Gentry and Gentlemen, Chapter Two
Summary: Hermione is slowly settling into life at Ottery Manor, as well as the presence of a certain red-headed blacksmith and odd-job man. However, an encounter with an unpleasant member of the aristocracy may just bring Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger even closer together.
Tagging: @abradystrix @lytefoot @hillnerd @fivenamereveals @femaledoubleagent @nagemeikenu @acnelli @aimless-twig@thehufflepuffpixie @adenei @kember-writes @rosalindthe2nd @shybrunettepainter
Read on FFN. Read on AO3.
My apologies for the week's delay in this chapter going out; I've been really busy with IRL stuff, and lost several days of potential writing as a result. But I hope you like the chapter despite the wait.
Hermione Granger sighed, and leaned back into her chair. She was alone in a small room nearby the servants kitchen.
It had been a long day. She had been working with the children for well over five hours, before finally handing them over to their aunt at two o’clock. After sitting down for a while, she was beginning to feel rejuvenated.
A week had gone by since she had arrived at Ottery Manor, and she was slowly settling into her new life in rural Devon. Despite how different it was to her upbringing in Regency London, she found that -in many ways- it was a marked improvement.
For one thing, the pace of life was far slower than it was in the capital. The days were long, but nothing was hurried, beyond the urgency of the children she was caring for. The countryside around them was incredibly beautiful and, although it was less fancy, the food was far more homely than she had ever had in London aside from the cooking of her own mother.
There was also the people. In London, she had found it difficult to interact with others. She had always been something of an outsider, even in a city as apparently metropolitan as the old smoke. Too much of a bookworm, too awkward, too fussy. Not to mention that many people still saw her as a “foreigner”.
Whereas at Ottery, at least with the other staff members, her status as a Londoner was seen as exciting and thrilling, her awkwardness met with redoubled enthusiasm to overcome her “London ways”, and her skin the object of wistful envy.
If anything, it was her status as a governess that divided her somewhat from the other young staff members, as she was often “upstairs” with the children of the gentry, as opposed to the “downstairs” roles inhabited by the scullery maids that she shared her dormitory with.
Not that this seemed to concern those scullery maids that much. Parvati and Lavender were friendly, kind, and immediately encouraging of Hermione, for which she was immensely grateful. The two of them were clearly very close, as they were inseparable and would often rest their head on the others shoulder while they were sat in the quiet hours of the evening. Lavender would often kiss Parvati on the cheek, and vice versa. Hermione had even heard each of them climbing into the others bed on occasion, if one of them had a bad dream. Very close, indeed.
She hadn’t really spoken much to the other members of staff, although the cook was a motherly sort of woman who had insisted on giving Hermione larger portions of food for the first few days. Hermione had been expecting to speak to the other Weasley siblings but, so far, the opportunity hadn’t presented itself. Although she hoped it would. She was looking forward to getting to know Ron’s siblings.
There was also Ron himself.
Hermione felt herself blush.
The blacksmith and odd-job man was-
The bushy-haired women did a double-take. Ron Weasley was stood a few feet away, holding a stack of letters.
‘R-Ron, hello!’ She stammered, stumbling to her feet. ‘How… how are you?’
‘Can’t complain,’ he replied, looking a little confused as to the squeak in her voice. ‘I was going to head into the village to deliver these letters; I was wondering if you’d like to accompany me?’
‘Oh, I’d… I’d be delighted!’
The redhead grinned, his cheeks showing their signature dimples that Hermione had quickly come to find eye-catching.
‘Lovely,’ he said. ‘I’m not dragging you away from anything, am I?’
‘No,’ Hermione replied, as they exited the servants entrance. ‘The children have been taken by their aunt in Plymouth this afternoon.’
‘Big city, is Plymouth.’
‘Really? Back in London, it’s considered a small provincial city.’
Ron chuckled. The two of them had walked round the side of the house, and had begun walking down the long drive towards the road.
‘I forget just how big London is compared to everywhere else,’ Ron said. ‘I suppose the country is pretty sparsely populated.’
Hermione scolded herself.
‘Er… my apologies, I’m afraid I was being ever so rude-’
‘Don’t think anything of it, Hermione,’ Ron said, smiling down at her. ‘I imagine that, compared to London, Plymouth does seem rather small.’
‘Not to me,’ Hermione said. ‘Ottery is just the right size.’
She couldn’t help but notice Ron’s smile growing after she had said this.
As they approached the road, two figures appeared ahead of them. It was Parvati and Lavender, who were holding hands.
‘Hello,’ Ron said, cheerfully. ‘Have you two had a nice afternoon off?’
