The Raven and the Rose.
Summary: When Eponine's protective nature demands that she treat Cosette with kindness rather than cruelty she unwitting changes the course of not only Cosette's life but her own as well. In the care of Jean Valjean Eponine grows to become a protector of the poor and a beacon of rebellion, she is both the Raven and the Rose but can she play these two rolls and live to tell the tale.
Authors note: So, chapter 7 is a mammoth one I didn't plan on it being quite so long but it ran away with me so here we are. Something else I didn't actually plan was that this chapter would be published on my Nan's birthday but I kind of like that it is. I hope you all enjoy this chapter as we are getting deeper into AU territory and boy, is it fun to write.
Warning: in this chapter you get to see Madame DeRaven in action she there is some fighting in this one, while it is in no way gory, I still wanted to give you guys a heads up.
In the daylight the streets of Paris were a beautiful sight to see, after dark they became a labyrinth of danger. Few of the city's residents could travel as freely during the night as they did the day but Eponine was one of them.
Under the sun's bright rays, she was Eponine Fauchelevent a Bourgeoise girl whose Father indulged her longing for independence and probably allowed her to much freedom. In the soft glow of the moon she became Madame DeRaven. A wealthy widow who was determined to help those less fortunate then herself and had a habit of answering those who tried to hinder her efforts with her sword.
Her Father had begged her not to look for trouble and to only fight when she had no other option. Eponine had assured that she would always run rather than fight if she had the choice but one fateful night, she wasn't given any alternative but to stand her ground, that was the night that changed everything.
Eponine was at the dock's giving out the medicines that Cosette and Josephine had made for the lovely ladies there. Ever since their Father had discovered the girls secret both he and their Aunt had done all they could to help. Thanks to the addition of Josephine's skills to Cosette's Eponine had far more lotions and tonics to distribute than she had ever had before but there still never seemed to be enough.
She had just handed out the last of them when a high-pitched scream filled the air and Eponine took off running without a second thought. She found herself racing into an alley just as a lovely lady came rushing out.
"Please help him" the woman begged, grasping Eponine by the arms roughly, her grip was almost bruising in her desperation. "He saved me; they're going to kill him".
"Who are?" Eponine asked trying to be soothing despite the current situation. Most people assumed that behind her morning vail Madame DeRaven was a much older woman, this was an assumption that nineteen-year-old Eponine often used to her advantage.
"The Patron-Minette" the woman gasped and Eponine's blood froze in her veins. She avoided confrontations as often as she could but she had made a special effort not to cross paths with the Patron-Minette.
They were a ruthless, brutal and viscous gang who were known for not showing an ounce of mercy to their victims. Worse yet for Eponine, Thenardier, the man she once called Father was their leader. She had gone to such great lengths to stay out of their way but this time she didn't have a choice.
"Please" the terrified woman begged again "he's just a boy, he saved me and now they are going to kill him"
"Not if I have any say in the matter" Eponine assured the lovely lady before giving her a small push back towards the docks.
She didn't know if this boy was one of the lady's customer's or just a good Samaritan that happened by but she did know that he didn't deserve death at the hands of the Patron-Minette, no one deserved that. With one last breath to steel herself, Eponine ventured deeper into the darkness of the alley.
The boy as the lady had called him was not what Eponine expected but unfortunately the situation she found him in was exactly as she had feared it would be. He was crouched low to the ground and he was surrounded by four large members of the Patron-Minette, who seemed to be almost playing with him the way cats would toy with a mouse. They took turns taunting and striking him, sometimes they would lash out and purposely miss him to further torment him.
The Patron-Minette hadn't noticed her yet and if she was going to help the boy Eponine was going to have to act quickly, she didn't pause, her innate need to protect wouldn't allow her to. She moved forward, swinging her arm in a swift, smooth arc she bought the hilt of her sword down upon the head of the man nearest her.
She felt immensely grateful but a little guilty when the man she struck crumpled to the ground almost immediately. Stepping over the felled man Eponine moved to the boy's side, she glared fiercely at the remaining men. They couldn't see the look she shot them through her vail but the look made Eponine feel both stronger and braver.
