You are viewing a story from harrypotterfanfiction.com


A Certain Lady by llyralen

Format: Novel
Chapters: 6
Word Count: 25,234
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Drama, Romance, Angst
Characters: OC
Pairings: OC/OC

First Published: 03/06/2010
Last Chapter: 12/04/2010
Last Updated: 01/13/2013

Summary:



The history books would say that Mademoiselle Elise Saint-Denis was the founder of Beauxbaton Academy and the finest educator the country had ever known. But what it would neglect to mention was how she helped shaped a nation by whispering into a man's ear.

Behind every great man is an even greater woman.

And in this case, she was the most celebrated courtesan in all of France.


Chapter 1: Mademoiselle's Introduction
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]


Standard Disclaimer: None of this is mine, but JK Rowling's. This fic was inspired by Gigi by Colette, Persuasion by Jane Austen and Jane Eyre by Chalotte Brontë. The cast list here after mentioned is a list of people I envision to be the characters and is only provided to serve as visual aids for the reader. I have, in no way shape or form, any means to actually procure these actors to be my characters. Thank you!











1.






by Violet at TDA

Imogen Poots as Elise Saint-Denis
Tom Hiddleston as Luc de Valière
Natascha McElhone as Marie-Cécile de Valière

Felicity Jones as Madeline Poisson
Romain Duris as Captain Walter Rigfort
Sarah Parish as Blanche Deuxmoulin
Sinéad Cusak as Madame Poisson






MADEMOISELLE’S INTRODUCTION











It was a dreary evening for a party, her Mamma no doubt thought to herself as she nodded deceptively to her fellow guests. But Paris was a place of celebration and gaiety. It required a certain number of smiles, a certain manner of laughter, a certain length of conversation and a certain degree of civility. Being the old, widow that she was, Madame Poisson had none of which in abundance.

“Young people dance far too much for their own, in my good opinion. Far too much activity! They’re likely to dance themselves to the grave with all of their exertion,” she coughed.

“Mamma, please. It is all perfectly well and good to indulge in some frivolity on occasion.”

“Some indeed! Certainly not! No where in the Bible does it say that children should indulge such a pool of sin!”

“I am quite certain that people danced in the Bible as well, Mamma.”

“Salome,” she scoffed. “And look where it got her.”

Madeliene rolled her eyes. If only the day would come when a handsome, young gallant would take her away from the old crone. Or perhaps, with some stroke of luck, the old crone would do her a service and leave this world out of her own volition. At the banging of her mother’s cane and her continuous coughing, Madeliene fluffed her pillow and fixed the blanket on her lap. She’d much rather be dancing, but it was un-Christian to think of disobeying one’s parents. Madeliene sighed.

Her mother always complained during parties. Her back. Her head. The profuse helping of noise. For Madame Poisson, the Devil himself might as well be playing the violin. But as it was, society dictated that they attend any and every party thrown by Paris’s elite. She had to come, no matter how poor her opinion of it was.

“Mademoiselle Barillot looks like a harlot with her hair piled on her head thus,” Madame Poisson wrinkled her nose. “I’ve never approved of red hair on a woman. Simply vulgar.”

“Well Mamma, one hardly has a choice on one’s hair color.”

“One could have the decency of wearing wigs.”

Her mother had a criticism for anyone and everyone. But as she was old and rich, no one truly minded her at all. More so that there were more pressing things to pay attention to.

Madeliene arched slightly to her left, hanging her ear to poke at the conversation in the adjacent group. It was the Madame Deuxmoulin and her flock of chattering canaries, sharing Paris’s latest news. When one wanted to hear interesting things, one need only eavesdrop on them to be well informed and amused.

“One can hardly blame that woman,” Madame Deuxmoulin laughed. “Vienna is barely engaging as it is, let alone to a woman such as Marie-Cécile de Valière. It was only a matter of time until she gathered up her skirts and flew back into the city with a storm about her.”

The news reeked of intrigue. She had heard many tall tales about the elusive Madame de Valière but had never had the pleasure of meeting her. To hear that she was back in Paris was intriguing news indeed! Madeliene turned a quick glance at her dear Mamma. Still occupied with Mademoiselle Barillot’s hair. She leaned a nondescript inch closer.

Madame Deuxmoulin continued. “She’s brought her son with her.”

“Unattached I hope,” laughed Madame de Rozette.

“Yes, and with the de Valière fortune on his heal. Certainly one of our girls should catch his eye. After all, Austrian women are no match for a daughter of France. Why do you think I invited her?”

They all laughed.

Just then, the doors of the grand hall opened and the steward announced a new arrival to their little party.

“Madame Marie-Cécile de Valière, Monsieur Luc de Valière and Mademoiselle Elise Saint-Denis.”

All heads turned towards the entrance and whispers followed the trio’s every step as they entered the hall. It was Madame Deuxmoulin who first got up and welcomed the prodigal Madame de Valière. A bow of courtesy and a kiss on each cheek as if they were long lost friends, not the reputed bitter rivals.

“Marie-Cécile! At last you are home. Paris has been such a bore without you.”

“Well Vienna had me yet it was a bore even then! I cannot see how I can improve the situation!” Madame de Valière laughed.

In person, she lived up to all the gossip told about her. She’d heard the woman be called plain, but by jealous wives whose husbands she’d stolen. The truth of the matter was that Marie-Cécile was anything but plain. To Madeliene, she looked almost mythical. A creature from the books her mother had forbidden her to read. Standing tall and proud with a crown of rich brown hair, Madame de Valière, despite her pale cream dress, she might as well have been dressed in scarlet the way the men looked at her. And despite her sex, Madeliene found herself fascinated as well.

“So my dear,” Madame Deuxmoulin went on. “Who is this lovely young lady you’ve brought with you.”

“Oh forgive my manners Blanche. May I introduce my companion Mademoiselle Elise Saint-Denis. Elise, cheri, this is Madame Blanche Deuxmoulin, the finest hostess in all of Paris.”

The young Mademoiselle Saint-Denis bowed with the grace of a practiced ritual, skillfully hiding behind her silk fan. She seemed to be stifling a laugh, and the young man standing beside her looked as if she shared the joke. If her startling gray eyes weren’t enough to spark interest, then certainly her mystery was enough to distract the men from her mistress, even if for a moment.

“And of course you know my son, Luc. Luc, darling, you remember Madame Deuxmoulin.”

The gentleman bowed as well, taking Madame Deuxmoulin’s hand and kissing it. “Of course I remember. How could I forget such a woman? I don’t know if you remember Madame, but Mamma had me play at one of your parties before we left for Vienna. And from what I can see with this grand assembly, your patronage for the arts has not waivered in the least.”

Madame Deuxmoulin blushed and rightly so. The young man, Luc, was quite handsome and had a charm that worked as well as his manner. He hadn’t his mother’s dark hair, rather his was fair and bright, and had a sly smile that made Madeliene blush to even just look at it.

As Madame Deuxmoulin spirited their vivid guest away, the young pair were left to their own devices, strolling around the room and whispering as they went.

Mademoiselle Saint-Denis looked well amused with Monsieur de Valière as he made grand gestures, flourishing his hands, pointing here and there and making commentaries on the various characters collected in the room.

Madeliene could not take her eyes from him. She excused herself from her Mamma, who’d happened to doze off in her chair. She twirled her fan on its string and kept eyes on him and his companion. She found herself a new seat, near where the two had positioned themselves and eagerly, through subtly turned her attention to their conversation.

“Luc you promised me you wouldn’t do anything wicked tonight. I’m nervous enough as it is,” Elise said, chiding her friend with a firm but light tap on his arm.

“It’s because of your nerves that I say wicked things, if only to make you laugh. Take a breath Elise. This isn’t the Inquisition. All eyes are on you.”

“All eyes are on your Mamma. Not me. Now don’t say another word or I’ll be forced to leave your company.”

“Well I can see at least one eye on you.”

Madeliene could not help but turn and look. He saw Monsieur de Valière blatantly pointing at a familiar face.

Madeliene knew him for they’d been introduced once or twice. He was Captain Walter Rigfort, an officer in the British Navy accompanying Sir Richard Forthbey, the British Ambassador. A vile man, Sir Forthbey, but the same could not be said of Captain Rigfort. In fact, Madeliene could not say anything of the officer for he did not often speak. Not to her. He spoke to the other gentlemen, talked politics with them and on occasion, of hunting. Her father said that Captain Rigfort was an amiable man at worst and an excellent man at best. It was only unfortunate that he was not inclined to the young ladies of Paris.

Though that may have changed with the coming of their new arrival.

“See how he looks at you,” Monsieur de Valière said to Mademoiselle Saint-Denis.

“I’d say he looks like a hunter inspecting a rifle he wants to purchase.”

“That’s how all men look at all women. Especially women of your singular profession. I’ve seen enough of them geared at Mamma. Believe me Elise, I’ve grown up seeing those looks and have given a few of them myself.”

“Well I don’t like him. He looks rather plain don’t you think?”

“Plain? I wouldn’t know. I think myself rather handsome, but as you’ve constantly told me, I think too much of myself. What more when I judge others.”

Then he did something quite unexpected. He tapped Madeliene’s shoulder. She almost jumped off her seat. Monsieur de Valière knelt down beside her, took her hand and kissed it.

“Excuse me mademoiselle,” he bowed to her. “Might you settle a debate between my friend and I?”

Madeliene did not know what to say. It would be bad form to talk with him, not without chaperone and without introduction. She sat there like a fool, distracted by his fine features and persuasive smile. She’d never been a fool for any gentleman till now.

“Luc! See how wicked you are! You’ve jumped on this poor girl without even introducing youself,” she laughed.

“Is that why she sits quiet? I was afraid she disapproved of me too.”

“No!” Madeliene said all too quickly. “No…” she composed herself. “I mean, mademoiselle is correct. My mother would never approve.”

“Approve? Well you’re talking to us now. Was that so difficult?” He was teasing her.

Part of her wanted to ask him to go on, but the part of her that her mother ruled wanted to chide him immediately and note him as a cad. Luckily, his friend seemed to share her distaste and he relented.

“See how Mademoiselle Saint-Denis looks at me? I feel like a child who’s stolen a treat from the kitchens. And I see you feel no better. Well I cannot have two beautiful women object of me so, now can I?” He stood upright and straightened his waistcoat. He bowed. “Mademoiselle, allow me to present myself. Luc de Valière, at your service. And this is Mademoiselle Elise Saint-Denis. We recently arrived here in Paris with my mother, Madame Marie-Cécile de Valière. And you are?”

“Well…I…what I mean is…Madeliene Poisson.” She hurriedly stood up and bowed to them, earning a fan-hidden laugh from Mademoiselle Saint-Denis.

“Now that we’ve been properly introduced, I trust that you will think of us as friends. And as a friend, it entitles you to you settle our little argument?” Mademoiselle Saint-Denis took a seat beside her while de Valière stood behind them both.

“You see that man over there. The officer?”

“Captain Rigfort.”

“Why Elise, I do believe we’ve made an informed friend. How fortunate of us! You see! We’ve made a fine choice indeed!” He bent down close enough to Madeliene’s ear. It made feel a flush about her. He whispered, “Elise here is a very harsh judge on appearances. She calls the gentleman plain. What do you say? I am sure you are a fair judge of people.”

She took a deep breath, considering her words well. She wanted to impress Luc, most certainly after he sang such praises to her character. It was only polite to repay the compliment. “Well, I’ve been acquainted with the gentleman before and have had the pleasure of looking at him at close range. I would say that though he is not quite handsome, he is certainly not plain, I would think.”

“What a diplomatic answer,” Elise took her arm. She looked at Captain Rigfort again and raised an eyebrow as he nodded to her. A bold move! “I suppose he is not so plain. But I am sure his character will affect this. Tell me Madeliene, what sort of man is he?”

“Well…my father quite approves of him. Though Mamma says that no good can come of being British. But Mamma thinks a number of things can come to no good.”

“British you say?” Luc’s interest was piqued. “Ah, now I think I’ve heard of him from Mamma. Something about him and an ambassador of some sort having the gall to say that they will aid France, which in their language means saving Her from herself! Napoleon has left and the King has returned. It is not as if we’d been stricken by the plagues to have need of some savior to come running to our aid. I’ve changed my mind Elise. I do think he’s rather plain. In fact, in some light he looks a bit slight.”

“I tell you Madeliene, it is a very wicked friend you’ve made in Luc. But not to worry. I shall protect you from him. We women of intelligence must not be divided by such a fool.”

“You have not told me what you think of him Elise. Or am I to take it that you agree?”

Elise smiled and put a gloved finger to her cheek. “No. Actually the fact that he is British and seemingly a man with airs intrigues me. Truly intrigued. I do believe that the look of him has improved.”


***












You will not be overwhelmed, Elise. He is a man and you are above him. You will not be overwhelmed.

Marie-Cécile had taught her to keep her wits about when a handsome man makes eyes on her. As they’d established, the man called Captain Rigfort was not handsome, but his eyes were on her. They followed her like a shadow across the room. She felt conscious of herself, of every little thing. If her dress had a crease or of her hair had come undone. This was a very important night and it would not be ruined by a girlish fit of fancy.

She held closer to her new friend Madeliene and laughed to hide her discomfort. The poor girl was smitten with Luc, and being the man Luc was, he knew that fact well. This was a game Luc played well. To catch a lady’s eye, make her blush and make herself a fool admiring him. They could not help it. He says it’s the Veela in him, but she knew better. Veela’s had pretty faces but a pretty face’s spell wore off. What Luc had, what Marie-Cécile had, what they were both trying to teach her was charm. Unbridled charm. Even with a head full of fluff and nothing but empty compliments to pay, if a person had charm, he had the world.

Luc had the world. His small little world where he could get anything he wanted. Including the innocent Mademoiselle Poisson.

“I would stay clear of Luc, if I were you. He may be more than you can handle.”

He was dancing with another young lady, one similarly speechless around him, leaving poor Madeliene not knowing what to think. After the attentions he’d paid her, the things he’d said, seeing him dance with a far prettier thing would have confused the dear. “It is not to say he is unkind. On the contrary, Luc is one of the kindest people I know, when he wants to be. But he is…too much to handle.”

Madeliene didn’t seem to hear a word she was saying. She was still looking at Luc, watching him sweep through the dance floor like he was walking on water. “He dances so gracefully. As if the music itself were coming from him.”