‘Hello,’ Lavender said. ‘Yes; we managed to get some nice patterns for Parvati’s shawl. She does look rather lovely in burgundy, wouldn’t you agree?’
‘Oh, stop it,’ Parvati said, pressing a quick kiss to Lavender’s cheek. ‘You do go on, Lavender.’
‘Are you two heading into the village?’ Parvati asked, pointing at the stack of letters Ron was carrying.
‘Yes,’ Hermione replied. ‘Mr Weasley thought I might like the fresh air.’
‘Oooh, you wouldn’t believe the stories we’ve heard,’ Lavender said, excitedly. ‘Apparently, the brother of her ladyship is caught up in some sort of scandal!’
‘Yes,’ Parvati said, nodding. ‘According to what we heard in the village, there is an heiress involved, as well as another lord who’s awaiting a debt to be re-paid.’
‘Typical gentry,’ Ron chuckled. ‘Honestly, if I had that much time to waste, I’d learn a new language or do up the forge, not mess around with courtly ladies.’
‘That’s because you are more of a gentleman than the “gentlemen” are,’ Lavender said. ‘Wouldn’t you agree, Miss Granger?’
‘Er, y-yes,’ Hermione said, feeling her face burn. ‘Anyway, we really ought to be going, Mr Weasley; the post office is due to close in an hour.’
Ron continued on down towards the road. As Parvati and Lavender passed Hermione, they grinned knowingly at her, before patting her encouragingly on the arm.
Hermione smiled nervously to herself, and hurried off to catch up to Ron.
The village of Ottery St Catchpole was, as ever, relaxed and filled with the sounds of country life; chickens squawking, pigs snorting, and dogs barking, with the occasional shout of laughter from one of the local children.
‘Have you been in the post office yet?’ Ron asked, as they walked down the main street. ‘I imagine your parents are looking forward to hearing how you are adapting to your new role as governess.’
‘You are correct,’ Hermione said, smiling up at him. ‘I sent them a letter the first time I had some time away from the children. I haven’t had a reply yet, though.’
‘Well, London is a long way away, even for the post,’ Ron replied, amicably. ‘I’m sure their reply is on its way.’
The two of them entered the post office. It was a small, cosy sort of building, with a durable and well-polished front desk.
‘Hello, Ron,’ said the person behind the desk, a short, jolly sort of man of roughly the same age. He was blonde, with a kind-looking face. ‘Post for the twins, eh?’
‘Hello, Neville,’ replied Ron, placing his stack of letters on the desk. ‘Yes; mum’s trying to have them round for the summer fete.’
‘I’m sure they’ll love that,’ the man called Neville said, as he began to sort through the letters. ‘And… oh, Miss Granger, do you have any letters to send?’
Hermione stared at the man.
‘How do you know my name?’
‘You’re the local celebrity,’ Neville said, cheerfully. ‘The governess from the big city, and all that. You were right, Ron; she is very sensible-looking.’
Ron’s ears turned pink.
‘Er, thank you,’ Hermione said. ‘I’m not really that sensible-looking, am I?’
‘Actually, Ron’s choice of words were “smart, capable and beautiful”, but I wanted to spare your blushes-’
‘Neville!’ Ron exclaimed, his face flushing under his freckles. ‘Miss Granger doesn’t want to hear about that!’
‘N-no, it’s fine,’ Hermione said, feeling her own face flush. ‘T-thank you, Ron. That’s… that’s very kind of you to describe me as such.’
Neville smiled knowingly at them both, as he processed the stack of letters. As he placed the last of them into its correct sorting tray, he pulled another letter out of the apron he wore over his uniform, and held it out to Ron.
‘Oh, by the way; can you drop off this letter to Tom in the pub?’
Ron let out a sigh.
‘Oh, all right, Neville,’ he said, sighing as he took the letter. ‘But you owe me one.’
‘Sure,’ Neville said, cheerfully. ‘And tell Ginny that Luna sends her regards.’
After both of them bade their goodbyes to Neville, Ron and Hermione left the post office, and began to walk up the street, towards the pub that was across the road from the coach stop. A small sign hung on the wall outside the front door, bearing the legend “The Leaky Cauldron”.
‘Er, who’s Luna?’
‘Oh, the woman Neville mentioned?’ he replied. ‘Neville’s next-door neighbour. She’s… well, very close with my sister Ginny.’
‘Oh, so they are like Lavender and Parvati, then?’
‘Er….’ Ron said, looking at a loss for words. ‘Yes… maybe. It’s taking Ginny long enough to realise, but she’ll get there one day.’
Hermione didn’t quite understand this response. Were Parvati and Lavender not as close as she thought? Given the continual displays of affection between the two women, she couldn’t imagine that to be the case. However, she didn’t want to seem stupid, so she didn’t query it further.
