All characters belong to JKR
A Kind and Generous Man
14, April 1813
He sat in the corner of her bedchamber and watched her as she slept. The only light came from a single candle by her bed, and the dying embers of the fire. His greatest fear was if the light ceased completely, her life might end as well, and it would all be his fault. It was an irrational fear, but it was his fear nonetheless.
Why was it that he was such a cad to her when he was himself, but when he was 'the cad,' the blackguard, the scoundrel, he was a kind and generous man? Why could he not tell her how he felt, and more importantly, why could she not love him as he was?
Chapter 1: 22, June, 1812
Every rut and pothole in the road made Hermione's teeth rattle and her bones ache. The barouche tilted sharply to the right, waking Gabby from her slumber. Hermione was not sure how the other girl could sleep, no matter how fine the carriage. The road was rough and rocky, the trip long and arduous, and Hermione found her company a bit tiresome. The younger girl's attitude was bright and happy, which Hermione found slightly annoying. Gabby smiled at Hermione and said, "Do not fear, sister dear, we shall reach our destination shortly." The pretty, blonde girl turned her head, and shut her eyes, and soon she was sleeping once again.
Hermione could not sleep if she tried. She also did not care if they soon reached their destination. She did not care if she ever set eyes on London again. London was no longer home. France was home now.
Her mother died during the Wizarding war. Her father was distraught and downtrodden until he met Madam DeLacour, who lost her husband during the same war. Bill Weasley, the brother of one of Hermione's closest friends, was married to one of Madam DeLacour's daughters, and he performed the introductions. Six months later the two were married, despite the fact that her father was a Muggle and Madam DeLacour was a witch, and Hermione and her father moved to France. Though Gabriella was her stepsister only, Hermione was still quite fond of the younger girl.
Since Muggle England and France were at war, Hermione's father decided it was time to move the family back to England. He took his new family to their country estate, where they spent only two months when her stepmother decided that the two girls needed to find husbands. She said that a season in London would do them a world of good, so she sent them to London to stay with Gabriella's sister Fleur, and her husband, Bill Weasley.
Thus the carriage ride that she now had to endure.
While packing for the trip, Hermione took as many books with her as she could, although her stepmother assured her that men did not like smart girls, only pretty girls who were accomplished in music, needlepoint, and entertaining. She told Hermione that she was far too pretty to read. Hermione wanted to laugh at the older woman, but she liked her, so she nodded, smiled, and packed her books anyway. One book in particular she never let out of her sight. It was a book her mother gave her, a book of fairytales, and she had inscribed the inside front cover. It was one of the few things she had of her mother's, and she held it dear, even if it did nothing to help her land a husband with five thousand a year.
The two girls packed their belongings, and were on their way to London so that they could be presented to society and have a proper season out. Nothing could be more repulsive to Hermione. She would be just as happy to find a position as a governess, or a teacher somewhere. When she stated her wishes to her father and stepmother, her stepmother told her she was too pretty to waste her time being smart.
At least familiar people would surround them. She took comfort in that. Her best friends from school lived in London: Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley. Harry had married Ron's sister Ginny, and Ron had married a lovely girl from school named Hannah Abbott. It seemed that everyone was being married, or at least engaged, except for Hermione. Her stepmother thought something was wrong with her. She constantly told Hermione's father that Hermione needed to stop reading, stop trying to be smart, and work on the things that were important: music, needlepoint, and husband hunting. Gabby, who at sixteen was four years Hermione's junior, was proficient in all of the above and a beautiful girl to boot. Hermione considered herself plain, and although she had only ever had one serious suitor, she never pictured herself married.
The carriage swayed once again, and Gabby's lady's maid, Marie, yelled out the window to the driver to slow down.
Gabby woke up again and said, "Is not my new brother's carriage fine?"
"Yes, it is very nice. It was nice of Bill to send it to collect us," Hermione remarked. Frankly, she would have been happy to have apparated, but Gabby was not yet qualified to do so, thus this horrible carriage ride.
"Did you know that Bill was given this carriage by the Minister of Magic himself, for services rendered during the Wizarding war?" Gabby asked.