“Quite ordinary for composers I am afraid.”

“You mean to say he writes music?”

“Madame de Valière came to Vienna precisely to oversee his education. He plays the piano quite beautifully.”

“How exciting!”

Poor thing. She might as well have asked for his hand in marriage then and there.

Elise did not want to be this girl. She did not want to be so blinded by the illusion of love that she would find the most self-absorbed man in all of Europe as Adonis himself.

She took a quick scan of the room. Captain Rigfort was still looking at her. He was talking amongst his friends, smoking cigars and arguing about the Restoration and what it meant for the Magical Community; but amidst all that, he was still looking directly at her.

She almost wanted to walk up to him and ask why he was staring at her so intently, but what would Marie-Cécile think about that? A woman of her position did not go to men and ask them for explanations. They lured them in and trick them into divulging their deepest secrets.

She thought to herself of what she ought to do, instead of what she wanted to do. Finally a compromise.

She silenced her nerves and met his gaze. It seemed to surprise him. Even more so when she grazed her finger on the tip of her fan. I wish to talk with you, the act spoke for itself.

It did not take him long to understand. He excused himself from his party and made his way for them. As he drew near, Elise saw that she had judged him too harshly at first. He was not plain. Though, in agreement with her second opinion, he was not handsome either. He had dark hair and a sharp jaw. Commanding and stern enough to grant him the immediate respect of his ship, no doubt. She had not noticed it before, but he had a small scar on his right cheek. A curving slash. Not too deep to be glaring. Likely some injury of valor that he boasted about. Though a feeling prodded Elise that this man was not one for boasting.

He bowed stiffly before them. “Mademoiselle Poisson. I am sorry for not paying my respects earlier. I saw that you were quite deep in conversation and did not want to disturb.”

Madeline quickly detached her attention from Luc and offered her hand to Captain Rigfort, who kissed it.

He spoke French with such a strong English accent that it made Elise laugh. He looked slightly affronted but kept his composure. Perhaps giving her the benefit of the doubt. After all, it was his duty as the older gentleman of maybe thirty to give pardon to her twenty-one year old childishness.

Madeliene, being every the embodiment of propriety, introduced Elise before she’d made a scandal of herself, and Captain Rigfort, who’s name she’d already known, offered her the same courtesy.

“Captain Walter Rigfort at your service, ma’am.” He snapped into almost a formal salute without the actual salute.

He engaged Madeliene in small talk, perhaps to mask his true reason in coming to them. He asked about her mother, paid some compliments to her father, and asked about Madeliene herself. But to Madeliene, this all seemed like a hassle taking her away from gazing at Luc.

After a while, she grew silent, and so did she. Though he did not seem displeased for as soon as Madeliene resumed to her former occupation, Captain Rigfort turned his attentions to her.

“You do not dance, Captain Rigfort. The numbers are unequally matched and I am sure a young lady out there would appreciate a partner.” She offered him the seat beside her.

“I’m afraid I am not one for dancing. At the risk of exposing my flaws too early, I believe I would only make a right fool of myself and the unlucky lady in question. But you mademoiselle? Surely you cannot have been slighted?”

She did not know if he was playing a game or if he’d purposely insulted her, but Elise took it to cheek. “Not slighted sir. Simply not inclined as of the moment.”

“Then the numbers are balancing themselves. For if there are men who are unfit to dance and women that are less inclined to dance, then surely some order is restored. You need not worry for those confined to their chairs.”

A man of wit and conversation. Certainly he must not be all as bad as Luc had judged him earlier. For an Englishman, he had some amount of charm.

“Saint-Denis? I believe I recognize your name. Any relation to Monsieur Saint-Denis, the Secretary of Trade?”

“Well spotted Captain. My brother actually,” she trailed off. “Although I’ve barely had the chance to visit him since I’ve joined Madame de Valière’s in her travels.”

“She must be quite a woman then to keep you from family.”

“Madame is in a league of her own.”

Elise was barely sixteen when she’d met the infamous Marie-Cécile de Valière. It was like meeting a story or a rumor. Even then, people talked about her. Whispered and insulted her behind her back. But in truth, they all were the same. They were fascinated by her. Caught in her spell. By then she’d long been retired. The vile guillotine, that had taken many of Madame’s friends and family, had executed her most recent lover, the Duc de Pirot, and she was living in London in exile, keeping her money and her neck away from the revolution.

Elise’s family had fled to London as well. Though it did not take long before they buried her father, leaving her mother, her brother Remy and herself to live off the kindness of their British hosts. Her father had died of shame, the shame that forced him to fly from France like a thief in the night. The thought of it drove him to illness.

She and her mother were both afraid. Remy had inherited the Saint-Denis ambition that had lead her father down the path of disgrace. Success at horrible costs, her mother called it. And Remy, even in his young years, had the fire in him. The desire of revenge, a lust for power and the longing for respect from his peers.

Remy made connections his sole purpose and there was only one way a penniless man with a grand lineage could elevate himself in society. Through marriage.

Elise could never repay the kindness Marie-Cécile had given her. The life that she’d offered her. Nor would she ever forgive Remy for how little he valued her.

Elise did not want to think on it any more.

“Excuse me, Captain. I am afraid I am not such good company tonight,” she excused herself from Madeliene and from Captain Rigfort and stepped out into the garden for some air.

Outside it, the winter air blew cool and hard on her face. There were no flowers outside, only a light sheet of snow and tree branches left bare by the season. She took a seat and thought to herself: You will not be overwhelmed Elise. You will not.

She should not have been so surprised that her name was recognized. Remy had done well on his ambitions, leeched well from his new wife’s station and connections and managed to get all that he’d wanted out of life. Of course, it was at the cost of entering a loveless marriage with a woman whom he found to be unattractive and witless. From what she heard, their marriage was for appearances only and that he kept a mistress in Paris whom he visited more often than the woman who’d borne his children.

Marie-Cécile would be very disappointed in her, carrying on like this. She should be at the party, making acquaintances with all the right people. Not alone and sulking in the dark. She thought of what her mother would say if she’d been alive to see her like this. It was, after all, her mother’s wish that she be educated by Marie-Cécile so that she too could get all that she wanted.

And all that Elise had ever wanted out of life was freedom.

“Did Captain Rigfort upset you?” Luc gave her a handkerchief and sat beside her. A man who needed no permission to do as he pleased. No doubt he’d seen her little spectacle and rush off, gallantly, to talk her back to sense. “Because if he did, I have every intention to defend your honor.”

“Oh stop it Luc. You’ve never been in a fight in your life. I doubt you’ve ever engaged in such physical exertion.”

“Not in the traditional sense, no,” he laughed. “But for your sake I would. Now tell me what is the matter before I call Mamma.”

Elise sighed. “It is of no matter. I can take care of myself Luc. Besides, it was no fault of Captain Rigfort’s. It is not his fault that Remy is my brother.”

“Ah. Well it could not be avoided. Remy is a known figure and a member of the Ministry. He’s bound to come up some time. This is not Vienna anymore, Elise. Paris is a viper’s nest of gossips. Why do you think Mamma strives here so?”

“I just didn’t expect his name to come up so quickly. All these five years I’ve been away, I’ve been content with just hearing about him. His life. His work. His success. But now, it has dawned on me that there is actually the prospect of meeting him again and I don’t think I can bare it Luc. He thought of me not as a sister but as a commodity. Mamma died knowing that he would become just like Pappa. A heartless man who will pay any price to achieve the end he desires.”

“Is that what you’re truly afraid of? You cannot lie very well Elise. At least not to me.”

Damn Luc for knowing her too well. He was right. She was not afraid of simply meeting Remy. She was afraid that he might take her back. The happiest years of her life had been spent in Vienna. Free from obligation and the control of others. No noose around her neck and no bars closing in on her. That was what Marie-Cécile had offered her and what she took without question. She did not want to go back as merely being her brother’s sister. His pawn. His means to an end.

No more.

“For what it’s worth Elise,” Luc went on. “You’re not the only one who’s scared of the cage. Have you seen the way the women there have been looking at me? Like dogs looking at the finest cut of meat. I had not even realized I was that handsome, and as you say, I think too highly of myself as it is.”

Elise laughed, despite her mood, and Luc smiled as well.

“Now that is the Elise I’ve known and adored. Now keep that smile on your face and charm that room as if you’d poured a love potion in their refreshments. The chance is here. That room is the means to free yourself from Remy. Make them love you. Have them adore you. Charm that room and he can never take your freedom from you again.”

Luc wiped Elise’s tears and helped her up. “Now come on. Mademoiselle Poisson has been hinting, nay, begging me to dance with her all evening and one can only escape the inevitable for so long. Also, from what I’ve heard, the Captain has been thinking of asking you to dance.”

“He told me he did not like to dance.”

“Precisely.”

Luc offered her his arm.

He was right. This was her debut. Her rebirth into French society.

Elise opened her fan and covered the bright smile she’d put on.

She was a courtesan now. And her future was hers for the taking.


Chapter 2: Curiouser and Curiouser
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Standard Disclaimer: None of this is mine, but JK Rowling's. This fic was inspired by Gigi by Colette, Persuasion by Jane Austen and Jane Eyre by Chalotte Brontë. The cast list here after mentioned is a list of people I envision to be the characters and is only provided to serve as visual aids for the reader. I have, in no way shape or form, any means to actually procure these actors to be my characters. Thank you!

2.


by Violet at TDA

Imogen Poots as Elise Saint-Denis
Natascha McElhone as Marie-Cécile de Valière
Tom Hiddleston as Luc de Valière

  Romain Duris as Captain Walter Rigfort
Talullah Riley as Anne the Maid




CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER











It had been a fortnight since Madame Deuxmoulin’s party and rumors were now, not only spreading about Marie-Cécile, but about her protégée as well. Remy Saint-Denis’s sister, a budding courtesan in the tutelage of a celebrated master of the field. It was enough to make you roll your eyes in boredom. Honestly, though his Mamma found this news absolutely riveting, Luc could not be any more bored with it.

Though he was one for intrigue and was genuinely happy for the girl he’d already considered as his own sister, but the way his mother prattled on about it made it sound as if it were her own achievement and not Elise’s.

“Did you hear that Madame de Rozette’s son had even asked about her?” his mother had told him while they were having a carriage ride around the park.

It was a cold day in hell when his mother would be prevented from her regiment. The park was covered in a thick blanket of snow and there was hardly anyone out, save a few gentlemen on horseback but Marie-Cécile was a creature of habit and a force of nature. A dangerous combination, to be certain.

It was only too much a pity that Elise had not felt up to the excursion for Luc was sorely in want of her company. As it was, he had no other choice but to be subjected to the gossip mongering of his dear Mamma. God knew he loved the woman, but living with her was unbearable.

“The Rozette boy is barely old enough to wear long pants! Eighteen and for all we know, he’s as dull as a horse. I don’t think he would do for Elise. Not as the first, anyway. She should not have to suffer so early in her career,” he said. “Has a Captain Rigfort made any inquiries?”

“Captain Rigfort? No. Should he have?”

“Elise met him at the party and he seemed quite captivated with her. I should have guessed that he be on the head of your list.”

“Is he of position?”

“An Englishman. Sent as a delegation, as I recall.”

“What about wealth?”

“Enough I think. He has his own ship, from what I hear.”

His mother gave him a pointed look. A look he knew quite well. “Are you encouraging this man on her?”

“Good God no! If anything I want to dissuade her! A British officer and a politician’s dog nonetheless. Elise seemed to like him. She talked with him long enough. I made it a point to make some inquiries just to know what kind of man he is. But apparently we need not worry. Thank the heavens for that!”

“I want Elise to accept the right offer from the right man. And the Rozette boy has made a good offer.”

“And so will every man in Paris. He certainly won’t be the last, I assure you. Honestly, Mamma, it’s as if you have no confidence in her abilities!”

“I have every confidence in her abilities. Elise is a brilliant girl, and in time will be the object of every man’s desire. But as of now, she is as green as a caterpillar and can hardly be expected to handle a man of more advanced years or experience.”

“You underestimate her. Elise is as sharp as a razor and speaking from a man’s perspective, it is enough to entice you, whatever the age. That will be here mark, mind you.”

“I am just worried for her I suppose. Her mother bid her to my care. I will see this girl succeed.”

“She has you Mamma. I doubt she can help to do anything but succeed.”

“And what of you, Luc? I saw you pay great attentions to Mademoiselle Poisson that night. Are you inclined to pursue her?”

“Not in the least,” he scoffed. “Unfortunately, the girl is quite taken with me ---“

“And with good reason,” Marie-Cécile smiled. “Its your father in you. Perhaps that’s why I married him in the first place. They say the Veela, even those only in part, are irresistible to those who meet them. And your father was quite irresistible.”

“Pity the fool who believes that you married him for love.”

“He was my first attempt at retirement,” she said dreamily, the way his mother spoke when she remembered that time in her life. The great boredom of married life that consumed her and almost leeched the life out of her.

“How romantic, Mamma. Really,” he droned. “No wonder I am so disinclined towards matrimony.”

Marie-Cécile huffed as her son mocked her. “The Poisson girl was handsome enough. Not to mention her family’s fortune and connections. I suggest you take interest.”

“I am rich enough. I have no need to beg a woman for her jewels.”

“You burn through money,” she jabbed her finger on the lapel of his newly tailored coat. It was the blue velvet that she’d spoken against, but Luc did like antagonizing his mother. “You must think to the future, my dear. Let us be frank here. Fantasize as you will, you have no true talent for music. An accomplished pianist, at best, but as a composer, you lack the genius to be truly profitable. Once you’ve gone through your late father’s fortune, you’ll have nothing to live on. A wife would be a precautionary measure.”

“A wife would be tedious and unwelcome, Mamma.”

“Headstrong. That is the problem with you Veela. You cannot abide by anyone’s laws but your own. Not even reason’s,” she sneered.

“Don’t blame bad blood for your sins, mother. I have none but you to thank for all my character flaws.” Luc smiled sweetly at her. “Speaking of sins, I hear you have been busy committing quite a few.”

She shifted in her seat and unknowingly grazed the furs that lined her neck.

Luc laughed. “I see. I have hit the mark, haven’t I?”

