A/N: This story was written for a challenge to write a story that embodies one of the tropes so commonly found in romance novels. It is, therefore, highly AU, full of heaving bosoms and bodice ripping, and somewhat lacking in any level of historical accuracy (but I promise not ridiculously so). So enjoy! HUGE thanks goes out to krazyredhead0317 for being the most darling beta ever and TycheSong for being a rockstar of an alpha for this story!
Disclaimer: As per usual, none of the things you may recognize from the Potter universe belong to me, I'm just playing with them.
Hermione Granger walked quickly along the pathway, eager for the ocean breezes that could offer respite from the stifling June heat. The summer air had reached the level of unbearably uncomfortable some three weeks earlier and showed no signs of abating.
All the windows in the manor house in which Hermione resided had been thrown open to encourage a breeze, but that had been the only concession made by the household to the sweltering heat. Lady Augusta Longbottom, the dowager whom employed Hermione as a lady's companion, was a dear woman but rather old-fashioned and would not tolerate such frivolities as shedding their heavy panniers in her home.
Thus it had served as a great source of relief for Hermione when the pressing warmth of the day encouraged the elderly lady to retire to her rooms for a rest instead of pursuing her usual activities. The lady's rest in turn offered several hours of respite for Hermione, hours she intended to use to their fullest enjoying the cooler climes of the oceanfront and the novel she had purchased from the newest bookseller in Ipswich.
It wasn't long before the white, sandy beach came into view over the crest of a small hill, the gentle slope a welcome change from the steep cliffs Hermione had known as a child in Kent. A pang entered her chest as memories of a cheerful childhood spent with parents she would never again see flitted through her mind. It had been sheer happenstance that she had been away at school in Scotland when the Lord Mayor of Dover had died under her father's care.
He had been a brilliant doctor, and her mother an excellent assistant, but accidents were still known to occur. This accident, however, had resulted in her dear father being accused of manslaughter and her mother of aiding the crime and the both of them had been sentenced to exile in the farthest reaches of the British Empire, Australia. If not for the education her parents had insisted she receive, Hermione likely would have been at home as was proper of a young lady and been banished along with them.
At times she wished she had been, but those thoughts were always accompanied by a wash of guilt. Her parents had loved her dearly, they would be proud to see how far she had brought herself without the aid of a man, something her unconventional parents had always advised.
Shaking away the morose thoughts, Hermione took an appreciative sniff of the salty air to clear her head before shedding her slippers and her stockings and burying her toes in the warm sand. With a sigh of deep contentment, she sank to the ground, opened her book, and immersed herself in a world entirely foreign to her own.
Nearly an hour had passed as nearest she could estimate before Hermione was roused from her story, though it was not by choice. The sun had climbed higher in the sky and despite her missing panniers and only a lone petticoat; the breeze was not enough to keep sweat from dripping down her neck.
Wiping a bead of sweat from her brow, she cast a longing glance at the waves crashing against the sand, dreaming of years gone by when she had spent much of her summers playing in the waves. The wonderfully cool, utterly delightful waves. But it wasn't appropriate for a lady to enjoy the sea outside the appropriate venue, the possibility was far too great that a man might see too much of a trim figure or the turn of an ankle. But the idea was oh-so-tempting…
She stared, almost as if she were hypnotized at the waves crashing over and over again against the shore and then shifted her eyes to a considering examination of her surroundings. The beach was sheltered by the deep curve of a cove and located in the middle of the estate attached to Gryffindor Hall, where it was certain no one would dare to trespass. The beach was shielded from the view of the rest of the estate by a hill and all in all truly was a delightfully private spot to pass the time.
Upon gathering these observations, the woman on said beach made a rather rash decision, something she was not usually wont to do. She unbuttoned as many of the buttons down the back of her gown as she could reach and slipped it from her shoulders, allowing it to pool at her feet, her petticoat and her corset soon to join it. She stepped from the billow of clothing and arranged it as neatly as she could before removing the cap shielding her from the sun and laying it atop the pile.