"Yes, I know, you have mentioned it twice now," Hermione said, humouring the girl.
Gabby somehow closed her eyes again, and soon she was drifting back to sleep. Hermione reached under her seat for her book, her mother's book, and she began to read it. She had no sooner read the first chapter when the barouche came to such a sudden stop that Hermione, who was riding backwards, fell off her seat and hit her forehead on the seat in front of her. Gabby was helping Hermione back in her seat when they heard a shout from outside the carriage.
"Stop the carriage, and stand and deliver!"
"Oh, Merlin's sakes," Marie said. "It is a robber!"
Gabby began to cry. Hermione reached up to her forehead, felt blood, and then brought her hand back down to her side. She told Gabby, "It is alright, Gabby. Do not be afraid." Hermione reached in her reticule for her wand. She thought that the highwayman must be a Muggle, and he would be easy enough to disarm.
How wrong she was.
The door to the carriage opened and a man appeared, dressed all in black, with a mask covering the upper part of his face. Moreover, he had a wand in his hand. He said, "Exit the carriage. Your footman and driver have already been detained."
Hermione gave Gabby a slight nod of her head. The young girl exited the carriage first, followed by their maid. Hermione, who kept her wand in her hand, exited last. The robber held out his hand out for her. She thought he was mad. She wasn't about to take his hand.
She paused on the runner of the carriage, and said, "I do not require a hand down, sir, especially from the likes of you."
He chuckled and said, "I would merely like you to give me your wand, Miss."
She almost protested, but she thought of the danger that might be incurred to the others if she and the highwayman dueled, so she handed him her wand. He pocketed her wand and then he went into the carriage.
Hermione quickly looked around. There were three men total, counting the one in the carriage. One man stood over the driver and footman, and one man was guarding over the other two women. A moment later, the first robber exited the carriage, and he said to Hermione, "Did you think me a Muggle, Madam? Did you think to disarm me?"
"If the others were not in danger, I might have tried to disarm you, even knowing you were a wizard," she answered.
He smiled. His mouth the only facial feature she could see. "I have no doubt of your abilities, my sweet lady. You undoubtedly would have bested me, even on your worst day, so it is a good thing you thought of your companions."
"What do you want from us? We are only traveling with our clothing and personal belongings. We have no jewels, or money." She looked over at Gabby and Marie, who were now bound, and standing off to the side. She said, "You can see, we are three defenseless women, who travel with only one footman and a driver for protection."
He laughed, a hearty, deep laugh and said, "Something tells me you are not defenseless, my lady." He looked over at the other two blackguards and said, "Take the other two women over to the men, and watch them closely." Then he said to Hermione, "You, madam, will come with me."
"I will go nowhere with you," she claimed.
"My lady, you will come willingly, or under duress, it is completely your choice."
He pointed toward the back of the carriage with his head. Hermione walked toward him, and then in front of him, until they reached the backside of the carriage, away from prying eyes.
He took out a black handkerchief, and held it out to her. She looked confused.
"For your forehead. I apologize that you were injured when we forced the barouche to stop," he explained. He moved his hand slightly, anxious for her to take it. She did not. She stood firm.
He sighed in exasperation and stepped closer. Hermione backed into the carriage, with nowhere else to go. He reached up, which shocked her, and he dapped at the blood on her forehead, and when he was certain it had stopped bleeding, he stuffed the soiled cloth back in his pocket.
Hermione took a deep breath as he stood in front of her. His eyes were still on her forehead, but they moved quickly down to her eyes. They stared at each other for many moments. Her chest felt tight, and her neck hot. He reached up for her hair, which made her back up more, but with no place to go, she could only stand upright and rigid against the carriage.
"Sir?" she said.
"Hush," was his reply. He touched a springing curl that hung down from her less than perfect coiffure, and he uttered, "So soft."
"What do you want?" Hermione asked, though the words barely escaped.
"The carriage," he said curtly, removing his hand from her hair and backing away from her slightly.
"Why?" she asked.
