Awesome chapter image by Arithmancy_wiz @ TDA
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. All OCs mentioned herein belong to me.
Chapter Nine The Radical Pamphleteer
The staircase was impossibly narrow and winding and in such a state of disrepair that Artemisia thought she might fall to her death. Magic had most assuredly been employed to keep the moldy steps together, though the banister did rattle fiercely every time she dared to touch it.
“Can’t we Apparate?” she asked, her breath searing her laboring lungs as she mounted yet another flight of steps.
Maxime stopped to dab his forehead with a handkerchief. “Not unless you wish to have every English bone in your legs broken. These stairs are hexed.”
“Like a bloody fortress,” Artemisia ground out. “I daresay Monsieur Delmas is a bit paranoid, eh? Even Gringotts isn’t this hard to get into.”
Maxime glanced at her once over his shoulder. “Philippe is not paranoid, on the contrary. Do you know what happened to one of his colleagues? The French Ministry’s secret police broke into his home and tore it to pieces, beam by beam. His family was out begging on the street three days later. Thriftier Parisians have learned to protect themselves.”
From their own government? Artemisia mused to herself and felt a familiar churning in her gut as she leafed through the pamphlet once more. “Maxime, this paper of his, it’s illegal, isn’t it?”
Maxime did not answer at once. After two more flights, he stopped at the top of a dreary landing before a heavily barred door.
“Philippe’s writings have been censored by the government,” he said at length. “There is no free press in this land.”
Once more, he removed his wand from his breast pocket and touched it to the doorknob.
A chill dashed down Artemisia’s spine, bringing with it an icy sweat. “Oh, I shouldn’t be here,” she muttered. “If Ambassador Honorius ever found out!”
Maxime’s brows jumped together. “And you wished to be an Auror? Where is your courage?”
Artemisia jammed herself between him and the wall, annoyance bringing her blood to a simmer. “I have a reputation to uphold.”
Maxime tapped his wand against the doorknob, muttered another Latin phrase and stepped back.
What followed was the sound of abused metal scraping against stout wood, the clicking of old locks and bolts being drawn back. A long minute passed before the door was fully unbarred and when it was finally free of each fastening, it opened onto the hall hesitantly.
“Hello?” A young, olive-skinned man poked his head into the stairwell. His wide brown eyes reminded Artemisia of a deer’s.
“Philippe.” Maxime pushed his spectacles back from his eyes and peered at the gentleman.
“Oh, Maxime.” Philippe heaved a sigh in relief. “How I’ve awaited you’re arrival. My God, I thought you were a Ministry man come to dismantle my press.”
Maxime’s head snapped back in shock. “You have it in the house? Does Cordelia know?”
“She insisted upon it.” Philippe opened the door fully and in doing so, revealed Artemisia. He started violently.
“Now Philippe,” Maxime was quick to assure him, “you mustn’t be afraid, this is the witch I spoke to you of in my letter, the Englishwoman.”
“Anglais?” Philippe’s gentle eyes widened. “Here, Maxime?”
“Trust me, my friend.”
Artemisia was feeling more unwelcome by the minute and much to her surprise, she wished she was back at Beauxbatons. Paris had failed live up to her expectations and the citizens of the foul city seemed to be unnaturally skittish.
“You had better introduce me properly,” she told Maxime, trying her best to render her poor French harmless.
Maxime dropped his spectacles back down over his eyes. “Philippe, this is Mlle. Artemisia Lufkin,” he said, his voice sounding less grandiose now that they were standing in some rotten stairwell and not a lavish salon. “Artemisia, this is Philippe Delmas. We went to school together. Go on, don’t be so uncouth. You both look ridiculous standing there.”
Philippe bowed, half-extending his hand as he did so.
Artemisia shook it lightly. “Monsieur Delmas, a pleasure indeed.”
“Come in,” Philippe said and he allowed them to pass over his muddy threshold. “And please excuse the state of things. We’ve been awfully on edge these last few days.”
Artemisia followed him into the main room of the flat and was shocked to find that it served as a drawing room, kitchen and dining room. The single fireplace was crowded with cooking pots and nearby sat a washing tub of dirty water. Stockings hung over the fire to dry and the stink of wet wool made her gag. There was a table and a set of chairs pushed into one corner of the room, along with a bookcase and a faded print of Voltaire. A writing desk sat underneath the only window, littered with half-empty ink bottles, crumpled parchment and broken quills. The uneven floorboards were disguised by a ratty carpet. Another door by the bookcase led to what Artemisia guessed must be the bedroom.
