there. “The missus said you were likely to be sleeping and here I go, disturbing your rest.”

The man looked at her uncertainly, his bruised eyebrows knitting together. “Polly, is that you?”

Artemisia found a nightstand by the bed and set the cup of water upon it. She noticed a small corked bottled labeled Laudanum sitting next to a discolored spoon.

Well, if he indeed taking laudanum, he shouldn’t remember she was ever here. It was a primarily Muggle medicine, though her Potions professor at Hogwarts had experimented with it while trying to find a treatment for small pox.

Feeling a bit more confident, Artemisia smiled and leaned forward to adjust the man’s pillow. “No, Mr. Bridges, it’s Mary Afton from the village. I was just riding by and the missus told me what happened. Sweet Lord, it’s a horror! She asked me if I could look in on you while she went about her business in the fields. Oh, you’re so awfully bruised, you are. A pox on that wretched McGreevy!”

Mr. Bridges blinked his good eye once and Artemisia couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. Poor fellow. McGreevy certainly had gotten the best of him.

“My uncle always told me to be careful on the roads here about,” said Bridges sorrowfully. He was shivering, wearing naught but a thin nightshirt under the blankets. “I should have listened to him. Pardon me for saying so, Miss Afton, but I think Captain McGreevy must be the devil himself.”

Artemisia clucked her tongue and turned to the tiled hearth to stoke the fire. “I don’t doubt it, sir. Tell me, where did he come upon you last night? Were you close by Kilburn?” She glanced once over her shoulder at him and was encouraged by his thoughtful expression.
“No.” Mr. Bridges sipped the water she had brought him. “I was out on the moors, some ten leagues from Kilburn. It’s quite desolate out there. McGreevy came on like a fiend. I didn’t even hear his horse approaching.”

“But he was mounted?”

“Yes, a berry brown mare. A bonny animal, miss. And he says, he says, ‘Stand and deliver or your life is mine.’ And Miss, I only had my riding whip with me.”

He flushed, his right hand clutching the blankets.

Artemisia let her smile widen. She returned to his bedside and took the cup from him. “I’m sure you were very brave, Mr. Bridges.”

Her sentiments seemed to cheer him a little. He returned her smile, his fingers tentatively touching the bandage wrapped about his head. “Knocked me about good though.”

“Such a shame!”

“Made off with what gold I had and my pocket watch.”

Somewhere in the distance, Artemisia heard a chorus of sheep bleating. Could the lady of the house be returning already?

“Did you see where he went?” she pressed Mr. Bridges.

The man shook his head.

Artemisia tried to disguise her disappointment. Perhaps McGreevey was using some form of Disillusionment Charm to make his victims confused, which would make finding him so very difficult, if not impossible.

“We’d have to catch him in the act,” she mumbled to herself.

Bridges must have overheard her, for he sat straight up in bed, his mouth agape. “Yes! I remember it now. He went off the road, I’m sure of it.”

“Off the road? Where?” Artemisia was feeling harried now. The noisy sheep were drawing ever closer and she didn’t think she’d be able to explain her way out of the house without being excessively questioned.

Mr. Bridges, unfortunately, took his time in answering. At length, he lifted his head and said, “My uncle used to take me walking by the road so many years ago. Showed me some caves the druid priests used for their craft. Do you think McGreevy could be hiding in one of those?”

But Artemisia had no time to answer him. She heard the kitchen door opening, heard heavy shoes on the warped floorboards and the little girl saying, “Mam, I’ve got the bread baking like you said.”

“Did you bring your Uncle his water?” a woman replied, her voice low and rolling.

Artemisia gritted her teeth. So much for the Statute, she thought. Mr. Bridges gazed at her unsteadily. With any luck, the laudanum would work it’s magic and he wouldn’t remember her an hour from now.

“Feel better,” she told him and promptly Apparated from the room.

 

 






“God help us all,” Farrell murmured as he dismounted his horse, holding the reins slackly in one hand.

Artemisia smirked at him through the falling dark and followed suit. Her dismount was somewhat less graceful, her boots hitting the frozen earth with a muted thud as she stumbled.

“You’d better be thanking me,” she told him. “I was right about Mr. Bridges.”

“You weren’t right,” Farrell replied hotly. “In fact, I think you might be wrong.”

“Then you needn’t have come with me tonight, now where are those bloody caves? Dammy, it’s as cold as a greyhound’s nostril.” She cupped her gloved hands over her mouth, puffing on her fingers to keep them warm. The evening was colder than yesterday’s and they stood open to the wind on the Yorkshire moors, with only a flickering lantern for light.

Artemisia fiercely hoped that she was indeed right. Bridges hadn’t given her much information as far as the elusive highwayman was concerned, but he had mentioned several old caves along the road that could be used as hide-outs.

When Farrell had returned from his patrol late that afternoon, Artemisia sprang her theory on him. Should they not take a quick look about the caves to ensure that McGreevy wasn’t using them?

The Captain, who had absolutely no leads, agreed wearily. He was aware of the caves, but they were certainly too small to accommodate a padder’s hide-out. Still, he gave in to her request and offered to take her out to them first thing in the morning.

Artemisia would not be waylaid. Tonight would do just fine, she told him.

Grudgingly, Farrell saddled up two horses and took her out onto the moors shortly before supper. The ride was not an enjoyable one, as a sudden afternoon ice storm had left the roads cluttered with slushy puddles and sleet. Once or twice, Artemisia’s horse stumbled in a rut and she thought she should go straight over his neck into the heath. Fortunately, she’d gone hunting a fair bit in her youth and only just managed to keep her seat.

Farrell was now struggling to keep the lantern alight in the driving wind. The watery winter sun, which had finally ducked behind the horizon, sucked the last of the warmth from the air.

Tentatively, it began to snow.

“Here,” Artemisia sighed. She produced her wand and whispered Lumos.

Farrell grimaced and shut the lantern slats. “It’s just a bit off the road. Mind the rabbit burrows.”

Neither of them were comfortable leaving their horses by the roadside, seeing as there was a notorious highwayman on the loose. Instead, Artemisia looped both sets of reins through her arm and led the animals with them onto the moors. Somewhere in the distance, a fox yelped.

“Wish you were back in London?” Farrell asked her, after they had walked a while in silence.

Artemisia thought a moment before answering. “No. I am content.” Being in Yorkshire had kept her from worrying too much over Maxime and she was starting to find it rather pleasant to work as an Auror outside the crowded city. “It is quite different out here,” she said. “Though I am sure you know that.”

“I never liked London,” he replied.

Artemisia was about to respond when the light from her wand tip penetrated the inky darkness of a narrow sink hole.

Farrell held up his hand to stop her. “Here we are. See, I told you it was too small.”

Artemisia frowned, but handed the horses’ reins over to him nonetheless. “Let me have a look.”

“A grown man could only fit his shoulders in there.”

“Let me look.”

Carefully, she dropped to her knees by the edge of the cave and directed her wand light inside. Farrell was right, she thought bitterly. It is too narrow for me to fit through.

But she wouldn’t be satisfied until she had a good look. “Kindly keep me from falling,” she said to him over her shoulder.

Farrell scoffed. “You shan’t go far.”

Putting her wand between her teeth, she braced herself on the lip of the cave and stuck her top half in, shoulders and all.

What she saw thrilled her.

Pulling her head out, she took her wand from her mouth and grinned cheekily at Farrell. “Want to see a magic trick?”

He gazed at her, nonplussed.

Still smiling, Artemisia climbed neatly into the cave…and disappeared.

Once inside, she shone her wand on the walls and the floor. There was a carpet under her feet, a set of neat shelves pushed in a corner. And all about were crates of stolen trinkets. Money. Jewels. A keg of good French brandy.

“Come in, you great brute!” she called up to Farrell with a laugh.

“You’re mad, lass,” his reply returned to her as an echo.

“Come in and I promise you won’t be disappointed!”

She heard him curse sharply, then grunt as he lowered himself down into the cave.

“How did-” he began, looking around wildly.

“An Undetectable Extension Charm.” Artemisia beamed, letting her wand’s light fall over the pilfered objects.

Farrell ran a large hand through his hair, his jaw slack. “My sainted aunt!” he muttered in shock. “Well done, lass.”

And abruptly, he pinched her rump. 
 

 





Author’s Note:
Thank you so much for taking the time to read! The next chapter is in the works and should be posted soon. I hope you have a pleasant week!
 


Chapter 19: Stand and Deliver
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Unbelievably awesome chapter image by obviously349 @TDA

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. However, I do own all OCs mentioned herein.


Chapter Eighteen Stand and Deliver

He'd a French cocked hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle; his boots were up to the thigh.
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky. 
            
---Excerpt taken from Alfred Noyes’ “The Highwayman”



Artemisia and Captain Farrell took their time going through the storehouse, the latter inventorying what turned out to be crates of stolen goods, the former checking for the usual security charms and magical barriers.

"I do not believe it," she breathed after a thorough search of the cave. "The repelling spells are rudimentary at best. Just bits of smoke to be brushed aside." And she twirled her wand in her fingers with a satisfied smile.

Farrell, who was examining a gold pocket watch, frowned deeply. "Any chance we've walked into a trap, then?"

"It isn't likely," Artemisia assured him. She had checked the cave from top to bottom and easily lifted what weak spells she had come across. "Whoever secured this storehouse is a poor wizard. Very poor. Even the Undetectable Extension Charm could use some work." To prove her point, she touched the tip of her wand to one of the magically enhanced walls. The stone shrank away, as pliable as bread dough.

Artemisia shook her head in amazement. "I might have to add a reinforcing charm just to keep the ceiling from collapsing in on us. Very poor work indeed."

"Aye, but our rogue is a fair thief," Farrell noted. He lifted up the lid of a trunk containing several pieces of goblin-made jewelry. "This is a bonny pile, this is. We ought to call in the Ministry lads to have a look at these baubles. Everything must be catalogued."

"Of course," Artemisia muttered, as she began to steady the walls with a new charm. "Merlin's bones, I should like to meet this wizard."

"As would I."

"He is indecently sloppy."

Farrell grunted quietly and began returning the crates to their proper shelves. "Whatever would you do without magic, lass?"

"I beg your pardon?" Artemisia pocketed her wand, satisfied that the cave would hold under her spellwork.

"There are means beyond it," he replied gruffly. "Potent means, I might add."

"Certainly," she said, invoking neutrality. Was Farrell trying to goad her again? Was he trying to make her feel guilty for being magically gifted whilst he was naught but a squib?

Artemisia wrinkled her nose at him. "You have done quite well for yourself, sir. A Captain in His Majesty's army."

Farrell did not respond at once, but seemed to consider her. Artemisia couldn’t help but smile. There was some sport to be found in this soldiers company, that she must acknowledge. He possessed that firm masculinity and assurance of a good Englishman, without the philosophical suffering her Maxime was so notorious for. Despite his obvious lack of magical talent, Artemisia thought she could relate to Farrell on a more instinctual level than her own husband, who wished to raise men up to the heavens on the lofty ideal of virtue.

And there was certainly no virtue in this cave now. Only chests of pilfered riches and Farrell in his fine red coat.

A gentleman soldier indeed.

"I say, Lufkin," he said at length. "I would think you a right wench did I not sense such jealousy. Perhaps you aim to do a little soldiering yourself?"

Artemisia felt as though a frog had dropped into her throat. With some difficulty, she managed to clear it with a cough. “And have my head ripped off by grapeshot on some foreign plain?”

Farrell grinned all too cheekily. “For king and country, my dear. Rule Britannia!”

The words, echoing up to the damp ceiling, had scarce left the Captain’s throat when he was interrupted by a resounding cry.

“Stand and deliver, I say!” A man had somehow slipped into the cave unnoticed and he stood directly behind Farrell, pressing the tip of a polished rapier against his red coat.

The intruder was dressed in the loveliest finery Artemisia had seen outside of London, or Beauxbatons, for that matter, maintaining the falsely romantic ideal of the gallant robber. He wore a dashing cloak of dark wool over a midnight blue coat, which was handsomely extenuated by a snowy cravat. His tricorn was braided all about the rim with silver and matched the fine buttons on his cuffs. The butt of a pistol, embellished with engraved brass, glistened by his hip.

“Dammy,” Artemisia muttered. She felt like a fool, too distracted by some silly palaver with her handsome companion to realize the enemy was nigh.

A faint blush, tainted with more embarrassment than worry, stained her cheeks crimson.

Farrell likewise vented his humiliation through a series of very illiberal phrases. “Speak of the devil,” he said. “What a great turn you’ve had, McGreevy, stumbling upon your hunters in your own den. Damn your stinking blood.”

The highwayman flinched, dragging his feet as he circled Farrell and coming to stand between him and Artemisia. “I’ll slit his unworthy gullet,” he babbled to her, “if you so much as move.”

She looked quickly at the McGreevey’s other hand, expecting to see him armed with a wand. Had the reports not specifically mentioned the thief’s magical talent? His fingers, however, were limp and loose, not clenched over the wooden handle of a wand.

Artemisia found herself frowning in confusion. How strange.

Either way, McGreevy was clearly not to be toyed with. She held her hands aloft peacefully. “Tyburn awaits you,” she said, “if you dare to murder one of the King’s own in cold blood.”

McGreevy blinked, his jaw somewhat slack. “Stand and deliver,” he repeated. “Your money or your life.”

Artemisia stared at the man. Was he perhaps out of his mind? But then again, she doubted a madman could pull off a series of robberies with such stunning and complete coherency as McGreevy had.

Still, there was something decidedly unnatural about the highwayman’s demeanor. And just where was his wand?

Carefully, she adjusted her position, edging slightly to the right so she could catch Farrell’s eye. The Captain, however, had his brow knit in concentration. With McGreevy’s sword pointed at his stomach, he could not risk any sudden movement that might startle the anxious robber.

Farrell’s fingers were a mere inch from the butt of his pistol and all at once, Artemisia realized what he intended to do.

Dear God. 

McGreevy was quicker. Just as Farrell reached for his pistol, the robber swung his sword in an ungainly arch, the very tip of it slicing across the soldier’s gut.

“Christ!” Farrell moaned, falling backward. His hand had closed over the pistol and it misfired into the ground.

McGreevy jumped a foot in the air and whirled around, his eyes glazed and wide.

“Stand and deliver!” he shrieked, his hat sliding off his head.

Artemisia looked quickly at Farrell and saw him doubled over, blood pumping from his stomach.

“Stun him, Lufkin, for God’s sake!” the Captain shouted desperately.

Artemisia was jolted back into reality and she grasped the handle of her wand. But McGreevy knocked into her, pushing them both back into a crate. Artemisia groaned as her hip connected with the lip of the box. The wood splintered beneath their weight, sending coins tinkling to the cave floor.

With the wind knocked out of her, she only just managed to jab her wand into the highwayman’s ribs. “Don’t move,” she ordered, “or I’ll blast a hole clean through your chest.”

But McGreevy was completely oblivious to the presence of her wand. In fact, he didn’t even seem to recognize what it was.

“Your money or your life!” he called once more, stumbling to his feet.

Artemisia pointed her wand at him. “Expelliarmus!”

The spell hit him in the shoulder, propelling him back to the entrance of the cave. McGreevy rolled over onto his knees with a muted groan.

Artemisia rose, panting and was about to mumble Incarcerous, when a loud crack reverberated throughout the cave. A small, cloaked figure appeared, and wrapping fat arms around McGreevy’s middle, disapparated.

Farrell lunged at the pair in vain, landing in a painful heap where McGreevy had been standing.

“Bloody hell,” he muttered to Artemisia once the dust of the fray had cleared. “I think my guts are falling out.”