She snapped her fan opened and used the apparatus so forcibly it was as if it had been the middle of summer instead of the cusp of winter. “I have no idea what you mean, Luc. Did I really raise such a rude son?”

“Don’t play coy, Mamma. The Baron. Or did you think that I was the only one who took no notice of the way he looks at you? Or, for that matter, the way you look at him.”

Luc did not know whether his mother wanted to protect his innocence – which had long been destroyed by the pleasures of Vienna – or shield herself from his disapproval, but there was no light way of looking at the situation. Since Madame Deuxmoulin’s party, he’d seen her taking the affections of a young gentleman. Luc had charmed the man’s name from the hostess herself. A Baron Evrard de Manasier. Rich from what he heard. The sole survivor of the de Manasier family after the Revolution. The most eligible bachelor in Paris, many of the women said. The fact that this Baron was even bold enough to take up with his mother, a woman far and beyond his league, spoke multitudes of his gall.

“I must say, Mamma. You seemed to have developed a taste for infants as of late. Should I be worried? Will you have me call him Pappa next?”

“I will not be lectured by my own son. Though, if you must know, the Baron has made an offer.”

“Is that why he’s been sending gifts to the house?” He’d paid the maids to keep him informed of the comings and goings in their apartments and anything they deemed of note. There was no one more informed in Paris than the maids to the great houses. The intrigues that they managed to discover were so delicious that even a whore would blush. All it took were a few knuts, a smile and his morning breakfast to learn that the Baron was planning to woo his dear Mamma. Whether to gain her as a trophy, as many a man had once set out, to actually earn her love, which was a fool’s errand in its own, Luc did not know. But whatever the matter was, he did not like it.

“I shall dismiss whichever wretch told you that. I find it hard to believe you pay them better than I do,” Marie-Cécile laughed. Despite is horrid manner towards her, a glint in her eyes spoke of some swelling pride? And surprisingly, Luc found that he appreciated the sentiment.

“My, my. What a son I have raised.”

“Indeed Mamma. I am a singular person. A credit to you, I hope.”

“Always my dear.”

Luc loved his mother. He did. But it did not make her any better a person. Rather, it made her more interesting. How such a shrewd and heartless person could still be loved was beyond his knowledge.

They rode on through the park in silence. Luc kept his thoughts far from marriage and indiscretion. Instead, he occupied it with Vienna. As for Marie-Cécile? Well heavens only knew what his mother was scheming in her perfect little head.


***













She could not think. Despite drowning herself in the sea of books, Elise could not find the strength to think. The day had trudged tediously by and Elise did not feel herself inclined to partake in any of her previous engagements. She fancied herself ill. But in truth, the only illness she felt was that of being overwhelmed.

Utterly and completely overwhelmed.

She’d told herself that this was, in all essence, the end to which all her efforts were directed towards. An offer from a viably prodigious gentleman. One who would, in the words of her profession, “take care of her beautifully.” A man who would provide for her every need and whim while suffering her to she did as she pleased. The only price he would ask in return would be her intimate attentions.

The man’s name was Guy de Rozette, as she’d been told. To be honest, she did not know him. If they’d been introduced during the course of the evening or if he’d merely spied her from the crowd, she did not remember. She’d only met one man’s acquaintance that night, or rather; it was only one man’s attentions that she enjoyed.

“It is very cunning of you, my dear,” Marie-Cécile had whispered in her ear. “Entertain one man and keep the rest curious. Quite cunning indeed. I’ve taught you well.”

But it had been no strategy at all. The joy she found in Captain Rigfort’s company was genuine and stimulating. Up till then, the only men she’d been acquainted with were family friends, who took no notice of her, and Luc’s school friends none of whom she took notice of. There was a mutual appreciation between her and Captain Rigfort. Or at least, she hoped it was mutual.

Was it so abhorrent for her to wish he’d sent a letter of inquiry? To ask if she were eligible as Guy de Rozette had done. She’d become a simpering child, a fact that she’d well hidden from Marie-Cécile.

Guy de Rozette had offered her an apartment in Paris, a substantial allowance, horses, carriages, servants and the security that would last as long as his interest.

Though nothing was set in stone, if the time came that Marie-Cécile advised her to accept, she did not know how she could not oblige.

And if it were not Monsieur de Rozette, it would be another man. With a similar or greater offer. Whether he be stimulating or no.

A knock came to her door. It was Anne, the upstairs maid come to check on her again. Their rented rooms had no house-elves available. Instead, they employed squibs. Regrettable to most, but Luc found it better sport. As for Elise, she greatly improved their company as opposed to a house elf.

She was pretty, this Anne. Fair, curly hair, a round, soft face and a rather pleasant figure. No doubt she one of Luc’s spies, come to check how she was faring. Elise let her in nonetheless. It was not as if Luc was something that could be avoided.

“Thought you might like some tea, ma’am,” she fixed the clutter of books and laid a silver platter of tea and cakes in front of her. “Also, a letter has just come for you, mademoiselle. From a Monsieur de Rozette. Brought it himself, despite the cold. He could have just easily sent it by owl, but I suspect he wanted to be sure it was delivered. Caused quite the with the downstairs maids, I’d say.”

Elise caught herself before she shot up in surprise. “He delivered it himself?” she said nonchalantly.

“His valet brought it to the door, but he was said to be in the carriage ma’am. Wouldn’t leave until he knew you’d gotten it.”

Elise stiffened. “Are you certain it’s addressed to me? Not Madame de Valière?”

“So says the valet. I, myself, can’t read and write beyond my own name, begging your pardon, but you can see for yourself ma’am.” Anne took the letter out of her pocket and smoothed it out before giving it to her mistress.

“That will be all, Anne,” she waived her hand at the maid. “You may go.”

Anne had come and gone as silently as she came, but Elise did not hear the door close. The maid had left it ajar, probably hoping to spy a little longer. After all, Luc would not be pleased to know that his money was wasted on incomplete reports.

Elise smirked as she stood up and went deeper in the library. Luc was too spoiled. He should at least exert some effort to know her affairs.

Elise heard the door open and the stifled footsteps of the maid try to follow her. But Elise knew this library like the back of her hand now. Though relatively just settled in her new home, she’d made it a point to spend a respectable amount of time devouring the written word. Today, her knowledge of the terrain proved a useful ally.

She hid behind the novel section, a part of the library deemed as unseemly for ladies as bringing out her wand in public, and at the risk of spoiling her new dress, Elise sat down on the floor and kept quiet. She opened her letter and read it while Anne lost herself in a labyrinth of bookshelves, looking for her elusive mistress.

My dear Mademoiselle Saint-Denis,” it began. “That is, if I may call you my dear, for I greatly desire to do so. I write to you as a ghost. You hardly know me. You have not met me. And to my own fault, I apologize for this grave misconduct. I am afraid my letters have preceded and spoke for me when the words should have come from my very lips.

I greatly hope that you have received my offer. Thus far, I have received no indication of your receipt, but never have I waivered hope of a response. Know that my admiration for you is most ardent and my only desire is to have you well cared for, should you accept.

There will be a concert at our salon by the week’s end. I have enclosed the selection. It will favor the modern composers whom my mother has a preference and hope it is to your satisfaction.

Your servant, Guy de Rozette

Elise put down the letter as she undid her hair and ruffled it, as she did when she felt perplexed. It was an odd letter. A very odd letter. It felt warm and affectionate for one she’d never made the acquaintance of. What had he used as a basis for his admiration? A pretty face? It was common enough. Even those of lower circumstance like Anne had it.

Elise did not understand this man. She could not understand any man who would judge her so distantly. Favorable or not.

She’d never met this man, as he himself so duly noted, but he appeared to pursue her quite ardently. This had been the third letter in the fortnight that he’d sent, though it was the first one that he’d actually sent to her.

She looked from behind the shelf. It looked as if Anne had given up her search. But still, she kept her wits about her. Elise took of her noisy shoes and walked over to the nearest street-view window.

She had to admit, she was hopeful of catching a glimpse of this Monsieur de Rozette. All that she’d heard from Luc was that he was young. Too young for her, he said. But Luc spoiled her too much, thought of her too much as a child. She would trust no one’s good opinion but her own, when it came to this man.

The streets were covered in snow and there was barely a soul out. The carriage was no longer there. In its stead stood a lone saddled horse, braving the blistering cold. It was neither theirs nor anyone’s that she knew of. Elise wiped the frost from the window and leaned closer.

A flash of blue swirled from the near the threshold. The blue of a British officer. At an instant, Elise recognized who its rider was.

She walked away from the window and abruptly backed into a shelf.

Captain Rigfort was knocking on their door.

At the risk of propriety, she quickly drew her wand and cast a spell to set her hair back to rights. She was alone and no one would know.

You will not be overwhelmed Elise. No.

She rushed down the stairs, putting her shoes on as she went and immediately ordered one of the maids open the door.

“If the gentleman asks to be let in, show him into the sun room.”

Elise composed herself as she sat down beside the roses and breathed softly, though her chest beat anything but. It had been ill thought to run down the stairs like that. Even more ill thought to have fixed her hair with a spell. As she caught a glance of it on the silver watering can, she saw that nothing could replace the quality of work by a good pair of hands.

But nothing could be done about it now.

Stop fidgeting Elise. He is only a man. You are above him.

Anne brought him in. “Captain Rigfort to see you ma’am.”

“Will you take a seat, Captain?” She gestured to the seat adjacent by her.

“No, mademoiselle,” he smiled. “Though I do appreciate your courtesy. An officer of Her Majesty’s Navy always prefers to stand. Makes him look less idle than he is. Though I would not mind some tea. It is bitter cold out there and I’m afraid I underestimated the French winters.”

Elise nodded to Anne, who went immediately to her duties, though she did it with a sort of a blush. Elise suspected she had a fascination for men in uniform and could not help but smile at the thought. A reaction that Captain Rigfort seemed to note.

“I’d rather you sit, Captain. For my sake at least. I find it daunting for company to stand while there’s comfort yet to be taken. Navy or not, you are my guest.”

“In that sense, ma’am, you make it very hard for a gentleman to decline.” He indulged her, taking the seat she’d offered and making himself comfortable.

It was only too lucky that she’d decided on the sunroom. Not only was it the warmest room in their apartments, but as it was filled with Marie-Cécile’s flowers shipped all the way from her home in Vienna, it made the dreary snow outside look less imposing.

Anne came back with the tea and it seemed that Captain Rigfort’s purpose for coming became less urgent. Rather, he looked as if he deemed her company the greater charge.

“I beg your pardon for not calling on you earlier. I have been occupied by matters of state. Dry, if you’ll ask me but necessary. With the armistice waning there is greater pressure on the Ambassador and myself to keep it from falling apart.”

“Minister Guizot and his government are against the restoration of our monarchy. I would suppose that your King is not appreciative of that.”

“You are well informed, ma’am. But come! Do not bore yourself with matters of politics on my account. A lady must not find them suitable discussion for midday tea.”

The tea came and Elise she poured the Captain a cup, and as she gave it to him, smiled. “There is a certain kind of lady that finds it stimulating, Captain Rigfort. I believe you will find I am one of them.”

He sat both astonished and amused at her manner. Though she’d shown him assertiveness at Madame Deuxmoulin’s, she had some doubt as to whether or not he would object of a thinking woman. If he had, then she would have to re-think his favor of him. Thankfully the need did not arrive.

“Is it at the influence of your brother, maybe? Or perhaps your father?”

Elise took a sharp breath at the mention of Remy, but she tried her best to hide her unease. She would not be undone as he’d been before. Elise tried to smile. “Neither, I’m afraid. It is actually Monsieur de Valière, Madame’s son, who first introduced me to it. You’ll find that he’s rather a fervent advocate of the Revolution. And of Napoleon.”

“I was lead to understand that he lived mostly in Vienna. I could not guess that he’d make an attachment to the Revolution.”

“He’s a Frenchman, Captain. We’d sooner forget France than our own mother’s face. I’d expect you would feel the same for King and country.”

“A different matter, mademoiselle. The Frenchmen tore themselves apart. Killed their own. Massacred hundreds for the sake of so called patriotism. Even threatened the crowns of other anointed monarchs.” The growing tension in his voice revealed itself.

“They fought for liberty. For freedom against the tyranny of absolute, abusive monarchs. Surely you can find some merit in their cause?”

Captain Rigfort took a sharp breath. “I was lead to understand that the elder Monsieur de Valière had been executed by the Revolution. How can he see merit in the very thing that killed his father? A revolution that forced your own family to seek safety in foreign shores. Our shores! How can your friend approve of a movement that caused so much death? I’ve watched men---” He caught his tongue before he went on any further. Elise saw a shadow on him. She saw beyond the uniform he wore and to what it meant. He would not have been a captain of a ship for nothing.

Once he’d calmed himself, he looked apologetically to her. “You seem distressed, mademoiselle. I’m sorry. I seem to have a talent for putting the wrong conversation on you.”

“Don’t think on it Captain. It is quite alright. Passion for one’s beliefs is never cause for apology.”

He put down his tea and abruptly stood up. “I seem to have forgotten my charge. Ambassador Forthbey has bid me extend an invitation for a concert at the de Rozette salon. He is most eager to make Madame de Valière’s acquaintance… as well as your own.”

As well as your own. He spoke it as if he’d rather have said different words. One could even think that it was his own devices he served in asking Elise. Not Ambassador Forthbey’s. It was an invitation she was more inclined to accept rather than Monsieur de Rozette’s.

Elise unconsciously blushed at the thought. “I am certain that Madame would be delighted to accept. For all of us.”

He took his leave of her and as he walked out of the door and on to his horse, there seemed to be a spark in his step. Despite the manner in which they parted, Elise had no doubt that the latter part of their conversation had lifted his spirits.

She could be certain of it. For it had lifted hers as well.

You are overwhelmed Elise. And it will bring you to no good end.


Chapter 3: The Dangers of Modern Thinking
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Standard Disclaimer: None of this is mine, but JK Rowling's. This fic was inspired by Gigi by Colette, Persuasion by Jane Austen and Jane Eyre by Chalotte Brontë. The cast list here after mentioned is a list of people I envision to be the characters and is only provided to serve as visual aids for the reader. I have, in no way shape or form, any means to actually procure these actors to be my characters. Thank you!