He smiled a wicked smile and said, "Has anyone ever told you that you ask too many questions, my sweet? I want to steal this coach and that is what I shall do."
"Then how shall we travel?"
"Apparate," he said curtly.
"That would be fine for me, if I had my wand, which you have stolen, but my stepsister has never apparated, and her lady's maid is a squib. I shall not abandon them," she explained.
"I am not sure how this is my problem. I am hardly a man of conscience, hence the black mask, and the fact that I am stealing your coach," he said with a smile.
He motioned for Hermione to go back around to the other side of the carriage. When she reached the side with the others, she noticed that Gabby and Marie were crying. She also noticed that one of the other masked men had already begun to throw their things out of the carriage, onto the ground.
She whipped around to the first man and said, "I demand that you let us remove our own things!"
"Demand all you want, Miss, however, I shall not be obliged to listen," he said back. "Are you afraid we might soil your pretty frocks and fancy baubles?"
"I care not for dresses and things," she said, "but they are throwing my books to the ground!" Hermione turned back to their things, sprawled on the ground, and saw the book of fairytales, given to her by her mother, on the ground, on top of the mess of trunks and things. She bent down to pick it up, when the man on top of the coach pointed his wand at her and yelled, "Stupefy."
Hermione fell backwards on the ground. The first highwayman seemed upset. He immediately sent a hex to the man unloading the trunks. The man fell all the way to the ground. The third man ran over to the second, to help him to stand.
The highwayman walked up to Hermione and looked down upon her. She had a large tear to the sleeve of her gown, and she was holding her arm, where the curse had grazed her skin.
He offered her his hand. She slapped it away. He sighed and picked up the book she was after. "Fairytales?" he asked. "Somehow I thought you might be reading Shakespeare, or Voltaire, or the like. Isn't this a bit beneath you?"
"It was my mother's book," she said, still sitting on the ground.
The masked man placed the book inside his robe, and offered her his hand once more. This time, she took it. He lifted her, easily, and even though he wore gloves, he somehow knew that her skin felt soft and warm. Once she was standing, he kept her hand in his for a few seconds too long. She wrenched her hand from his and looked down at the ground.
"My book, please," she said, her hand out. She kept her face down; because she knew that she was blushing. She felt a strange tingling when he held her hand.
"Yes, we all want what belongs to us, do we not? It does not feel good when someone else claims your belongings as their own, does it?" he said, suddenly angry.
"Take the carriage, but please, give me my book," she said, now staring him fully in the eyes.
"Hermione, please!" Gabby said from the side.
He took the book out of his robe and held it out in front of him. She tried to grab it, but he held it above his head. She said, "So this is how men treat women in London? They hex them, steal from them, and then leave them for rot? You are a coward of the worst degree, sir."
Suddenly, Hermione could see that the man was angry, even though she could only see his mouth. It was in a firm line. He placed the book back in his robe and he grabbed her arm. He pulled her to the other side of the carriage once more, so no one could see. He put his hand on her neck, and her pulse was quick. He pushed her against the side of the carriage.
He said, "Do not ever judge me, or set me in the lot of other men, Madam. You know nothing of my character. I am no coward, of that you can be certain."
"While it is true that I do not know you, I do not wish to do so," she said, putting both her hands around his wrist, while it still held her neck, "You have not exactly shown us your benevolent side, have you?"
"I was going to leave your things, but perhaps I should just burn the lot!" he proclaimed. He stepped closer, so that his chest pressed against hers. He felt each heave of her bosom. He felt her fear. He felt her anger. He felt her. Moreover, for the first time in so many years, he felt guilt, which was one feeling he had never wanted to feel again. It was funny how this one woman had caused him to feel this same unpleasant emotion twice in his life, and neither time was she even aware of the fact.
"Forgive me for not thanking you for leaving us without means of transportation, still a great distance from London, with night close upon us, and our things scattered about us. Forgive me if I have not acted accordingly. I do not know the proper etiquette for the way I should act upon being robbed!" she huffed.