 

 






With indiscriminate fingers, Artemisia tore open Farrell’s white shirt to reveal the neat gash in his side. Blood made the cloth stick to his skin and her patient hissed as she tried to gingerly lift the sopping material away.

“It doesn’t look so bad in the daylight,” she noted with an assuring smile. In truth, she had little experience with non-magical wounds and was beginning to doubt her ability to heal this one. But Farrell need not know that.

“I ought to call for my regimental surgeon,” he muttered, one hand pressed to his brow. He was reclining on the narrow bed in his room above the tavern, his uniform unceremoniously discarded on the floor. The space was tight and hot despite the winter’s chill outside on the moors. Artemisia had taken care to shut all windows lest any curious spectator catch sight of her magical ministrations. The fire burned brightly in the hearth, affording her some light, although she had also borrowed several tallow candles from downstairs to aid her sight.

“Did it hurt so much, being cut with a rapier?” she asked curiously. Near at hand was a basin of cool water. Artemisia used one of her neck cloths as a rag to bathe the wound.

“Are you touched in the head, Lufkin?” Farrell snorted. His torso was tensed, one hand fisted over the yellowed sheets as she went to work. “It bloody well did. Couldn’t you have brought me up a bottle of whiskey? Or are you that poor of a nurse?”

“Sorry.” She dabbed at the gash hesitantly. It glowed a fierce crimson in the firelight, the edges of the macerated skin all puffed and swollen. “I must admit, this gash is a bit beyond me, Martin. We might considering sending you off to St. Mungo’s. I was never adept at field medicine.”

He frowned as she cleaned the wound. “Can you handle a needle and thread tolerably well?”

“What? Oh…no! Merlin’s bones, no!” Artemisia was so shocked by his suggestion that she nearly dropped her rag. “I’m not stitching you up. You’ll end up with a horrid pestilence. Let me call for a healer, will you?”

“That will only take more time.” Farrell shifted slightly, the bed creaking under his weight. “You shouldn’t even be with me here now. McGreevy could not have gotten far. I’m certain you stunned him, judging from the moronic look he had on his face.”

Artemisia bit her lip. “He was Imperiused, Martin. That man was not acting of his own free will. Someone is controlling him, probably the man who helped him disapparate out of the cave.”

Farrell dropped his hand from his eyes and stared at her. “Are you saying there’s someone else behind this?”

“Most likely. Did you see the way McGreevy was dressed?”

“Aye, like a dandy.”

“Like out of a storybook. No true highwayman carries himself about in such a fashion. He would be too noticeable. Whoever is controlling McGreevy is having some grand sport. This is a game to them…a pantomime. I wouldn’t be surprised if McGreevy himself is only a poor, innocent Muggle, completely unaware that he is the most wanted robber in England since Robin Hood.”

Farrell lifted his head up from the rumpled pillow. “My God.”

To her great surprise, Artemisia found herself blushing. “Lie down, before you faint,” she directed him. After a moment of hesitation, she took hold of his shoulders and guided him back down to his pillow. His chest rose beneath her, taut and hard with coiled muscles.

“I know I am not an expert when it comes to swordsmanship,” she said slowly as she straightened up, “but I don’t think McGreevy was very skilled. He could have taken off our heads, but instead, he jerked around like a puppet on strings. If only we had not been caught off guard we could have brought him in. It will be difficult now, finding them both. The wizard controlling McGreevy knows his situation has been compromised.”

“How very discouraging,” Farrell replied. He gazed down at his bleeding abdomen in disgust. “It’s enough now, Lufkin. The two of us would be hard put to make chase, especially now that I am wounded. You ought to call in your superior. The countryside will have to be scoured.”

Artemisia said nothing, but made a vague nose in the back of her throat. To summon Dick Hart and the rest of the Auror office, such as it was, would admit defeat. And she would gain a reputation for incompetence.

A sudden thought made her laugh.

“Enjoying yourself?” Farrell grated.

Artemisia shook her head. “Irony makes a fool of me.”

He gazed at her, nonplussed.

“It happened when I was young,” she explained, wringing out the rag once more. “Fresh out of Hogwarts…arrogant. I truly needed to be put in my place. After graduating, I applied for a position with the Auror office. Thought I deserved it, I did, such was my vanity. A few days before my interview, I happened to insult a young Auror by the name of Richard Hart. Yes, Dick.”

She nodded at Farrell. His mouth was open in shock and undeniable amusement.

“Well, I shan’t go into the specifics now, but there was a duel. Dick won, of course and I was not hired on to the Auror office. Instead, I ended up in France as a diplomat’s secretary, but that is another matter entirely,” she trailed off, her thought settling briefly on Maxime. “But to think, my quarrel with Dick was over his inability to bring a certain poacher to justice. I see now why he was so defensive. It is much easier said than done, I’m afraid.”

“You have received your comeuppance,” Farrell replied, “at my expense, that is.”

“I am sorry.” Artemisia dropped the soiled rag in the bowl and set it aside. “I have been greatly humbled. Does that satisfy you?”

“Partially. I would be happier if you put my stomach back together.”

“If you insist.” Artemisia drew her wand. “If this spell does not work, I am going to have to find you some murtlap…or resort to a needle and thread.” She shivered.

“Get to it,” Farrell demanded. He was already clutching the bedposts with his broad hands in anticipation.

Artemisia waited a moment, clearing her mind and slowing her breath. Concentrating on the gash, she pressed her wand to his side and muttered, “Episkey.”

A thin layer of new skin formed over the wound. Farrell hissed lowly and then glanced down at his torso.

“It isn’t perfect,” Artemisia sighed. Indeed, the new skin looked thin and tender. “Are you certain you won’t consider calling for a healer?”

“St. Mungo’s has quite enough wounded soldiers to deal with,” he said, probing the area gently with his fingers. “The Yankee rebels have seen to that.”

Artemisia sat back in her chair. “Woe to us, then. You do realize we shall have to organize another patrol into the countryside? I cannot have you crouching in the heather with your guts falling out.”

Farrell puffed up his cheeks and exhaled sharply. “But McGreevy and his friend are aware of our presence now. We stand little chance of cornering them again.”

“Then what do you suggest?”

Shifting, he tried to sit upright, but only managed to rest his head against the headboard. “There is nothing to be done in Kilburn. I say we contact the Auror office and let them know of McGreevy’s hide-out. Dick Hart might send in agents to inventory the stolen goods, at the very least. That ought to rattle our quarry up a fair bit. He’ll be on the move. In the meantime, I should like to march my men to Bedale. We can patrol the surrounding countryside with ease from the town and safeguard what merchants there are on the road.”

“It isn’t very bold,” Artemisia commented.

Farrell frowned. “And you aren’t being particularly helpful.” He looked doubtfully at his still-swollen torso.

Artemisia scowled uncertainly. “Very well, then, but I want to be on the road with you and your men tomorrow.”

Farrell gaped at her, his eyes slightly feverish. “And risk the Statute?”

“I’ll ride behind your column. Your men won’t even notice me.”

“Not likely, Lufkin,” he growled, throwing up a hand. “I’d say you’d have more of a chance of getting rob.”

“Well,” Artemisia muttered, stretching her long legs out before her, “perhaps I aim to.”

 

 






By the next morning, Farrell had marched his company out of Kilburn and into the countryside. The afternoon was bitterly cold and after an hour on the moors, a length of sleet fell, leaving the highway pitted with muddy ruts and deep, nearly impassable furrows.

Artemisia was soon regretting her decision to ride along with the soldiers. Keeping her word to Farrell, she walked her horse a good distance behind his column and avoided the notice of even the most astute Regular. For a good part of the journey, the company appeared to her only as a faded blotch of red against the grey horizon, punctuated every now and then by the Captain’s towering figure atop his horse.

Artemisia felt wretchedly alone and sullen. She slouched down in the saddle, trying her best to avoid the cutting blasts of wind that drove the last of the sleet straight across the moors. As time wore on, she began to wonder if perhaps Farrell was right in wanting to contact Dick.

Her confidence was much shaken after the encounter with McGreevy and his wizard friend. Farrell was wounded and not much of a match for the highwayman. And after failing to apprehend McGreevy with a simple stunning spell, Artemisia was beginning to doubt her talent for Auror work.

Perhaps she would have been much more accomplished at foreign diplomacy. After all, hadn’t she successfully won the affection of the French?

Well, there was the matter of her husband, who had now ceased communication with her.
Artemisia frowned, frustrated with the cruel complexities of life. As it was, the wretched weather certainly wasn’t helping her mood.

Drawing up to a crossroads, where the wind blew damp and cold, she was surprised by the sound of rough hooves on sod. Artemisia stood in her stirrups to better survey the road. Farrell’s column was about a half a mile down the highway and to her right, there was a cart struggling along a rutted path that merged with the main road.

Artemisia frowned as she watched a stooped-shouldered man lead his old nag and cart down the road.

Farmer, she thought. Poorer than a priest.

She was about to take advantage of the vehicle’s slowness, and trot her horse past the junction before the farmer could reach it, when a chaotic bleating caught her attention. The sheep milling about in the adjoining pasture were cantering for the safety of a thicket of low-lying moorland shrubs.

But what had spooked them?

Something caught her eye in the bed of the cart, which was piled high with moldy hay.

The sheaves stirred fitfully. The farmer looked back nervously over his nag’s head, revealing his face for a brief instant beneath his patched hat.

It was McGreevy.

Instinctively, Artemisia felt for her wand in her coat pocket. Did she dare trust her eyes? Or was she simply conjuring phantoms out of wishful thinking? Touching her heels to her horse’s side, she walked her mount up to the junction to get a better look at the farmer.

His upper lip was discolored with dried blood (certainly from her failed attempt at apprehending him in the cave) and his jaw appeared to be painfully dislocated.

Despite the obvious swelling, Artemisia managed to make a positive identification of the rogue.

Now more than ever she was convinced that the man had been Imperiused. His eyes were a bit too hazy to suggest full cognizance and he moved as though unaffected by the agony of his injuries.

Where, then, might his wizarding companion be?

She glanced once more at the cart’s bed. The hay shifted.

What jolly good luck! 

Artemisia fancied she could have danced a jig right then and there. But then she realized that Farrell had already marched his column away down the road. She had to get his attention somehow….somehow.

After a moment of hesitation, she reached for her wand. Keeping her hand tucked far within her coat, she cantered her horse around the rumbling cart to block it’s progress.

“Stand and deliver!” she cried, hoping her voice would carry over the moors to Farrell’s ears. “Your money or your life! Don’t try me, ye bumpkin, I’ve got myself a right fine pistol here.”

McGreevy blinked vacantly. The horse’s ears twitched.

“Didn’t you hear me?” Artemisia cried. She waited a beat and then withdrew the only thing she had hidden in the coat--her wand.

Feeling slightly pressured now, she looked up the road, praying that Farrell was bringing his column around to help her. To her utter disappointment (and mounting fear) the redcoats were nowhere to be seen.

There was, however, a sudden clap like the pop of musketry, which frightened the spindly nag pulling the cart. The horse reared and plunged, knocking McGreevy to the ground and tearing one of the traces.

Artemisia’s own horse shied, side-stepping into a rut and rolling onto his side. All too quickly, she saw the road come up beneath her and threw herself from the saddle. Her boot heel caught in the stirrup and she was nearly trampled by the animal as he struggled to get back atop his feet.

Artemisia threw her arms over her head, crying, “Whoa! Whoa!”

Silver-shod hooves flashed and McGreevy’s mare whinnied frantically. The contents of the cart were spilled onto the road.

A small, fat man rolled under the bed and began firing stunning spells at her.

“Damn you!” Artemisia howled as one went flying past her left elbow. She tucked her legs and rolled away from the horses, one hand still fastened around her wand. “Help! I need some help here!”

At last, she managed to get to her feet and was preparing to fire a spell when a rushing wind hit her square in the chest.

A gentle sense of ignorance enveloped her and she was suddenly aware of how very lovely the countryside looked at midday. The low hills were dabbled with fickle sunlight, the slight breeze thick with the scent of grass and wet soil.

Somewhere in the distance, she heard a man shouting…but oh, it did not matter.

Why, she could just sit down right here in the middle of the road and while away the rest of the afternoon. It was perfectly pleasant. Sublime.

She dropped to his knees.

“Artemisia Lufkin!” a booming voice disturbed her reverie.

Artemisia turned, annoyed, and saw Captain Farrell. He had come racing up the road, and throwing himself from the saddle, was now wrestling with the tiny, spell-firing man.

It hit her then. Damn whelp and his Imperius Curse.

Pushing against the last barrier of restraint, she gripped her wand tightly and shouted, “Expelliarmus!”

But her aim was off and the spell hit the mare’s rump. The beleaguered creature spooked and jerked forward, pulling the cart straight over the small wizard’s hand.

The man howled and Farrell narrowly missed being crushed.

Petrificus Totalus,” Artemisia shouted and the wizard stopped his writhing.

The last of the Imperius Curse lifted and she stood, brushing some of the caked mud from her knees. Far down the road, the horse was still fleeing with the cart bouncing behind. McGreevy lay prone and quiet as a babe, as though nothing had happened.

Farrell panted heavily, fresh blood now pumping from his newly opened wound. “A mighty fine job you did, Lufkin,” he said, holding his side. “Ought to have gone to my regimental surgeon.”

But Artemisia was too elated to respond. Instead, she threw her arms around his neck in ecstatic triumph.

“Bloody good timing, Farrell!”

But the Captain only shook his head and looked up the road. “Get a hold of yourself, lass. I’d say we’d best call in the Obliviators.”

Not far away from where they were standing, Farrell’s company of Muggle soldiers had gathered. Standing in shocked disarray, they all rubbed their eyes and swore to high heaven that they had never seen such a thing like magic in all their lives. 
 

 






Author’s Note: Did you think I had abandoned this story? Not so! This chapter just kept getting longer and longer whilst I was writing it and, as always, it takes me forever to plot action sequences.

I do want to thank everyone for their patience and continued support. You guys are awesome!

The next chapter is already being written and I do hope to have it posted soon. I hope you have a fantastic weekend!
 


Chapter 20: Of Whigs and Wolves
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Stunning chapter image by BisousSoleil @ TDA

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. However, all OCs mentioned herein do belong to me.


Chapter Nineteen Of Whigs and Wolves 

How happy will the shepherd be,
Who calls this lass his own!
Oh that her choice be fixed on me,
Mine’s fixed on her alone
--From the song “The Lass of Richmond Hill”, words by Leonard McNally



Sitting between Dick Hart and Captain Farrell, on the upper benches of the Wizengamot viewing gallery, Artemisia listened as Interrogator Morris read aloud the list of charges.

“Illegal use of the Imperius Curse on an agent of His Majesty’s Auror Office. Illegal use of the Imperius Curse on a Muggle. Purposefully violation of the Statute of Secrecy.”

“And then some,” Artemisia whispered so that only her companions could hear.

Dick smiled brightly at her. He was seated to her right, resplendent in his finest robes and a freshly powdered wig. “I never doubted you, Auror Lufkin. Nor you, Captain Farrell. Well done indeed!”

Artemisia basked in his praise and even Farrell grinned. Three weeks had passed since they had apprehended one Percy Perkins on the road to Bedale in Yorkshire and a more heavenly three weeks Artemisia had never known before.

Even her time with Maxime couldn’t hold a candle to this rewarding venture.

Poor silly Perkins. He meant well. Had an appetite for adventure, but not the skill. He was half-squib by reputation and the only spell he could cast really well at all was the Imperius Curse. And he wasn’t much of a “dark” wizard, although he had most of England in an uproar after a series of stunning robberies committed by one Captain McGreevy.