"Four grown men against one boy" she spat "I thought that even the likes of you had more honour than that"
She didn't know if it was her insult, the fact that she had knocked their cohort out or if her reputation had proceeded her but Eponine was relieved to see the attackers looked as uneasy as she secretly felt, they even backed away from her slightly.
"I'm not a boy" the young man who still lay on the floor complained.
"Then I suggest you get up and prove it" Eponine hissed down at him, holding her free hand out, to help him up. He accepted the assistance she offered and pulled himself to his feet.
The members of the Patron-Minette were quickly regaining their confidence and Eponine was losing any advantage her surprise appearance had given her.
"You must fight Monsieur" Eponine whispered to the young man at her side "if you don't help me, we may die here" she told him honestly.
Eponine wasn't sure if he had it in him to fight back against the men that attacked him but he had enough spirit to come to the aid of a lovely lady, she would have to hope that would carry him through. He probably hadn't had to fight for anything before as he was clearly a Bourgeoisie boy. If the good condition of his clothes hadn't told her that the colour of them would have. The coat he wore was the deepest shade of red that Eponine had ever seen, only a Bourgeoisie's could have afforded such an item.
A flash of movement from the gang members abruptly ended Eponine's ponderance of the boy beside her. The Patron-Minette were on the attack and she barely had time to think before she was slashing out with her sword.
The few men Eponine had fought before had tried to engage her in an actual sword fight these men were completely different from all of her previous opponents. They were brawlers with wickedly sharp knives and Eponine found herself praying she would make it through her first encounter with them.
The knives were Eponine's first concern, if she could disarm the men then she and the Bourgeoisies boy might just stand a chance. She sliced the hand of the first man as she tried to knock his blade aside with her own. He took one look at his bloody hand and tore out of the alley as if hounds of hell were on his heels.
Eponine didn't have time to revel in her small victory as the next gang member, a much larger man than the last came charging at her. She tried to manoeuvre and give herself space to fight him off, she knew if he managed to confine her, she would be easily overpowered by him. When her back hit the alley wall she felt a sudden swell of panic tinged with anger, she had foolishly cornered herself.
Thankfully the Bourgeoisies boy chose that moment to literally spring into action and he tackled the man who had been fast approaching her. The boy used the man's own momentum to take them both to the ground and somehow managed to pin the much larger man down despite his smaller frame. He then proceeded to rain blow after blow down on the man, striking at any exposed skin his fists could reach.
The last member of the Patron-Minette appeared to be so shocked by what was happening around him that he was no match for Eponine, even as he tried to fight her, he kept glancing over at the boy and his cohort. The larger man had stopped fighting back but the Bourgeoisies boy had not ceased his attack.
While her opponent was distracted Eponine was able to manoeuvred herself behind him, she dealt him the same blow she had the first man and he tumbled to the ground much like his companion had.
Once her own fight was over, Eponine had to pull the boy from his now one-sided battel.
"Monsieur" she called to him softly but still the blows kept coming "please Monsieur" she said more firmly as she reached out and placed her hand on his shoulder. Only then did his attention shift away from the man beneath him to the woman who stood beside him.
He turned swiftly with a snarl and for a moment Eponine was sure he was going to strike her or at least try to. As soon as it registered with the boy just who it was that had touched him his fist fell to his side and he face was awash with remorse.
"Forgive me Madame" he pleaded holding his now bloody hands out in what Eponine was sure he meant as a gesture of penitence.
"There is nothing to Forgive Monsieur" she assured him "but we need to leave this place quickly", she was sure that he would need a moment to recover but she also more members of the Patron-Minette would be coming soon. Another fight with them would end very differently that the one they had just fought.
"Yes, of course" the boy agreed, as he got to his feet, they could both hear the tell-tale sound of many feet approaching. Weather it was the Patron-Minette or the police didn't matter as neither would be good for them.
The boy grabbed Eponine by the hand and began to run through Paris's intricately interconnected back streets, she did her best to keep up with his longer strides and not think about the blood that had been on his hands and was now on hers.
Eponine knew the Parisian streets far better than any Bourgeoisies girl should and she was pretty sure that the boy, who had insisted on leading her didn't. If they weren't careful, they would end up right back where they started.
"Monsieur" she protested pulling him to a stop "we are going in circles" she told him.