3.


by Violet at TDA

Imogen Poots as Elise Saint-Denis
Natascha McElhone as Marie-Cécile de Valière
Tom Hiddleston as Luc de Valière

Romain Duris as Captain Walter Rigfort

Alex Kingston as Madame de Rozette




THE DANGERS OF MODERN THINKING










It was the first sight of the sun that they’d received in days and Elise took advantage of it as she decided that it was time to take a long overdue walk. She put on a hat and coat and started lacing her shoes when Luc raced down the stairs to catch her.

“You’ll tire yourself out,” he snatched the hat off her head. “You’ll tire yourself, you’ll catch your death of cold and then I’d be forced to speak at your funeral. I won’t have it Elise.”

She took it back and stuck her tongue out at him. Not at all fit for a woman of her station, but if he insisted on being a child then she take on his challenge with zeal.

“I have been cooped up in this house for too long Luc! My legs have gone to sleep and the only thing that will wake them up is a brisk walk through the city. I promise you, I shan’t go too far. If you want, you can come with me! That way, you can drag me back whenever you wish!”

“I most certainly will not! To even suggest such a thing. No Elise. Stop lacing your shoes this instant or I will be forced to use my wand on you.”

“You wouldn’t dare!” she laughed. “This is my first winter in Paris in God knows how long! I shall not miss it because you are too suspicious of cold weather.”

For all her education, charm and grace, Elise was still no more than a child. A child who stomped her feet when she was refused her way. A child who stuck her tongue out at antagonizing boys. But most importantly, a child who wanted to play in the snow after being forced to grow up before her time.

Elise kissed Luc’s cheek and smiled at him. “If you don’t want to be held responsible for my early death, then know that I wipe your conscience clean of it. I do so swear that I went out of my own volition, knowing that I could likely freeze there and that you did all within your power to stop me from doing such a foolish thing. There? Happy?”

“What has gotten into you? Yesterday you were all but content locking yourself in the library. Now you want nothing more than to be out and merry!” Luc looked genuinely perplexed by her behavior, when all of a sudden the realization dawned on him. The scowl he’d worn before was nothing compared to the one he’d dawned to replace it. For once, he seemed like the sensible of the pair, while Elise was the reproachable one.

“Is it the mysterious letter or the mysterious visit to whom I owe your obliging mood? My guess would be the latter, although I deeply hope to be wrong!”

Had it really taken him so far to reach that conclusion? Quite frankly, Elise would have thought that to be the first in his list of suspicions, but it seemed as if he were distracted with other matters to be bothered by her own. Nevertheless, she pinched him on the arm and made him yelp. A yelp, which she stifled with her free hand to keep his Mamma from hearing. “Your little canary sings beautifully I see.”

“Anne does as she is told and makes a good sport of it. Can’t believe I didn’t think of it before! But yes, the blush in your cheek, the sparkle in your eyes. Elise, please reassure me that you were not so foolish as to fall in love!”

“Don’t be a fool Luc. You know very well that I am not.”

“I hope for your sake that it is true. You do not have the luxury of it. Unless you have changed your mind and decided for matrimony. And if that be the case, I have greater cause to pity you than I originally had.”

Elise finished lacing her shoes and grabbed Luc’s coat, hat and gloves. In one swift movement, he took him by the wrist and dragged him out of the house, only to see him shiver at the first gust of wind that came their way.

She would not talk of this with Marie-Cécile’s walls to overhear. No. If Luc wanted to know, he would have to brave the cold with her.

He quickly put on the extra layer of clothing and did nothing but grimace they walked on through the surprisingly crowded avenue. There were children throwing snowballs at each other, ladies and gentlemen arm in arm, wrapped in coats and furs, and jingling sleds on every street.

The joy of the season was laid throughout Paris with Luc being the only exception of it.

“I do not appreciate being treated thusly,” Luc hugged coat. “You know how I hate the cold!”

“Please Luc! You wanted to know what had altered me so, and this is the only way I shall tell you. Have a quick turn with me around the avenue and I shall tell you my secrets. Are we agreed?”

“I don’t see that I have a choice. The snow is in my hair and I already feel the chill coming. Might that they all not be in vain.”

Self-absorbed though he may be, reckless and careless as he was, Elise could not deny that there was no person on this earth that she wanted to confide into more. The sad truth was that Luc was her first true friend. Her only friend, save his dear mother. He was more a brother to her than Remy had ever been, and he’d done nothing but love her as a brother loved a sister since they’d first met. Despite their little games and petty quarrels, Elise did not know a better man than Luc. She’d wanted to speak to him about the letter and the visit since she’d first gotten them. But there was never a moment when Marie-Cécile could not overhear. This was to be between them and them alone. Elise needed someone to talk some sense in her, and in the oddest way, the only person who would succeed in that was Luc.

She took out the letter from the folds of her dress and gave it to him to read.

His brows furrowed as he looked on to the strong writing of the man neither of them had met. He didn’t seem too pleased with it, but nonetheless, kept reading.

“It’s a bit short, isn’t it?” Elise said nervously. “But it has me vexed! I have no idea what to make of it. Why should he address it to me and not to your Mamma?”

Luc read again, looking up to her from time to time. “Obviously because he wanted you to receive the letter and not Mamma.”

“This is no time to tease me! This is the first time I’ve received a letter of such nature! You cannot fault me for my inexperience. Not when I am so desperate for your advise.”

“Can you be so innocent Elise? Truly? I am not teasing you. It is just that…well it is that simple. He wanted you to receive the letter. Not Mamma. Does this seem like a letter you’d show to other eyes apart from the intended?”

“But there is nothing extraordinary in it. Simply a declaration of his admiration and an invitation to the concert. Why could he have not written Marie-Cécile?”

Elise hated feeling so innocent. So naïve. How was she supposed to profit on the ways of love if she herself did not know it instinctively. She did not want to seem like such a disappointment to her mentor. After all, it was not her fault that Elise was so overwhelmed.

“The man obviously wants to interact with you and not my mother. Why should he not write to you?”

“Would you write to a lady in this manner? Without even asking her permission or being introduced for that matter?”

“Well I must admit it is a little unorthodox. He must be a man of strong confidence to assume that his letter and affections would be welcome without his acquaintance preceding it.”

“A man of overconfidence I shall say. I am predisposed not to like him.”

For a flickering moment, the distaste on Luc’s face faded. “All well and good. Excellent decision if you should ask me. But I doubt Mamma would hear such talk from you. He’s a potential patron and you must not so easily close your mind.”

“But you approve of my dislike for Monsieur de Rozette?”

“Absolutely!”

Elise could not help it; she hugged her friend’s arm the tighter. She wanted to give him another peck on the cheek if only the act itself didn’t invite gossip.

“Then advise me. What shall I do? He’s invited me to the concert and has good as expressed his wish to make my acquaintance there. God Luc! I never thought myself to be so…unworldly!” she cried.

“Unworldly!” he laughed. “And what advice can I give you? I know nothing of a woman’s ill-tempers and how a woman should behave in such matters! I’d much rather be under a skirt than in it.”

“Hush your tongue! Do you want to risk my reputation as well as yours? Wicked, wicked boy!”

They made a turn for the shops, a route forced by Luc’s lead to make the round back home. “Ask Mamma, if you wish. She knows better of these things.”

“I cannot! I do not even want to inform her of it! The matter would be…well, I do not know.”

“Might you fancy yourself rather embarrassed by it? Having such intimate thoughts read by such a widely known gossip?”

“Perhaps,” she lingered on the question. It was not so much as that she didn’t want Marie-Cécile – undeniably a gossip – to read the letter. More that she thought it to be a betrayal of confidence to show the letter to anyone. She already felt terrible about showing it to Luc. She could not transgress upon the letter’s private nature any further. “Don’t tell your mother…please?”

At the risk of her reputation and his alike, he took her hand and held it tight within his. The warmth was welcome. The show of faith, even more so.

“And what of Captain Rigfort?” he said with some hidden sense of mortification. “Don’t think I forget so easily. There is someone to be blamed for your mood Elise. Since it is not Guy de Rozette, than am I to believe that it is your Englishman?”

Elise did not know how to respond, for she herself did not know her own heart in that matter. She stood there, holding her bonnet as an unexpected wind blew gently by. Luc looking at her as if she’d said the worst instead of nothing at all.

“This can come to no good Elise. That man is not a good prospect for you,” he let go of her hand and walked on ahead.

“I have not even thought of him as a prospect! Besides, who are you to judge a man you’ve hardly even met! First you accuse him of affronting me, and then you encourage me to take his attentions! Now, you have the gall to disapprove of me with no cause at all!”

“Then you admit that he has shown you singular attentions!”

“I cannot deny that he has,” she sighed. “But I have done nothing to encourage or solicit them! Other than dancing with him at the Deuxmoulin assembly, which both you and Marie-Cécile have explicitly encouraged, I have not given him any chance to hope.”

Luc did not seem satisfied.

Though her answers were, in the simplest sense, true, Elise could not help but think that there was a grain of deceit in her answer. She may not have shown any explicit encouragement to Captain Rigfort, but in private, she felt as if she responded quite well to him. Unexpected, unwelcome responses of course, but present nonetheless.

But as Luc was already so pleased with her, with regards to Monsieur de Rozette, and as he seemed so determined to dislike Captain Rigfort, she held her tongue on the matter. Bless him for taking such good care of her. At this point, lying to Luc seemed far more prudent than arguing with him on the street. After all, he had very little sense of propriety when he quarreled.

Elise tried to smile to ease her friend. “It is cold and I know how much you hate it. Might not we go home, set this all to rest. You have given such great service to me already and I do not want to spoil this beautiful day by acting like children.”

“Promise me that you are not forming an attachment to Rigfort? Will you promise me that?”

Elise nodded. “I promise I am not forming an attachment to Captain Rigfort.”

Luc nodded and offered her his arm.

It was not an utter lie, Elise told herself. For the matter was that, for all she knew, the attachment might have already been formed for her part.

***








As Elise took one last look at her reflection on the mirror and she acknowledged that she looked quite pretty that evening. Anne had done her hair up in braids and there was a well suiting blush in her countenance that made her look better than she truly was. That, matched with her fine new dress, all ten yards of Indian muslin and the single winter rose on her hair made her look very pretty indeed. It was a delightful position to be in, for when one ventured out into the cold, which would in time diminish any charm she’d managed on her self from the comforts of her home, one decidedly wanted to look her best.

“Yes!” Marie-Cécile remarked in all delight as she checked after her charge. “This is very well indeed Elise! I congratulate you!”

It was beyond Elise to blush for false modesty was far from her nature. Instead, she took the complement as she should and thanked her mentor for observing it. But not completely without manners, she returned the complement, being sincere in the admiration of Marie-Cécile herself. For how could her mere student outdo such a woman, one who had captivated the hearts, minds and pockets of the greatest men in France? Not yet had Elise reached such heights as to be capable of that.

By half past seven, they were off in the carriages, bundled in their warmest clocks and filled to the brim with their latest charms. For tonight, Elise would conquer, Madame said. She would enrapture their city, hold them all by the heart and release them only in accordance with her fancy.

“You have the privilege of choice, my dear. It is more than what most of the richest women of Paris can say.”

They were off for the de Rozette salon where they would meet the finest minds in all of Europe, or so Elise had been told. Madame de Rozette had once been a courtesan herself. But unlike Marie-Cécile, she’d been successful in her attempts to retire. No doubt because she found a spineless husband to be devoted to her every whim. But like most retired courtesans of note, her husband had died and left her an enormous fortune which she now dispensed as she saw fit. Lavishly and without thought, her apartments were decorated with the most grotesquely golden ornaments known to man, statues of solid marble, drapes of purple silk and floors of dark obsidian. From her dress she took no pains to conceal her opulent taste as it was trimmed far beyond the acceptable norm and, all in a horrid shade of puce.

The de Rozette salon was an actress’s boudoir, to be certain.

As Elise took a seat at the second row of the concert hall, she spared a thought for poor nerves of this woman’s bookkeeper. All too distressing for Madame de Rozette was not that beautiful and would no doubt fail to attract a patron when necessity forced her out of the complacence retirement had lulled her into.

The evening’s concert was to be performed by a select group of Madame de Rozette’s friends. Old and young, they were meant to take the pianoforte and stage to exhibit themselves to the best of their advantage. Elise opened the program and saw a staggering amount of young ladies listed for impressive arias. No doubt in the business of finding husbands or possible patrons. Luc himself had been enlisted by his mother to play for the concert at least three songs. More if need be, for though Marie-Cècile often said that her son had no talent for composing music, he did have quite the flair for playing.

Elise had also been offered to sing but she’d politely declined, and within reason as well. She was a poor musician. Shameful for any courtesan to admit, for she was expected to be the most accomplished a ladies. Elise had a fair voice but nothing to dazzle anyone with. And as she firm believer in excelling in an occupation or not attempt it at all, she followed the latter advice and abstained from singing in public all together.

The hall was filled with beautiful music although the night. As Monsier de Rozette had mentioned, it was favoring the modern composers and Elise liked it quite a lot, though she did not let it show in her manner. After all she’d reconciled herself to be ambivalent to Guy de Rozette. Elise would admit that he did have excellent taste in music, but it would not change her resolve to dislike him. A task made easy by the fact that he didn’t seem to be present.

Nevertheless, as the music played on and as Luc took to the stage with a commanding symphony of his own creation – played against the wishes of his mother and the dictation of the program – Marie-Cècile leaned towards her charge and whispered in her ear.

“I want you to pay close attention to Guy as soon as you catch sight of him,” she said. “He has been generous in his offer, and if you like him then there can be no shame in accepting a the first suitor.”

What was there to like, though? A man overconfident enough to send letters to a lady without her encouragement or permission? A man whom she’d not even had the pleasure – or the torment – of meeting? A man so elusive that even Luc himself could not muster more information that what she’d been told already? Guy de Rozette was a young man of eighteen. The sole heir of the late Monsieur de Rozette. Though no title has been attached to his name, he was certain to inherit into position and wealth enough to support a wife and more than one mistress if he so did chose. A man of great potential and a fine conquest for a fledgeling like her.

Rubbish.

Elise did not believe in letting position and wealth recommend a man. She believed in intelligence, charm and wit. All which Marie-Cécile declared to be fortunate luxuries if a man had the essentials of a good bank account.