As it was, Perkins himself couldn’t rightly get his stubby fingers around a pistol, nor could he manage a horse. So he had McGreevy, an Imperiused Muggle gentleman, do it for him.

Perkins was in a good deal of trouble, though. The Wizengamot had convened to decide his fate, which was being to look positively bleak as new charges were uncovered and brought against him.

Artemisia would have felt somewhat sorry for the man, had her reputation not taken such a pleasant turn after his arrest. With the war in the colonies bumbling along, England was desperate for a spot of good news. Popular papers such as the Daily Prophet, that had so eagerly picked up the sensational stories of McGreevy’s escapades, now in turn lauded Farrell and herself for a job well done.

Since her arrival in London, Artemisia had been bombarded by well wishers, all offering the most sincere congratulations. Her fellow Aurors did not hesitate to clap her on the back and Dick Hart himself had been most generous with his praise. There was even talk of the Minister of Magic privately relishing in the small victory for his increasingly beleaguered ministry.

Artemisia had had her first taste of distinction. And oh, how very intoxicating it was!

Today was an especially proud day for her. Perkins were set to be sentenced for his crimes and she would at last see the fruition of all her hard work. Her excitement, therefore, was notably boundless.

“I could become quite accustomed to this,” she confessed to Farrell while Interrogator Morris paused to retrieve a second list of charges.

The Captain glanced at her sidelong, the corners of his mouth twitching. “It’s all flummery, lass.”

“I should say,” she replied, touching the sleeve of his coat.

Farrell himself was handsomely turned out for the occasion in his dress uniform. In the unreliable light of the wall torches, his burnished gorget shone. He looked a great deal different than he had on the road to Bedale, doubled over with fresh blood pumping from the gash in his side.

Artemisia grimaced. Her partner had been exceptionally brave and in truth, she couldn’t have brought Perkins to justice without him.

“This is your moment too, you know,” she said and leaned closer to him, the tip of her long nose a mere inch from his cheek. “Be proud.”

Farrell rubbed his eyes. “Aye. I just wish they’d get on with it.”

As if by his command, Interrogator Morris cleared his throat primly and faced the accused. Perkins himself was sitting manacled in the center of the room, his bald pate shiny with sweat.

Morris waved an airy hand at the members of the Wizengamot, the sleeve of his black robes billowing like a raven’s wing. “If it pleases the court, we have listed the proper charges and await sentencing.” He paused then and glanced darkly at Perkins. “May God have mercy on your soul.”

Perkins squeaked and cringed. The chamber was still, breathless, and Artemisia sat on the edge of her seat, one hand clasping Farrell’s forearm.

“This is it,” Dick whispered.

After a moment of torturous tension, the Chief Warlock rose and folded his hands before him with great ceremony.

“Percy Perkins, the Wizengamot recognizes your egregious crimes and purposeful violation of the Statute. According to Muggle law, thieves and highwayman are sentenced to hang at Tyburn.” He paused and Perkins groaned.

“Please!” he begged. “I shan’t be stretched like a Muggle! Please, sirs, please!”

Artemisia rolled her eyes. “Serves him right if he did.”

Farrell frowned.

The Chief Warlock looked disgruntled by the prisoner’s groveling. He lifted his hand for silence and Perkins’s guards quickly stepped forward to quiet the man.

Another moment of tremulous anticipation passed. The spectators in the gallery stilled.

“After much consideration by the Wizengamot, you are hereby sentenced to twenty years in Azkaban prison. Though you should know, Mr. Perkins, I myself would have seen you hanged.” The Chief Warlock nodded to his colleagues and the rose as one.

The sentencing was finished.

For an instant, Artemisia caught a brief glimpse of Perkins’s face before he was taken from the chamber. He appeared torn between wild relief and terror and his lips moved dumbly. There was no way to hear what he said, however, for a wild cheer had erupted from the viewing gallery.

Dick bowed to both Farrell and Artemisia. “Congratulations, once more. You must be very pleased.”

“Quite!” Artemisia beamed.

Together, she and Farrell followed Dick out of the chamber. It took some time to work their way through the crowds thronging the doors--the trial had been a popular one and many spectators had shown up in hopes of seeing the highwayman. McGreevy himself, however, was currently ensconced at St. Mungo’s while his memory was appropriately altered.

In the atrium, the masses began to disperse. Dick loitered with them by the fountain for a moment.

“I couldn’t be happier to have this matter settled,” he confessed. “It would have been quite an embarrassment for the Auror Office had it taken any longer to catch Perkins.”

Farrell frowned thoughtfully. “I think Artemisia has been humbled, or so she tells me.”

Artemisia blushed. The Captain had a good memory. Perhaps she shouldn’t have told him of her rather disastrous entrance into the Ministry.

Dick, however, did not catch the reference to their duel some years ago.

Farrell looked amused and he offered them a wry smile. “We must celebrate. Will you come with, Artemisia? Dick? I know a suitable place to indulge our triumph.”

“Oh.” She suddenly felt flustered.

Dick smiled. “Enjoy yourselves,” he said, “Alas, I am needed at the office, or I would join you.”

Farrell gripped Artemisia’s shoulder and shook her slightly. “Come now, lass. Don’t tell me you’ve turned into a right prude.”

She laughed quietly…nervously. “I shouldn’t say that.”

 

 






Artemisia was thoroughly glad that she had decided to accompany Farrell out for a drink. The Captain took her not to plebian backwater, but a thriving tavern near the Ministry that was itself the very center of wizarding politics. How Farrell knew of such a place, she did not dare guess, for the squib seemed the least unlikely fellow to appreciate politicians and Ministry notables.

Artemisia passed underneath the obligatory sign--a pretty caricature of a pudgy redcoat leaning against an overflowing barrel. Freshly painted lettering spelled out the tavern’s cheeky sobriquet beneath the tipsy soldier.

The King’s Own Regular,” Artemisia read. “Ever the soldier, aren’t you, Farrell?”

“Just you wait and see,” he grunted in reply, holding open the front door for her in a fair mockery of gentility.

A man passed over the threshold, the smoke from his pipe making Artemisia’s eyes burn.

“Do you think I’m above slumming?” she asked, whirling about so that she faced her companion.

He smiled wryly. “Never said anything about slumming, lass. It’s the backroom you want.”

Artemisia raised a brow. “We shall see.”

The interior of the tavern was typical. Mismatched tables and chairs. Several dark wood, high-backed booths afforded secrecy to a group of suspicious goblins. Men in wrinkled breeches drank from surprisingly fine-cut wine goblets. One fellow in an expensive burgundy suit nodded into his claret, his messy wig falling over his forehead.

“I must say, the present company is rather dull,” Artemisia complained. She was just about to order a pipe and some Madeira from a passing waiter when Farrell gripped her elbow.

“As I said, you’ll be wanting the backroom.” He was leaning down, dangerously close to her, and for a moment, Artemisia felt violated.

What right did he have to act so freely? She resented the sudden intimacy between them…the uncomfortable familiarity.

If only he knew that she was a married woman….

Nevertheless, she followed him over a treacherous course of muddy boot prints and sleeping hound dogs to a small antechamber, reserved, as he said, for those who knew to look for it.

“This is a child’s game,” Artemisia said sourly. “You are the cunning wolf itself, Farrell, leading the innocent astray.”

Farrell’s lips twisted in a crooked grin and he raised his hand to knock on the door, which was much abused with carvings and other heathenish graffiti. “The innocent I cannot speak for. We are all wolves here, lass. Surely you should know that.”

Artemisia wanted to respond with something saucy, but was interrupted when the door opened. A distinguished-looking gentleman lounged against the jamb, a glass of sherry held in his left hand.

“Dionysus be damned!” the rake bellowed. “It’s the squib come calling. Charles, pull up a chair! And oh, he’s brought a lady.”

“Robert.” Farrell bowed deeply. “You knew I would be calling. Do you have my laurels yet? Dammy, you Whigs do carry on, but not a one of you could do so much for the empire as I have this past fortnight. Come here, Artemisia and meet this fellow.”

But Artemisia was frozen where she stood in Farrell’s shadow. The man darkening the doorway was none other than Robert Fulke, head of the Centaur Liaison Office of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.

Immediately, Artemisia doffed her hat. “Mr. Fulke, forgive me, sir. Auror Artemisia Lufkin, sir. I…I did not expect to be meeting you here this evening.”

“How utterly pretentious of you, lass,” Farrell laughed and Robert joined him. “I invite you for a drink and already you’re putting on airs.”

“Well, if this truly is Auror Lufkin, she need not kowtow to me,” Robert said. Handing his glass to Farrell, he made a sweeping bow and kissed Artemisia’s hand. “You are all we’ve been able to talk about lately.”

“Yes!” Another, female voice crowed from inside the room. “I should say it’s better than harping on the colonies.”

A round of raucous laughter followed, accompanied by the scraping of chair legs and the chinking of glasses. Smoke wafted close to the rafters overhead, making Artemisia feel as though she were walking through a cloud.

Or a dream.

Robert promptly snatched her from the reverie, snaking his arm about her waist and pulling her into the room. “Don’t look so bewildered, dear, you’re an Auror, for God’s sake.”

Artemisia snapped to at once, just in time to be thronged by a group of not entirely sober politicians, all of them prominent members of wizarding community and the Ministry.

Thomas Cadwith, a muggle-born who sat in House of Commons, shook her hand first. He was one of the rare wizards who preferred to rely on his advantageous birth into a wealthy, Whig family which had long since held several seats in Parliament instead of working as a low-level, Ministry bureaucrat.

He was joined by another MP, Gideon Fairchild, who offered Artemisia a glass of claret and demanded she raise a toast.

“I don’t know quite what to say,” she said, feeling awfully flustered by all the attention.

Madeline Rose, who was head of the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad, forced Artemisia to the front of the crowded room.

“Here she is, gentlemen! Come now, Auror Lufkin. Surely you have something to say.”

Artemisia smiled tightly, all too aware that Miss Rose stank of bubotuber pus. The only thing she could possibly think of to say was,

“For King and Country!”

Glasses were hoisted into the air.

“Here! Here!” Robert cried.

Mr. Cadwith was standing on one of the tables, tottering drunkenly.

“Get down, you old fool.” A British officer barked.

Artemisia peered at the man, whom she had at first mistaken as Farrell. “Ah, I knew it,” she said. “There had to be at least one other military man here. Martin wouldn’t have been quite at home, otherwise.”

“You make assumptions, lass,” Farrell said. He was now standing shoulder to shoulder with the other officer and Artemisia was shocked to see just how different they were. The second man had the look of a greyhound. Sleek. Subtle. His face was perfectly delicate, yet manly, his high cheekbones accentuated by two impossibly blue eyes.

Artemisia found herself flushing. “I believe introductions are in order.”

Farrell rolled his eyes. “Colonel Charles Euston, an equerry to His Majesty.”

“Auror Lufkin.” Colonel Euston kissed her hand much as Robert had, but with a great deal more tenderness.

“Then I am indeed in fine company,” Artemisia babbled.

“A shame what passes for ‘fine’ company these days.” Farrell frowned and elbowed his way over to her. “Sit down, lass, before Cadwith has you dancing a jig on the table with him.”

Artemisia allowed him to escort her to a nearby chair without complaint, but took advantage of his close proximity to catch his ear. “Impressive, Captain,” she muttered discreetly. “You have friends in high places.”

“It should come as no surprise.” He played the gentleman and pulled out the chair for her. “I know how grasping you are, Lufkin.”

“How very presumptuous of you,” Artemisia replied. However, she found she couldn’t argue against the truth. Farrell was quite right.

There were many Ministry workers who would have sacrificed their limbs to be in such company. Politicking was a shy, elusive game and Artemisia relished in the opportunity to flex her muscles.

Farrell and Euston arranged themselves on either side of her, a pair of pretty, red-coated bookends.

When the rest of the company had seated itself around the large, light-wood table, Artemisia raised her glass once more.

“To amend my toast,” she said. “Let us not forget Captain Farrell, who so gallantly helped to subdue the highwayman.”

Farrell grumbled as the toast was raised. “A lot of noise over nothing, if you ask my opinion.”

“You never had any ambition,” Robert said. He had his arms on the table, his back silhouetted by a pair of engravings; one of George III in his coronation robes, the other of Oliver Cromwell.

Artemisia smirked. Whigs, indeed.

“He wants an Order of Merlin, I’d wager.” Madeline struggled to lit her clay pipe with unsteady fingers. “Don’t you, Martin? Get a fair bit of press for all the squibs.”

“I don’t care for the press,” Farrell said.

He was being unusually sulky all of a sudden. Artemisia leaned against his shoulder with a laugh. “If I must say it again, I shall. Squibs are underestimated.”

“Indeed they are.” Euston played with his bone-white cuffs. The powder from his wig dusted the air every time he turned his head, mingling with the general haze. “I’ve been in the service of the King for three years now and I have never cast a spell.”

Artemisia raised a brow. “You too, Colonel?”

Euston nodded.

Outside the room, there was a sudden burst of music in the tavern. Cadwith, who had begun to doze off, started in his chair.

“Mr. Speaker, I’d like to address the House,” he said groggily.

There was silence for a moment and then the company was seized with rib-shattering laughter. Robert had doubled over, while Madeline wiped her running eyes.

Farrell recovered first and when he did, he looked at Artemisia quite seriously.

“Go ahead, lass,” he whispered so that no one could hear. “Do your politicking.”

 

 





By the end of the evening, (which itself included a prodigious amount of fine port and fresh Virginia tobacco) Artemisia had an invitation from Robert Fulke to join him when he next rode to hounds. Being the head of the Centaur Liasion office, Robert had access to some lands set aside for centaur conservation and he swore that the finest game might be found in that country.

Artemisia herself could care less about chasing after a fox or unlucky hare, but she was eager to keep up her newly-formed acquaintance. Friends in high places were worth their weight in gold and as she was bidding Robert farewell, she felt like the richest witch in England.

Madeline Rose also promised to come along on any hunting expeditions, insisting that she wished Artemisia to reenact just how she had apprehended McGreevy in an appropriate, pastoral setting. And Colonel Euston, who had the King’s ear, asked her to the theater. Artemisia was thrilled to accept his offer, although Farrell seemed slightly perturbed by the notion.

Once out in the street, Artemisia felt like dancing a fair jig. In fact, she did caper rather poorly beneath the tavern sign, only stopping when her boots slipped on the damp cobblestones.

Farrell, who had promised to see her back to her apartment, managed to catch her.

“You’re in your cups, lass,” he said with a hint of amusement.

“Well huzzah, good sir!” Artemisia replied happily. “Is it a crime for a lady to drink? Oh lah, I’ve burst a stay lace!” And she clutched at her stays, the proper undergarment all English witches wore no matter their outer attire.

“Mind yourself.” Farrell set her on her feet again with a tight grin. He had been quiet for most of the evening, Artemisia noted. Pleased with the company, but withdrawn. Thoughtful.

She laughed, remembering Maxime, who spent more time ruminating than a cloistered monk.

Maxime, Maxime, oh Maxime! He had not written to her yet, had not soothed the wounds of their argument. And Artemisia was adrift. Flying high amongst the clouds, flushed with success. Victorious.

But would he have been proud of her? She was doing well, that could not be denied. Rubbing elbows with influential politicians and tracking down infamous highwaymen. Yes, even the Minister of Magic had mentioned her name, hadn’t he?

And where was Maxime in all this? Gone. Forever maybe.

No, not forever. She couldn’t believe that.

Artemisia shook her head.

Farrell, who had been trying his best to guide her down the street, paused by a shuttered bookstore to light his pipe. The flame flickered wildly in his hand, illuminating the heavy fog that was floating up off the Thames.