The boy looked affronted but before he could say anything someone else chimed in agreeing with her.
"She's right Chief" a cheeky young voice proceeded the appearance of a young boy who perfectly matched that description.
"Gavroche" the older boy sighed expressing the most relief he had all night and given what he and Eponine had been through that was saying something.
"This way" Gavroche said quickly leading them into a smaller alley that the Bourgeoisies boy had run right past.
It had to be one of the few streets that Eponine had not entered during her years as Madame DeRaven so she couldn't be sure but the alley appeared to be a dead end. She was instantly on alert wondering if Gavroche could really be trusted, was he leading them in to a trap?
Her doubts vanished when they reached the wall at the end of the alley but they were replaced with a stomach-churning rush of fear. Someone had cut steps into the stone of the wall; each ledge was wide enough for Eponine's feet to fit quite easily but they didn't look very sturdy and there were no hand holds to help with the assent.
Nine-year-old Eponine would have relished the challenge the steps presented but as a woman grown, she would rather face the Patron-Minette again than even attempt to clime them.
Her hesitance didn't go unnoticed by the bourgeoises boy who had already started to follow Gavroche up the steps.
"Don't tell me the fearsome Madame DeRaven is scared of hights" he softly laughed as he looked down at her.
"Hights no" she spat "falling yes" she admitted.
"Don't worry Madame" he reassured her "I won't let you fall" he promised taking her hand in his own once more and leading her up the make shift steps.
Minutes that felt like years later, the boy that Gavroche had called Chief helped her onto the roof of the building and Eponine released a huge breath of relief.
"Thank you, Monsieur," she sighed moving quickly away from both him and the buildings edge.
"You can hide here till it's safe to leave" Gavroche told them "no one ever comes here" he assured them proudly.
"Gavroche comes to the rescue again" the Chief beamed and ruffled the younger boy's hair, for the first time Eponine realized just how handsome he really was.
There was something strangely familiar about his absurdly blue eyes and his somewhat unruly blond curls, Eponine was good with faces and she knew she had seen this one before but unusually for her she couldn't quite place it.
"So, you're her then?" Gavroche asked Eponine giving her an appraising look.
"Excuse me?" Eponine questioned, not quite sure what the boy was asking her.
"You're the raven lady" he clarified.
"Gavroche" the older boy gasped at his young friends' words "that is no way to speak to a lady" he rebuked him.
"No, it's alright" Eponine said placing a reassuring hand on the Chief's shoulder "people that rescue me can talk to me any way that they please" she smiled warmly at Gavroche, thankfully her vail was short enough for him to see it.
"Yes" she said in answer to the boy's original question "I'm the raven lady".
Eponine didn't know what reaction she expected but it certainly wasn't the one she got. Gavroche threw his arms around her waist and hugged her as tightly as he could. She wasn't sure how she should react, she looked to the Chief for guidance but he seemed as lost as she was, so Eponine went with her instincts. She sank down so she was on the same level as the boy and wrapped him up in her own arms, returning his hug just as tightly.
"Thank you" the boy mumbled into her shoulder "Thank you, almost no one cares about us but you do, you fight for us, you care, thank you" he sounded like he might cry and Eponine feared she might too.
Once again, she turned to the Chief for help and thankfully this time, he seemed to have at least some clue as to what to do. He crouched down on Gavroche's other side and placed a comforting arm around the boy's shoulder. For a moment the three of them just stayed there, huddled in that position. Then Gavroche slowly pulled away from Eponine and turned to face his friend, the Chief.
"The world is changing Gavroche" the older boy reassured "we are the one's changing it" he reminded him "people do care, soon all will be equal" he promised.
The Chief sounded like he meant every word, he spoke them with such conviction and they seemed to cheer Gavroche up but Eponine couldn't help but see them as foolish promises that would be almost impossible to fulfil.
"You are part of the rebellion" she spoke her realization aloud, looking directly into the young man's eyes for the first time. She felt her stomach drop with the thought that he might not be long for this world, rebels rarely got a happy ending.
"Part of it" Gavroche laughed, quickly recovering from his emotional moment and acting as if it had never happed despite the three of them still being huddled together on the roof. "He's the leader of it" the boy said, finally untangling himself from Eponine.