She glanced once at Maxime, but he avoided her gaze.
Uneasiness left her jumpy as she slipped out of her cloak. She didn’t know what bothered her more about Philippe’s flat, the fact that its inhabitants were frightened in their own dwelling or the notion that these lodgings would be considered superior to the droves living on the streets.
Artemisia blushed thinking of her stylish apartment on the Thames.
Philippe arranged three chairs around the only decent piece of furniture-a moth-eaten winged chair-and told them to seat themselves.
He then scurried off in the direction of the bedroom door, calling, “Cordelia, my pet, our guests have arrived.”
Promptly, a young, pretty woman emerged, smoothing the front of her day dress.
“Maxime,” she said, swooping over to kiss Maxime who had settled himself in the winged chair.
Artemisia experienced a surge of jealousy. She never liked it when other women fawned over Maxime. She hated it, in fact.
“Dear Cordelia,” he replied primly, “it is so very lovely to see you again. Your husband has been fair to you, I hope? Does he know what a treasure he possesses?”
Coredelia laughed softly, her grey eyes alight with quiet dignity. “A treasure I am indeed! Look at my hands.” She held them up for his inspection. Her palms were blotted with black ink. “I’ve been at the press all day. Philippe’s assistant quit, but I’ve kept things running. Hmm, some marriage bed. We’ve been hiding the press in our chamber and sleeping by the fire.”
“See my fortune, Maxime.” Philippe stepped behind Cordelia and rested his hands on her shoulders. “It’s not every woman who can work a printing press, though I must say, her sewing spells are disastrous.”
“Ogre!” Cordelia tapped him on the arm. “So rude before our guests. Please, tell me, who is this lady? Artemisia, is it? I remember her from Maxime’s letter.” Cordelia smiled pleasantly at Artemisia, who only shifted in her seat.
She felt very much like a creature in a menagerie, a spectacle to be gawked at and inspected.
But Cordelia proved herself to be gracious. “Mademoiselle, thank so very much for coming. Maxime tells us you are the sharpest mind at Beauxbatons--cleverer than the King’s own ministers. I think this must be true, for you look so very wise.”
Artemisia was not one to be flattered, but she nodded in return. “Oh, he exaggerates, I’m certain,” she replied. “For one thing, I can’t work a printing press.”
“But she reads Rousseau,” Maxime interjected. “That is enough to set her above any Ministry man or Royal, for that matter.”
Philippe suddenly grimaced. “The Royal family, bah! How can it be called such anymore when an Austrian cow has been made queen?”
Artemisia gaped at him. “Marie Antoinette, you mean?” she asked, wondering how anyone could employ such illiberal language against his own sovereign. Of course, the French and Austrians were notorious enemies, but surely the union between the Bourbon and Habsburg houses had smoothed over some of the hostilities.
“Yes, the Austrian spy,” Cordelia replied for her husband, demurely seating herself beside Maxime.
“Surely you jest!” Artemisia sputtered, unable to contain her shock any longer. Did these people truly believe such lunacy?
“Not at all,” Philippe said solemnly and he glanced at Maxime. “Have you told her nothing?”
The next three hours were among the most strange in Artemisia’s life. Besides feeling horrifically out of place, she could not help but wonder just why Maxime hadn’t spoken of how radical his friends were before their visit to Paris.
As she gathered, Philippe was a failed lawyer. Although he had received a good education like Maxime, his unpredictable temper gained him few clients and less notoriety. With his practice suffering, he now supplemented his income by publishing a small, but successful newspaper and various political pamphlets. Unfortunately, he dedicated his writings only to blasphemous material, slandering his king and queen while promoting sentiments that were, frankly, treasonous.
But what troubled Artemisia most was the popularity of Philippe’s ideas, which he claimed stemmed from classical thinkers such as Cicero and Livy. She herself had read a little of Roman literature as a child, although she never drew from it such unorthodox opinions.
And to her utter dismay, Maxime supported Philippe’s paper, even if he did not agree with his friend’s stance on popular violence. Her lover, however, promoted any type of free press in France, even one founded in sedition.
It was a dangerous game, Artemisia decided. Didn’t Maxime realize the effect this could have on his own prestigious career? And oh, he could end up in the Bastille for such nonsense!