“You look like you’re arguing with yourself, Lufkin,” he puffed. “Shaking your head this way and that.”

Artemisia gulped. “Let us try to find a cab, shall we? I cannot countenance walking tonight. It…it reminds me of--”

Farrell raised his eyebrows, the planes of his face cast into shadows from the glow of his pipe. “Reminds you of what?”

“Paris.” And suddenly, Artemisia felt despondent. Paris. Had she not walked the city’s streets with Maxime, in the snow, in the bitter, bitter cold…

“Paris be damned,” Farrell said simply. “This is London.”

“Yes.” Artemisia placed the flat of her palm against her forehead. Her flesh was sticky, sweaty. “I…I think I shall Apparate home, if you do not mind.” She reached for her wand.

“No!” Farrell was quick to stop her. Sticking his pipe between his teeth, he grabbed her wrist and pulled her hand out of her pocket. “Not like this you won’t. End up in Calcutta, you will. I may not know much about magic, but I know it’s no use casting spells when you’re stone drunk.”

Artemisia did not argue with his logic. It was solid, clever…which lent her another thought.
“How did you know I would appreciate the company of Robert Fulke and his friends?” she asked, her voice slightly more demanding than she intended. “How did you know about my politicking and such?”

Farrell let go of her wrist, but his fingers trailed up the sleeve of her coat to her forearm. “Dick Hart might have told me something about it.”

But he still wouldn’t meet her eye.

Artemisia took a step backward. “I do not believe you. Dick isn’t a gossip. You know a great deal about me, Martin. Why?”

This time Farrell shrugged. She was surprised to see that such a great, confidant man as he could appear so sheepish. He drew his shoulders together and emptied the ash from his pipe on the ledge of a window.

“I do not know so much about you,” he explained, “excepting what I see and what I hear.”

“Hear from others?”

“No.” Farrell shook his head impatiently. “From you.”

They were quiet for a moment. A coach passed by and from out it’s open window, Artemisia heard a chorus of bawdy singing. The night was rich with decadence, with those primal passions so often kept hidden. Locked away.

She glanced at Farrell’s bonny redcoat, which, despite everything, was still fresh and neat. There was something of the classic hero in him, something of Odysseus or Achilles.

Military men were different.

Artemisia coughed to clear her throat of the taste of port. Fumbling, she took out her snuff box and placed some on the back of her hand.

“You learned so very much about me,” she said, inhaling, “only from our short time together.”

Another shrug from Farrell. “It is not so hard.”

“You know I have a passion for politics even though I am an Auror.”

“I heard you talking to Dick about your time in France. You said you hated the diplomacy, but loved playing the statesman.”

“And so you arranged for me to spend the evening with MPs and Ministry politicians?”

“I’ve know Fulke for ages. His crowd is not so strange to me.”

“But you invited me along because you thought I might benefit from the meeting. You did all this to make me happy.”

Farrell grunted loudly and put out his pipe. His breath streamed out in thin, wispy vapors. He said nothing.

At length, they both began to walk up the street. Artemisia tried to keep her eyes ahead of her, but her mind was swimming. She felt uncomfortable. Awkward. And for some reason, she could not help thinking of Farrell when he had been wounded, when she had tended to the gash in his side by dim candlelight, her hands moving imperfectly over his muscled torso…

She adjusted the collar of her coat, pulling it up so that it guarded her damp cheeks from the wind.

Things were growing dangerous, Artemisia realized. And in a moment of blinding self-realization, she knew she could not trust herself.

When they were only a few streets away from her apartment, Artemisia danced ahead of Farrell, turning on her heel so that she could judge his expression.

The distance between them grew.

“I am going now,” she said. “Thank you for introducing me to Fulke and his friends. Will I see you at the Ministry again? No, perhaps not. I don’t suppose you are there often.”

Farrell seemed concerned by her sudden departure, but nodded steadily. “I’ve enjoyed your company, Lufkin,” he replied, offering her a short bow.

Artemisia found herself smiling as she hurried away from him.

The shadows were heavier by her lodgings. She felt almost comforted by the darkness, concealed and shielded from her own wandering thoughts and presumptions.

It was better this way. Safer.

When she turned the corner into her courtyard, she could not help but think of Maxime and the time he had visited her. They had talked of politics, of change and revolution.

And they had quarreled.

Artemisia’s heart clenched and she paused by the threshold of the front door, one hand braced on the frame.

She shouldn’t trust herself. Farrell was right. They were all wolves and she the most cunning among them. It would be a dishonest to misjudge her intentions and an even greater crime to deny them.

Artemisia turned from her door and looked out into the courtyard.

The rain had changed to a light snow. After a moment’s hesitation, Artemisia raced out into the coming storm.

Farrell couldn’t have gotten far, could he? 
 

 






Author’s Note: Well, I did promise you that Artemisia would turn into an adulteress, didn’t I? And I’d also say she’s on her way to inadvertently embracing hedonism.

In case you didn’t recognize several of the more obscure terms, here are a few definitions.

Equerry: A military attendant to a member of the royal family.

Whigs: a British political party. They ascribed to the idea of a constitutional monarchy and were generally supported by several great, aristocratic families. Artemisia, however, is less of a Whig and more of an “independent Whig” or “new Tory” like William Pitt the Younger.

The next chapter is in the works and should be posted soon. Thank you all so much for your continued support and encouragement! I hope you have a pleasant weekend!
 


Chapter 21: Sarabande
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Breath-taking chapter image by lotrfan185 @ TDA


Author’s Note: Please keep in mind, this chapter takes place a year and eight months after the last, in the fall of 1777.


Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. However, all OCs mentioned herein do belong to me.


Chapter Twenty Sarabande

What a wicked game you play
To make me feel this way
What a wicked thing to do
To let me dream of you
--Chris Isaak “Wicked Game”


London, England. Fall of 1777.

Farrell didn’t think, but held out his arm to help her up.

Artemisia took it, uncrossed her legs and rose, pushing back the gilt-edged chair with her hips. “Merlin’s bones,” she said in a thin, moist voice. “It is so piteously cold. You would think Lord Hackle would be more considerate of his guests. This is his daughter’s wedding, after all. Poor Dickey Hart, marrying into such a family!”

Farrell waited until she had dropped her hand from his red sleeve before he peeked beyond the large, walnut doors into the ballroom. He saw the orchestra, all thirty pieces of it, plucking out a boring tune meant to bubble just beneath the guests’ conversation. Tapered glasses frothed with champagne. Silk fans twitched. The ladies wore lace, the gentlemen brocade.

They were standing in the foyer, which was almost distasteful in its size, more cavernous than grand. Artemisia had tired of dancing and she had tired of the other guests and she wanted a “drop of quiet”.

What she intended to use that drop of quiet for, he had no idea. It was she, after all, who had been officially invited to the wedding of Dick Hart. Farrell, although acquainted with the man, had been invited more as courtesy to Artemisia. Auror Lufkin needed someone handsome and dashing on her arm if she was to uphold her reputation in society. And although Farrell had been her lover for over a year, he was beginning to tire of being known only as “Artemisia Lufkin’s man” in the Ministry’s social circles. True, he was a squib and squibs often weren’t mentioned at all by prominent politicians, but that didn’t mean he was entirely contented with his lot either.

Although he would never, never say such a thing to Artemisia.

“Do you think it’s so very ostentatious?” she asked. She was fixing her low collar, running the tips of her fine-boned fingers along the back of her heavy skirt. In the candlelight, the rings on her fingers glinted fire. “My brother Tarquin said this house is vulgar, and I must say I agree. And…and I don’t care if Dick Hart is marrying Lord Hackle’s daughter, this wedding is distasteful.”

“You mustn’t blame him,” Farrell put in, clearing his throat with a grunt. He felt some measure of sympathy for Dick…why, he wasn’t entirely sure. Although a man of exceedingly good prospects, Dick was a younger son and therefore, could claim no title for his own. He had, however, successfully courted Lord Hackle’s only child, a quiet young girl named Portia, and subsequently managed to marry above his station. It was no easy feat, Farrell knew that, but still, he felt bad for Dick. No man should have to grovel to gain rank.

“I hate these gatherings.” Artemisia inspected her nails now. “And I cannot countenance the tedium, I cannot…oh.” A sigh made her stiffen “I think I’ll go mad. No wonder my poor mother was buried so young. See, this is what they don’t tell you when you are a child. It’s all nursery rhymes and magic tricks. Tutors and pony rides. And you make friends with the servants because you think it is quite acceptable.”

Her discerning eyes cut over to him and Farrell dropped his own gaze.

There was an insinuation in her voice, an insinuation that made it difficult to ignore what lay between them. The gap. The great divide. And Farrell thought, in these cold, autumn days, that he had perhaps been a fool to ignore it in the first place.

But instead, he found he loved her all the more.

Artemisia circled him and he heard the measured click of her shoes on the marble floor.

“What a ghastly place,” she mused, looking overhead at the carved cherubs and faux-antique urns brimming with pale lilies. “Like a mausoleum. So cold.” She shivered. “I feel like I’m being watched with all these damn carvings. And I hate to be watched, you know…all those eyes.”

He smiled at her then, enjoying the paradox she had birthed with her own tongue. In his opinion, Artemisia very much liked to be watched. Over the past year and a half, she had garnered attention as a rising-star Auror, the young prodigy the increasingly beleaguered Ministry sorely needed. Capturing the highwayman Perkins had just been the start of her career and she had worked successfully in the field for some time now, bringing purported American spies and smugglers to justice with enthusiastic ferocity. And yes, Artemisia Lufkin was a good Auror, a damned good Auror…but she was an even better politician.

Although he had only heard her speak twice (once before the Wizengamot when giving evidence against a privateer, and once in front of his companions at the King’s Own Regular) Farrell sincerely believed that she was a gifted orator. One of those charmed speakers, like that Roman fellow, Cicero.

Artemisia knew how to speak and she knew how to weave her way seamlessly through the often times murky backwaters of the Ministry. And there was already talk that someday, yes someday, she might take Dick Hart’s place as Head of the Auror Office.

But now she was displaying none of her rare talent, only bitterness. And Farrell wondered how a promising young woman could be so bitter…

Inside the ballroom, the orchestra paused its languid sarabande and a lone harpsichord picked up the unadorned tune. The conversation lulled ever so slightly.

Artemisia stopped her pacing, her face tightened with disgust.

“I despise this song,” she said suddenly and turned right about. “It’s the most awkward sarabande I’ve ever heard, so uneven. Listen to the notes.”

“It’s passionless,” Farrell replied roguishly.

His suggestive smile was lost on Artemisia, however.

“Do you hear it?” she asked, “there…it’s just there.” She kept the beat with a twitch of her hand. “Certainly not a song made for actual dancing. I don’t think I could…but I could try.”

Artemisia stepped forward and initially, Farrell wanted to recoil. He sensed some dangerous barrier had been broken and it troubled him. The soldier in him did not like to be approached so directly, by a woman no less.

It made him seem weak.

But she put one hand on her hip and grasped his arm with indelicate authority.

“See, it should be like this.”

She reeled back and he was obliged to follow. To the side, then diagonal.

Farrell knew he was a fair dancer, but apparently not up to her standards, for halfway through their caper, she stopped and commanded,

“Dance, Farrell, dance, damn you!” But there was no anger in her voice, only that dangerous playfulness he had come to fear as a precursor to mischievousness.

And, by God, he hated it when she was mischievous. It upset the balance of things.

Suddenly, Artemisia rolled against him and he was prompted into a sort of a half step that made his boots squeal on the marble.

She came close enough so that he could smell her modest perfume and the powder on her wig.
Her elegance was nearly shameful. And it shamed him.

After the sarabande, she insisted that they at least try the new minuet the Royal Dance Master was promoting.

But Colonel Charles Euston, the only other squib who had been I invited to Dick Hart’s wedding, came out into the hall and interrupted them with a loud cough.

“Only madmen and paupers dance in the drafty halls,” he said, offering his usual sense of mastered grace as he surveyed Farrell and Artemisia arm-in-arm. “You both look like a pair of lost pups. Come inside, they are about to announce dinner.”

“Ah.” And just as quickly, Artemisia whirled away from Farrell, patting her powdered wig to look pert and pretty once more. “Excellent. I was going mad just waiting, Colonel. No wonder my poor mother was buried so young. See, this is what they don’t tell you about growing up. It’s all nursery rhymes and magic tricks when you’re a child. Tutors and pony rides.” She glanced back at Farrell. “And you make friends with the servants because you think it is quite acceptable.”

The barb stung him for a moment, but then the music blared and the entire house was filled with false candlelight that reflected off the gilded molding and furniture, but beneath, Farrell knew, there was naught but wood and stone.

And into the lair of pretense, he blindly followed the woman he loved.

 

 





In the years to come, Farrell would not remember much of Dick Hart’s wedding. He would not remember lingering with Artemisia outside the ballroom, dancing the sarabande and entertaining her sharp wit because she happened to be lacking an audience. He would not remember the sumptuous dinner that followed and the series of lengthy, useless toasts that many a worthy guest offered to the happy bride and groom.

But he would remember, until his dying day, when it came to be Artemisia’s turn to speak and she got up on the chair next to him, raised her crystal goblet and pronounced the war in the colonies an egregious crime against Britain’s own brethren.

He would, of course, not remember the groans of protest that follow, nor how Artemisia drained her glass amidst the catcalls and smiled with all the radiance of an Olympian god.

And yet, until his dying day, he remembered thinking then and there that she was not really his and perhaps, yes perhaps, she never fully would be.

 

 





But after the wedding, she was his…for a time. Farrell had always considered himself a jaded sort of fellow. A cynical soldier. His heart was no longer the heart of a youth and it did not quicken at the sound of musketry…or at the sight of a beautiful woman’s smile.

Artemisia had been his lover for some time and by all rights, the romantic thrill of the chase was spent. They were accustomed to each other, acquainted with kisses and caresses that had once been foreign and undeniably exhilarating.

But now, in the low light of her bedchamber, (and the scent of rose water thick, so very thick) Farrell felt his heart thump unevenly in his chest, felt it gallop when she pressed herself to him and laughed, yes laughed.

When all was said and done, he watched her extract herself from the tangle of sheets and find a dressing gown to toss over her thin shoulders. And without the least bit of modesty or coyness, she sat in front of her mirror and brushed out her hair with a silver comb. Hair that he had mussed with his ungentle hands…

“They are a decent match, I should say,” Artemisia trilled. She was working carefully at a knot, her lips pulled into a frown, the light freckles on her cheeks more prominent now that she had removed her white facial powder. “Lord Hackle’s daughter is a biddable girl. Quiet. Dick couldn’t do with a wild, competent woman. He needs that soft femininity…you know what I mean, don’t you, Martin?”

Farrell propped himself up on his right hand, his elbow sinking down into the feather mattress. “Aye.”

Artemisia’s dressing gown had slipped off her right shoulder and the full curve of her pale neck cast angular shadows on the Oriental carpet.

“Do you think Dick is handsome? Oh, I do. So very handsome. A true gentleman. But I would destroy him, don’t you see? We could never be married. We couldn’t even be lovers.”

“How fortunate for me,” he replied.

She turned to face him. “Merlin’s bones, Martin, do you think I am a whore?”

Her voice was playful, high and lilting. He was reminded of an opera they had seen together a month ago. Something by Handel. Farrell wasn’t quite that interested in the opera himself, but the music seemed to suit Artemisia well. She was an aria herself, something tempestuous and teasing and yes, dark.

“What was it called again?” he asked, rolling onto his stomach. “The opera we saw, I mean.”

Artemisia put down her comb with a sigh. “I think it was Rinaldo. Though how should I know? I slept through most of it.” She rose, pulling her dressing gown back over her shoulders. “Do you know how very much I hate weddings, Martin? Especially when they are ostentatious. Gaudy affairs. Ugh.”