"I would prefer it be called a revolution rather than a rebellion" the Chief corrected her as he got to his feet "but yes as Gavroche says I am the leader of it"
Eponine felt bitterly sad for the idealistic young man, she may not come from the streets but she spent enough time there to know the minds of the people and with that knowledge came the certainty that his rebellion was doomed.
"Rebellion's only become revolutions when the succeed" she told him "and I fear Monsieur yours will not" she was sad to tell him so but she would not lie to him when hearing the truth might save his life.
She expected him to react angrily but he seemed more intrigued by than upset at her statement.
"Surely you of all people can see the need for change Madame" he said helping her to her feet.
"I do Monsieur" she agreed honestly "but a group of Bourgeoisies boys do not have the power to bring that change, at least not by force" she told him. she believed that if these students wanted to change the world, they probably could but not yet, they still had some growing up to do.
Eponine had heard talk of the rebellion and the boys that it was comprised of, many of them came from good families, they were getting good educations and they could ascend to positions of power one day. That was how she believed that could bring about the changes they were so desperate to see but they were young and impatient, they didn't want to wait.
"Your rebellion will never become a revolution without the support of the people Monsieur" she explained "and I sorry to say, you don't have it" she added in almost a whisper.
"You have not seen the crowds that gather at our rallies" he countered.
"No, I haven't" Eponine admitted, she was becoming exasperated with the Bourgeoisies boy now could he not see she knew what she was talking about and she was trying to help him.
"I have no doubt that your pretty face and prettier words can draw a crowd but I do doubt that same crowd would stand with you against the national guard" she warned him. "The lives of the people maybe hard Monsieur but they would rather struggle on with then than die trying to change them"
Eponine tried so hard to make the young man see his folly, no good would come from him and his friends throwing their lives away but she could tell by the stubborn jut of his jaw he didn't like what he was hearing.
"I'm sorry Monsieur, really and truly am" she said placing her hand on his forearm in an effort to comfort him "I only speak the truth in an effort to help you, if you continue with your plans of rebellion they will lead you to your death" she told him sadly.
The Chief seemed to take in all she had said then he gave her a firm nod and a surprisingly charming smile.
"I appreciate your concern Madame" he said removing her hand from his arm and taking it in both of his "I will endeavour to prove you wrong" he pressed a kiss to the back of her hand "and I will pray for your safety until the time of peace comes to France and your nightly excursions are no longer necessary".
"I will pray for you too Monsieur" Eponine said gently pulling her hand free of his "I will pray that you live through your rebellion and see it to its end, whatever that may be".
The Chief gave her one last smile and ruffled Gavroche's hair again before deciding that the coast was clear enough for him to make his escape from the roof. Eponine watched him descend the make shift stairs with her heart in her mouth, she couldn't contain her sigh of relief when he reached the ground safely.
"Don't go falling for the Chief" Gavroche warned, clearly misreading her relief for something else. "He's a man of marble, he is" the boy continued "Patria is his only love" he said referring to France itself "her and his Rose" he added.
"Don't worry Gavroche, I have no intention of falling in love with him" Eponine assured the boy, she didn't bother to ask about Rose, the rebel leaders love life was no concern of hers, getting herself down from the very high roof however was.
"Is there any other way down from here?" she asked Gavroche looking at the steps in the wall with palatable distain.
"Actually, there is" he said with a bright smile, he led her to a small hole in the roof that appeared to drop down into the hallway of the floor below.
Eponine didn't like the idea of just letting herself drop down through the hole but the fall was much shorter and less deadly than a fall from to roof would have been, so she gritted her teeth and lowered herself through the hole. Gavroche quickly followed her.
"How do you find all these places Gavroche?" Eponine asked as they made their way down the buildings much sturdier internal stairs.
"You learn what you got to on the streets" Gavroche said with a shrug "and when you land here young and small, hiding is what you got to learn" he explained.
"How long have you been on the streets?" she wondered.
"Five or Six years, I think" he replied shortly.
"What" Eponine gasped "but you can't be much older than nine years old" Gavroche nodded indicating she was right about his age.
