A/N: I'm terribly, terribly sorry for the wait on this. But now we're here to rejoin our fearless heroine and a dashing pirate on their adventure! So much thanks to my awesome beta krazyredhead0317 and my alpha TycheSong, who also happened to coin the name for this chapter. And now, without further ado, enjoy!
Disclaimer: As always, I'm just playing with J.K.'s characters, I make no profit from this work
Hermione stared agape at the solidly shut door for a moment before she rushed to wiggle the heavy brass doorknob; an effort she knew was futile before she even tried. The sound of the lock had been undeniable and the door was impressively solid. Despite that, she rattled the door for several long moments in hopes that she might make an escape before resigning herself to spending quite some time in the room.
It would be hours before was missed at Gryffindor Hall, she hadn't even told her maid she was leaving before slipping away to the beach. And honestly, even if her absence was noticed, it's not as if anyone would know where to begin to search. She was well and truly stuck. That being decided and the logical side of her mind prevailing, she stepped back to survey the surroundings into which she had been thrust.
She had never been on a ship before, but none of the books she had read had ever hinted that this was what to be expected in a ship cabin. A large bed was pushed against one wall, the emerald green coverlet a bright burst of color in the dim room and a desk stood neatly on the other wall, not a paper out of place. There was even a stove in the corner and what looked to be a comfortably plush armchair nearby.
But what really caught Hermione's attention, distracting her entirely from the rest of the room, was the third wall. From one corner to the other, reaching from the floor nearly to the ceiling, were bookshelves, filled with rows and rows of books. Like a moth drawn to a flame, she drifted across the room to trail her fingers over the leather bindings, her eyes eagerly scanning the titles. It was an astounding collection of fiction, everything from Defoe to Goethe to authors she had never even heard of.
With a cry of delight, her hand landed on a copy of the same book she had been engaged in earlier in the day, Voltaire's Candide. She snatched it off the shelf without care for the whims of the owner and settled into the armchair, cracking open the tome and resuming where she had left off earlier.
"Are you out of your bleeding mind?"
Lucius sighed, taking a deep, calming breath of the sea wind whipping about him as the strident voice of his first mate broke through the relative quiet of the ship. He turned to see the dark man stomping across the deck toward him, a scowl twisting his hawkish features.
"It's been suggested," he replied, his tone deceptively mild. "But I'm afraid you're going to have to be more clear in regards to the source of my insanity." Not that there was any doubt in his mind as to why his entire crew was avoiding him as if he were spreading the clap, but the man's explanation was likely to be entertaining nonetheless.
"You know what I mean," the sallow man hissed. "If you're found out, do you know what they'll do? She's a lady and her family—"
"Not to fear, Severus, she's almost certainly not who she claims to be." Lucius interrupted with a dismissive wave of his hand. "She won't be missed until it's far too late, I assure you. If no one misses her, she won't be able to point any fingers and we'll simply leave her where we next make port. If she happens to serve an additional purpose while on board, well then all the better."
These last words were spoken with a rakish gleam in the captain's grey eyes, drawing a disapproving look from his second in command.
"May I remind you, Sir, you also have legitimate responsibilities that will draw questions if neglected too long? It would not do to dawdle for any…purpose the woman may serve."
It was all Lucius could do to keep from rolling his eyes at the dramatics of his friend, refraining only because it wouldn't do for the crew to see such an action from their captain. He had a reputation to maintain, after all.
Instead, he allowed his features to fall into an impenetrable mask, his voice cool as he inquired, "Surely you're not questioning my plans, Severus? After all these years? Do you honestly believe I would allow a plain little strumpet interfere with all of our hard work? Everything will come to fruition without a flaw, you'll see."
Before the other man could reply, Lucius spun on one booted heel and strode away, unwilling to allow the other man to see the flicker of doubt in his eye.
So involved in her book was she that Hermione never noticed when a key turned in the lock and the door swung open. It was not until a decanter clinked against a glass that Hermione even realized there was another person in the room serving as her prison. She looked up with a gasp, spotting the captain standing by the desk and snapped the book shut, hiding it between her leg and the side of the chair like a wayward child might with a stolen sweet. He offered a laconic smile as she jumped, gently swirling a finger of whiskey in a cut crystal glass.