“So you don’t intend to marry then?” Farrell yawned. It didn’t surprise him, really. Artemisia wasn’t a temperate sort of woman. Not biddable, as she had termed Dick’s new bride.

Her reaction, therefore, stunned him.

“I cannot talk about this,” she said and there was something of great distraction in her countenance. “It made me nearly sick to be sitting in that church today. Do you know what marriage stands for, Martin? Nothing. Oh God, it’s nothing.”

She recoiled then, her face perilously pale.

Farrell was on his feet in an instant. The sheets slipped down his torso and he didn’t bother to cover his nudity even as he took her into his arms.

“My, such emotion,” he laughed lowly, his husky tone matching her shuddering breath. She exhaled against him and he felt her chest rising. Rising and falling.

Her hands were cold.

“You do not want me to marry you then?” he asked after she had stilled some.

Artemisia looked at him hard, her expression bordering on quizzical. “Are you asking me?”

The silence that followed was close to deadly. Farrell’s throat clenched and he struggled to swallow, coughing instead into his forearm.

Artemisia drew away and crossed her hands in front of her. She looked very much like a Ministry official then, too dignified and important to afford him any meaningless reply.

But was it so meaningless, Farrell wondered. Certainly, the logistics of the matter were against them. He was a squib and squibs, no matter how well placed, did not marry Pureblood witches. But Artemisia was not one for convention. Had she not scorned it tonight at Dick’s wedding by launching into that fiery speech?

And if he asked her…if he asked her to marry him, would she not say yes?

Farrell wasn’t certain the question deserved answering and he himself was afraid to pose it.

Hesitantly, he dropped his hands over her shoulders, his fingers gracing her smooth back.

And she looked at him and there was determination in her glance and something vicious that almost frightened him.

Almost.

The wine from Dick’s wedding swam in his head and he thought, for a moment, that she seemed to pity him.

But then her house elf came in with a tray of brandy and the clattering of the goblets distracted them both.

Artemisia jumped, startled. “Take that away, Bitty,” she muttered. “Another drink will be the death of me.”

Bitty did what she was told, leaving Farrell to muster a brave smile and face his lover once more.

No, not his lover. His beloved.

Yet when he held her, when he held her so close and smelled her wine-spiced breath and felt her fair hair brush against his bare chest he knew that something was wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong.

And Artemisia knew what she was hiding from him and it embarrassed her. Shamed her.

She pushed his hands off her shoulders and breezed past him. “Do you think she was pretty?”

Farrell watched as she sank onto the bed, the simple act causing warmth to spread to his stomach.

“Who is that, lass?”

“Dick’s new wife. Lord Hackle’s daughter.”

He inhaled, conjuring an image of the girl in his mind. She had dark brown hair, an high forehead and an appropriately aristocratic nose. Through the yards of fabric that made up her elaborate gown he guessed her body to be soft and rounded, the skin perfectly pale.

Farrell glanced at Artemisia. Artemisia who was tall and lean and thinly muscled from her time as an Auror. Artemisia who had to cover her sun-tanned skin with powder and looked more Anglo-Saxon than Norman.

He shook his head. “No, she wasn’t very pretty.”

She offered him a wild smile and leaned back on her bed. “No, I suppose not.”

He came to her, eager to renew their love and passion that had never died and perhaps never would.

Or so he hoped.

And when they were done and the candles were extinguished and the night deepened, he thought her heard her crying.

Crying even as she laid in his arms.

 

 





Word of Artemisia’s impromptu speech defending the American cause leaked out to the press and was featured in all the London papers by Tuesday morning. It helped, of course, that a writer from the Daily Prophet had attended the wedding, although Farrell was certain the public would have found out anyway. Artemisia never could keep her mouth shut and she had a remarkable talent for making her voice heard even in the most noisy English city.

On Tuesday afternoon, he took a copy of the Prophet (the editor of which had trouble deciding if Artemisia was a pacifist or a rabble-rouser) to her apartment. The landlady was more than used to his presence by now and she only managed to sniff airily as he headed up the long staircase. The lodger who lived across from Artemisia was preparing to leave London in favor of a countryside resort and there were a fair number of packing crates in the hall. Farrell’s boot scraped over the straw scattered on the floor and he peeked into one of the open boxes which contained a rather odd collection of books on the Bacchic rituals.

A house elf tripped past him, nearly knocking a wig stand into his path.

Farrell raised a brow. He knew Artemisia had her eye on the apartment across the hall and with her tidy Ministry salary, she could certainly afford to rent the entire third floor. In the back of his mind, he ever wondered if she would propose he move into the vacant apartment. Farrell wasn’t quite sure how he would feel about such a suggestion; the flat was certainly a step up from his own quarters above a silversmith’s shop, although he didn’t fancy the idea of being “kept” by a woman.

Frowning, he squeezed himself past the crates and made it to her front door, his broad palm settling over the doorknob. He was just about to set the key into the lock when a loud squawking sound nearly scared him out of his wits.

Farrell jumped backwards, his hip connecting with one of the crates. A hiss of pain escaped him and he dropped the Prophet. A barn owl ruffled its feathers indignantly, offended at the prospect of being trampled on by the heavy boots of a soldier. Nonetheless, the bird held out it’s leg and looked expectantly at the Captain.

Farrell groaned, stooping to pick up the paper. The owl hooted and he was obliged to untie the scroll fastened just above it’s talons.

“You’ll have to beg a bit of bread off someone else,” he told the bird, “I have nothing for you.”

The owl, however, stayed underfoot. It was only after Farrell had kicked the creature out of the way and stumbled into Artemisia’s apartment that he had time to look at the scroll.

It was a letter, of course, from some strange fellow named Maximilian Rondelet.
 

 






Author’s Note: Ah, poor Farrell! He may be a gruff soldier, but he’s also a man in love. And I do think Artemisia is being terribly wicked by stringing him along. But, on the upside, Maxime is finally back! I’ve definitely missed the little, neurotic demagogue.

Thank you all so much for taking the time to read and review! Every review I receive literally makes me jump for joy. You guys are the best!!!

The next chapter should be posted soon. Take care and be well!
 


Chapter 22: The Grand Deceiver
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                                           Stunning chapter image by soliloquy @ TDA

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. However, all OCs mentioned herein do belong to me.


Chapter Twenty-One The Grand Deceiver

I love him, but every day I’m learning
All my life, I’ve only been pretending
---Taken from “On My Own” composed and written by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil



Artemisia dropped her quill pen into the silver inkwell and leaned back in her chair. “My apologies, Mr. Roberts, but I cannot attend to matters of salary until Head Auror Hart returns from his wedding trip. If, at that time, you still feel the need to address the issue, I will be happy to inform him of your complaint.”

The man sitting across from her curled his long fingers over the brim of his hat. Artemisia noticed the vein in his right temple bulge dangerously and she bit back a smile.

Oh, how she loved the perks of power.

“If your clerk had not made the error, Auror Lufkin,” Mr. Roberts stated, “then perhaps I would not have to disturb you now.” The last word was pointed and Artemisia enjoyed the way it slithered off his tongue.

Mr. Roberts, was, quite plainly, a round idiot. He had been hired by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement nearly ten years ago after failing as a merchant, and, although his career consisted of little more than tedious paperwork, he always managed to rub his cohorts the wrong way.

“Not at all, Mr. Roberts. I am quite glad to have spoken with you,” Artemisia continued pleasantly. She herself had had few dealings with Roberts, although she had heard from others that his weighty ego was legendary. Now that Dick had left her in charge of his office while he went on his honeymoon, Artemisia could experience firsthand Roberts’s arrogance. And she quite liked him, actually…so long as he continued to break-up the dreadful monotony of her day. While acting as Head of the Auror Office, she often found herself called in to settle petty squabbles and soothe the hysterics of her underlings. Well, they were not her underlings, only loaned to her while Dick was away. But perhaps someday they would be hers. Someday in the near future.

Mr. Roberts took offense to her casual smile, looking austere himself, dressed all in black with only a tightly tied white stock to off-set the drabness. If she didn’t know better, Artemisia might mistake him for a minister of God.

“My salary is forty pounds, Auror Lufkin.”

Artemisia sighed. “That’s thirty-five pounds, Mr. Roberts, plus five pounds to pay for the maintenance of your Ministry-issued broomstick, which, I notice, you have not used once this year.”

“Then I ought not to pay for something I do not use.”

“Fine.” Artemisia reached for her quill and watched as the man’s colorless face hardened. “Your salary will be thirty-five pounds from now on” She pretended to make a note of it in her ledger.

“Then you admit, it was forty pounds to begin with!”

Artemisia scratched her quill along the parchment, leaving a trail of meaningless, spidery lines. Hmm, perhaps Mr. Roberts wasn’t so amusing after all. She had never known a man to be so thoroughly stubborn, except, of course, for Maxime….

The knock on the door startled them both.

Artemisia immediately dragged herself back to the moment and raised her head. “Come.”

Hugh Brinton popped his head inside. “I beg your pardon, Auror Lufkin, but there is someone here for you.”

Mr. Roberts, if possible, looked even more ruffled. “I am meeting with Auror Lufkin now,” he snapped.

Artemisia ignored him. “Who is it, Hugh?”

“Captain Farrell. Shall I tell him to wait?”

“No, send him in.” Artemisia offered Roberts a pointed look and for all the man’s bravado, he knew not to respond. “Will you wait for Head Auror Hart to settle this matter when he returns?”

Roberts seemed to hesitate, gnawing for a moment on his lower lip before muttering, “Aye.”

Artemisia found a final smile for him as he rose and moved towards the door. But before Roberts could exit, Farrell put his broad shoulders inside the room, blocking his way.

At once, Artemisia’s stomach filled with ice. Her lover’s face was of thunder.

“Pardon,” Farrell did not even spare a glance for Roberts, ignoring the man’s attempts to scramble around his large frame and out of the room. “Hullo, lass.”

Artemisia rose from her chair, only now noticing the ink stains marking the cuffs of her work robes. She had unwittingly trailed her hand over the wet parchment, leaving smudges in her wake.

To distract herself from Farrell’s steady gaze, she searched for her handkerchief. “Martin, what are you about here?” She was trying to sound congenial, but the strain in her voice was shamefully evident.

Farrell did not answer, handing her instead an unopened note.

Artemisia took it from him and her fingers brushed against the raised seal, the red wax glaring up at her like the evil eye.

“Is this from Dick?” she asked. “Oh and I told him not to write. He thinks I might become a right tyrant overnight if I am left too long in charge. Well, he ought to know that I am taking a very passive approach to all this. Very passive, indeed.”

She was almost too frightened to turn over the note and read the address. The seal was certainly familiar, but not Dick’s, that she knew. And Dick never signed his letters in French.

“Are you going to open it?” Farrell was obscenely calm. He sat in the chair Mr. Roberts had of late vacated and pulled off his tricorner, resting it on his right knee.

Artemisia looked back down at the note in her hands and realized, all at once, that Farrell was testing her. He was a soldier, after all, adept at sensing the prickle of fear in an enemy, the strain that shot the whites of the eyes with blood. But since when had she become his enemy?

And since when had he become hers?

No matter, she told herself. Farrell could not read French and Maxime always used his native tongue whenever he wrote to her, desiring that his wife abandoned her awkward Anglo-Saxon phrasing for his own.

Artemisia forced herself to sit back down, if only to disguise how her legs trembled. The seal was broken, the red wax disintegrating in her hands, melting as it was touched by the sweat pooling in her palms.

Maxime had written very little.

My dear Artemisia,

I write to congratulate you for you boldness in supporting the American cause. It was well of you to express you sentiments as you did last week, at the wedding of your superior, no less. I am proud of you.

Do not think me a poor husband for having been so remiss lately with my letters. I am reminded of Rousseau when he said, “Plant and your spouse plants with you; weed and you weed alone.” I know that we parted with some distraction between us at the last…but I am not angry with you. I think of you daily and wish to see you again.

Yr. Most Affectionate Husband,
Maximilian Rondelet


It was all there. Complete incrimination. Anyone of her enemies could charge her with spying for the French, especially now, with rumors that King Louis was entertaining American ambassador Benjamin Franklin.

But then she looked up at Farrell, who’s face was no longer of thunder but apprehension, and all her worries fell away…to be replaced by guilt.

God, oh God, what had she done?

It was a double-sided betrayal and she was the grand deceiver. A wretch.

With uncertain hands, Artemisia shred the letter from Maxime and fed it to the fire in the hearth.

Farrell watched her. “You have French contacts?”

“Yes.” The heaviness in her heart forbade her from lying again. Artemisia turned to face Farrell, fighting the urge to lean across the desk and take hold of his hands. She wanted to feel him now, but even as she met his gaze, a great chasm sprang up between them. And if she reached for him, she would be reaching through the dark and shadow into emptiness…

“The man who sent me the letter is a lawyer I met while in France,” she told him. “He writes to me from time to time.”

Farrell suddenly dropped his gaze, dragging his tongue over his teeth. “You think that I accuse you of espionage,” he said at length.

Artemisia felt the world fall down around her. “No!”

“And that is entirely right,” Farrell replied quickly. “I never would. I know you are no spy, Artemisia, but why have you not opened with me?”

“Martin,” she began but could not finish. He waited for her to continue and when she did not, he stood and paced restlessly.

“Is this Dick Hart’s doing?” he prompted.

Artemisia’s brows nearly jumped up to her hairline. “I don’t--”

“Has he asked you to keep in contact with this man should we go to war again with France? Have you been weeding secrets out of this lawyer for the Ministry’s sake?”

And so easily, so very easily, Artemisia found a new deception laid at her feet. She could lie again without even trying. She could soothe Farrell’s worries and justify her secrecy and carry on with her life as though nothing had happened.

She could, she could…but she did not want to.

“No,” Artemisia said.

Farrell stopped pacing, his proud shoulders sagging. “What then?”

But she could not play the game any longer. Pressing her fingers into the hollows above her eyes, Artemisia tried to think. “I cannot open with you yet, Martin. I am sorry.”

He did not to ask why, although she knew it pained him to concede defeat.

“I must go to Bath first and see my brother,” she said. If anyone was to know, she decided, Tarquin had the right first.

Farrell was ready to break. “Go then,” he said and Artemisia was heartbroken when he turned to leave without looking at her. “Go then and be done with it.”

 

 






When Artemisia finished her work at the Auror Office, she used the Floo Network in the atrium to travel not to her London flat, but all the way to Bath. Six o’clock was a safe hour to arrive at her family’s estate, the soft time between daylight and darkness that her father spent in his greenhouses tending to the flowers so that he might in turn nurture his paternal instincts. Markham Lufkin had not let his children go into the world gently and every time Artemisia visited her father, she minded the wistfulness in his voice when he spoke of her youth.

Her brother Tarquin was less affected by their father’s pining, and living close by to his family home, he helped to ease his sire’s loneliness. But Artemisia herself fancied she had never been quite so strong as her elder sibling, and when she saw her father so sad, it broke her spirit.

Which was why she had no intention of running into him now, not until she had regained some sense of stoicism and settled her mind on a safe course of action. Her family must know of her marriage, that much was clear to her. Relaying the news, which might prove devastating, was proving to be suitable challenge.

In setting out for the Lufkin estate, Artemisia laid bare two possibilities in her mind. Her father and brother would either be thunderstruck and enraged, or they would consider her wedded state a mixed blessing. She was married to a Frenchman, yes, but there might be grandchildren soon. Grandchildren always softened the blow, or so Artemisia hoped.

Now, if only she were with child….