Left standing only in her shift and feeling suddenly exposed, Hermione rushed for the relative safety of the water, letting out a small shriek at the sudden shock of the cool water and then sinking nearly up to her neck in relief. She paddled about for a time and then turned to float on her back, enjoying the paradox of the warm sun above her and the cool water beneath. She couldn't say how long she floated like that, lulled by the rocking of the waves into a state near sleep, but she was suddenly returned to awareness by the distant sound of a shout.
She bolted upright, quickly scanning the shore for any sign that she was going to be discovered in her current state of dishabille but saw no one. It wasn't until an answering shout sounded, this one seeming even closer, that she turned to take in the scene behind her. Where there had been none before, the masts of a ship now towered at the entrance to the cove. Hermione blinked once, then twice, wondering if she were dreaming, but the image stayed, and her eyes focused further.
There, at the base of the ship, bobbed a smaller boat, the kind she had seen sailors use to come ashore in town. There were two men in the boat and they were undoubtedly rowing in her direction. Hermione wasn't certain exactly as to why there was a strange ship making every appearance of intending to come ashore on Longbottom land, but she most definitely was not going to allow them to spot her practically in her all-together. Nor, however, was she simply going to leave and allow them to continue on with their nefarious business unimpeded.
Instead, she swam quickly for shore as inconspicuously as she could, dashing for her clothes and dragging them behind the nearest dune as quickly as she could. She crouched there, frozen and watching with bated breath as they rowed closer and closer, until the boat landed with a dull thud against the sand. The two rough-looking men clambered from the boat, near enough now that she could hear their conversation.
"Yer sure no one's ever here?" The short, rotund one asked. "I coulda sworn I saw someone scampering 'cross the beach."
His companion, whose long, skinny face and hooked nose reminded her of a looming vulture, scowled. "Don't be a dunderhead, there's no one for miles. The captain wants to unload here, we'll be unloading here. Get to it."
Hermione's eyes widened as the stout man frowned, muttering something unintelligible beneath his breath as he turned back to the boat and hoisted a large crate out. Hermione's eyes widened with a silent gasp as she made out the words printed on the side. East India Company. The men still bickering amongst themselves on the beach were most certainly not agents of that estimable trade, which could only mean one thing.
Pirates. Pirates had made landfall at Gryffindor Hall!
No sooner had Hermione come to this realization than her mind started to race, frantically searching for a way to escape without notice and warn the authorities. She had only just decided that her most probably option was to simply wait for them to turn their backs and become occupied with their cargo before making a break for it. Neither of the men looked as if they were terribly fit runners, so she surmised she might have a chance.
Suddenly, before she could even think of moving, a large gust of wind blew up, and Hermione watched in horror as her mob cap flipped up off the pile of clothing and tumbled end over end over the dune and straight into the line of vision of the men. Her desperate lunge to grab the offending item was futile and she knew the moment the men recognized her error, as one of them let out a shout.
Without heed for subtlety, as that effort would now be wasted, Hermione bolted to her feet and broke into a run up the hill. She heard the pounding of footsteps behind her, but it was obvious they were slower and wouldn't catch her.
"Stop, you little bitch!" One of the men called out, only inciting her to hasten faster. "Stop or I'll shoot!"
Hermione stopped abruptly, nearly stumbling to the ground. Mentally castigating herself for being so stupid, of course pirates would have guns, Hermione slowly raised her hands in a gesture of peace, praying they wouldn't pull the trigger simply out of spite.
"Get yer arse back down here," growled the short man, though he wasn't the one who brandished a large blunderbuss in her direction.
Hermione shuffled her feet down the sandy slope as slowly as she could manage, her mind racing frantically to formulate a plan for escape while trying to fight back the overwhelming tide of fear that threatened to swamp her at any moment. She drew in a deep breath as she drew closer, struggling to keep calm in the face of the muzzle staring unwaveringly in her direction. She was drawing to a stop just outside of arm's reach of the men when one of them lunged.
She let out a squeak that was a mixture of fear and pain when the taller man snatched her arm, twisting it behind her back and jamming the gun uncomfortably between her shoulder blades. She whimpered, the fear suddenly taking over as the man she could still see sneered coldly.
"What're you doing here," he demanded. "Did ya think ye were going to ruin all the captain's fine plans and just go on yer merry way to let the whole county know?"
