That says "Eroica" (i.e. "Heroic"), not "Erotica." My sincerest apologies if I got your hopes up.


Marius Pontmercy possessed eight francs. Of the eighty he had after the sale of his watch and clothing, seventy had gone to his final rent at the Porte-Saint-Jacques hotel. That left ten. Of the ten francs, one had gone yesterday to the purchase of a pile of books needed to learn the English language, and one had just been turned over for a similar stack to study the German.

Marius made for the doors of the German bookseller and publisher, clutching to his chest the bundle tied with twine. It was a franc well spent, for these precious volumes would allow him to make his living. He would have to hurry, for his eight francs would not last long. After that, he would have to eat English and drink German.

He exited the shop, startled by the sudden sunlight after wandering the bookshelves inside. As he blinked, waiting for his surroundings to come into focus, a flash of bright hair caught his eye. He squinted to distinguish a handsome figure leaned against a nearby tree while reading a journal. Enjolras. The bell on the door tinkled as it closed and Enjolras glanced up, locking Marius in his ever-intense gaze. There was no surprise evident in his eyes at seeing Marius there. Marius touched the brim of his hat, hoping that would be the end of the encounter, but no, Enjolras was folding the journal and purposefully moving towards him. He was trapped, and the opportunity for an honorable retreat was long past.

"Good day, Pontmercy."

"Good day," he replied tonelessly, not slowing his pace.

"I did not know you spoke German."

"I do not, yet, but I will. Courfeyrac has told me where I may find work as a translator."

"What a curious coincidence, for I was hoping to ask you something concerning Germany, or at least a German. Pontmercy, what do you know of Beethoven?"

Marius stopped. This was not the sort of question he had been anticipating, and had not known Enjolras to care for music. "The composer? Very little, I fear." An expression of vague worry crossed his soft features. "Is that a problem?"

"Not as such. It's just that I think you should, if ever the opportunity arises, listen to his third symphony. The Eroica."

"Oh. It must be very nice, then."

Enjolras laughed, taking Marius by surprise. "You may have noticed that I am far too quick to call things sublime, but yes, it is very beautiful – one of the greatest works of one of the greatest composers of this or any age."

"Thank you, then. If that is all, I really must–"

"Ah, but wait: did you know that it was composed in honor of Bonaparte?"

Marius spun around with a little exclamation of delight. "Written for the Emperor, you say? Truly?"

"Have your attention now, do I? Yes, Beethoven was a great believer in the ideals of our Revolution and, as he wrote the Eroica in 1803, he saw Bonaparte as their ultimate defender."

"A wise German!" Marius exclaimed with pride, but was met with a wry smile.

"But then, when Napoleon declared himself the emperor in 1804, that same wise German, infuriated by this betrayal, tore up the dedication. He could only love Napoleon so long as he was a vehicle and not an oppressor of the people."

"I see. Beethoven was a prophet and I am an ass and we must all be free," Marius snapped, flaring his nostrils in indignation. "Monsieur, if you have come to gloat about a composer's political caprices over two decades ago, then I fear you are wasting both of our time."

"Pontmercy, do you really know so little of me?" Enjolras sighed. "Courfeyrac told me that you were disturbed by the other night. It was not our intention to offend. To correct, yes, but not to repel."

"What do you want of me then?"

"My point is only this: the Eroica was composed with a man I dislike in mind, but that does nothing to diminish its power in my estimation. No – it's not truly about Bonaparte. Beethoven wrote the piece in honor of the timeless ideal of the triumphant man of the people; he simply thought at the time that your dear Emperor was that man. Once Beethoven recognized his error, which could not have been easy for him, it was simply a matter of changing the name on the cover sheet of the score. The ideal still exists; it always will."

Marius simply bit his lower lip.

"We do not disdain your sentiments," Enjolras forged ahead. "We admire the force of your beliefs; don't be ashamed of them. Stay with us. We can help you come to terms with them and all their implications, if only you are willing to persevere a bit longer." He held out his hand. "You are so close. Come with us."

Marius curled his toes, feeling them scrape against the cobblestones through the thin soles of his shoes. No small part of him wanted to face down his own ignorance and timidity, to fling himself back into the Musain. He had no friends as a child, but just a few blocks away awaited a room full of brave and loyal young men who would laugh and dine with him as happily as they would die with him. No more loneliness, no more drifting from day to day, no more existential uncertainty, just purpose and unquestioning camaraderie in the warm embrace of Marianne.

"My mother is the Republic, then?" he asked, sounding rather more defeated than he had anticipated.

"Yes. Yes! So you're with us?"

"I…never knew my mother." Marius regretted the divulgence immediately, for he found himself trapped beneath a solemn smile that made him feel like an insect beneath a microscope.

"I'm sorry, Citizen, I truly am, but how much more joyful is the occasion, then, when you come to this family!"

"A family, you say?"

"Why, yes. Our brotherhood, of course."

Marius closed his eyes, so great was the longing that threatened to overcome him. After so many years alone, with no mother, with no… It was then that he remembered himself.

"I fear…I already have a family."

Enjolras' delicate brows furrowed. "Well, yes, as do I, but–"

"No. I have a father. He's dead, now, and that is good, almost. He was a sergeant made a baron for his services to the Emperor. I abandoned him in life, but will not betray him in death."

"What constitutes betrayal, in our age? Where does that spirit of greatness to which he was loyal lie today?"

"I don't know," Marius replied simply as he stepped backwards. "Only that I would not forget my father for a thousand new heroes. That is enough for me."

"Farewell, then?"

"I…I am afraid so. I am truly sorry. Perhaps in a different world, but in this one…" He shrugged helplessly and started to leave.

"But Marius! Do be sure to listen to the Eroica someday." Marius paused and nodded. "And when you do, be sure to note that the funeral march is only the second movement. Two follow it."

Marius was not entirely sure what Enjolras meant, but the words would echo in his mind for many years after.