She would not lie; Marie-Cècile’s encouragement towards the elusive de Rozette brought back feelings of vexation and anxiety. As soon as the concert drew into a pause and Luc was free from the hoard of debutants throwing themselves at his mercy, Elise procured him for her arm and begged him take a turn with her about the room.

“You are the only man worth talking to here. I assure you,” she teased him. “Surely a man’s conversation can recommend him more than the depth of his pockets or the beauty of his features?”

“My friend thinks herself to be so noble, but the fact is that a man’s conversation can be sorely deceptive, but his bank account never will. Are you too noble to be above fearing poverty?”

“I am not so foolish as to be free of it. But I do not take well to the idea of committing myself to a man I cannot have a decent conversation with.”

“And what of passion, then?” Luc laughed. “All intellect and no heart. Shall passion have no place in the world have constructed for yourself? I was under the impression that it always holds a place in a woman’s heart, no matter how shrewd it has become.”

Passion, in Elise’s opinion, was an unreliable fantasy. Why all she need do to affirm it was to look at her own acquaintances. Her mother had been passionately in love with her late father almost to fault. And it only lead her to the lonely position of slowly coming into the knowledge that passion had deceived her and that no amount of love could hide the fact that he’d only married her for her money.

The truth was the same for dear Madeleine who seemed to be in the deepest admiration for Luc, to follow him like a hapless puppy, only to be lead on by his false charm and his inclination for sport.

Indeed, passion was very deceptive; and when her life depended on the kind of man that she would ensnare, passion became a very poor measure of a partner.

“Partnerships, you say! Then is it partnerships that you both will seek in this assembly? Filled to capacity with the brightest, richest men that society can afford? What if one of them should ask for your hand, what would you say? That you desire no marriage, only a mere partnership? I was under the impression that every girl dreams of a husband.”

“And every boy dreams of a wife!” she laughed back at him.

Love was the myth she was instructed to create. A myth that could exists without marriage. Make a man think that your affections are solely his, without it ever being so. A woman need not be a wife in order to make him believe that. But should one man think of her as more than a creature to be kept, but a creature to be possessed…of this, she only had one thing to say:

“Should a man…any man of wit, fortune, position and manner, ask me for my hand, I should decline him most readily without a second thought.”

But as soon as she uttered those very words, her eyes wandered from behind her silk fan and began to look for a familiar blue coat. Even as she searched, she told herself that no longer would she be caught as easily as before. Elise was on her guard. He would not reduce her to the state of which he saw when he’d visited her.

Before even putting one step out of the house, Elise minded herself to be wary of Captain Rigfort.

He had his purpose, she told herself, and he has served them well. Now it is time to move on and move on quickly.

She dared not betray herself in front of Luc. Though the heat seemed to rise to her cheek, she kept her face hidden well behind a fan as she talked with her friend. Luc, who knew her best, was the greatest danger her affections could imagine. Should he discover them, the scolding was almost sure to follow. Luc would make her see reason and advise her against such foolishness. Elise was unprepared to give up her flirtation with the gentleman just yet.

Soon enough, the British officer was well spotted across the room, dominated by several gentlemen who looked every bit as British as he did. Upon catching her eye, he quickly detached himself from his party and made towards her.

By a stroke of luck, Luc was enticed to dance with a pretty mademoiselle with ostentatious red hair and freckles. Planting a kiss on his friend’s hand, he left her with the promise of reserving the next waltz for her.

Elise was left on her own, standing in front of a grand marble statue, and though seemingly admiring its ironic depiction of the fallen woman, she kept her wits about her and was fully aware of the Captain’s approaching steps.

“Strange, I must say.” Captain Rigfort said as he stood beside her.

“Such hasty judgment!” she feigned shock. “Is it the workmanship or the subject of which you disapprove of?”

“Certainly not the subject for a woman is always worthy of depiction, no matter what her state. And not the workmanship for the marble was chiseled with exceptional skill and artistry.”

“Then what warrants your disapproval?”

“The position. Behind a pillar and in the dark, how does one expect it to be admired?”

Elise smiled. “Well perhaps it was meant to be revered rather than simply admired. How better to revere such a piece than in the subtle darkness and hidden from the prying eye? Only to be found by those earnest enough to search for it.”

“I readily concede to such superior wit!” Captain Rigfort gaily bowed and took Elise’s hand for a gentle kiss. “How foolish of your companion to leave such a lady unattended.”

“The fault was not his, Captain. I would not divert him from those eager to make his acquaintance. What an anchor I would be if I chose to weigh him down from enjoying himself?”

“But an anchor serves two purposes. To inhibit the ship from leaving and to keep it to the place where it truly wants to be.”

“You flatter my wit and company too much sir and belittle your own.” Elise could not help but blush and immediately went behind the comforts of her fan. “And as far as company goes, I would not be a prison for men like Monsieur de Valière. His has wild nature that does best when it is engaged to more than one person.”

Captain Rigfort, yet again, remarked on his lack of manners. A gentleman must attend to the ladies in company with proper accord. To ask her how she was enjoying Paris thus far and if she found her new acquaintances to be pleasant or unwanted.

“Well,” Elise replied. “I like Paris very much indeed. It has a vigor that suits my taste and it is never without diversion. As for the acquaintances, I have made several and I don’t think I could generalize them so under judgments such as pleasant or unwanted. Judgments should have more color than that! Color that suits every individual to his or her best nature. If you would be more specific, I should be glad to oblige.”

“How about our hostess, Madame de Rozette? How should you color her company?”

“I should say that I like her enough. She is agreeable. Her choice of friends is as excellent as her taste in arrangements, more or less. Although I do find her manner of address to be less genteel than what I had expected, but I am not so discerning as to commit that as any more than an observation.”

“Bravo, mademoiselle. You express yourself quite decisively. An attractive quality in a woman, to be certain. Would that the women of England have such vitality!”

“A compliment to France! So rare from our friends in the West. It is very much appreciated, I can assure you Captain,” she teased him.

“In all seriousness though, mademoiselle, I find that I’ve been happier here in Paris than I would have thought…or liked. It has managed to procure a special place in my affections. It has managed to become very dear to me. Very dear to me indeed.”

Surely she did not hear him right! Surely she put too much weight in his words! But it sounded rather bold, indeed. So bold from such a brief acquaintance!

In some light, it almost felt like a declaration.


Chapter 4: The End of Innocence
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Author's Note: I am sorry for taking long with this update. But, hoping to be forgiven, I give you the overdue chapter of A Certain Lady. And to those who's reviews I have yet to respond to, I thank you for your patience and hope that you can be patient just a little bit more! Again, thanks and please enjoy!

Standard Disclaimer:
None of this is mine, but JK Rowling's. This fic was inspired by Gigi by Colette, Persuasion by Jane Austen, Jane Eyre by Chalotte Brontë and various works my E.M. Forster. The cast list here after mentioned is a list of people I envision to be the characters and is only provided to serve as visual aids for the reader. I have, in no way shape or form, any means to actually procure these actors to be my characters. Thank you!


4.


by Violet at TDA

Imogen Poots as Elise Saint-Denis
Natascha McElhone as Marie-Cécile de Valière
Tom Hiddleston as Luc de Valière

Talulah Riley as Anne the Maid



THE END OF INNOCENCE











He was in love with her.

Elise could not fully reconcile herself with the idea but everything in heart told her that Captain Rigfort was in love with her.

I’ve been happier here in Paris than I would have thought…or liked. It has managed to procure a special place in my affections. It has managed to become very dear to me. Very dear indeed.

She had never fallen in love before. She’d ridiculed it, dismissed it, cast it out from her life and swore herself to remember that it was not the luxury of her profession to feel such a thing. Love was nothing but illusions that must be woven to excite the fancy. A artist’s oils to make the canvas look seem more than it truly is. But if this was love. If the beating in her chest was love. If the unwarranted, but constant, smile on her face was love. If the joy of just the thought of him as love. Then maybe she’d been too hasty to dismiss it.

Was she in love?

Was this what it felt like?

If this was what love felt like, then she did not know how she could knowingly spurn it again. She had not imagined that it would feel like this. For love, if that was what it was, made her feel safe. And that was something she hadn’t felt since she was a child in her mother’s embrace.

If this was love, then Captain Rigfort was as dangerous as Luc warned him to be.

Elise Saint-Denis was a courtesan. And for courtesan, love only lead to the most horrid consequences.

After he’d spoken to her that night, Elise immediately excused himself from the Captain’s company and immediately attached herself to Luc for the rest of the evening. It was only too fortunate that he did not ask for an explanation. How could she even begin to admit her own naivety without earning his contempt?

She danced with Luc, talked with him and laughed with him the entire evening. But what Elise could not do was keep her mind from what the Captain had said.

I’ve been happier here in Paris than I would have thought…or liked.

She could not help but smile every time the thought crossed her mind. And when Luc asked for her reasons, the she would just smile, and tell him that it was too wicked to tell.

They went home in a quiet carriage that night. Luc was tired and wanted nothing more than to go to his bed and sleep till noon the next day. He had too much wine and cheer in him and had to be helped by the servants to his room. As for Elise, she asked to stay in the library a little while longer. She wanted to read, she told them, and would not take long. She would retire soon enough.

The mother and son left her with a book in her hand, but she put it down as soon as she heard their doors softly close. Elise sat by the dusty shelves of the old room, buried deep in the scent of ancient leather and velum, reliving the moment over and over in her head. The intent eyes which he directed only to her. The way he took her hand and kissed it before she took her leave. The way the blood rushed to her cheeks as she walked away from him.

This is your own doing, she said to herself. Luc warned you against it and you were too silly of a girl to listen to him! Elise Saint-Denis you stupid, stupid child! How could you let this happen! How could you allow the flirtation to reach such heights!

A carriage came at thirty past twelve and the knock on the door was so loud that Elise had to call a servant to tend to it before it woke up the whole house. It was a letter, Elise was told. For her eyes.

“From whom was it?”

“The valet said that you would know, mademoiselle,” the maid, Anne, bowed before she was allowed to go back to her room.

Elise quickly raced for the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of the man, even the carriage that brought him, but the curtains were drawn and she could not see if he were inside or not. Or if he was even there in the first place. It rode off quietly into the snow covered streets and very soon, it was as if it had never come at all, for the snow kept on falling and the tracks were covered into secrecy.

Elise recognized the seal as soon as she was able to see it. In clear red wax, the letter bore the same seal that of Guy de Rozette’s first letter. Elise took the letter out from the folds of her dress to make sure and upon comparison confirmed her suspicion.

She quickly opened it, conjured a candle to aid the moonlight and read the letter.

My dear Mademoiselle Saint-Denis,

I must beg your pardon for not greeting you at my mother’s salon. Unforeseen events have taken me to Marseilles. Taken me far from where I had greatly desired to be. By your side and in your acquaintance. Accept this letter with my sincerest regrets. Read it with a forgiving heart. Allow me ask that liberty before I leave it’s ends to your discretion.

From my own window, I see the moon full and clear here Marseilles. Not a cloud or star in the sky. Only the moon in its lonely beauty. As I breathe in, I smile and thank God I am not in Paris, if only for one thing. The ocean is so close that I can nearly taste the salt in its perfume. It is the scent that covers the entire city and makes it forget about the existence of the rest of the world. Here by the harbor, where ships sleep and the sound of the rushing waves lull everyone into sweet dreams, one cannot help but feel at peace as if in paradise. Here, sleep comes easily even to the most restless of travelers. It runs over you like angel’s breath and all troubled thoughts are put to ease. But even the sea air cannot sate me now. Tonight, I lie awake thinking of what it would have been to dance with you. To take your gloved hand and waltz with you for the first time.

To be honest, I am a man of very little imagination, but I find that your face occupies my thoughts with the vivid colors of spring. Your voice like the lark’s song. I can only imagine the conversations we would have. The silences we would take. A turn about the room and your laugh if ever I have the luck to say something amusing. Would you laugh for me Mademoiselle Saint-Denis? And would it be one of genuine amusement and not merely one to humor? I can only imagine how you would hide your smile behind your fan when you laugh. How you would try to hide that which is such a gift to whoever had the chance to behold it. Your smile would make candles melt with the heat and warmth it bears.

I hear the ocean and I wish that you would be in my dreams tonight. I pray that my wish be granted and that in reading this letter, you might spare a thought for me, even once will the moon still sits high in the sky.

Look to the moon and imagine that you are by the sea. May it bring you sweet dreams, no matter what or whom they may be of.

Goodnight, my dear Mademoiselle.

Your servant,
Guy de Rozette


Elise put the letter down and took a very deep breath as she folded it back, careful to follow its original crease.

She took out her wand and put out the fire. Elise went up to her room and rang for Anne to help her get ready for bed.

It was late and the girl was half a sleep as she undressed Elise and put her in a simple white shift. Anne unpinned her mistress’s hair and combed out the braids she’d painstakingly fixed early that evening so the golden hair would fall down passed Elise’s shoulders.

Meanwhile, Elise kept the letter firm in her hand, not knowing what to do with it or how to hide it from Anne’s prying eyes.

“The gentleman must care a great much for you, ma’am,” Anne said. “Written you twice in within the same week. How attentive.”

Elise could only nod.

“And what does ma’am think of the gentleman? Is he handsome? It has been the talk of the scullery. All of them think he must be frightfully handsome to be so gallant.”

“I’ve never met him.”

“Well, I bet he’s handsome. Men of such gallantry always are.”

“Like Luc?”

The maid was taken off guard and did not know what to say to her mistress. She kept her eyes down and kept combing the knots away, keeping her mouth shut from what might certainly get her into trouble.

“I know what you think of him, Anne,” said Elise. “He is handsome isn’t he? Very handsome don’t you think? Go on Anne, you may speak freely with me.”

“Y-y-yes ma’am. He is.”

“And charming. Yes. Ever since I might him, I have known Luc to be most charming. But then again, most men of such charm are always handsome. Does he tell you pretty things? Does he tell you you’re pretty and that he’s never seen your equal? Do you believe him?”

Still, Anne kept silent, but Elise could notice the anger growing in her.

“Does he kiss you Anne? And tell you he likes you? Or even loves you?”

Anne tightened her grip on the brush and her strokes became more and more forceful with a restrained strength.