"So nice to see you've made yourself at home, my dear," he drawled. Hermione stiffened, quickly placing her feet back on the floor, standing, and doing her best to smooth her appearance. He snorted at her efforts and took a slow sip of his drink before turning his back on her and shuffling about a set of papers on the desk.
Hermione stood silently, waiting for him to do or say something that would give her some idea of her fate. When minutes passed and the man remained occupied with his papers, she began to shift uncomfortably from foot to foot. The man continued to neglect her very presence in the room and finally she coughed lightly, the sound loud in the quiet cabin.
He looked up, mild surprise evident on his face as he asked, "I'm sorry, were you ready to explain exactly what a harlot such as yourself was doing exhibiting all her questionable charms to the world on the beach in broad daylight?"
Hermione's face reddened, she wasn't sure which part of his statement she found most offensive, but she was sure that none of it was complimentary in the least.
"I am not a harlot!" She burst.
He stood; splashing another draught of whiskey into the glass and his eyes drifted slowly down her body before flitting back to meet hers meaningfully. She flushed and fought to keep from averting her gaze, determined that she would not be cowed despite her current circumstances. The man sauntered slowly across the cabin, his attention never wavering from her, stopping only when the toes of his immaculate black boots were inches from her bare feet.
Her warm amber eyes locked unconsciously with his, her hands twisting nervously and silence falling in the room for several long moments before he finally spoke. "Have a drink, and stop that god-awful jittering. It's a terribly unattractive trait in a whore."
Hermione's entire being bristled and she placed a hand on his chest in an effort to push him away and rid herself of his towering presence and offensive words. Despite her best attempts however, he didn't even sway, the hard muscles of his chest immutable beneath her small hand. With a small huff of frustration at the wry grin gracing his expression, she dropped her hand and attempted to step back instead, only to encounter the chair blocking the way behind her.
Seeing no other option for escape, instead she pled, "Please, just allow me some clothing. I promise I'll be quiet."
He raised one haughty brow, his tone derisive as he reasoned, "Madam, you are on a ship populated entirely by men, in the middle of the sea. Are you so lacking in sense that you truly believe we have a dressmaker available for your whim?"
Hermione's cheeks reddened, a seemingly permanent stain in the pirate's presence, and gaped at the man, her mouth opening and closing several times as she fought for a reasonable argument. Finding none, she pursed her lips and sat down with a thud, staring mutinously up at the captain as she held her hand out, imperiously demanding the drink he had offered in her silence.
He smirked and pressed the glass into her outstretched hand without a word before turning and making his way back to the desk. Hermione stared after him, growing more and more bewildered by her current situation, a feeling she was neither accustomed to nor appreciative of.
The man sitting only feet away acted nothing like what she had been taught to expect from a pirate. Well, with the exception of holding her captive on a ship, of course. She would even dare to say the man was practically acting as a gentleman, although no gentleman would ever deprive a lady of clothes and provide her with such strong drink.
He doesn't know you're a lady, she reminded herself mentally. She was hesitant to inform him of her true identity though. He may continue to insist upon implying that she did unspeakable things for a living, but a nagging sense in the back of her mind warned that the only thing keeping her safe was his lack of absolute certainty in her identity.
The punishment for piracy alone, a crime of which he was certainly guilty, was public it were to be discovered that he had harmed a lady of peerage, that death would become painfully gruesome. Yes, it was definitely in her best interest if he didn't know her true role in life. Without the threat of a powerful family seeking revenge, there was very little doubt she would simply disappear into the sea, never to be seen again.
That matter settled in her mind, Hermione turned her thoughts to what could be done about her current circumstances. She hadn't noticed the captain relocking the door upon his entry, but it was unlikely she could make it past where he sat and through the door without being caught.
The desk and the chair in which she sat were nearly equidistant from the door and she would have the element of surprise, but her captor was overwhelmingly tall. His stride could cover at least two of hers; he would likely reach the door even before she could. And that was to say nothing of what would await her should she actually make it out the door. The captain at least knew to act the part of a gentleman, there was no chance she could expect the same of his crew. That ruffian Wormtail the captain had used as a threat was proof of that.