As she stepped out of the dusty fireplace in her mother’s old sitting room, Artemisia allowed herself a brief moment to think of Farrell. Despite her strongest convictions and undefeatable love for Maxime, she thought her family might have greeted the news of a marriage to Farrell more readily. He was a squib, but a good Englishman and something about Martin’s personality just lent itself to affability. With a sinking feeling in the deepest pit of her gut, Artemisia began to realize that she had lost him.

For a moment, she tried to imagine what it might have been like if she had met Farrell before Maxime.

But no, that was useless. Utterly useless. And although her mind was quick to withdraw back to her paramour, she found her attention soon snagged by the pleasant pitter-patter of Sissy’s feet.

The parlor door was opened slowly, spreading dust motes and casting lengths of light upon the grey linen draped over the old furniture.

“Hello?”

And despite it all, Artemisia found herself smiling when she heard the house elf’s timid voice. “It is just me, Sissy,” she said. “Come in and shut the door. I don’t want Papa to know I’m here.”

“Oh Mistress Artemisia!” Sissy bobbed into the room, something akin to relief shining in her round eyes. “Sissy is thinking you was your mother’s ghost! No one ever comes in this room no more. Not even the mice!”

“I was counting on that,” Artemisia replied. She let Sissy hug her knees and then pulled the house elf away, giving her a small shake to restore the seriousness of the situation. “Listen to me, Sissy. I want to know…is Papa in the house?”

“Yes.” Sissy glanced up at her earnestly. “But he is in bed. Sissy is not to be waking him before dinner and that is an hour away. If yous want, I can ring for him now.”

“No!” Artemisia said firmly, plunging her hand into the pocket of her coat and extracting a note she had written before leaving Dick’s office. “I do not want Papa to know that I have come home, do you understand? Yes. Good girl. Now, you must do me a favor. Send one of the gardener’s boys to Tarquin with this note. I’ll stay in this room and wait for him. I must speak with him before I see Papa. This is very important, Sissy.”

The house elf nodded gravely. “Yes, Mistress. Sissy is going right now. Is Mistress sure about staying in this old room, though? There is no fire and too much dust.”

“I will be fine,” Artemisia assured her. “Just hurry. And if Papa wakes up, keep him away from this room.”

Sissy took the note and before she was out the door, she glanced around the sitting room once more. “Master Lufkin is never coming in this room anymore. Master Lufkin misses your Mama too much.”

 

 

 







Artemisia had not known her mother. The woman had died when she was only two, living traces of haunted memories and an emptiness that could not be filled even by the presence of the governess, Mrs. Philomena, who had attempted to instill the proper feminine graces in her young charge. Even now, Artemisia felt guilty for disliking members of her own sex so greatly. Perhaps, she mused, it was her mother’s fault after all.

While waiting for Tarquin to arrive, she removed the dustcover that hung over the portrait her father had commissioned of his new bride so many years ago. The woman in the painting surprised Artemisia with her familiar features and, with a sense of muted shock, she realized that they had the same hair color….

A forgotten ache nipped at her breast.

But then Tarquin came clambering out of the fireplace and, as Artemisia stepped back to make room for her brother, she turned from the portrait.

It made her nervous to be watched.

“Merlin’s bones,” her brother coughed. He was covered in soot, his formal lawyer’s robes dusted grey instead of ebony. “What is all this, Artemisia? Is it Papa?”

The fear in his eyes was unexpected. Artemisia touched him gently on the shoulder, comforted by his presence alone. “No, Papa does not know I am here. I must speak with you…and I had to come tonight or it would destroy. Darling, I fear you will hate me.”

When Tarquin looked at her, she minded the very fine lines around his mouth. Smile lines, she told herself, because her brother was always smiling. Though not now….

“Dear God,” he said, struggling to remove his outer robes. He wasn’t one to freeze with fear, but rather kept on fidgeting, as if the bad tidings would evade him so long as he hopped about. “I know what this is. Do not think me blind to it, Artemisia. I may be your brother, but I understand these things. This has to do with Captain Farrell, yes? You are with his child.”

“No!” Shame darkened her cheeks. Who should ever think that she might discuss such a thing with her brother? “No, Tarquin, this has naught to with Captain Farrell. He--he is an honorable man.”

And it was true. Martin was an honorable man, as was Maxime, in a manner…

“Have you gotten yourself in a bind with your Ministry friends?” he asked, although this time, she clearly heard the relief in his voice.

“No, Tarquin. I think it would be better if I told you outright. I have kept this secret for far too long.” She turned, lifting one of the sheets off an antique chaise and settled herself gingerly upon it. The floral upholstery was faded and frayed. “Tarquin, darling,” she said, looking only at her hands, which were still smudged with Maxime’s red sealing wax. “I am married.”

Her brother said nothing for a long time, but leaned forward away from the fireplace and braced his hands on the back of a wooden chair. “Not to Captain Farrell?”

Artemisia shook her head. “His name is Maximilian Rondelet--”

“Rondelet?”

“He is a lawyer I met in France.”

“Artemisia, you were in France two years ago!” Understanding dawned on him and his jaw slackened slightly. “Have you been married all this time?”

“Yes.” She twisted her hands into an uncomfortable knot. “And I have kept it from you.”

“Dear God, dear God.” Tarquin pinched the bridge of his nose. “Have you gone mad, sister?”

“I meant to--”

“And you are married, legally married to this man?”

“Yes.” Her neck stiffened as she raised her shoulders in a shrug. “I have the marriage certificate--if you would see it.”

Tarquin lowered his head. Artemisia could see the tension coursing through him, across the arched line of his back and whitened knuckles. “Why now? Why do you come to me with this now?”

“Because,” and when she spoke, she was surprised to find tears in her voice, “I cannot live knowing that I have deceived you and Papa…and Martin. Maxime is a good man and there is no reason why I should suffer my marriage to be a secret. I have wounded this family, I can see that. Tarquin, I am sorry, you know I was never as brave as you.”

She paused and pressed her fingers to her damp cheeks.

Tarquin sighed. “Darling, had I not known you were always so skittish with matters of love and union, I should think you were mad. And a Frenchman? It is a Frenchman you are married to? My God, surely you know that we are on the very brink of war with France!”

“I mind such things,” Artemisia replied. With a desperate jolt of her stomach, she realized that the Ministry would not be pleased with her union. If only she could explain things properly to Dick first, then mayhap her career might be saved from ruin.

She was not a spy for France. That she knew in her heart. Artemisia would always love Maxime, but England owned her body and soul before all else.

“How can you come to me with this and expect me to be pleased?” Tarquin asked. He was pacing now, trying to shake off the air of mourning that left the room closed and tight.

Artemisia felt it seep into the fabric of her clothes and nestle against her skin. And despite herself, she shivered.

“I did not expect you to open your arms to this,” she said.

“At least you retain your sense in some fashion.”

“But Tarquin, please,” she dropped her hands over her knees, her fingers digging into her breeches. “I cannot lose you to this. God, I cannot!”

And after she had spoken, she promptly burst into sobs.

Tarquin, however, was not sympathetic. “Do not think to cry now!” he commanded. “Compose yourself, Artemisia. I want to know the story of all this. You must tell me how it happened.”

“I…I cannot.”

“Yes, you can and by God you will.” Her brother was adamant.

Artemisia was reminded of the time when she was but a child and intended to sneak out to the stables to ride her father’s new gelding. Tarquin had gotten wind of her plan before anyone else and he had been waiting for her on the servants’ staircase before she could ever leave the house. He appeared just as likely to give way to her hysterics now and she found herself struggling for composure as he watched her carefully.

“Very well,” she muttered thickly, both angered and frightened by his obstinacy. “I will tell you. Maxime, ah, Maxime. I met him in the gardens of Beauxbatons.”

 

 

 






Stony in his silence, Tarquin listened to what she had to tell him, never sitting, never stopping, but pacing the length of their mother’s sitting room as she talked. He did not interrupt and seemed to listen thoughtfully until Artemisia mentioned that she had not seen Maxime in over a year.

“A year!” he cried. “Then why not arrange for a divorce? I can help you, darling, please let me help you.”

But the very suggestion made Artemisia’s blood freeze. “I love him still,” she said. “And you cannot ask so much of me. Tarquin, how…how dare you!”

She expected him to fire back at her and when he did not, she was surprisingly relieved. Artemisia had no desire to go to battle with her brother. Her beloved brother.

Tarquin raised his hand, but let it fall dismissively. After a long moment, he crossed the room and sat beside her. “I will not pretend that I am happy,” he said. “But let me meet the man. And please, calm yourself, my dear. You know I do love you.”

But Artemisia could only repeat, “I am sorry. Tarquin, I am sorry.”

When she had stayed her tears and dried her swollen eyes with her brother’s handkerchief, she followed him out into the hall. The air was instantly clearer, free from the dust and ashes of the old room their mother had so cherished…and had died in when she was still young and fair.

Tarquin held her arm as they moved down the stairs into the foyer. “I shall have Sissy ring for Papa. He will be happy to see you. Stay with us until you leave for France. You can Apparate to the Ministry in the mornings.”

“If Papa will have me,” Artemisia said miserably. “I cannot think of what he will say when I tell him of Maxime.”

But before she could finish, Tarquin stopped cold and released her arm.

“I would not tell him.”

“What?” Artemisia turned. “What is this, darling?”

Tarquin did not answer. Their father had been roused from his nap and was now coming down the stairs behind them, still in his dressing gown. At once, Artemisia noticed that he needed a cane to walk with.

Markham Lufkin smiled at his children and his eyes were feverish. “What a surprise!” he croaked. “Tarquin and Artemisia, my dear children, my dear, dear children come home at last.”

Artemisia looked at Tarquin and nodded. She would not breathe a word of Maxime to their father.
 

 

 







Author’s Note: Maxime will be back in the flesh for the next chapter. Thank you all so much for your continued support and patience!
 
 


Chapter 23: The Rondelet Family
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                                            Fantastic chapter image by tresor @ TDA

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. However, all OCs mentioned herein do belong to me.


Chapter Twenty-Two The Rondelet Family


Return to me to languish,
Only you it wants to love
This faithful heart,
My dear, my good one, my dear!
     --English Translation of G.F. Handel’s aria ‘Tornami a vagheggiar’


Artemisia stayed in Bath with her father and brother for five days, using the Floo Network to travel to the Ministry in London every morning, and returning home as soon as she was able. Unfortunately, with Dick Hart away on his wedding trip, Artemisia often found herself delayed at the Auror office. Sometimes, she worked well into the evening as wizards and witches formed an ever-growing queue outside her door. Hindsight was indeed revealing and she blushed with embarrassment now, thinking of all the times she had solicited Dick’s help with some simple matter regarding a particularly unwholesome case or an unsuitable pay change. How tedious and frustrating the duties of Head Auror were! And yet, Artemisia always experienced a sense of pleasant satisfaction when she left the Ministry each night, having successfully kept things in order for another day.

That same satisfaction, however, was the only thing that guarded her mind from complete despondency. Since their quarrel over Maxime’s letter, Farrell had not sought Artemisia’s company. And although her brother tried to be cheerful in front of their father, she felt convinced that Tarquin was still clearly plagued with doubt regarding her surprise marriage.

But ah, then there was the matter of Maxime himself. It did not take much debate and thought for Artemisia to decide what course of action she should take; their marriage could be salvaged, it must be. If she loved Maxime yet, then the distance between them had to have sealed his own affection for her. After all, had he not expressed a sincere wish to reunite with her in his letter?

It all made sense in a way. Terrible sense. And Artemisia felt unusually cowardly when she thought of visiting her husband. But it must be done.

She spent the five nights before Dick’s return in agony, sleeping little, and pacing the confines of her childhood bedchamber. Patience, perhaps, had never suited her, and she felt the strain of waiting press upon her like some dark, unwanted thing.

It was with nearly hysterical relief that she greeted Dick when he came into the office on a Monday morning. Artemisia herself was dangerous with intemperance and she barely managed to ask after his new bride and wedding trip before she began to beg for a week’s leave.

“I need some time,” she told her superior feverishly. “Forgive me…I know you have just returned…but grant me a week.”

“My dear Auror Lufkin!” Dick was still busy removing his cloak as he beheld her. “Was it such a test to perform my duties for only a short time?”

Artemisia clasped her hands before her, feeling sweat dampen her forehead. “A…a personal matter it is, sir. What unfortunate timing, I know! But please--”

“Ah!” Dick shook his head, the fresh powder from his wig dusting the air. “Go, go. You seem fit for Bedlam. Go, then!”

But he was smiling at her with some measure of understanding, and Artemisia left his office weak-legged with relief.

Although it would have been incredibly convenient to use the extensive Floo Network housed in the Ministry’s Atrium to complete her journey, Artemisia paid for the extra expense of Flooing from the privacy her father’s house in Bath, where a degree of anonymity might yet be preserved. It would do little good indeed for an English Auror to be seen traveling quite casually to France, after all.

It took her an hour or so arrange everything. She left a note for Sissy to give to Tarquin when he returned from his lawyering. Having no way to judge the weather in Maxime’s province, she took only a small bag with a suit of clothes, a plain, cotton day gown and her copy of Rousseau’s Du Contrat Social Ou Principes Du Droit Politique, although she had scarce cracked it open in nine months.

After some degree of hesitation, she clasped her cloak tightly about her and stepped into the large fireplace in the main parlor. A moment later she emerged from a dusty hearth in the common room of a small country tavern in France. It being only two o’clock in the afternoon the place was empty save the proprietress, a surprisingly stately dame of sixty who stood at the counter polishing earthenware mugs.

Shivering with fear and excitement, Artemisia set her bag down and brushed the soot from her shoulders.

She had not told Maxime she was coming.


 

 






It was rather shameful, Artemisia quickly realized, just how shaky her grasp of the French language was. While residing at Beauxbatons, her heavy, Anglo-tinged phrasing and guttural syllables had made her a source of ridicule. And although she had markedly improved through the many long and easy conversations she had shared with Maxime, her tongue was now quite unused to the soft, gentle words. How long had it been, after all, since she had last spoken French properly? Certainly, Martin Farrell never required anything but the comforting tones of English….

The proprietress of the tavern Artemisia had Flooed to was perfectly clear in intimating that she couldn’t understand a word of her strange visitor’s babbling.

It seemed to take Artemisia an eternity to gather the information she so sorely needed. Married to Maxime she might be, but she still had no notion of his native province, nor his family home, for that matter, and she had no idea just how close (or how far) the tavern might be from her desired destination.

At length, and just when the old dame was showing signs of wearied patience, Artemisia produced her husband’s last missive.

“Here,” she tried once more in French, pointing to the address on the parchment. “I wish to go here. Where is it?”

“Ah!” The woman looked relieved, if not slightly suspicious. “You are looking for Monsieur Rondelet?”

“Yes!” Artemisia could have wept for relief.

The dame set down one of her earthenware mugs, walked to the open front door and pointed to the lane outside. “That way.”

Artemisia followed her like a hapless puppy. “Which way?”

“That way. At the end of the lane, to the right.”

“Merlin’s bones,” she moaned, struggling to gather her things just as a surge of nervous tension made her arms go weak. “Here.” She tried to hand the woman a coin, but realized too late that her currency was English, and therefore, not favorable.

“Bah!” The piece was thrown to the floor by the tavern owner, where it rolled in tight circles before coming to rest a few inches from the plebian hearth.

“Ungrateful beast,” Artemisia growled under her breath as she stumbled out the door and into the lane. And oh, she would have the luck to find the road deplorably crowded! A shepherd was just coming along then with a herd of goats, his sinewy sheep dog ordering the mess of bleating animals with all the efficiency of a seasoned field officer driving a regiment of crack troops.