Ron pushed open the door, and the two of them entered the pub. It was a homely sort of place; like many country pubs, it acted more as a public meeting place as opposed to simply a building in which to ingest alcohol (although Hermione could certainly smell many pints of cider being drunk).
Several people called out to Ron, and he bade his hello’s to each of them. The Weasleys were clearly an upstanding local family, as everyone seemed to know them. There was a crowd by the bar, behind which was an old, cheerful-looking man. He was clearly the Tom that Neville had mentioned.
‘Sorry; I’ll be back in just a moment,’ he said, apologetically to Hermione.
Hermione nodded, and Ron headed over to the bar.
She ducked out of the way slightly, so that she wasn’t in anyone’s way, and began to gaze at the walls of the pub.
Many country pubs prided themselves on having an extensive collection of assorted knick-knacks attached to the walls, and “The Leaky Cauldron” was no exception. There were various pairs of antlers, several wood-carvings and even one very scrappy-looking oil painting that had clearly seen better days.
Hermione smiled to herself, as she stared round. Ottery St Catchpole was a friendly, welcoming place, and its local pub clearly reflected that-
A man had elbowed Hermione out of the way. Rubbing her arm, Hermione stared at him.
He was short, with a crop of blonde hair and a cold-looking face. Almost like a very pale ferret. His well-tailored clothes marked him out immediately as a member of the gentry, and this was doubly confirmed by the way he looked down his nose at Hermione, despite being several inches shorter than her. He was clearly someone who had been travelling in one of the stage coaches from London.
‘Excuse me, sir,’ Hermione said. ‘I believe I was stood here.’
‘Did I ask your opinion? I’m stood here now; kindly move along. I’m busy.’
Hermione stared at him. She had come across people like this in London on occasion, but it was a shock to see one so rude, especially in an otherwise very cheerful and friendly pub. The people around the tables nearby began to look over, their eyes wary as if expecting to step in at any moment.
‘Sir, I do believe that I wasn’t in any queue as such. An apology from yourself would be expected for pushing me aside.’
The man turned to glare at Hermione, his voice rising.
‘I will do no such thing. I don’t apologise to the dirt for stepping on it, so why should I give yourself the same courtesy?’ he sneered. ‘Devon may be far from London, but I would expect that some assurances remain consistent through Britain. The Britain that my ancestors ruled and that myself and my peers rule now. So, kindly push off, you little harlot.’
Hermione’s mouth fell open.
‘Harlot?’ she exclaimed. ‘Sir, I am a governess of the local manor. How dare you?’
The man grabbed Hermione’s arm. His grip was shockingly tight, despite how thin he was.
‘Shut up, before I make you do so, you little foreign-’
Ron’s fist connected with the man’s cheek, sending the aristocrat backwards into the wall.
‘Don’t you dare speak to Miss Granger like that,’ Ron said, very quietly.
The aristocrat, his face now colouring around the red mark on his cheek, stumbled to his feet. His face was the very picture of outraged confusion. As if the man couldn’t understand what was happening.
‘You… you foul unwashed nothing!’ he snarled, staggering. ‘What right have you to lay a hand on your social better-’
‘Better? Don’t make me laugh,’ Ron said. Hermione noticed that the other villagers around them were staring at the aristocrat with the same sense of cautious anger that was evident in Ron’s eyes. ‘I’d have thought a man from such an upbringing would have been taught some basic manners.’
The room was now full of shouts, all echoing agreement with Ron’s words.
‘Disgraceful behaviour towards a lady!’
‘How dare you, sir?!’
The aristocrat’s eyes darted between the assembled villagers around him, seeming to notice for the first time that he was not amongst allies.
‘You’ll regret this!’ he spat, pointing a finger at Ron. ‘I’ll have you out on a charge of striking a member of the great and noble house-’
‘You don’t seem that great and noble to me,’ Ron said, in the same quiet tone. ‘Threatening a governess? Causing a scene? What nobility is there in that?’
The aristocrat gave one furious look at Ron, before turning on his heel and striding away out the door, in the direction of the coach stop.
Feeling her heart pound with the shock of what had just happened, Hermione stumbled backwards, and sat down roughly in a chair.
‘Hermione, are you okay?’
Ron’s eyes were filled with concern as he kneeled down in front of her. Several others were stood nearby, their eyes all filled with the same concern.
‘I… I suppose. It’s not much different to what I normally have had to deal with.’
‘Really?’ gasped a woman nearby, sounding horrified. ‘That’s horrible! You’d think London would be more cosmopolitan.’
Hermione smiled, despite herself. It seemed that, to so many, London was seen as the melting pot where everyone could co-exist in peace.