Realising she still held the glass of whiskey in her hand and suddenly desperate for a distraction from the morbid turn her thoughts had taken, she raised the rim to her lips and took a tentative sip. Immediately her nose wrinkled in distaste. Though she could tell the drink in her hand was of rather fine quality, she did not care for the taste nor for the burning sensation that accompanied it.
She much preferred the sweet port wine that was served after all of Lady Longbottom's meals, with no men in the house the dowager didn't even stock whiskey or the like. Regardless, the whiskey was the first offering of food or drink she had received in her hours on the ship, time that had taken her far past supper in her estimation and so she was loathe to refuse it.
She took another sip, this one only slightly easier as it burned a pathway down her throat. This time however, she was pleased to note, the fire seemed to settle in her belly with a warm glow that was actually rather comforting. She grew bolder as she grew warmer and after a quick peek from beneath her lashes to confirm the room's other occupant was still entirely ignoring her, she rescued Voltaire's work from where it had been stuffed and eagerly resumed consuming it, without realizing she was consuming the alcohol in the glass at nearly as rapid a rate.
It wasn't until Lucius finally moved again that Hermione began to realize the effects the liquor was having on her. The whiskey was almost certainly to blame for the inordinate amount of time it took her to begin to sputter her protest when the man walked nearer to the bed and shed his coat and waistcoat.
"What in goodness' name do you think you're doing?" She finally managed to blurt, only when his hands had gone to the hem of his white shirt.
He paused in his disrobing to look to where she sat in the chair; her feet tucked beneath her and her curls askew and asked, "Do they not undress before bed where you hail from, Madam?"
Hermione reddened before the true meaning of what he was saying dawned. "You certainly can't mean to sleep here?"
Both his brows flew up in genuine surprise before a mask of derisive mockery settled over his face. "This is my bedroom, madam; I certainly won't be sleeping elsewhere to coddle your delicate sensibilities. You will do well to remember that you are a prisoner, and are not the one to be giving orders on my ship."
With that, he pulled the fine lawn shirt over his head, revealing what had only been teased when Hermione had tried to push him away earlier: a broad, finely muscled chest dusted with the barest coating of blond fur. Hermione's mouth dried. She had never seen a man's naked chest before, not even her father's, and could not make herself look away, despite how much she knew she should.
Her eyes traced over his broad shoulders, flicking curiously to his flat, tan nipples before lingering on the thick vee of muscles that disappeared tantalizingly beneath the waist of his breeches.
"Ogling? How very common of you, Miss…?"
"Granger," Hermione answered unconsciously, distracted by the mortification of being caught out staring. A triumphant smirk twisted the man's lips at her admission and she winced as she realized what she had done. Normally, she was much more aware of her words and she loathed that she had been distracted enough by that thin trail of hair to allow such valuable information to slip by.
In a desperate effort to conceal her sudden discomfort, Hermione grabbed for her glass and swallowed the remaining contents in a single gulp, gasping as the amber liquid burned a path through her body. He chuckled at the expression that crossed her face before turning his back to her as he continued to speak his tone deceptively open and conversational.
"Granger," he mused aloud. "I don't believe I've heard that name in reference to the Ton."
Hermione's lip curled at that, her mien spitting as she snapped in reply, "Just because you've never managed to accost my family for their wealth doesn't mean we're lacking a title!" Hermione could see the man laughing silently, the muscles in his back rippling in a fascinating manner, but to accuse him of doing so would only alert him to the fact she was staring again and so she remained silent.
The quiet lingered for several long moments as the captain removed the tie from his hair, sending a cascade of smooth, silvery blond hair down over his shoulders. Hermione's lips parted in silent appreciation, she couldn't help it. The man's muscles were positively bulging as he ran a comb through his mane. She couldn't be certain, but she was rather sure none of the young men in her acquaintance had ever looked like that.
Lucius was, for once, rather glad there was no mirror in his cabin for if there had been, the little hellcat would certainly have seen the smirk nearly permanently engraved upon his features and would no doubt come flying at him with claws out. A mirror wasn't really necessary though, he could feel her stare burning into his back.
For someone who purported with such vehemence to be a well-bred lady, she was by far the boldest member of that species he had ever encountered. In short, she was absolutely fascinating.