Lovely chapter image by Bedazzled @ TDA
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. All OCs mentioned herein belong to me.
Chapter Eleven L’amour de Moi
“And we loved with a love that was more than a love”-from ‘Annabel Lee’ by Edgar Allan Poe
Maxime was not in his room when Artemisia went looking for him. Nor was he in the Hall of the Illumination or the Chamber of Provincial Delegates. After searching most of the ground floor of Beauxbatons, she began to wonder if he had lost his nerve and Apparated.
Either that or Maximilien Rondelet honestly loved her.
And he wasn’t one to love.
Why, then, had he asked her to marry her?
It took an hour for Artemisia to find him, and by then she was striding into the garden on shaky legs, his note crumpled in her white-knuckled left hand. Maxime was sitting on a bench with his copy of The Social Contract. As she drew nigh, she noticed a slight tremor infecting his fingers.
She stopped an awkward foot away from him and took a deep breath. “I need to know why.”
Maxime looked up, adjusting his spectacles. The book snapped closed. “Artemisia, my dear, why do you always insist on posing troublesome questions?”
She gaped at him. “Me? Merlin’s bones, Maxime! You are the most pragmatic man I know.”
A hint of a convulsive smile moved the indifference from his face. “Ah, you see, I was…how do you say, teasing you?”
“Have you lost your mind?”
“No.” He gestured to the space on the bench next to him.
Hesitantly, Artemisia sat. They were alone in this particular lane and the high lilac bushes guarded them well from prying eyes. Artemisia took out her handkerchief and promptly began tying it into knots.
“I need to know why because, because….”she trailed off, unsure of how to properly explain her confusion.
Maxime sighed. “You must know why because it is in your nature. Please, let us not waste our time questioning the questions themselves.”
“Agreed.” Artemisia flicked her tongue along her dry lips. “And do understand, I’m not rejecting you.” She wanted to make that point inarguably clear. Even now, she wanted to stand up on the bench and shout to all of Beauxbatons that she would marry Maximilien Rondelet.
But they must consider things first. And she must know why he had proposed to her. Maxime was a sensible man with a reason behind everything.
What, then, was his reason for marrying her?
“I never said you were rejecting me,” he replied.
“But I must settle things in my mind.”
“I admire you for your logic.” Maxime shifted slightly and, amazingly, placed a soft hand on her forearm. “Dear Artemisia, you appear entirely befuddled.”
“I am shocked,” she admitted, “although I’ve weathered worse. Maxime, we must discuss this.” She lifted his hand from his arm and pressed it into her own.
“Well, I would think the most suitable query to pose is why exactly do people marry?” Again, that hint of a smile.
Artemisia struggled to quell her rising excitement. “Right.”
“All right then. Why do people marry?”
“For wealth,” she supplied. “But oh, you despise money. I assume you have no designs on my prosperity.”
“Indeed.” He moved his hand slightly, resting his thumb on top of hers. Slowly, he began to stroke the backs of her fingers. “Why else?”
“Neither of us have one,” Maxime said. “And you know my stance on the nobility. The world should be better off without them.”
“For an alliance,” Artemisia continued, “whether between families or nations.”
“Unless you have a trick up your sleeve, I assume Ambassador Honorius hasn’t drafted us into any treaty.”
Artemisia rested her chin on the heel of her palm. “Children,” she said. “People marry to secure their legacy.”
“That’s awfully primitive,” Maxime replied, “although I suppose you are right. The argument does not stand, however. We both have brothers who might carry on our family names.”
“You’re making this rather difficult, you know,” Artemisia said, still fighting her exhilaration with little success. Her voice had jumped an octave higher.
Maxime shook his head with a patient grin. “On the contrary, I should think it was rather simple.”
“But it isn’t!” She could contain herself no longer. Jumping to her feet, she paced before the bench, her handkerchief flapping like a dove’s wing. “You are a most complex man, Maxime.”
“It is you who have complicated things.” He paused to push his spectacles further up his nose. “Can you not say it?”