She was forced to wait a full five minutes for the whole lot to pass, and when they did, she still kept to the side to the road, having sighted a farmer’s cart in the distance. Without her wits about her, Artemisia was no fair judge of the small town and surrounding countryside. Had she looked hard enough, she would have seen that below the pastoral scenery, bedecked as it was with the muted colors of late fall, was true hardship.

Not so for the pleasant little houses that lined the main thoroughfare through the town. Despite there small size, Artemisia could not fail to find them charming with their quaint, walled gardens and squat chimneys. Trusting the dame’s questionable directions, she followed the course of the lane to its end, and then turned right, past the first row of houses and into a second street. And there, much to her mingled disbelief and shock, sat a young woman by her front door, her head bent as she drew dark thread through the seam of a blue coat.

A sky blue coat. The same coat Maxime wore when Artemisia had first met him at Beauxbatons.

Her grip loosened on her traveling bag and the leather bottom hit the hard-packed dirt road, sounding a decisive thud.

The young woman looked up.

Maxime.

Artemisia’s jaw locked. The resemblance was uncanny, although the woman’s features, particularly her brow, were softened by feminine grace.

Instinct kicked her hard in the gut, rendering her breathless.

The woman stared at the stranger, for a stranger Artemisia still was.

Not for long, she thought grimly, taking a step forward so that she stood directly before the garden gate. Charlotte. Maxime told me his sister’s name was Charlotte.

“Mademoiselle Rondelet?” Artemisia ventured. “Mademoiselle Charlotte Rondelet?”

The woman dropped her needle and it slipped free from its thread, falling to the grass by the hem of her simple gown. “Yes,” she said slowly.

“Then this is the house of Maximilian Rondelet?”

“Your accent.”

“Pardon?” Artemisia was jolted from her poor attempts at propriety by Charlotte’s last words, which, to her amazement, had been spoken in English.

“Your accent is English,” Charlotte continued, rising, gathering the coat to her breast. “I know who you are.”

“Forgive me,” Artemisia blathered, “I did not…I did not expect you to speak my language…”

“You are Artemisia Lufkin,” Charlotte pressed. “You are my brother’s wife.”

There it was. Out in the plain light of the day. At first, Artemisia was stunned by the woman’s frankness, but then realized just who she was talking to…the sister of the most pragmatic man she had ever known.

There was nothing for her to do but drop into a curtsey. Artemisia, however, found her knees weak and managed only a bow. “Am I that obvious?” she asked, hoping she sounded playful and not the least bit threatening.

Charlotte’s narrow nostrils flared. “You were not expected.”

“Yes…yes, I’m sorry for that, I…”

“Do not stand out in the street like that.” Charlotte whirled about, turning her back on her sister-in-law. “Come inside at once. I won’t have the neighbors gossiping.”

And Artemisia, who always chafed at the mere thought of taking orders, picked up her bag and trudged up the garden path into the house.
 

 

 






It was chilly in the parlor, where a fire had not been lit, nor would be to nearly an hour after Artemisia’s arrival. She sat in a fine, but slightly frayed upholstered chair by the hearth, hoping that her close proximity to the empty grate would snag Charlotte’s seemingly wayward attention. Although she had known Maxime to be charmingly absent-minded, his sister appeared to act so out of spite.

After depositing Artemisia in the parlor, her sister-in-law went out of the room into the back of the house, promising that she would send word to Maxime at his office which was nearly a mile away. Artemisia promptly thanked her for her consideration, but since then, she had seen neither hide nor hair of her.

She had been left alone, abandoned in a strange house that, by law, she had more rights to than Charlotte. And thinking such, Artemisia tried to find some pity in her heart for the girl.

Her mild pity, however, soon gave way to curiosity, and for a long time, she fought the urge to leave the parlor and explore. She was certain she could find Maxime’s chamber upstairs, and it would be nice to be given the opportunity to change her attire, which was somewhat dusty and disarranged from traveling.

It was quite clear, however, that she was on rather unsteady ground with Charlotte, and should she take it upon herself to poke and prod around the house, her sister-in-law would surely be insulted.

Instead, Artemisia contented herself with studying the appearance and furniture of the parlor. There was a single window to her right, and by turning slightly in her chair, she found she had a perfect view of the street. The chintz curtains were certainly handmade, though lovely nonetheless, and they matched the red and white tiles of the fireplace. The walls, although roughly plastered in some places, were decorated with appropriate portraits and miniatures. One Artemisia recognized as Maxime, while another next to him of a fresh-faced boy of sixteen could only be his brother. A third, of a plain, but smiling woman, could have possibly been the deceased Madame de Rondelet.

Artemisia was busy examining this one closely when she heard the back door open and a startled cry of, “Brother!”

The conversation that followed, entirely in French and hurried, had Artemisia straining to hear each word.

“Is she here?”

“In the parlor.”

“And you did not keep her company?”

“I…I thought I should leave her to you.”

“Charlotte!”

“She is your wife, Maxime. I do not know this strange…this English…you never even brought her home to us.”

“Well, you must meet her now.”

Footsteps sounded up the hall and even as Artemisia darted back to her chair, she heard Charlotte protest with, “If only you had done things right, Maxime, if only--”

But then he was there, by the door. Looking marvelous. Healthy. Even handsome. And oh so very happy to see her.

“Artemisia,” he said her name slowly and with it, a sudden bolt rent through her heart.

She thought of Farrell.

“Maxime…” And therein rested the awkwardness of her position. She did not know what to say to her own husband. Had time and mischance and resentment transformed him into a proper stranger?

For a moment, she wasn’t quite certain she recognized him.

But then he stepped forward, and breaching the divide between them, grasped her hands in his own.

“My dear, dear wife,” he said and kissed her once upon the cheek and then upon the lips. “I knew to expect you…I knew you would come again to me.”

The treacherous frost of aloofness began to melt, and Artemisia was quickly overtaken with a flood of affection. Of course she remembered her husband! How could she not? Thinking of the precious days they had spent together at Beauxbatons, when she had been so in awe of his manner and intelligence, she found a true smile for him.

“How could I not come?” she asked, and, ignoring Charlotte’s look of contempt, threw her arms readily about Maxime’s neck.

He returned her embrace happily, which was, as she recalled, quite strange for him. Time and separation had certainly left him uncommonly sentimental.

“You look so different,” Artemisia commented when she had drawn away slightly. And indeed, he was a changed man. Color resided in his cheeks and his normally pinched face was alive with pert delight.

“I am in better health,” he said .“You know I was poorly suited for a place like Beauxbatons. This is my home…Charlotte has seen to it that I am well kept. Ah, Charlotte!”

Maxime seemed to suddenly remember his scowling sister. Letting his right hand fall from Artemisia’s waist, he beckoned to the woman who lingered still in the parlor door.

“Come,” he insisted. “Come now and meet your sister-in-law.”

Charlotte stepped forward reluctantly, and Artemisia did not fail to notice that she was trembling with rage.

“Madame,” she curtsied, but would not, for any inducement, look her husband’s wife in the eyes.

 

 





It was some time before Artemisia could be alone with Maxime. Although he confessed to not having much appetite, her husband wished the family to take dinner together, which they did in small, sunlight room just off the kitchen. It seemed to Artemisia that the Rondelets were on better footing financially than had last been intimated to her by her husband. While they were by no means wealthy, Maxime’s reputation as a powerful lawyer, along with his tidy income had afforded them the opportunity to rent a suitable house and maintain a cook and a single maid.

Despite these relative comforts, Artemisia herself thought dinner was barely tolerable. Charlotte was keen on expressing to her brother her certain dissatisfaction at having another lady in the house, and she often commented how unfortunate it was for a woman of high-standing such as her sister-in-law to be forced to degrade herself amongst the common Rondelets.

Maxime, being eternally shrewd, did not fail to notice his sister’s upset, though he seemed to be at a loss as to how to quiet her. Instead, he busied himself with talk of his brother, and directly after dinner, he took some time to write a hasty letter to his younger sibling, expressing a wish that he quit school for a few days in order to come home and meet his sister-in-law.

After this letter was dispatched, Artemisia was at last granted a reprieve from Charlotte’s company.

“We have much to speak of,” Maxime said simply, conducting her up to his chambers on the second floor.

With Charlotte out of the way, they took residence in his study. Upon entering the room, Artemisia immediately felt a sense of belonging. The carpet under her feet did much to muffle the tread of her feet, and the lofty bookcases filled with venerable tracts on law and philosophy surrounded her like the walls of a protective fortress. Maxime offered her the chair by his writing desk and took a smaller one for himself.

And after they were settled, a solemn silence fell between them for many minutes.

The quiet, however, was not oppressive, Artemisia quickly realized, but rather the product of a comfortable understanding that had grown betwixt them. She supposed that true martial felicity might be found in such agreement…if it were practiced often enough.

As it was, they both gave each other some time to think. It was at length that Maxime broke their ruminations.

“We have not handled this appropriately, have we?” he said, his voice more bereft than bitter.

“I should think not,” Artemisia replied. She was glad to see that Maxime was approaching their situation with his usual practicality.

“We were young and thoughtless when we married,” he continued thoughtfully.

“We are young,” Artemisia corrected him. And then something occurred to her. “But Maxime…I hope…I….please don’t tell me you regret our marriage. I certainly do not. Do you…well--”

“Do I love you?” His frankness was cool and even. “Yes, of course I do. Did you not read the letter I sent?”

Artemisia shifted in her chair slightly. “I did. But you know, you do have a tendency to be aloof. And you seemed so little pleased with me when last we were together.”

“The fault, as I understand it, was entirely my own,” he said and, after a brief hesitation, he reached forward and touched her fingers. “Might I ask the same thing of you, Artemisia? Do you love me?”

Again, she thought of Farrell.

“I do, Maxime…otherwise I should not have disclosed our union to my family.”

“You have!” His watery green eyes were suddenly alight.

Artemisia knew the matter of her secrecy regarding their marriage had previously caused contention between them. She hoped that now he might see that she was likewise approaching their situation with all seriousness.

“But mind,” she said quickly, “only my brother Tarquin knows. I should have told my father, but he has been in rather poor health of late.”

“I suppose that was judicious of you.” Maxime fussed with his spectacles, though Artemisia guessed he was trying his best to shield his frown from her. “And what of your brother? Was he…surprised?”

She shifted, dropping her hands onto her lap and clenching them until the knuckles ached. Dear Maxime! Leave it to him to strike at the heart of the matter. “You were right,” she admitted with some difficulty. “I ought to have told him the moment I returned from France. I daresay he is quite angry with me now, though I think if he meets you, all shall be settled. You are both lawyers, as it is. I am certain you can find some common ground.”

“As you have with Charlotte?” Maxime lifted his alert face to her. The autumn sun had set early, heralding the dreaded approach of winter. Shadows gathered between them.

This time, the silence was markedly uncomfortable. Noticing a stub of candle on the desk nearby, Artemisia removed her wand from inside her waistcoat and set the wick aflame.

“How are we to go about this then?” she queried him at last. Worry had begun to bloom and grow in the pit of her stomach. She feared his answer might not be suitable…devastating really. Maxime certainly wasn’t one to stand for inconvenience.

“Well,” he heaved a small sigh. “I think we have already established that we are still heartily in love, and, consequently, dedicated to the survival of our union.”

“Indeed.”

“Then let us be selfish for a moment and consider what it is we want.” Maxime watched the flickering candle for a moment, then glanced back to her. “Artemisia?”

But she hesitated. The question was surprisingly intricate and there were, of course, many factors to be considered. The current political climate certainly did not stand in their favor.

Despite herself, Artemisia felt obliged to mention it. “It is said that France will align itself with the American colonies and go to war with England. I am sure you know that cannons left behind by the American Muggle army after the Battle of Brandywine were all from France.”

“And it would not bode well with your superiors at the British Ministry if you suddenly uncovered a French husband.”

“But my direct superior was just lately married,” she explained, “I might be able to guide his sentiments in our favor.”

Maxime’s eyes narrowed with what appeared to be suspicion. Artemisia was about to question him when he spoke up. “It has just occurred to me that I know nothing of your way of life, nor you mine. We have lived apart too long. This is not acceptable.”

“You state what is wretchedly obvious,” Artemisia replied.

“Is it a proper marriage you want?” he questioned her, the light from the candle reflecting off his round spectacles. “One that has been acknowledged publicly?”

She swallowed. The mere notion put a chill into her heart, but she could not ignore her longing. “I do.”

“And you wish us to live together, as husband and wife, in the same dwelling?”

“As we should have, from the first.” Unable to fight the emotions that had so long lay dormant within her, she leaned forward to touch Maxime on the knee. “Do you remember,” she asked, “when we were still at Beauxbatons, how I pled with you to find some sense of communion with me?”

“I do.”

“We were brave then, but have we so easily become cowards now?”

His features, which had softened briefly, now quickly returned to feline awareness. “There is a great matter before us then.”

“I--” Artemisia began, but Maxime was quick to silence her.

“You wish me to come to England with you,” he said plainly.

Artemisia dropped her hand from his knee, feeling quite like the cat caught licking the cream off the top of the milk jug. “It would be convenient.”

“Because your career is certainly more advantageous than mine.”

“Maxime, don’t be sarcastic.”

“And you have a fine house and wealth enough to keep us--”

“Have I judged your house here? Have I said a word?”

Calmly, Maxime held up his hand. “I did not think you would. You were never much to rely on status, considering, of course, that you married quite below your station.”

“Maxime…”

“Darling, I do love you,” he said.

Artemisia soon found herself too overwhelmed with emotion to reply. Thankfully, a smart tapping soon sounded on the window. There was a brown owl sitting on the ledge and Artemisia hastened to admit the bird. As she threw open the window, she was greeted with a fresh blast of cool, fall air. The tree opposite the house sported plumage of its own--bright red and yellow leaves that contrasted magnificently with the black bark.

“Oh, we should never quarrel,” Artemisia said, watching as the bird landed delicately on the back of her vacated chair, holding out its leg so that Maxime could untie the roll of parchment.

“We shan’t quarrel,” her husband replied. “You know I have no patience for that which is useless. Ah, this must be from my brother!”

But the letter could not be from the younger Rondelet. It was addressed to Artemisia…and edged in black. She took it from Maxime, read the first few lines and then looked up at him.

“My father has died.”
 


 

 





Author’s Note: Thanks so much for taking the time to read! With NaNo starting tomorrow, I’m hoping to devote a generous amount of writing time to this story. If all goes well, updates for December and January should be quite regular. Happy Halloween, everyone!
 
 

Translation:
Du Contrat Social Ou Principes Du Droit Politique: The Social Contract
 


Chapter 24: Adieu, Adieu
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                                          Awesome graphic by laelia @ TDA

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work.

 
Chapter Twenty-Three Adieu, Adieu

‘Good night, sweet prince
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!’
--William Shakespeare, “Hamlet” Act V/Scene II


 The sun was unwelcome. Sitting at one of the tables in the common room of the tavern near Maxime’s house, Artemisia stared out the open door. The landlady was hanging her laundry over the stone fence that separated her front yard from the road. The breeze was low and sweet and sounded like a child’s voice as it tickled the branches of the yew tree on the other side of the lane. A dog cantered in lazy circles around, scattering a flock of sparrows that had descended to feast on the few stale corn kernels the chickens had left behind after their breakfast. The landlady began to scold.

Artemisia felt a tear slide down her cheek. She could not admire the perfect placidity of the scene before her, repulsed as she was by the fresh morning air that reminded her more of spring than autumn. If she had been in London, she knew, the fog would be heavy on the Thames. It would rain until noon and when she left the Ministry in the evening, she would suppress the urge to take a cab and walk home with her shoes sloshing through the puddles in the gutter that never seemed to dry.