He laughed. He could not help it. He was angry one second, but now she made him laugh again. He loosened his hold and said, "Good luck getting to London carrying your things on your back. I shall keep your book as a memento of this auspicious occasion."
"You are a cad!" she yelped.
"I have been called much worse, my sweet girl. Much, much worse." Then he let go of her neck, but he brushed his gloved hand across her cheek. "May I offer you some advice?"
She merely snorted.
"You shall never find a husband with your nose in books, and you are much too pretty to never grace a man's arm as his wife."
"Who are you, my stepmother?" she asked.
He laughed again. "I truly wish I could stay and trade barbs with you all day, but as you said, night approaches, so I must take care of this carriage, and then get away from here before we are discovered."
"Do you really mean to leave us stranded here?" she asked as he started to walk to the other side.
"See, if you had a husband, he would be looking for you now," he said.
"Only pretty girls require husbands," she said.
He wondered something. Did she not see herself as she was? He thought she was beautiful, but then again, he always had. He reached for her, but she shied away from his touch. He knew it was inappropriate, the way he kept reaching for her, touching her, but he could hardly help himself. He kept his hand to his side this time, and said softly, "I agree with that sentiment, and I assure you, a pretty girl is something no one would call you."
She took a deep breath and said, "If you mean to offend me, you have not wounded me in the least. I am well aware that I am not a beauty."
"Ah," he drawled, "you see, that is where we disagree once more. You are not a pretty girl, as I stated, but one of rare beauty and delight; a woman with brains, bravery, and beauty. You are more than any man deserves, and more than any man could hope or desire."
"You're a cad," she said again, less than convincingly this time. "Do not say cruel things to me."
"My dear, sweet, girl," he said, leaning toward her. He could no longer resist touching her. His hand went from her shoulder, down her arm, to her hand. He brought her hand up to his mouth, and he kissed her knuckles. "Has no one ever said these things to you?"
She mustered all her courage and placed her hands on his chest, and pushed him away, though he barely moved. "You are the worst sort of cad. You are a liar," she said.
"Call me all the names you wish," he said, backing away from her. "But never call me a coward, as you did before. I will not abide that one. However, I am neither a cad, nor a liar. I think you owe me an apology."
She said, "You have shown me nothing of your character to suggest otherwise, nor to dispute my claims, now, I shall ask once more, may I please have my book?"
He merely shook his head. He wanted to keep her book, because it would give him an excuse to see her again.
The second highwayman came around the side of the carriage and said, "We really must move on, old man. The young French girl said that her brother-in-law is expecting them shortly and will soon send out someone to search for them.
The first man looked at Hermione and said, "See, you shall not be abandoned after all. More's the pity." The second man left the side of the carriage and the first man said, "I have a proposition. Your book for a kiss."
She turned her head to the side, bit her bottom lip, and defiantly said, "I would rather kiss a toad." However, an indignant tear, which was betraying her insolent façade, escaped her eye and traveled down her cheek. He reached for the errant tear, capturing it on the tip of his gloved-covered finger.
He took a deep breath and said, "Forgive me, Miss. I did indeed forget my manners. You are a lady, and as you stated, I am a cad. It was wrong of me to suggest that, but I did it as a lark. Please, do not cry." She turned back to face him.
He turned from her, climbed upon the coach, and then he looked back down at her, held out her book and said, "Believe me, it will be in good hands. I shall not destroy it."
"Do as your conscience tells you to do, sir," she said.
He smiled and said, "Do not fear, I shall. I always do what my conscience tells me to do; it is just that sometimes, my conscience is a right, bloody fool."
The third rogue took Hermione's arm and pulled her back to stand with the others. The first man unhooked the horses from the carriage, and yelled at them so they would run away. Then he jumped down and with his wand, he set the whole thing ablaze.
"You are destroying it!" Hermione gasped.
He turned back to her and said, "That was always my intent. That was my purpose." He reached for her book for the last time and said, "Shall I?" He held it over the fire.
She looked away. He tucked it back into his robe, and said to the others, "It is time we take our leave." He walked in front of Hermione, touched her chin, and said, "And I shall be seeing you again, my sweet."