"You have been on your own since you were three or four" she knew life could be harsh but sometimes the cruelty of it could still shock her.
"Better off alone than part of the Patron-Minette" Gavroche said in an almost off handed manner "besides the students are my family, they look out for me and I look out for them" he explained.
"How can you be sure you would have ended up in the Patron-Minette?" Eponine asked, a strange feeling of dread settling in her bones.
"I wouldn't have had much choice, it's me Pa's gang after all" Gavroche said with another shrug unaware that his words had just changed the life of the woman before him forever.
"The Thenardier's are your parents?" she asked needing to be sure she understood what he was saying.
Gavroche just nodded, he seemed almost ashamed and Eponine could relate to him in that.
"Gavroche do you have any siblings?" she asked him carefully.
"I had a Sister" he said "she was gone before I was born".
"Gone?" Eponine questioned.
"Yeah that's what Pa said, she was gone, Mama said her and the serving girl were carried off by an angel, so I guess she must be dead, her name was-"
"Eponine" Eponine cut in "her name was Eponine and the serving girl was Cosette".
"Yeah" Gavroche suddenly looked weary "how do you know that?"
"Eponine isn't dead Gavroche" she tried to explain calmly but internally she was a mess, she had a Brother and she had left him all alone with the Thenardier's, Eponine thought she might be sick.
"She's not?" Gavroche sounded more suspicious than anything else but Eponine was sure she could hear a tiny hint of hope in his voice.
"Cosette's Papa came looking for her, when he found her and Eponine he took both of them away with him for a better life" she explained as best she could while still protecting her secret. As much as she wanted to sit there and tell Gavroche the whole truth, she still had Cosette, her Father and even Josephine to think about, anything she told Gavroche would affect them too.
"Is she safe now?" Gavroche's question surprised Eponine, she expected him to be mad at his Sister but he just seemed concerned for her.
"Yes" she answered "she is happy too" she added thinking he might want to know that.
"Well then, I'm glad she got away" Gavroche said and he seemed to genuinely mean it.
"She had no way of knowing you existed Gavroche" Eponine explained "but if she had known she you were coming into the world she never would have left you alone, she would have stayed with the Thenardier's for you" she promised and she knew it was nothing but the truth.
Eponine truly loved the life she had lived and she wouldn't trade her little family for anything but she knew that the nine-year-old version of herself would not have left the Inn if she knew she was to have a Brother, she would have let Cosette go without her.
"Then I'm glad she never knew" Gavroche grinned and Eponine pretty sure he stole her heart; he really was a truly selfless child. He gave a little bow and turned as if to leave, Eponine was so shocked she almost didn't react quickly enough to stop him leaving, almost.
"Wait Gavroche" she called out "Do you want to meet her? Your Sister?" she asked, maybe he would say no, maybe he was happy with his life as it was. If he did say no it would break her heart but Eponine would respect his decision.
"Would she want to see me?" the boy wondered aloud.
"Once she knows of you, yes she would, more than anything" Eponine replied, hoping that her widows vail would hide the tears she could feel welling up in her eyes.
"Well, alright" Gavroche agreed "I live in the elephant, if I'm not there she can probably fine me with the students" he said and with that he was gone.
The little boy ran off as if saving a rebel leader and meeting a masked champion of the people was nothing new to him. Eponine could hear his carefree laughter ringing around her long after he had disappeared from sight. That was the moment she realised that for the second time in her relatively short life her whole world had changed.
She needed to get home, she had to talk to her Papa, he needed to know all about what had happened that night. Usually an encounter with the Patron-Minette and meeting the leader of the student rebellion would be big deals in and of themselves but as she made her way through the streets her mind was occupied by only one thought, Gavroche.
She had a Brother, he was a sweet, selfless little boy, she had left him all alone with their good for nothing parents and despite that he still wanted to meet her. Eponine had no idea what she could do for the boy or how much he would be willing to let her do for him but she had already abandoned him once, unknowingly or not and she swore she wouldn't do it again.
So Eponine and Enjolras have met again but neither of them know it yet, I do have a reason for withholding Enjolras's name, it wasn't just to wind you guys up, all will become clear in future chapters. Thanks for reading I would love to know what you think so far.
Thanks again Millie xXx