Cosette opened her mouth to speak, but didn't say anything. She narrowed her eyes and cocked her head, as though not believing what she had heard.
"Wait," she said, holding up a hand. "You mean some man I have never met is going to take me away? I'm going to have to go away with someone I don't even know?"
"No," Valjean said sternly. "You aren't going anywhere."
"What does he even want that he didn't want when I was a baby? Honestly- this is ridiculous- don't let him take me away," she said, reaching for Marius' hand. She did not even understand the magnitude of what going away with this man would mean, but she knew it was bad.
"I almost lost you before, it's not happening again," Marius said quietly. "But what are we to do?"
"Let's get out of here, first," Valjean said, and they packed up the rest of his things quickly and left.
"We could elope," Marius mused in the carriage ride to the Marais.
"Like hell you're going to elope," Valjean growled at him, but softly, so Cosette couldn't hear his gruff language.
"He couldn't touch her then," Marius pointed out.
"It's against the church."
"We'll get married in a church," Marius pressed. "Just one far away that will do it quickly."
"I said no!"
"I promise we'll think of something," Valjean said, for all of their benefits. "But not that."
An hour later, they were in Valjean's new room, this time unpacking, and this time not happy.
"What if we hid her?" Marius suggested.
"At a friend of my grandfather's. We'll stay here, she'll be safe, he won't find her."
"But what will we tell them? No one can know the truth."
"I'm still here," Cosette piped up. "If you want to include me in this conversation, that would be nice. Otherwise talk somewhere else, if you're content to leave me out of everything." She pouted. "I have no idea what's going on, and I'm frightened."
"Darling, you have no reason to be," Marius said tenderly. "Everything will be fine."
"Marius!" came a gruff voice from the hall.
"I'm in here!" he called, and his grandfather came into the room, his ancient eyes wide.
"You two! It's time to leave!"
"Leave?" Marius asked, distracted.
"Oh, my!" Cosette said, a hand flying to her mouth. "How could we forget? We have a meeting with a priest about our vows today- what time is it?"
"Two-thirty. Our meeting is at three. Are you ready?"
"No!" Cosette cried, and ran from the room. The intensity of the meeting dispersed as Marius, his grandfather, Cosette and Valjean ran about, tying ties, changing shirts, putting on hats, finding files and legal documents, pinning up hair, donning hats, and pulling gloves over their hands.
"Let's go," Marius said five minutes later, breathing heavy.
They arrived at the church, but didn't go to the chapel. Instead they all were put into an office, where Marius and Cosette had some documents to sign and discuss the finalities of the ceremony next week.
"And you'll be coming here directly from the courthouse, is that correct?"
"Yes," Marius said. It was necessary to marry legally as well as in the church. Their religious ceremony, the main one with all their guests, was immediately following the legal ceremony.
"Right," the priest said. "The marriage deeds will be ready next Monday, with the wedding Tuesday. The rehearsal will be Monday afternoon. I believe everything is in order."
Cosette gasped, and her eyes grew wide. Everyone looked at her.
"Are you alright?" Valjean asked.
"I'm fine," she said, but still looked very far away. Once the meeting was over, she rushed everyone back into the carriage.
"Why don't we go out to dinner?" Grandfather said.
"Oh, I would just love to," she said, and yawned prettily. "But I'm exhausted."
It was enough to melt the old man's heart. He smiled indulgently at her. "Well, we'll just go home then, dear."
She exchanged meaningful glances with her father and Marius, and as soon as they returned home, she ushered them into the dining room, which was empty.
"I know what we can do!" she said excitedly. "Please, tell me if this will work. I don't know all the rules about laws and papers, but from what I've observed about the legal part of marriage, this should work."
"What is it?"
"Well, remember back in October when we were setting the date for the wedding? We were going have it back in the first week of February, but we couldn't because the church was not available and the church's papers couldn't be drawn up by then. But the papers from the government, well, we signed them a few weeks ago. Everything is ready, under the law."
"And?" Valjean asked, but Marius already seemed to know where she was going.
"We marry tomorrow morning, at the courthouse," he finished. "Is that your idea?"
"Yes!" she said. "Isn't that brilliant?"
"It's perfect," he said. "There's no reason for that not to work, either- we marry in the church next week, as planned. Everything else stays the same, except technically we'll be married and he can't get to you. How did I not think of that?"
"Because I did," she said smugly.
"I think that's the perfect solution," Marius said, appraising. "What do you say, Monsieur?"
"I suppose it will have to work," he said stiffly. "But your grandfather must agree, as her secondary guardian. He must not know why."
"I'll tell him," Marius said. "There's no reason for him to object."
It was decided. They would wake up early and move to the courthouse, where they would be married before noon. If everything went according to plan, Cosette would be safe.
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