Finally, Elise softened. “He is the best man I know Anne, but that does not make him a good one. You are a game and you should know why Luc does these things. He does it for sport and he does it to take advantage of you.”

“I don’t know what you’re speaking of ma’am. Master Luc would never show such attentions to me.”

“How much does he pay you Anne? To know my affairs?”

“I don’t know---“

“I have eyes of my own. I don’t need spies to point out what is plain for my own eyes to see. Now, I shall ask you again. How much does he pay you?”

Elise turned around, took the brush from Anne’s hand and tilted her chin up so she could see her eyes. The poor girl was ashamed, and Elise was sorry to make her feel so. But it was needed. Elise would be a stupid girl no more.

“How much does he pay you?” she repeated.

“Two knuts ma’am. Three if I bring him some news.”

Elise sighed and smiled. “Well, you may keep what he pays you. It is yours and you have earned it for all he’s done. But I will offer you a sickle if you report to me as well. And another sickle if you speak no word of it to Luc. Do you understand?”

Anne was a poor girl working for her ever-growing family. As far as Elise knew, she had ten brothers and sisters. All mouths to feed. All too young to be set to work just yet. Such an offer would be all too tempting for a girl in her circumstances. If Anne were smart, as Elise knew her to be, she would take the offer. Words could only be so charming, after all.

Anne nodded and bowed. “Anything else I can do for you ma’am?”

“Luc is never to find out about this letter…or any other that might come after it.”

Anne left as quiet as she’d come and soon Elise was left on her own. In the darkness of her room, the window open and the light of the full moon shining on her.

You will no longer be overwhelmed. She was a courtesan. And it was high time she acted accordingly.


***










To any other person, Luc smelled of the sweetest flowers or the fondest memories. Of springtime in Calais or the ocean just as winter started to thaw. He would smell like freshly opened champagne or warm baked bread. Luc would smell of whatever you wanted him to smell like. Whatever made you swoon. For that was how veelas were. They smelled of love and attraction. Sticky honey and pomegranate seeds. Wine and Chinese silk.

Veelas like Luc were as addictive as amorttentia.

But Luc took this fact far lighter than he truly should. Much like his father.

As Marie-Cécile opened the door to her son’s room, she smelled fresh cut daisies and morning dew. Sweet, saccharine scents of a new dawn teasing behind a mountain ridge. She lingered around, saw everything out of place. He’d left the evening’s clothes on the floor, littered the furniture with bottles of wine and crumpled sheets of music. The curtains were drawn so that it was almost pitch dark, save for the slither of light that came in through the most discrete of gaps.

And in the darkness, her son lay not on his bed, but by the piano he’d insisted on keeping in his room. It was just beside the spot where the breeze made the drapes flutter in an early morning waltz. The wind ran its fingers through Luc’s hair, much like a mother would do while she lulled her child to sleep.

Marie-Cécile kissed her son’s forehead and grazed his face with the tip of her finger.

He was always such a lovely boy.

Luc’s eyes fluttered opened and, for a moment, he smiled at the sight of his mother’s face. But it quickly disappeared, as quickly as the ghosts of boyhood adoration for her had, and the person of the young man possessed his body once more.

“Good morning, darling,” Marie-Cécile smiled. “I see you had a much later night than I expected. You shouldn’t tire yourself so. It’s bad for your health.”

Luc straightened himself up and stood promptly, turning a quick glace at his quarters and their state of disarray. He then looked at his mother and how impeccably she looked even when she had just woken up. As if she were the veela.

“I couldn’t sleep last night. Decided to write. As you can see, it wasn’t as successful as I could have wished.” He picked up the sheets of music, quick to hide them from his mother’s gaze. Afraid that she would see what they contained. It was as if he was afraid of letting his own mother see so deeply into is soul.

His father’s child for certain.

Marie-Cécile rang for coffee and a proper breakfast. If he insisted on keeping to his room for the morning, then he would do it on a full stomach.

“But what about Elise? I would hate for her to dine alone.”

“Don’t worry about her, my dear. She’s already dined and left for the morning. I sent her to send our regards to the Poissons. I would hate for Madeliene’s family to think ill of us. Marie-Cécile de Valière always pays proper attention to her friends.”

Luc laughed hard at her comment. As if it were some sort of joke. “Oh yes. My mother never is remiss on her attentions. I must say that I do believe I saw those exact attentions being directed at Evrard de Manasier last night. Well done Mamma! I do believe you’ve reeled him in. Quite excellent for a retired courtesan.” The sneer in his voice was too evident to ignore.

But Marie-Cécile knew her own child too well to be taken in by the face value of his words. “I know what you are doing, Luc. You are upset that I have mentioned Madeliene Poisson. Bravo, my dear. You are quite the child. But it was not Mademoiselle Poisson whom I discuss. It is you.”

“And what about me do you wish to examine today, Mamma? My dress? My spending? My choice of amusement? My need to marry before I end up a pauper? Tell me what warrants my scolding so early in the day? Can’t it wait for lunch?”

“Your actions as of late, my dear, have been too intolerable to ignore. No. I am afraid it cannot wait.”

“Shall you be more specific, Mamma. It is terribly hard to keep track of bad behavior when I indulge in it so often.”

“What can you remember of last night?”

He was charming at Madame de Rozette’s salon. He was engaging. He made good conversation. And he looked every bit like a man smitten. In fact, Marie-Cécile was certain it was more than mere conjecture but a matter of fact. Luc looked whole-heartedly in love.

But he was in love with the wrong person.

“It was a party, Mamma. A pleasant one at that! You cannot fault me for having enjoyed myself when it is expected in assemblies such as those.”

“Elise is a courtesan, my dear. And you are in no position to acquire her for yourself.” It pained her to say it. No matter how little her son thought she cared for him, she did love the boy. In her own way. She may not have raised him and may not have been the one to educate him in the workings of the world but she was a part of him. Her blood coursed through his veins just as much as the veela’s. And knowing the other part of Luc convinced her all the more of what his true intent on Elise was.

The way Luc looked at Elise was exactly how the late Monsieur de Valière looked at his own mistress. The one he loved instead of his own wife. Marie-Cécile had only caught a glimpse of it once, but it told her that her dear husband would no longer be sharing her bed from then on. The way he looked at that harlot…it was as if he were the one in danger of the love spell.

“Elise can never love you, my dear. Love is beyond her.”

“As it is beyond you?” he mocked. “Tell me Mamma? What was the real reason you came to Vienna? Was it because you wanted to see me? Or because you couldn’t bear to watch the demise of your beloved Duc? If only you could have heard yourself cry into the night. Elise and I talked of it. I would sneak into her room and we would listen to the walls, searching for the sound of your sobbing in the next door. We would say that you truly loved him. More than you loved father and certainly more than you loved me. Admit it! It killed you to leave him to his death. A fine actress you may be, Mamma, but not fine enough to trick me, I’m afraid. The things you preach to Elise, about love, illusion, having the to rule her heart in order to rule her life! How can you say them knowing your own heart!

“You may be a great many things mother, but tell me you have not become a hypocrite. Not to me who knows you better than any one.”

She could not bear to see the pain written plainly on his face. She was breaking her own son’s heart but it would have to be done. He had potential in him. Once he’d finished with this fancy of becoming a composer, he could travel the world. Distinguish himself! Come back to Paris and be the great man he was poised to be. But he would not do that as long as tethered his affections to Elise. As long as he believed himself to be in love with her.

Marie-Cécile took a deep breath. “I did love the Duc. More than your father. And perhaps, for a time, more than I loved you. That is why I came out of retirement. Because he had asked me. That is why I stayed in Paris instead of living with you in Vienna after your father died. But I had already lived my life, Luc. I had already emancipated myself from the need of a patron. I took on Duc de Pirot because it was my choice. I wanted him and I was free to take him because I was a courtesan, established.

“But Elise is young. She has just come out into society. She is the talk of Paris! I am slowly fading into the walls while she receives the eyes and smiles that I used to. She has begun the path to earn her freedom the way I had. The way Madame Deuxmoulin had. The way Madame de Rozette had.

“But if you take her. If you monopolize her. If you charm her into thinking that you are a far better choice than taking a patron and living a life of security and comfort, then you are doing her a great harm. A disservice. And you would be doing yourself one as well.”

“No!” he shouted, banging the keys of his piano. “Elise is not like you, Mamma! She deserves to be loved!”

Marie-Cécile shook her head. “She deserves to be free.”

Marie-Cécile had lived both lives. The life of the wife and the courtesan. A man expected an obedient wife. A wife of propriety. A silly wife who kept her place which he commanded her to. To stand beside her husband and keep her silence. But though a courtesan stood behind a man, it was she who truly ruled his actions the way a wife never could.

It was a terrible business, being the mistress of men of influence. But Luc was right. Elise was not Marie-Cécile. Elise had the potential to be better.

“Things cannot be the way they were in Vienna. You cannot flirt with her. You cannot own her attentions. You cannot rule over her mind. It is not to say that I am keeping you from her, my dear. You are a dear friend and a comfort to her. Beneath her flourishing smiles and her bright eyes, I know she is lonely and I would not rob her of the only friend she has in the world.

“But continue on like you did last night, and I shall have no choice but to send you away.”

The rage bottled inside Luc exploded. His rashness got the better of him and he slammed close the lid of his prize pianoforte. Some of the bottles tipped over and shattered on the floor. When the servant knocked to bring in the food, Luc bellowed at them to leave and the poor creature ran away scared.

Marie-Cécile was thankful she’d sent Elise away for the morning. She would hate for her to see Luc like this.

“We are not your chess pieces, Mamma! We are beings of will and you will not decide Elise’s future for her. Nor will you decide mine.”

“It is for her own good, my dear, as well as yours. You know that as well as I. If you didn’t then you would have already followed your heart and confessed yourself to her.”

There was not a mother in the world that could watch their child be in pain. For her own weak heart, Marie-Cécile stood up, kissed her son’s head once more – despite his attempts to pull away – and left before matters could get any worse.

As she closed the door, she deafened herself to his anguish. She chose to walk away and retreat to the sunroom.

The flowers would be a welcome sight.


Chapter 5: The Coming Deluge
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Author's Note: This is more a filler chapter, I am sorry. Exploring Elise more as an individual, more than anything else. But it is absolutely necessary because this is also a transitionary chapter. We're about to get into the thick of it guys! For the past few chapters, I suppose the largest problems have been about Elise's love life, but there's been the hint of this turmoil boiling underneath the surface. I hope you like it! Tell me if it's too abrupt, or if you absolutely hate it! I know I haven't answered many reviews yet, but I am still catching up. Thank you for your patience and hope you still have some left for little old me! Again, thank you! Enjoy!

Also, if you prefer this length for the chapters, just buzz in and tell me and it can all be arranged XD

Standard Disclaimer: None of this is mine, but JK Rowling's. This fic was inspired by Gigi by Colette, Persuasion by Jane Austen, Jane Eyre by Chalotte Brontë and various works my E.M. Forster. The cast list here after mentioned is a list of people I envision to be the characters and is only provided to serve as visual aids for the reader. I have, in no way shape or form, any means to actually procure these actors to be my characters. Thank you!


5.



by me

Imogen Poots as Elise Saint-Denis
Felicity Jones as Madeliene Poisson



THE COMING DELUGE








The days passed on as they did and Elise went on as she was determined to. She went on with her studies, pouring over the books in her great library, accompanied Madame de Valière to visit her friends and acquaintances. She’d practiced her music and her conversation, her sewing and even her magic (when persuaded that no one could see). No one had noticed Elise’s growing distress, her poor spirits, for she had not wanted them to see. In the comforts of her own rooms, when all lights were out and only she lay awake, all she could do was stare at the ceiling and think. Think on how she could ever rally from the muddled mess her heart had made things to be.

It would all have been easier if Luc were there to help her. If she could tell him even the smallest fraction of her problems. But he had not been in the apartments much after Madame de Rozette’s concert. He’d busied himself, probably almost as much as Elise had busied herself. He went out every morning and every evening. His society was slowly growing and growing towards the richest scoundrels in Paris. From what Anne had told her, Luc came home staggering with drink most nights. And some, well, he did not come home at all.

For all the time Elise had known Luc, this behavior would have been very much expected. But he’d never been at his vices for this long. He’d never gone so deep into the swamp of his so called ‘artistic temperament’.

She tried a few times to catch Luc as he came back home in the late nights or early mornings, but often he was too drunk to be of any sense. There was no point in questioning him, even if she was in desperate earnest to set him to rights.

At one time, Elise even spoke to Marie-Cécile about it, but she said that they were not to pay heed to it. Luc was known for his rebellion. He would not be indulged to any behavior other than that of his choice. But though she’d had often turned a blind eye to Luc’s libertine predisposition, Elise could not help but feel as though this case were utterly different from the ones before it. What was more, she felt as if Marie-Cécile was hiding its true cause from her. Nothing felt right in their apartments and Elise could only feel the weight of it adding to the growing burden plaguing her mind.

The only solace she’d managed to find was her visits to Madeliene. She’d slowly grown attached to the girl, thinking her quite fine despite her skittish constitution. She was sweet and agreeable, and Marie-Cécile thought her an excellent friend for her protégée. Thus, once or twice every week, Elise found some time to walk out into the city and call on her friend for some tea and conversation.

Upon greeting her at the door, Madeliene all but pounced on her friend from joy at the sight of her. But as the sole of propriety, Madeliene kept to its dictum and offered a mere bow in its stead. Still, Elise kissed her on the cheek as a reflection of her own happiness and both laughed at the silliness of their conduct.

“You really are too kind,” Madeliene said, blushing a deep crimson shade. “To call upon me so often! It must be such an imposition especially when you have far grander things to do with your time.”

“I fear I’m the one who imposes! I’m simply glad you still tolerate my company. I daresay, I thought you would have grown tired of it by now.”

“Tired? Why never! Even if I were spoiled for choice of company, mademoiselle, I would still choose yours. There can be no wonder as to why the whole of Paris desires it so.”

Welcoming as Madeliene was, it was terribly uncomfortable in the Poisson house. All the curtains were shut and not a peep was to be heard from anyone. The only light that existed in the dreary home was from the dimly lit candles along the hallways and in the corners. Madeliene had said that it was for her Mamma’s nerves. Excessive brightness bothered the woman to no end and any bit of sound gave her the most terrible headache. Being a mere guest, Elise was bound to find no fault in it, but the honesty of her thoughts often confessed to her strong disapproval and distaste of the practice. If Madeliene had not even lit an extra candle for the drawing room, then Elise could not see how she was expected to drink her tea without the fear of missing her own mouth.