Artemisia stopped and for a brief instant, allowed blind euphoria to overtake her. But then she remembered who she was and just why she was standing there. Clasping her handkerchief over her mouth, she dared to mutter, “You love me.”
Maxime, at last, looked satisfied.
Artemisia was not.
“You must explain it to me,” she demanded.
He scoffed, “Such a bother you are! Tell me, do you not believe me?”
“It is not a matter of belief, but rather expression.”
Maxime raised his eyes heavenward, his chest heaving with vexation. Around him, early spring flowers graced budding boughs. “You must acknowledge that there are instances when life arranges itself in a particular order and is a man not a fool to ignore opportunity?”
Artemisia hesitated. She knew those words! But from whence had them come? In frustration, she flung her handkerchief down at her feet.
“We are already joined,” he continued. “We are the only two people on this earth who can exist this way.”
And suddenly she remembered. The words were hers and she had spoken them to Maxime in her desperation to make him understand just why they belonged together.
“Oh,” she said simply. Her agitation suddenly left her and she sank back down onto the bench. “Oh, Maxime.”
“Is the matter settled for you now?”
“Then may we proceed?”
Artemisia would have liked to say yes, but reason stayed her impulsive tongue. “There is one more thing I must know,” she said slowly, afraid that he would at last lose his patience and abandon her for good. “How are we to do this?”
“In the usual manner.” He took her hand again. “You forget that I am a lawyer. I can have the marriage certificate drawn up tonight. There is an officiator in the town not far from here. He can perform the ceremony tomorrow if you wish.”
“That is not what I meant.” She shifted closer to him, the tip of her long nose just touching the first row of curls on his wig. “How are we to be married? I…I cannot stay in France. Will you come with me to England?”
“No, I have my practice. I fear we must approach this problem plainly. Until either of us might join the other to cohabit, we shall live apart. It’s a simple solution, not ideal, but necessary. I will visit you in England as often as I can and perhaps you will come to me here in France. Do you find the arrangement satisfactory?”
“No,” Artemisia admitted, but then she lifted Maxime’s hand to her breast and pressed it fast against her. “But oh, see what a wretch I am! If it must be this way, then I shall weather the separation. Yes, Maxime, oh yes, I will marry you!”
The act of marriage itself was relatively simple. Maxime took full advantage of his position as a lawyer and had a colleague draw up the marriage certificate in haste and secrecy. He also made an appointment with a local notary and arranged to have the discreet ceremony performed in the town hall of a small village ten miles away from Beauxbatons.
Artemisia, for her part, had very little to do. She spent the day before her wedding alone, packing her effects and planning her return to England in two days. Ambassador Honorius had failed to retain his post in France and his replacement was set to arrive within a week. The hustle and bustle of their imminent departure kept Artemisia from worrying too much, even though she did torture herself over whether to write Tarquin or not.
Maxime had informed his sister Charlotte of his intended marriage, although he did not expect her to attend the ceremony. It was decided that they would keep their union quiet and avoid any unnecessary gossip.
Beauxbatons often bred salacious rumors, destroying reputations indiscriminately and Artemisia could guess what would be said of her. Whispers of pregnancy or indiscretion did not suit her in the least.
And so, feeling awfully guilty, she refrained from writing her brother or father and even lied to Honorius about her absence the day before their leave-taking. The poor man was too harassed to give her sojourn to the nearby village any deep thought.
On the morning of the twenty-second, Maxime hired a coach to take them from Beauxbatons. He insisted on using inconspicuous Muggle transportation and spent the ride discussing with her the finalities of their union.
Artemisia wished she could remain as calm as he, although she did notice that he kept his handkerchief out to dab the sweat from his brow.
They arrived at the village shortly after noon and were considerably delayed at the town hall while the officiator took his midday meal. By three o’clock, both bride and groom were pale and trembling.
Only when the ceremony started did Artemisia realize she was wearing the most dowdy black coat and breeches, fit perhaps for a pauper’s funeral.