‘Okay, everyone,’ Ron said, standing up and speaking to the assembled crowd. ‘Let’s not crowd Miss Granger; let her sit in peace.’
The crowd gradually begin to shift away back to what they were all doing beforehand, although many of them gave Hermione sympathetic looks as they moved away. She was very touched that so many people wanted to make sure she was feeling better.
Ron sat down in the seat next to her.
‘You… you really shouldn’t have punched him.’
‘He deserved it.’
‘Yes, but physical violence isn’t the answer. Besides; you don’t know those to whom he’s connected. He could have his lordship sack you!’
‘Pffft!’ Ron chuckled. ‘I’d like to see him try; the Weasleys have worked at Ottery for centuries.’
‘But the gentry-’
‘Listen, Hermione; that toff was in the wrong. If he tries to imply I was behaving out of turn, he’ll have to deal with half the village declaring the fact of the matter. He was being a bigot, and everyone knows it.’
Hermione sat, eating her steak and kidney pie, and thinking to herself. The afternoon had passed quickly, and it was now beginning to get dark. The cosy fire in the servants kitchen gave off a warm, comforting presence.
The other staff members slowly began to move away from the table, as they all finished their meal and set off for either the tavern, their dormitories or for home. Hermione was just finished washing her plate, cup and cutlery when-
‘Long day, eh?’
Hermione turned. Ron was sat in front of the fire, his blue eyes flickering majestically in the light of the flames.
‘I… yes, it has been, indeed.’
‘Come on; the fire’s warm.’
Smiling to herself, Hermione eased herself out of her seat, and joined the redhead in front of the flickering fire.
‘I… I never thanked you for doing that.’
‘What? Punching that toff? I thought you said-’
‘That I don’t like physical violence? Yes, that is true. But… I appreciate the sentiment. People don’t always stick up for me like that.’
‘Well, they should,’ Ron said. ‘Its’… it’s not right, people treating you like you don’t belong. Because you do belong, Hermione. In Ottery, or anywhere else you want to go. You’re an intelligent, brave person and I honestly don’t understand why so many don’t see that.’
Hermione felt her heart well.
‘I… thank you, Ron. That… that means so much to me.’
The redhead smiled, hesitantly.
‘Have… have people been unpleasant like that to you a lot?’
‘Most of my life, yes. I remember, my parents sat me down at an early age and explained to me that a lot of people -especially those from money- would treat me badly just because of my heritage. The other staff here are perfectly pleasant and kind to me, although I have noticed that many of the gentry do not take the same approach.’
‘It shouldn’t be like that,’ he said, quietly. ‘People shouldn’t be like that to you. I… I know that’s a little naïve, coming from me, but…’
‘I appreciate the sentiment, Ron,’ she replied. ‘I wish it wasn’t like that, either.’
‘Yes, but you have to live with it every day!’ Ron cried. ‘If I scrubbed up nicely and minded my manners, I could be ignored by the gentry. But you…’
‘I can’t just change my mannerisms and “pass” unnoticed,’ Hermione finished.
‘Good grief, I feel like a right prat complaining about the aristo’s when you have it far worse,’ Ron mumbled. ‘I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have-’
‘You weren’t to know, Ron,’ Hermione said.
‘You don’t need to console me,’ Ron said. ‘I’m not the one dealing with all this.’
Hermione reached out, and placed a hand on Ron’s knee. The redhead’s eyes darted to her own.
‘Thank you, Ron.’
‘You know, I might just make a habit out of punching toffs if it means I can make you smile.’
‘Oh, you mustn’t!’
Ron grinned at her, leaning back against the wall. His muscles strained slightly against his shirt.
‘You say that, but you’re laughing worse than ever.’
‘Stop it!’ Hermione exclaimed, chuckling. ‘You’ll get into so much trouble; it’s a miracle they didn’t send the bailiffs after you.’
‘Trouble is my middle name,’ replied the redhead. ‘Well, actually it’s “Bilius” but he just used to get into lots of trouble, so it still fits.’
‘A wonderful kind of trouble, though,’ Hermione laughed.
‘I try,’ he said, giving a quick wink that send a delicious shiver down Hermione’s spine.
‘And you succeed. I… I rather like your company, Ron.’
‘And I rather like yours, Hermione,’ the redhead replied, his cheeks dimpling. ‘As long as my rustic charm isn’t a little… backward for you?’
‘N-not at all,’ Hermione said. ‘You’re… you’re very charming.’
Ron smiled, his ears going slightly pink in the glow of the fire.
Thanks for reading, everyone; hope you enjoyed the second chapter. If you want to be kept up-to-date with the story as I publish each chapter, please subscribe to the fic on AO3 or ask to be added to the tag list on Tumblr.
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