They spoke their pleasantries in whispers. And Elise tried to be her liveliest despite the circumstances. But she was not to be the best of company that day. In fact, she was quite terrible company if she allowed herself the freedom of open expression. The only thing that kept her even remotely bearable was the fact that things seemed brighter here than at home.

Madeliene, despite her lack of experience in social activities, was quite a gracious host. She was attentive and responsive, sincerely grateful of the company and enjoying it while it lasted. She was filled with conversation - only of fashionable topics – but guarded nonetheless. As if she constantly monitored her own actions, fearful of some unknown reprimand if she were to forget one insignificant rule.

Nevertheless, Elise adored her company.

“Might I inquire upon the de Valières?” Madeliene spoke as she poured their tea. “How they are faring? As to their health? I hope all is well.”

“Quite well,” Elise lied. She felt guilty of it, especially since she was misleading such an innocent creature. But it was necessary, she deemed. To preserve the good name of Luc, at least in the eyes of the girl who adored him body and soul. “Madame de Valière is often engaged with acquaintances, but she extends her deepest regrets that she cannot visit as often as she should have. Luc sends the same sentiments.”

A glow shone in Madeliene’s eyes as Luc’s name was mentioned. The same glow that shone in every girl’s eyes at the sight of him. But Madeliene was a singular creature. So singular that she was by far the only person Elise knew to be so engaged in Luc that the shine in her eyes was not the mere result of some spell but indeed some genuine affection. It was the fault of youth and innocence. Madeliene, it seemed that everything was worth genuine feeling, consuming and true. It would be Madeliene’s greatest beauty, Elise thought.

They talked for a while of this and that. The parties Madeliene had not been allowed to attend, the concerts she’d not been allowed to sing at. New fabrics. How the weather was turning fairer by the day. It was pleasant to be free of the weight of her burdens, even for a little time. It was hard to even keep themselves quiet for they enjoyed each other’s company so. The only thing keeping their sensibility straight was Madame Poisson’s occasional snores and mumblings. They were careful not to wake her lest their amusement come to an end.

Madeliene explained that Madame Poisson was terribly ill, or rather she believed herself to be so. Gout, ill-spirits, cold drafts and the Paris air was to be blamed, she said, and everything was to be done in order to keep the old woman in the best of comforts lest she enumerate her ailments for the duration of the day.

“You are kind to put up with her as you do, Madeliene. You must be the nearest thing to an angel this world has.”

And you do not deserve the lot that fate has given you, Elise said to herself. Poor girl. To have one overbearing mother, a father who was about as interested in his daughter as he was in a bonnet, and a man who played with her affections behind a pretty smile. People as good as Madeliene did not deserve such treatment.

She blushed. “It is not angelic to take care of one’s mother. It’s Christian,” Madeliene insisted. “I am sure you would do that same for your mother, were she with us.”

Elise nodded weakly. She would suppose that everyone in Paris knew of her past already. After all, her father and mother were beloved members of society before the revolution forced them out of their homes.

Thinking on what Madeliene had said, and how much she loved her own mother, Elise knew that she was right. No matter how difficult a person was, if you loved them, taking care of them could not be an imposition.

Madeliene saw the expression on her face and was immediately apologetic, thinking she’d offended Elise in some way.

“No, no! Of course not, my dear. You just reminded me of my mother. How much I miss her. How much I wish she could advise me now.” For the truth was that no matter how well Marie-Cécile had taken care of her, no one could replace her mother. “I am happy to remember her. In fact, I do not think I remember her enough in the day. If anything, I should thank you. Not despise you, my dear. Be certain of it.”

Significantly calmed, Madeliene sighed in relief. “She must have been truly wonderful.”

“She was. She truly was.”

Elise had a very distinct image of her in mind. One she formed when she was ten, while watching her mother at a party. Elise had been old enough to be there while entertaining guests and was supposed to be in bed, but instead she snuck out and watched from the balcony at how the people were dancing, laughing, talking, enjoying one another’s company. Her father was nowhere to be seen, but her mother, Diane, was there in the middle of the dance floor. She was dancing the waltz with a fifteen year old Rémy. She had small white flowers in her hair, a dress of ivory silk and a single sapphire hanging on her neck. The way she moved and the way she smiled, she looked like how all mothers should look. The living embodiment of happiness and contentment. But this was before the revolution and before the hardships of their family. Before the all the good things about her chipped away, one by one, and she was at her deathbed, pale and broken-hearted. Elise had held her hand as she died. She forced herself to remember her as she was, and not as she ended up being.

“She was enchanting,” Elise whispered, the ghost of a smile on her face. “Simply enchanting.”

“Just as you are,” Madeliene assured her. The young girl too her hand and kissed it. “You honor her by who you are now. I imagine she would be very proud of you.”

“You would not think that if you knew what I truly am, Madeliene.”

“A courtesan?”

“No. I am proud of my life and what it could lead to. I cannot imagine the alternative. But it is my actions that I fear do my mother no honor. How I am living the life which I am so proud of.”

“Well you know what I think, mademoiselle? I think that you are living it with more courage than I’d ever seen in a woman. Or even a man! You do, as you will. You follow your instincts and you follow your own heart. Not someone’s orders or society’s opinion. I do not think there is a braver way of living life such as that. I know I could not live so. I wish I could. But I do not. You do. A choice well made. Your mother would be proud of you.”

But before Elise could answer, or even smile, the front door rammed and Madeliene excuse herself in a hurry to see who was calling.

Elise was left to think about what Madeliene had said. How her mother would be happy to know she was following her own will now, not that of Rémy’s, or anyone else. It made her happy to think that. Elise would have to thank Madeliene for it one day. Maybe even tell her what her encouraging words truly meant.

It was not long before Madeliene returned. Elise had not even finished a quarter of her freshly filled cup before Madeliene came back wearing a half-frightened expression as she sat beside the fire once again.

Elise was worried. “What is it Madeliene? Has something upset you?”

“No,” she shook her head. “Not at all. It is just…the man who called. I’ve always been afraid of him. I should not be talking ill of anyone for it is the most unchristian of things to do, but he just frightens me to death. Now I know why…”

“What is going on, Madeliene?”

Madeleiene didn’t seem to hear her though. She stared blankly into nothingness and looked as if she was about to burst into tears. “He works for the Ministry. One of father’s fellows in Minister Guizot’s council. He came with a letter. Father is needed immediately.”

Madeliene grew paler and paler as she spoke. Elise didn’t know what to do. She leaned in closer and held her friend’s hands tight in her own. “What is the matter, Madeliene? What has happened?”

Madeliene nodded. “The man said that my father must come to the Ministry at once. He says that…he says that…”

“What!”

“The Minister has broken treaty with England. They say he’s helped Napoleon escape from Elba!”

Chapter 6: The Last Indulgence
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Standard Disclaimer: None of this is mine, but JK Rowling's. This fic was inspired by Gigi by Colette, Persuasion by Jane Austen and Jane Eyre by Chalotte Brontë. The cast list here after mentioned is a list of people I envision to be the characters and is only provided to serve as visual aids for the reader. I have, in no way shape or form, any means to actually procure these actors to be my characters. Thank you!

6.


Imogen Poots as Elise Saint-Denis
Natascha McElhone as Marie-Cécile de Valière
Tom Hiddleston as Luc de Valière


Daniel Day-Lewis as Duc de Pirot
Rosamund Pike as Diane Saint-Denis
Talulah Riley as Anne the Maid



THE LAST INDULGENCE




 

Elise did her best to seem interested. She nodded every now and then. Laughed when appropriate. Said a yes or a no whenever her opinion was asked. Smiled behind her fan. Elise did everything she’d been taught to do when in the company of gentlemen who would curry her favor.

To their credit, they were trying to be as engaging as they could, given the circumstances. One of the gentlemen, one whom Elise could not name, was trying to describe the wonders of the Indies. His family owned some land there that he was to inherit come the time. He talked about languid summers and sultry afternoons. About sweet fruits and natives who would wait on them hand and foot. About silks and dyes the like the world had never seen. It all sounded very lovely. But there was no loveliness in the world that could draw her mind from what was happening outside the walls of pretense.

It had been a month since news broke out of the Minister’s hand in the Emperor’s escape from Elba. It had rocked Paris to its core. However, society could not let its true colors be known to the world. As Elise hid coyly behind her fan, so did the people around her. Instead of showing their fear and trepidation, they masked their genuine thoughts with gay parties and endless amusements.

No one wanted to acknowledge Napoleon’s return. At least not while it was considered unfashionable.

“Quiet Henri!” Laughed one of the men around her. “Mademoiselle is obviously straining to feign interest.”

Elise blushed. She turned to Henri and “Quite the contrary Monsieur Perrault! I found young Henri’s accounts most invigorating. You simply caught me dreaming about the long Indian summers. Let that be a testament to how well he paints a picture in one’s mind. Please Henri, do go on.”

Henri took this as a sign of encouragement. A misguided sign of Elise’s favor. He stood taller, a proud grin on his face, and went on, leaving Elise safe to escape into her thoughts once again.

If only Luc were there, Elise often thought to herself. He would certainly have better conversation than these young boys. He wouldn’t pretend that the world was thriving while in fact it was crumbling to the ocean. Luc would never let fashion stop him from speaking his mind. He would take her away from the witless conversation of uninteresting men.

But as in so many days, Luc was not to be seen.

As Henri went on with his stories, Elise scanned the room, hoping to find some escape that would not lead to any offense. She could see Marie-Cécile from across the room. Much like Elise, she took was surrounded by hungry admirers, but her attention was fully encompassed by the young Baron de Manasier.

The Baron was not a particularly handsome gentleman. Neither was he a particularly charming gentleman as well. In fact, there was nothing extraordinary about his manner, his constitution or his conversation that would lead you to believe that he deserved the favor of a woman was fascinating as Marie-Cécile. He had no wit, no charm and no grace. One of the ennobled supporters of the New Regime, he’d been nothing but a merchant’s son before Emperor Napoleon was exiled. Yet, there seemed to be something that Marie-Cécile found attractive in him. She was drawn like the moth to a flame. And though Elise had never seen her dear mentor in the flourishes of love, she had seen the poor Madame in mourning the loss of it. Somehow, Elise imagined that this must have been what Marie-Cécile was like before the guillotine took her beloved Duc.

Elise was resolved never to be so destroyed for the loss of one man. As a courtesan, she would have to be beyond it.

Just then, a noise came from outside. A man was screaming loudly and the sound of a slamming door resonated across the ballroom. For a moment, the entire party was silent. Anne came in, excusing herself across the room, making her way towards Marie-Cécile. Worry closed tightly around Elise’s throat and she immediately left her company without a word.

Mistress and maid slipped to the next room, a small sitting room, and Elise was allowed to follow. They locked the door behind them and talked in hushed tones.

“Madame,” Anne trembled “I am sorry for the intrusion, but it is Master Luc. He’s come home in an awful state and I am afraid I cannot restrain him.”

Elise tried to compose herself as well as Marie-Cécile did, but her hands shook with fear for her friend. She’d never known Luc to be this out of control. She wrung her hands, twisting them, turning them red.

Marie-Cécile sighed and nodded towards Anne. “You did well, my girl. Go back to the kitchens and boil a cauldron of wormwood. I’ll be there shortly.”

Anne bowed and left to do her mistress’s bidding.

Marie-Cécile turned to Elise. “Elise, you shall have to entertain our guests for the remainder of the night. I must tend to my son.”

“No!” Elise said all too hastily. “Marie-Cécile, you can’t. I can barely entertain a small group of men, let alone an entire congregation.”

“You will have to learn sometime, my dear.”

“Let me take care of Luc. Please, Madame.”

Marie-Cécile studied her for a moment, noting the worry in her face. Perhaps she could guess that it was more for worry for Luc than anxiety for hosting a party that Elise made such an unguarded request.

“I have always indulged Luc to the point of sin. I allowed him his music when he should be thinking about his future. I allowed him Paris when he should have remained in Vienna. I allowed him the world when he should have thought about himself. This shall be the last.”

Elise did not understand her.

Marie-Cécile’s eyes glimmered in the candlelight. She nodded. She turned her back on Elise and returned to her guests, no doubt to reassure them that there was absolutely no problem. A few minutes after, Elise heard the chatter of merriment resume. Once again, society turned a blind eye to anything hinting unpleasantness.

She ran to Luc’s bedroom.

He sat by his piano, hunched over the keys. Around him was nothing but broken glass and scattered music sheets. His room had born the brunt of his drunken rage. What drove him to such a state, Elise did not know. Nevertheless, she approached with care. She closed the door carefully behind her and entered the threshold as one would enter a bear’s cave.

She had never been scared of Luc. To her, Luc was the dearest creature that could have ever walked the planet. But the man before her resembled nothing of her friend. This man was drenched in misery and grief, contorted by hatred and bitterness. The only thing about this man that reminded her of Luc was the scent he bore. The scent of a warm fire and her mother’s hair. The smell of a secret shared and confidence returned.

“Luc,” she called out to him.

He raised his head, and his expression lifted somewhat. A ghost of a smile graced his beautiful face. A smile laced in shame. But that quickly disappeared as his expression turned into a more sinister one.

“What are you doing here?” his rough voice groaned. “Aren’t you supposed to be entertaining some little boy who is too big for his breeches?”

His statement was meant to be a joke, but his tone stung her. Elise reminded herself of his state and moved forward, taking a seat on his bed. “Anne is boiling some wormwood. You’ll be better in no time.”

Luc laughed. “Tell Anne, that there are better ways to send me to sleep than wormwood. She needs the vigorous practice.”

Elise had asked for this responsibility but she was lost. She had no experience with alcohol, let alone the demons that it provoked. How on earth did she ever think she could manage this?

“This isn’t Luc,” Elise whispered to herself. But he heard.

“I am sorry to disappoint you my dear, but this is me in the truest sense. Drink tends to bring out the truth in most men. In fact, it brings out his deepest secrets. I am no exception?”

“I refuse to believe that.”

“You think me a liar, dear Elise? Well, shall I provide some token? A truth. A confession?”