Maxime wore his sky blue coat.
Vows were exchanged quickly, with a preciseness they both approved of. The officiator’s secretary stood in as a witness and afterwards, the notary passed them the certificates to sign.
In a matter a fifteen minutes, Artemisia became Madame de Rondelet.
Only after the documents were embellished with the crimson seal of the notary’s authority and the wedding pronounced complete did she think to cry.
On their way out of the town hall, her empty stomach dropped to her knees and she held on tightly to her husband’s arm in stifled silence. The air was light and kind, spiced with the balminess of late April and the gentle beckoning of an eager spring.
They both stood by the town well and stared at each other.
Artemisia, unable to help herself, posed the most obvious question.
“Well, what are we to do now?”
Maxime was busy slipping their certificates into a ledger. His gaze darted up to her, reaching over the rim of his slipping glasses.
“I’ve taken the liberty of securing us a room at the local inn for the night. I hope you don’t mind.”
“No.” She shifted her feet awkwardly. “I don’t feel like going back to Beauxbatons now.”
“So I thought.”
They ate a rustic dinner of lamb, soup and stale bread in the main room of the tavern. The innkeeper, upon hearing that they had just been married, rushed off to his own pantry and produced his best wine. He was a widower of forty with no children and only too happy to share in their cheer.
For dessert, they nibbled on dry fruit and cheese, quite different for the standard fare at the palace ten miles away.
They retired at nine up a narrow staircase to the largest room the innkeeper could spare. Maxime paused while opening the door.
“I believe there is some manner of tradition,” he said mildly and without warning, tried his best to lift Artemisia over the threshold.
He was, after all, a slight man, and their entrance in the room comprised of much frantic stumbling.
Artemisia wriggled herself free from his arms. “That’s quite all right, Maxime. You made a valiant effort. I’m very nearly taller than you, as is.”
Maxime flushed slightly. “Well, it is of no consequence.” He removed his jacket and laid it across the back of one of the straw-bottomed chairs.
Artemisia raised a brow. Perhaps matrimony had enlivened his appetite for intimacy?
He seemed to guess her thoughts and instead, pulled a small locket from out of his breast pocket.
“I have a gift for you,” he said. “It’s by my sister’s hand, so it isn’t very good…but perhaps it will keep you company in England when I cannot.”
Artemisia took the locket from him and opened it. Inside was a miniature of Maxime. The portrait, she guessed, was at least a few years old, as the sitter’s face was still freshened with adolescence.
She smiled through her tears. “Thank you, husband.”
And then she was embracing him and he her. Trembling arms pressed their bodies closer and need, not born from passion, but from the fear of separation, made them weep together.
After they had made love, Artemisia left Maxime dozing on the narrow bed in their room and went downstairs in naught but her shift. The innkeeper had fallen asleep at the table with his empty bottle of wine and only the dogs by the hearth stirred sleepily as she passed them by.
In the cool of the night, she stood in the doorway and watched a bent peddler cross the town square. From somewhere far off, evening birds twittered in their trees and a horse whinnied lowly.
Artemisia shut her eyes for a minute, shut them against the world that was spinning too fast and drowning her even now in restless waters.
“I could stay with him,” she said to herself. But when the words left her lips, she tasted the fallacy and heard her own hopeless lie.
Author’s Note: A shorter chapter, but I did not think there was any reason to draw out the fluff. ^_^ Hopefully it wasn’t too awkward. Like I said, I haven’t written romance in ages.
*sigh* Well, Artemisia and Maxime are married. Originally, when I first started writing this story, they were only supposed to be lovers for a short while, but I simply couldn’t resist making their relationship more permanent. After all, it should make the Reign of Terror much more interesting. ;)
In the next chapter, Artemisia will be back in England where she will receive a visit from her brother Tarquin. As always, I must extend my most heartfelt thanks to all my readers and reviewers. I love you guys! Chapter Eleven will be posted no later than the 27th. Take care!
Translation: l’amour de moi-my true beloved
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