"I…I didn't—" Hermione started to try to explain, hating the way her voice quavered when the tall man's grip tightened, almost certainly leaving bruises on her pale skin." I didn't mean to—"
"Shut up," the man holding her snapped. "She's already seen too much, Wormtail, you know what has to be done."
As if to emphasize his words, he jammed the gun harder against her back, sending a lance of pain through her being, accompanied by crushing fear. She was going to die, going to die alone on a beach and no one would ever know what happened to her. Poor Lady Longbottom would be so worried and no one else would remember to feed the kittens in the stables…
The round man, Wormtail's face fell, his expression crestfallen as he mourned, "But look at the tart, I was hoping we might have some fun with the lovely little strumpet 'fore we get rid of her."
Hermione bristled at that and his accompanying leer despite her current circumstances and in the same moment an idea came to her. Infusing as much effrontery as she could into her voice and adopting her best imitation of a haughty stare, she spat, "Excuse me, sir. I am by no means a strumpet, a trollop, or any other vile thing you should wish to name me. I am a lady, a peer, and you should address me as such. My name is Lady Hermione Longbottom, and you will use it. And if you do not free me immediately, the wrath of the very Crown will land upon you!"
The man holding her captive snorted in disbelief but the other's expression grew dubious.
"I dunno, what if she's right…I don't want to hang for a stupid bint."
Her captor snarled, pushing her away but keeping a tight hold on her arm and placing the gun to her temple. "If you're too spineless to take care of it, Wormtail, I will."
Hermione's entire body trembled violently, but she refused to make a sound. She was going to die, of that much she was certain, but she was going to be brave, she wasn't going to plead or cry. The click of a safety being drawn back echoed terrifyingly close to her ear and she tensed, clenching her eyes shut and praying that it would at least be quick and painless.
Instead, however, of the loud, echoing shot she expected, she heard another voice, this one unfamiliar and commanding, demanding, "Stop, you idiots! Didn't anyone ever teach you to heed the words of a lady?"
Hermione's eyes flicked open in surprise as she felt the gun pull from her temple and her gaze landed on her savior who stood only feet away. He strode toward her, his long legs swallowing the space between them in a few strides and bowed before her with a gallant sweep.
"My apologies, my lady. I'm afraid these louts have no manners, but they are decent labor. Please, Severus, release the lady."
The tall man sputtered, indignation lacing his tone as he asked, "Captain, surely you can't believe this woman—"
"Release her, Severus, and then leave us, both of you." The tall blond man's tone was pleasant enough but the expression in his cloudy grey eyes was anything but.
The shorter man scurried away without protest but the tall man took his time, staring boldly into his captain's face as he released his hold on Hermione, not walking away until the captain's features had hardened into a dark, unmoving mask. He continued to stare after the man as he made his way to one of the now two boats moored on the beach and Hermione wasn't entirely sure he remembered her presence.
She was at first tempted to run, but as that had nearly ended badly the first time she had tried it, she wasn't willing to try her luck again. Instead, she cleared her throat, as politely as she could manage of course, and drew his attention back to her.
"I'm sorry, sir," she rushed, "but I was wondering if you might…if you might be willing to let me go. I swear I won't tell anyone, no one would believe me anyhow and—"
Her voice trailed away as a smirk spread across his handsome face and one silvery blond brow arched.
"I'm afraid that won't be possible, my dear. You will be coming with us, and you won't put up a fuss, because if you do I shall have no trouble with tossing you back to Wormtail and his group of miscreants."
Hermione blanched and he continued. "And in your current state of dress, I can't imagine you would last long."
Her ashen skin flooded with the red of embarrassment as she allowed herself a quick glance downward and realized exactly how exposed she was to the world. The captain's smirk widened as he slowly let his eyes drift down her body and then back to her maroon face.
"If you would please, madam," he practically purred as he gestured to the remaining boat.
Hermione frowned, wanting to argue but unsure whether or not this deceptively charming man would tolerate such a thing.
"May I at least get my clothes first, please? Before you insist on kidnapping me?" She slapped a hand over her mouth, her eyes wide with shock at the impertinence of her statement and fearful of his reaction.
His eyes narrowed slightly, flicking to the mob cap that still lay on the ground and then back to survey her person.