Elise’s heart raced, protesting. But she could not speak. An unknown fear had stolen her voice, leaving her powerless to stop what was to follow.

Luc reached into the pocket of his coat and pulled out several worn, open letters. He threw them at her feet.

Trembling, Elise picked up the letters. Three addressed to Marie-Cécile. Two addressed to Elise. All from Captain Walter Rigfort.

Elise tried to suppress the hope but it had latched itself so deeply into her heart that she could not deny her sudden optimism. Were these letters of intent? Did Captain Rigfort want to be her patron?

“I don’t understand,” her voice trembled. “Why would you keep these from us?”

“I did not keep them from Mamma. I kept them from you,” The sound of his voice sent a chill up Elise’s spine. “You see Elise, you may offer my spy to keep your secrets, but she keeps mine as well. Anne is a very stupid girl and she’d do anything for a kiss.”

“Don’t play games Luc---“

“Why so cross? You should be thanking me. My dear Elise, I have saved you from that which would have been your ruin.”

“Speak plainly!” She scrambled to open the letters but Luc interrupted her.

“Don’t bother. I shall save you the trouble. They aren’t letters of intent, Elise. They’re letters of proposal. He wants to marry you.”

The letters fell on the floor.

Elise struck Luc.

Blood trickled from the edge of his lips.

“How dare you!” she yelled at him.

Luc sprung up and raised his hand as if to strike her back. But perhaps the drink had already passed through him and his conscience had once again taken a hold of his actions. Instead, he slammed the keys of his piano and yelled in anguish.

“Don’t you understand! I have saved you from a life of regret!”

“I loved him!”

“It is no secret! Do you think me blind, Elise? Do you think me stupid? I have eyes and I’ve seen the way you look at him. You may think that I am frivolous and carefree but I know you better than you know yourself, remember? I thought you had common sense in you, but apparently you are not as strong as I thought you were.”

Elise could not see passed her tears. She whirled around, trying to find air. Trying to find an escape. But she could not run. Luc stood in front of the door, challenging her to push passed him. But she was crippled by shock. Crippled by a strong sense of betrayal. The heart that was soaring a moment ago was bleeding now. Crying out for a reason why the dearest person in her life could hurt her so badly.

“I have always loved you Luc. Loved you passed all your faults, but I will never forgive you for this.”

“But you don’t!” he roared. “That is the problem Elise. You don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“You don’t love me. Not the way you should.”

Suddenly, all the pain in his eyes made sense. The distance and the anger. Luc reached to take her hand but she took a step back.

“All those times you’ve said you loved me, Elise. I only wished it were true. I had hoped that with time, it would come…but it never did. You will never say those words with the same intent that I do. Elise, I love you. I have loved you since Vienna.”

Had she been so blind? Or had she merely turned a blind eye. Elise shook her head, trying to reject every touch, every shared memory, every misunderstood declaration of affection. She had only ever loved him as a brother. Perhaps even more…but never anything close to the love he thought he felt for her.

The anger melted away only to be replaced by pity.

Elise took Luc in her arms and embraced him tight. She was afraid for the moment to end. She was afraid of what would come next. Of what she had to do.

He buried his head in the crook of her neck and she felt his wet tears on her bare skin.

“I love you Luc,” she whispered in his ear. “You are the dearest thing in my heart. You’ve been more of a brother than Rémy ever was. You are my closest friend. My second self. But I am afraid we can never be anything other than that.”

She pulled away and he stood confused. No doubt his heart had flourished at her first words only to be taken down by the sincerity of the kiss she left on his cheek.

A kiss bidding farewell.

He grasped her wrist. “Don’t marry him.”

She wrenched herself out of his grasp and laid a light caress on his cheek. “No more, Luc. No more.”

Elise pushed passed a dumbfounded Luc and closed the door behind her.

Her heart broke as the sound of a crashing piano played its melody once more.

***


 

It had been the fifth execution of the day and still the crowd had not lost a drop of enthusiasm.

Some cried for more blood, others for justice, but they all sang in the same tune of madness. The sound of it was enough to shatter the earth, and to some extent, it had. The world had been turned. Kings thrown on carts with criminals and prostitutes. Noblemen fleeing from their own palaces in fear of being run through with a peasant’s pitchfork. Paris was the center of the greatest revolution that the world had ever known. And at the center of Paris was the square.

The air was thick around her, laden with the rank of blood and sweat. Mud and human filth. Marie-Cécile desperately wanted to cover her nose, turn her gaze and run as far as she could from what was surely the Devil’s home, but she could not. Determination weighed her to the ground. As she dressed in borrowed rags covered in soot and ash, she reminded herself of why she must stay. The cart was nearing the platform and it would all soon be over.

A man was shoved up the daunting steps towards the guilottine. He was covered in bruises and cuts. Thin and ragged, broken and hopeless, this was barely the man Marie-Cécile had come to see.

The Duc de Pirot was a handsome man when they first met. A powerful man. So full of life and energy despite his advanced years. The man that could have been Minister of Magic, but opted not to for he did not chose to serve any man but himself. A cruel man. A heartless, relentless man. But, indeed, he was the man Marie-Cécile had loved. The man she loved still.

Now, as they pushed him to face the crowd, as the mob of ignorant dissenters hissed and spat at him, she could help but fight back all the tears that wanted to flood out from her eyes. She felt a surge of blind rage for the fools who would take him from her. Marie-Cécile did not know whether or not she would rather die in his place or die with him, knowing full well that she could not.

He’d made her promise. Promise to escape. Promise to live on, away from the Terror. She’d given him his word. But not before this. She would stay with him until his end.

It was strange, for they’d killed her husband earlier that morning. In the same exact manner, he faced the free people of France for his crimes of intellectualism and support of tyrany. They said he took death proudly, his face as cold as it had been throughout their marriage. They say he took death on like a long awaited friend. People had told her this so that she might feel some pride in being his wife. Pride in baring his children. Pride in the name of de Valiére.

She felt nothing then.

Even as his mistress sat by her side, wailing like a stray cat, grabbing on to her skirts and covering hear head with it. Then and there, Marie-Cécile left her to her misery. She went to the kitchens and borrowed a chambermaid’s street clothes. She went out, walked in the back alleys of a deserted city and went to the square that was the beating heart of the Liberty.

They read out his crimes as they dragged him to the block. He struggled, pleaded for them to stop, offered them leniency, amnesty, money, power, if they let him go. To see him so low, it broke Marie-Cécile’s heart. She desperately wanted to be as numb as when they’d cut her husband’s head off. But her heart beat out of her chest every second that dragged on. Every moment that impending doom loomed.

She knew she could not look away. Her fists balled and her nails digging in deep under her skin, Marie-Cécile looked on.

They charged him with nothing else but “crimes against liberty”.

They allowed him no final words.

A moment of silence. Anticipation tingling the masses. They hold their breaths as the Duc was to take his last.

With the drop of the blade, the deed was done.

A roar of cheers deafened Marie-Cécile to the point of madness.

In twenty years, she would forget who fathered her child. She would forget how her name changed from Manteaublanc to de Valiere.

But not even twenty years would erase what she felt in her heart at that very moment.

She would remember this. Remember this pain. It was a lesson to be learned. For this was the price of love.




A knock on the door.

“You may come in,” Elise answered.

Marie-Cécile entered the room with care. As if the floor had been scattered with blades and broken glass.

Around her, everything was silent. Not even the owls of the night dared to make a sound at such a moment. Despite the colorful frescoes on the wall, the gaily curtained windows and the ornately carved furniture, the room was nothing if not gaunt.

Elise sat on the far side of the room, a corner that was usually lit by candle when she chose to read in her room. There was no candle though. Only the gentle flicker of her lit wand. On the table, a dozen sheets of parchment were scattered, crumbled and horribly stained with seeping ink. In contrast though, Elise looked ever the angel. Or rather, she looked like the only angel Marie-Cécile had ever known. Diane Saint-Denis was more than just another wife of another patron. Other wives would have been furious at the discovery of a mistress. They would have thrown tantrums, berated their husbands, and after, do everything in their power to destroy the woman they believed to the nothing more than a common whore.
Marie-Cécile had seen it all and had gotten quite used to it in her years of being a courtesan. But every once in a while, there were women like Diane. Women who accepted the fact that they were in bad marriages and did their best to make do with what they had. It was not the weakness that all suspected. Diane held a certain strength, a resolve to make her life as happy as circumstance allowed. Neither of the Saint-Denises felt any affection for each other. It was a marriage of duty and Diane had performed that duty with the grace of allowing her husband his dalliances so long as he did not neglect, degrade, dishonor or hurt the woman he still called wife.

Marie-Cécile did not expect to find such friendship in one who was meant by society to hate her. But from the moment they met to the last instance they saw each other, she and Diane remained the dearest of friends.

Marie-Cécile could not help but wish that Diane was still alive every time she her dear ward. Though she treated Elise like her own daughter, she knew that a there was nothing in the world that could ever replace one’s true mother. Marie-Cécile had learned that lesson quite too late in life. Her own son had been raised by a faculty of strangers. In the barest of truths, Marie-Cécile knew nothing of being a mother other than birthing a child into the world.

It was times like these that she felt most helpless. Bathed in the slithers of moonlight, Elise stood before her a frightening portrait of what Diane had become later in her life. Broken.

“I have sent the guests home,” she whispered gently to the foreboding silence. There was no reply. Only the faint sound of a scratching quill, only for the parchment to be crumpled not a moment later.

“I tried to see Luc, but he would not let me in,” Marie-Cécile went on. “Anne told me that you two argued. My dear, don’t be so quiet. Please, tell me what is the matter.”

Still, there was nothing.

The wind blew lightly from the open window and rolled a crumpled piece of parchment to Marie-Cécile’s feet.

The words: “My dear Captain Rigfort,” had been struck out with a swift and steady stroke of the quill.

“Did you know?” Elise whispered.

Marie-Cécile gave Elise back the parchment and sat at her feet, grasping her cold hands from the armrest. “Know what dear?”

Elise turned to her. “Madame, you know that I love you with all of my heart. You are the only person I have in the world and you’ve given me a life I could never have imagined for myself. I owe you the deepest debt of gratitude. But despite all that, I cannot help but ask you how you came to raise such a cruel child.”

The snideness in her voice struck Marie-Cécile’s heart. It was true, of course, that Luc was cruel. Heartless too. But to hear such words from someone who adored him so, it was like a knife to her heart. “He is not himself, my dear. You know that. Drink changes---“

“NO!” Elise grasped tighter to the armrest, her knuckles turning white. “He lied to me, Madame! Lied to us both!”

“What has he done?”

Tears threatened her ward’s eyes. Her hands trembled in hidden rage. “He had no right,” her voice shook. “He had no right to keep those letters.” The anger washed away. Only to be replaced by something akin to regret.

“Captain Rigfort wanted to marry me.”

Marie-Cécile’s eyes widened in surprise. For all her wit and intuition, she had not expected this. Naturally, she’d expected Elise to be infatuated with someone or some other. She was a child, even at twenty, and children had the folly to think that love was a wonderful and uncomplicated thing. But never did she imagine it to reach such depths of affection. From the way she spoke, it was like she wanted nothing more than to marry him. Become the thing she’d desperately escaped from for so long.

What was more, she had not expected Luc to go through such lengths to keep Elise. She’d known her child had a bit of the Devil in him, but to go as far as this to possess her? If Marie-Cécile had not known any better, she would have said that Luc was the son of Pirot, not de Valiére.

“And, what is your answer?”

“I love him. I cannot deny that. Not anymore.”

Marie-Cécile nodded. She sat herself on the bed and gave herself time to think. She loved Elise as her own child and would not deny her knowing love, if only to learn from it and the heartache that would follow. But as much as Marie-Cécile wanted to cut her dear protégée loose and let her be free to live the life of her chosing, she could not deny her own mind in the matter. Diane’s last words echoed in her heart.

So, it had come to this.

Marie-Cécile took a deep breath. She closed her eyes and with her head downcast, apologized to a nameless God for what she was about to do to the dearest girl in her heart. “Elise, I cannot rule your actions no more than I can rule your heart. I cannot force my will upon you when you wish otherwise…but know this. I do not need to know what kind of man he is to know what kind of husband he will eventually become. At first, it is wonderful. A fairytale that fulfills your every fantasy. But if you marry him, your name will not be the only thing you will lose. Wives, no matter how dearly their husbands love them, are all melted and forced into the same mold. To be seen and not to be heard. To obey and not to think. To stand by the wayside and smile while his star rises and yours grows dimmer and dimmer.

“Now I know this is hard to hear, but you must. If you stay here, you will become a courtesan. You will go from one bed to another. You will be paid for your companionship, for your ardor, for your beauty. Men will love you but they will also leave you. But though it all, through all the sacrifices of personal happiness and reputation, you will be celebrated. Stay in Paris and they will fall at your feet and fall to your whim. You could have the ears of nobility and the hands of politicians.”

“And if I marry him?” Elise defiantly asked. “What then shall I have? A reputation? A home? A family? Love!”

“A French courtesan who at last marries a French man may have that, yes. But England is not France, my dear. It is a nation of hypocrites. Marry your officer and you shall be called his French whore in passing whispers. The woman many have had, and that he settled for.”

“That is not true.”

“You say that, but you were a child when you were last there and you are little more than a child still. You have not heard” the women gossiping. You have not seen the looks they throw you or the stories they tell when they huddle up and exclude you from their circles. The world outside our own is cruel my dear and you shall be torn to shreds.”

“I care not.”

“He shall suffer too.” Marie-Cécile watched as the blood drained from her face, turning her whiter than the moon behind them. Marie-Cécile was the worst of mothers, but she’d promised Diane.

Promise me, Marie-Cécile! Don’t let my regrets pass on to her. Promise me!

If she had to be cruel than so be it.

“The honor he once had will be but a nightmare haunting him even in the waking hours. All the love in the world cannot shield a man from the venom of those around him. After he has heard all of the stories they tell and the lies they spread, he will doubt you. And as time creeps by, the day will come that he will hate you. He will hate himself for ever loving you. Then you shall regret everything and look back upon a time when you were happier. When you were free.”

The final nail in the coffin.

I hope I have kept my promise, Diane.


http://www.harrypotterfanfiction.com