After Cordelia and Philippe had alternately briefed Artemisia on their radical activities, their discussion turned to the matter at hand, which was frightfully perilous.
“It happened five days ago,” Philippe said nervously, his foot bouncing as he sipped his coffee. “I cannot imagine who reported us to the Ministry. They’ve ignored us, for the most part, but something in the last edition must have troubled them.”
“Indeed,” Artemisia murmured as she leafed through his latest paper, in which there was talk of rioting and the arming of every “good citizen”.
“The police followed Philippe’s assistant to his office,” Cordelia continued. She poured Maxime another cup of coffee, lamenting that she could offer him no sugar. “They would have arrested him, had he not confessed and directed them to the press. It was destroyed, we think, or taken to their headquarters for further examination.” She paused and reached across, squeezing her husband’s hand. “Fortunately, we were able to borrow this printing press from another dear friend. But oh, Maxime, I know they shall come again!”
Artemisia raised her eyebrows when Cordelia’s voice wavered with the threat of tears. Really, such dramatics! How could Maxime stand these people? Certainly, he was more patient than her.
“My sweet Cordelia,” he said at once, uncrossing his legs and planting both his feet firmly on the frayed carpet. “You mustn’t let their threats sway you. I have read your husband’s letter detailing the situation and I have noted the repressive air at Beauxbatons. I would suggest that you continue printing and I will make a case for you at the Ministry.”
“Maxime!” Artemisia sat bolt upright in her chair. “You cannot mean to do that!”
He stared at her calmly. “Why not?”
“Because…because…” She trailed off, realizing she couldn’t reply without offending the Delmas’. “Oh well, it’s your business, I suppose.”
“Indeed it is.” He set down his empty cup on the arm of his chair.
A moment of tense silence filled the tiny flat. Artemisia felt as though the curiosity of her spectators had turned to distaste.
“Is there nothing that you are passionate about, Mlle. Lufkin?” Philippe asked at length, earning a disapproving look from his wife.
“Husband,” Cordelia clucked. “You need not answer his query, Artemisia. Goodness, you can be a brute sometimes, Philippe.”
“It’s quite fine,” Artemisia ground out, realizing that she was being challenged. “I am passionate about government, Monsieur Delmas.”
“But not politics?” he prodded. “If you were, I daresay you’d be petitioning your Parliament to revoke the tyrannical taxes imposed upon the American colonies.”
Maxime cleared his throat abruptly. “Artemisia is against the Coercive Acts,” he said softly. “She told me so herself.”
“Yes, I am,” Artemisia replied. “But I will not threaten Parliament with violence simply because I do not agree with their every act. It is…”
“Treason?” Philippe supplied, raising a dark brow. His temper was beginning to show, sundering his beguiling, sensitive nature.
“I believe it is wrong,” she said, allowing a bit of heat to enter her own voice.
“So you will remain silent while the colonies suffer? How very hypocritical.”
Artemisia tightened her fingers around her coffee cup, turning her knuckles ivory. “I am free to voice my stance on the Acts in England,” she said slowly. “And I will do so. But to threaten Britain’s ministers, well monsieur, I should rather be damned.”
Another length of silence passed. Philippe seemed to shake off his anger as he stood and placed his empty cup on the mantle. “You are fortunate to be able to speak freely, Mlle. Lufkin,” he said mildly. “We in France do not have such a…luxury.”
Luxury! Oh, Artemisia hated the word. It was like an accusation. A poisonous snake of a phrase.
Maxime seemed to notice the hidden insinuation of Artemisia’s aristocracy, for he suddenly was eager to depart. “We really must be getting back to Beauxbatons. The sooner I can present the matter, the better. But Philippe, will you show me what you’ve been printing all this time? Perhaps I can take a copy back with me.”
“Of course.” Philippe rose, along with Maxime, and the two men left the room, entering the closed off bed chamber.
While they were gone, Cordelia tried her best to fill the stale air with frivolous talk laced with misplaced femininity. Artemisia was hard put to respond in kind and she kept her ears trained on the other room, hoping that she might be able to discern an echo of Maxime’s conversation with Philippe.
What she heard did not please her.
“…are you certain, Maxime? Artemisia, she…English spies, these days…not to be trusted.”
An hour later, she was crossing a bridge that spanned the Seine. It was snowing and Paris had been plunged into early shadows as a long winter night stretched its fingertips over the city. Since leaving the Delmas’ apartment, Artemisia had not shared a single word with Maxime.