But it wasn’t sensible to miss the rain, Artemisia knew. Just as it wasn’t sensible for her to be there, sitting in a tavern in rural France while her father laid dead in her family’s ancestral home at Bath.

It must be a sin, she decided, to be such a wayward daughter.

Without thinking, Artemisia reached for the handkerchief she had stuffed into her coat pocket. It was a dainty piece of linen, the starchy whiteness of the cloth stained by more than a few guilty tears. Artemisia had been too young to remember her mother’s death and for that she was glad. It made no great difference in her life to have been deprived of the maternal succor all young girls cherished. In small ways she had missed her mother over the years, although the pain was usually mild and passed quickly. The same, of course, could not be said for her father. In the few short hours since learning of his death, Artemisia had experienced a deep, penetrating grief, an agony that left her tight-lipped and faint and unable to stand the sight of the buttery yellow sun.

She wanted it to rain. Desperately. She wanted the world to recognize what had happened and what she had lost. But Artemisia was beginning to understand, with the naivety of her youth laid aside, that the world almost never took notice of something as simple as death. She was alone in her sorrow. She was hopeless and helpless and heartbroken. She was a little girl again, the child that gladly climbed onto her father’s knee when she noticed that he had become too immersed in his botany books and needed her mischief to rouse him from his studies.

Artemisia’s mouth quivered and she squeezed her fingers over the handkerchief. The weight of her sadness had settled on her shoulders, her limp legs stretched out before her underneath the table. And she stayed seated like that, frozen, fearful that any quick or sharp movement might shake loose her howling grief and she would cry and cry and cry, the clarity of her sorrow heightened by the unforgiving light of the sun.

Artemisia fought the urge to bury her head in hands. She couldn’t let herself miss her father. Not yet.

Her view of the front yard was suddenly eclipsed by the appearance of a figure. Maxime stepped over the tavern threshold, clad in his traveling cloak and carrying a leather portmanteau in his right hand. He had a small tricorn jammed over his powdered hair. Artemisia guessed her husband looked much the same when he went about his lawyering, traveling the circuit in his province that he knew so well. He was all business now, smartly turned out in a dark green coat and a pair of tan breeches that his sister Charlotte had taken care to press yesterday evening.

Artemisia was surprised when she bristled at the thought of another woman handling her husband’s laundry. It was the wife and mistress of the household who held the keys to the linen cupboard and oversaw all the tedious domestic affairs that came with conjugal habitation. But she had never lived with Maxime during their marriage, and the notion provoked a fresh note of sourness within her. In so many ways, she had failed her husband and herself, the true role of wife eluding her even now, when she sought reconciliation.

Artemisia dropped her eyes to the table top as Maxime settled himself besides to her, storing his portmanteau carefully beneath his chair. She wasn’t certain how she should act just then, as her husband had never witnessed her in the depths of real grief before. True intimacy, it seemed, was not theirs…not yet, in any case.

Instinctively, Artemisia tightened her jaw, holding back the flood of tears that made her eyes burn. She ran her fingers along the rough grain of wood on the table’s surface. Her mind moved sluggishly and she tried to think of nothing, inviting an emptiness that would render her indifferent, if not numb.

Maxime shifted in his chair. Fussily, he plucked his gloves from his fingertips and laid them on his knee. “You don’t have to worry,” he said in a voice Artemisia assumed was meant to be reassuring. “I have seen to everything. I sent an owl off to my brother at school this morning. He knows to delay his holiday and not come home. Charlotte will tend to the house in my absence…as she always does. And I’ve told my clients not to expect me back for at least two weeks. Longer, if need be. I’m not concerned about time, Artemisia, though I suppose, hmm, I suppose timing is everything, isn’t it?”

His clean pragmatism came across as ghoulish to her, but then she remembered that Maxime himself was an orphan. Like her, he had had lost his mother first when he was child and his father only a few years later. Since adolescence, he had shouldered the responsibilities of the Rondelet household, relying on the charity of relatives to look after his younger siblings when he went off to study law at the college in Paris. Maxime was a veteran of melancholic drama. He was acquainted with grief, not frightened, not cowed by the awful power of sorrow that could lay waste to both body and mind. His immunity, however, was no comfort to Artemisia. She envied his ease, even as she searched for some method to mute her grief. Artemisia disliked careless emotion and she wanted to be rid of her sadness. But there was a paradox to it yet, her state of mourning. The longer she indulged her grief, the closer, perhaps, she would be to her father.

Maxime shifted again in his chair, agitated. He removed his spectacles and searched the glass for smudges.

“This is not what I was expecting,” Artemisia said suddenly, incensed at the fickleness of fortune, “this is not what I intended.”

Maxime frowned. For the first time, it appeared as though he did not know what to say.

“I wanted things to be different,” she continued to protest. In her mind, she imagined the first meeting between her husband and her family. Tarquin would be civil, cheerful even. He and Maxime would talk about lawyer’s work and find some common ground in their shared profession. Soon they would become very good friends, taking walks after dinner around the Lufkin estate, pipe smoke accompanying their youthful intellect. And her father, old Markham Lufkin, he would show his suspicions outright, judging the worth of his son-in-law like a piece of horseflesh, testing both his grip and his sincerity through a single handshake. It would take time before they all became a proper family. Comprises would be necessary, along with a fair bit of travel between Maxime’s home province in France and Artemisia’s estate in Bath. But they would set up house somewhere eventually, in England, she hoped. Children might follow and she would make her father a grandsire. And he would spoil the little ones, even though they were half-French. Tarquin would be godfather and the name of Rondelet would happily be listed on the Lufkin family tree, right beneath her parent’s branch…

Artemisia clenched her fingers into a fist. Outside on the road, the landlady’s dog was barking at a gaggle of geese. And there, right next to her, sat Maxime, turned out not for a homecoming, but a funeral.

There were so many ways for Artemisia to miss her father. It frightened her when she realized she had only tried a few of them.

“Here,” Maxime said, thrusting his lace-lined handkerchief under her nose.

Artemisia took it, minding how fresh the linen looked next to her own and admiring the embroidered monogram. Charlotte’s work, most likely.

“I am not going to weep,” she said, although she found it difficult to keep her lips pressed together and a certain heat had begun to build up behind her eyes. “I…I simply cannot abide the wait. It’s insensitive.”

She stood, pushing back her chair, the legs grinding against the stone floor which had been smoothed by the tread of so many feet and darkened by years of grime. The large fireplace in the common room was bare and cold. Artemisia looked longingly at the jar of Floo Powder sitting on the mantle.

Maxime followed our gaze. “You seem to forget that England is at war,” he noted. “Arranging for an international connection between your estate and my home province is very inconvenient at the moment. We are lucky you have friends in the British Ministry who could make quick work of all the tiresome details. But this will be a legal journey, I trust.” He tilted his head in her direction, his spectacles slipping down his nose.

Artemisia was surprised when she blushed. Her initial trip to visit Maxime had been slightly clandestine, as she had failed to log her sojourn to France in the Ministry’s international transportation records. Fortunately, she was not a spy and being an Auror allowed her a little more freedom of movement. It would not be quite so easy, however, to return to England with her French husband in tow. That required a bit of diplomatic maneuvering and Artemisia’s superior, Dick Hart, had been most obliging, considering the pressing circumstances.

“It shouldn’t take this long,” she muttered under her breath, using her boot heel to kick at the little tufts of ash that littered the hearth. She felt an uneasy weakness about the knees and leaned back against the table. Surprisingly enough, Maxime was on his feet, slinging an arm around her shoulders.

“I will not preach the virtues of patience to you,” he said with a wise nod that still managed to convey sympathy.

Artemisia frowned, all too aware of a new soreness that had settled deep into her chest like a bad bout of pneumonia. The English Channel, she knew, wasn’t the only barrier separating her from her father, and she wondered if she could ever truly go home again, or had her youth and childhood security at last been wrenched from her grasp? She was emerging onto the stage of adulthood to a cold audience and the world was all the more sharper for it now, the blunt edges of her naïve, younger years exposed to unkind reality. Somehow, she believed that Maxime had outstripped her maturity and had been waiting rather patiently for her to match strides with him over the course of their unstable marriage. But things had changed, in a small matter of time, and Artemisia found herself altered.

She was going home again, not as a child on holiday from Hogwarts, but as a married woman. An orphan. And an heiress to her parents’ better fortunes, which would have to be enough to sustain her in the coming years, when their memories alone couldn’t.

“I’m not impatient,” Artemisia admitted with a growing sense of dread. There was very little of her heart or spirit that wished to support her new existence, even if Maxime seemed fixed by her side.

Unconsciously, she leaned her head on his shoulder, the smooth fabric of his country lawyer’s coat soothing away the terrible ache in her head. She felt hot tears beneath her lids and the pressure to burst out weeping was potent, causing her lips to wobble. But she was saved the humiliation of sobbing outright when a fire burst to life in the dead hearth. The flames were green-hued and Artemisia’s heart soared for a brief instant, only to plummet back into her boots.

She was truly going home.

“A little belated, I’d say,” Maxime sniffed. He dropped his arm from around her shoulders and picked up his portmanteau. “I suppose you’ll want to go through first. Whoever is waiting on the other side might not expect to see me,” he added, pretending to arrange the cuffs of his coat.

For the first time, Artemisia heard a bit of anxiety creep into her husband’s voice. This journey, she knew, must be quite intimidating to him. It was one thing for him to meet her family in pleasant times, but all the constrained grief and sorrow of her situation put a bleak cast on the affair. She wondered how he managed to hold up under the tension and reminded herself to thank him once things were settled. There was more to being husband and wife than fickle love, she realized. Responsibility was also shackled to marriage, something Maxime had always been aware of, even when Artemisia was remiss.

“Fine,” she said, willing to agree to almost anything if it would get her back on English soil. Artemisia took a minute to gather herself, a fresh wave of hesitance seeping deep into her bones when she considered the sad scene she would most likely encounter on the other side of the grate. Pulling her luggage behind her, she stepped into the flames and announced her destination in a trembling voice.

“Lufkin Estate, Bath.”

The ensuing whirlwind was enough to knock her headache about between the temples. Half-blind, Artemisia groped through the chaotic darkness until she fell out of a familiar fireplace, the one in her father’s upstairs study.

She nearly tripped over the fire screen, which hadn’t been moved out of the way in time.

“Oh Miss Artemisia!”

She recognized the squeaky, watery voice at once. Sissy the house elf wrapped her small arms around Artemisia’s knees, hobbling her in a tight hug. Artemisia could feel Sissy’s tears through the fabric of her breeches and she annoyed by this sudden outburst of emotion. It sat ill with her own quiet grief.

“There now,” she said as she pried the house elf’s arms from around her legs. Fortunately, Sissy was soon distracted by the sound of Maxime arriving in the fireplace behind them. He stepped out of the hearth with surprising grace and brushed the Floo Powder from his coat.

Artemisia gaped when she caught sight of her husband standing in the midst of her father’s herbology books and the plant specimens he had hanging in frames at odd intervals along the walls. The spectacle seemed incongruent and surreal. Maxime didn’t belong in her fine English home. And in her heart of hearts, she knew and recognized that he was only just visiting.

The moment was awkward for both of them and Maxime sidled over to the window, the shutters half-closed and drawn against the panes.

“At least it isn’t raining,” he remarked drolly as a shaft of sunlight fell across his nose.

Artemisia’s her hands were shaking, so she put them to work, giving the weeping Sissy an affectionate but authoritative pat on her back.

“Please put Master Rondelet’s baggage in my room,” she directed. “And take my luggage as well.” She stopped short of asking the elf where her brother was…or her father, for that matter. It all seemed too dreadful to talk about, especially inside the silent space of her father’s study. The place was sacred now, very much like a memorial that she would walk past with bowed head and doffed hat. Artemisia knew that she was the Mistress of the House, but her confidence had been cracked by the insupportable weight of her sadness.

“Maxime, you had better go with Sissy,” she said out of the corner of her mouth, unable to open her lips too much for fear that she would let loose a sob. “I have to find Tarquin first. And we may have guests.”

“I suppose it would be improper for your French husband to run into any Lufkins without introduction,” Maxime said without a hint of malice or offense.

Artemisia nodded, her cheeks tinted with shame. “I only need a few minutes.”

“I’ll busy myself,” Maxime replied. He had taken hold of his portmanteau before Sissy could snatch it up. “Go ahead, I can find my way.”

Reluctantly, Artemisia took leave of her husband, creeping out into the corridor beyond her father’s study. The grand staircase ran perpendicular to the hallway and she stepped up to the railing, glancing over to the first floor foyer. Voices drifted up into rafters of Lufkin Estate, whispers that seemed magnified by the overwhelming stillness.

Artemisia spotted her brother Tarquin standing in the doorway of the parlor. He was dressed in black and speaking to her father’s solicitor and old friend, Octavius Greeley. She recognized Greeley’s conspicuous bald head and recounted his earlier denunciation of wigs as the most trifling objects. Her father had always appreciated Greeley’s homespun, sometimes earthy sensibilities. Both men were avid gardeners. Artemisia imagined that her father must have left his entire horticulture collection to him, and if he hadn’t, she would convince Tarquin to hand it over to him.

Today, Greeley was also dressed in black, although he had pinned a purple violet on his breast. Artemisia knew her father loved violets. He gave her a bouquet of the flowers tied together with a single yellow ribbon every year on her birthday. She had kept the ribbons in a bundle under her pillow as a child. She wondered if they were still there.

Artemisia decided to descend to the foyer to greet the men, but as she stepped down the stairs, her attention was captured by the arrangement of the drawing room on her right. Tarquin and Greeley had stepped into the parlor, their backs to her. Artemisia took one look at them and then walked into the drawing room. Her father’s casket was there, set up on a bier. There were flowers on the side tables. And the windows on the far side of the room had been opened, letting the sun shine on the closed lid of the coffin.

Artemisia started to cry.

Before she knew it, she was on her knees next to the casket, the blue silk skirt around the bier wrinkled as she knelt atop the carefully arranged folds. Memories of picnics were fresh in her mind, along with summers spent with dirty hands as she helped her father pot his plants. She remembered sitting on his lap when he comforted her after pet parakeet had escaped its cage and holding his hand as they made the trip down Diagon Alley to buy her first set of school robes. She recalled those twilit evenings spent on the veranda, when Artemisia snuck sips of claret out of his glass and he pretended not to notice. And she could still see, through the cloud of tears and memory, his familiar smile when she came home, when she grew up and grew away from him. The scent of violets had clung to him whenever she embraced him, her father loving his daugher, loving her always and now, even when she couldn’t stop loving him.

“Papa,” Artemisia muttered. She laid her hand flat against his casket. Her face was hot and sticky, the perfume of the flowers cloying. Dizzied, she tried to rise.

She saw Tarquin standing in the open door once she had gained her feet, Greeley behind him. Artemisia could have expected them, but she did not expect Maxime, who seemed to have followed her down from the second floor, unable to stay away, even though she had tried to push him from her.

Artemisia looked between her brother and her husband. She was lost for words. The two men were standing shoulder to shoulder, united by concern for her and oblivious to the strangeness of the situation.

Artemisia opened her mouth to try to explain. “Tarquin,” she began.

But her brother wouldn’t let her finish. He reached forward and took her hand in his, the smooth skin of his palm sliding over her sweaty, tear-drenched fingers and without a word, without a single word, he handed her over to Maxime.

 
 




Author’s Note: Yes, I’m back! I would like to thank all of my readers, for your patience and encouragement, and Beth especially, who inspired me to keep writing. Thank you all! I look forward to starting this journey again. Hope you’ll all come along for the ride! ^_^
 


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