"No," he finally stated, his tone decisive and tinged with barely discernible laughter. "No, I don't think you may. Into the boat, Lady Longbottom."
Hermione glared at the spiteful, horrible man and turned with as much dignity as she could muster, flouncing toward the boat. He followed her and offered a hand to help her step into the boat, a hand that she promptly ignored, much preferring to clamber into the boat on her own to accepting help from the odious pirate. Hermione sat primly with her back to the captain and the short ride back to the ship passed in total silence, though she thought she might have heard the occasional chuckle emanating from his person.
Before long the ship was looming above them and Hermione was staring in disbelief at her captor who was holding a rickety rope ladder and insisting she climb it.
"No!" She insisted. "I couldn't possibly do that, you would see–"
She flushed and pressed her lips shut in lieu of explaining exactly what he would see should her shift be flapping in the wind above him. She wanted to slap the smirk from his face, would have had he been any other than a looting, kidnapping pirate.
Much to her surprise however, he nodded instead of making a lewd comment and said, "Very well, I'll go first then. But mark my words, if you try to run, you will be caught, and Wormtail will be waiting." With that, he turned and scampered up the ladder like a monkey she had seen at a fair in Ipswich once.
She gulped and took a deep, steadying breath as she took in the ladder and the men lining the ship's rail waiting for her at the top. It really was just so very tall. She had never enjoyed heights; life was much safer nearer to the ground. Taking a deep breath for fortification and steeling her shoulders determinedly, she placed one foot on the first rung and began to climb.
What seemed like ages later, she reached the railing of the ship and this time accepted the offer of a hand from the captain, not trusting her trembling limbs.
"Welcome, Lady Longbottom, to the finest ship in English seas, the Death Eater."
The men surrounding them let out a cheer at this statement, all seemingly proud of the surprisingly well-kept ship. The captain flashed a fleeting proud smile before grasping Hermione's elbow and starting to tug her through the crowd. To her surprise, the crowd of sailors parted as peons before a king, each of them making certain not to touch her, not even to brush against her. She was puzzled by their unexpected courtesy until she overheard some of the murmurs rippling through the group.
"Bad luck, that one."
"Nothing good 'bout a woman on a ship."
"Captain's lost his mind, bringing a doxy about."
And then something far more alarming than any of the previous comments.
"Lucius, I need to speak with you when you have a moment."
Hermione stumbled slightly as she absorbed this new information and she was relieved when, a moment later, the captain tugged her through a door and into a dimly lit, stuffy stairwell. Before he could go any further, she pulled to a sudden halt, forcing him to either stop as well or release her. When he turned to face her with a questioning brow he was met by an expression that was equal parts fear and rage.
"You're him!" Hermione burst.
A flicker of amusement crossed the captain's face as he asked, "I am who, my lady?"
"Lucius the Fearsome! The pirate who has been terrorizing the English Coast!" She had also heard whispers among the barmaids naming him as Lucius the Luscious, but she neglected to inform him of that, no matter how true it might possibly be. He offered her a wide grin and a half-bow at her revelation.
"Ah, you've heard of me, too kind of you to notice, my lady."
"But, but you're English! How could you harm your own people?"
A haughty look masked his face as he replied, "I assure you, Lady Longbottom, the money of the English is just as useful as that of the Continentals. Now I suggest you leave off your inane observations and come with me or I shall simply leave you here."
Taken aback by his sudden brusqueness but unwilling to be discovered alone and only barely dressed by another member of the crew, Hermione hurried after the man as he set off, his wide shoulders nearly filling the space of the hallway. They soon reached another door, this one, Hermione was surprised to note, possessed a brass knob and lock, the first she had seen on the ship.
Producing a key from the deep pocket of the coat he wore despite the heat, he unlocked the door and gestured for her to enter. She hesitated for a moment before doing so and then turned around, bewildered when she realized he wasn't following her into the room. Instead, he stood propped against the doorframe, a derisive expression on his face.
"You, my dear little tart, are most certainly not a Longbottom. Feel free to think about it and then you can try to answer again. And I would suggest you not lie to me again."
With that, he pulled the door shut and the distinctive click of the lock echoed through the room.