Not a single word.
The silence was unnerving, but at the same time, she felt too muddled to speak.
How could Maxime keep such friends? How could a mild-mannered, country lawyer vow to defend radicals?
She was unsettled and sick at heart. The spell had been
broken and now she snuck worried glances at the stranger walking besides her.
Just who was Maximilien Rondelet?
Halfway over the bridge, with an unfriendly wind threatening to lift the hat from his head, Maxime stopped and approached the brick railing.
“Come stand with me, Artemisia,” he said.
“It’s bloody freezing,” she moaned in reply, pulling the collar of her coat up to her cheeks.
“Just a minute. I only need a minute.”
She joined him by the railing, ducking her head against the storm. Oily street lamps illuminated the opposite bank and a destitute Muggle woman, wrapped in filthy rags, made her way along the street.
Artemisia felt a surge of pity, garbed as she was in a fine suit of clothes and good leather shoes.
Maxime made a tiny noise in the back of his throat. “Pardon me,” he said, withdrawing his wand from his pocket and pointing it at the woman.
“What-” Artemisia began, trailing off as a warm jet of white light streamed forth from the tip of the wand.
He had transfigured the topmost layer of the woman’s rags into a patched cloak. The woman paused, stretched out her arms and touched her new garment with obvious disbelief. And then, clasping her hands before her, she fell to her knees on the pavement to give thanks.
Artemisia was shocked by the sight. She grasped Maxime by the forearm and whirled him around.
“My God, you’ve broken the Statue of Secrecy!” she hissed, her breath rushing through her teeth in a delicate vapor.
“A small price to pay to offer a wretch some comfort,” he replied, his voice uncharacteristically harsh.
Artemisia stepped back for him. “Maxime, are you mad?”
“No.” He dropped his wand back into his pocket and arranged the folds of his own cloak. “Wouldn’t you have done the same?”
“I…I don’t know.”
Maxime’s face soured. “Then I might ask the same thing of you. Are you mad?”
Artemisia said nothing, but slumped against the brick railing. It was too much, first Paris, then the Delmas’ and now this…doing magic in plain view of Muggles.
Well, she had always thought that Maxime was a queer fellow.
A sudden, tempestuous fear gripped her as she realized that her lover belonged not only to her, but to the world. And the world was wicked, threatening to take him and change him. Everyday, she risked losing him.
Emotion caused a sob to bubble in her throat. “I am frightened of this…this,” she managed.
Maxime wrinkled his long nose. “Please, do not be dramatic. Fear is most unbecoming. It makes you sound like a simpleton.”
“Sometimes I wish I were.” She angrily jammed her hands into her pockets. “Must you jeopardize yourself for a newspaper?” And must you jeopardize us for seditious ideals? she thought riotously, hoping he could read her envy as it was.
Maxime surveyed her plainly and then, without having to be cajoled, he rested a steadying hand on her shoulder.
Artemisia wrapped her arms around him and buried her cold nose into his warm neck, feeling the hot pulse of blood against his flesh.
“You must be mine,” she told him. “I need you more than anyone.”
She heard him sigh, but it was an understanding sigh. Sympathy made him gentle once more.
Together, they walked arm and arm through the streets of Paris as the wind piled treacherous snowdrifts at their feet.
Author’s Note: So, any idea who Philippe is based on? No? All right, I’ll tell you. ^_^ Philippe Delmas was modeled after Camille Desmoulins, a radical journalist/politician and one of Robespierre’s close friends. In July of 1789, he urged Parisians to take up arms against the Old Regime, effectively starting the riots that led to the storming of the Bastille two days later. However, he had a fatal falling out with the Incorruptible during the Danton affair and was sent to the guillotine in April of 1794.
In Chapter Ten, Ambassador Honorius expresses his concerns over unrest in England’s North American colonies, while Artemisia is forced to consider her opinion of the coming conflict. And at last, the unstable peace is shattered one April morning in the small Massachusetts town of Lexington, when the shot heard round the world signals the start of a revolution.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read! I cannot possibly express how grateful I am for the support this fic has received. Chapter Ten should be posted no later than Tuesday the 9th. I hope everyone has a great weekend!
Translation: Anglais: English
Track This Story: Feed
Write a Review
JOIN HARRY POTTER FANFICTION
Get access to every new feature the moment it comes out.Register Today!