Continuing Tales

A Great Task of Solitude

A Harry Potter Story
by Laurielove

Part 1 of 27

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A light drizzle filled the air as the solitary female figure trudged home. The pavement under her feet was wet, glistening with the rain that had been falling steadily all afternoon. The garish lights of London reflected off the streets, bringing an almost apologetic radiance to the otherwise dismal evening.

The woman kept her head down as she walked, purposeful in her determination to put the day behind her and get home. Not that getting home was something she was particularly looking forward to. At best, she would be met by a food-demanding miaow from Ermintrude, her Maine Coon, at worst, the stark dark silence of a barren flat.

She did not notice the myriad of nameless people passing by as she walked, equally desperate to propel themselves to their destination, collars pulled up, scarves wrapped around faces, providing protection not only from the elements, but from human interaction.

Hermione Granger at last reached home. For the benefit of the Muggles she lived beside, she made the effort of getting out her key and turning it in the lock. She did not mind. Life within the magical world had been so claustrophobically stultifying of late, that she enjoyed being reminded of her Muggle heritage.

She had recently celebrated, if that was the word, the tenth anniversary of her work for the Ministry. She had been promoted early on to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and had initially enjoyed her role, rising swiftly to work at the Minister's side to promote positive magical behaviour within wizarding and Muggle communities. But since the war, the threat from dark forces had dwindled to such an extent, that Hermione, despite the secure advantages it brought, felt almost bored with the state of affairs. The fact that the anniversary of her Ministry appointment coincided neatly with her thirtieth birthday merely added to her malaise.

The few moments of interest arose simply from the persistence of the prejudice and divisions of old. Although they would never admit to it openly, it was known that many pureblood families still clung to the old beliefs, still abhorred Muggles and Muggleborns. The tenuous truce which existed had largely been maintained, but on the rare occasions tensions had threatened to bubble over, Hermione had found herself becoming stupidly excited.

What is more, in her desperate attempt to fill her days with something worthwhile, something to enthuse her spirit, she found herself working from early morning until late, day after day, searching through documents, quizzing colleagues for the merest hint of intrigue. She knew she had become a workaholic. What else did she have?

Her relationship with Ron had foundered early on, after only a year. They had quickly discovered their incompatibility; intellectually, emotionally, and although neither admitted it, sexually. They remained good friends, and Hermione had dated a few times since, but after Ron she was overly cautious, knowing that she needed someone who could satisfy the complexity within. Nobody had come close.

She shut the door wearily behind her, and pulled off her wet coat, hanging it up. Shuffling into the kitchen, she opened the fridge. Nothing. It would be baked beans on toast again. At some point, she really should go to a supermarket. Luckily, there was half a bottle of white wine. She took it out with a sigh and poured herself a large glass before slumping into a chair. After a few sips, she reached across to some work which lay on a table beside her, but stopped.

God, this had to change. She could not continue without any life whatsoever.

Next to the work lay a book she had been meaning to read for enjoyment for some time. She picked it up instead, and opened it, staring intently at the pages in an attempt to convince herself that she was relaxing.

She had just started to get into the book when there was a sharp tapping at her window. Hermione recognised the distinctive sound of an owl's beak. Crossing to the window, she opened it and the bird hopped onto the window sill, a parchment clutched in its talons. It was a Ministry owl. Immediately a surge of excitement swept through her. What was so important that the Ministry was trying to contact her now?

She carefully took the parchment proffered by the owl and shut the window again after it had fluttered off.

She uncurled the scroll and read.


I am sorry to have missed you earlier, but wanted to notify you before you came into work tomorrow.

I have arranged a meeting with you at 9 am to discuss an issue I have been trying to resolve for some time. Please come to see me as soon as you arrive.

Many thanks.


Hermione frowned. The parchment gave her nothing to do now, and provided little information besides expressing some urgency that she attend the meeting.

She thought little more of it, disappointed that it had not contained more tantalising information, and returned to her book.

The message from Shacklebolt had done so little to fire her interest, that she almost forgot to go to his office at the designated time. It was only at two minutes to nine that an owl, similar to the one from the previous evening, fluttered past her window, reminding her with a start where she was supposed to be. Abandoning her desk with a flurry, she rushed up to Shacklebolt's office and arrived there with seconds to spare.

The Minister for Magic looked up, a broad smile breaking out on his face when he saw the witch at his door.

"Hermione! Thanks for coming. Sorry I sent you that owl last night. I'd hoped to catch you before you left, but found myself snowed under as usual. How are you? Sit down."

Hermione sat forward in the chair he indicated, wanting him to tell her quickly the reason for his request to see her. "Fine, Minister, thank you. What is this all about?"

"Right, umm." Kingsley shifted in his seat, suddenly seeming unsure of what to say. "I was wondering if you could help me out. I have been compiling an inventory, shall we say, of all wizarding books relating to the Dark Arts. Many of them had to be destroyed after the war, as they were too - incendiary. But there are many more which are still valuable documents and, despite their dangerous content, need to be maintained and – contained, I suppose. If we know where these books are, we can at least document them and keep an eye on them. I have managed to account for all books in public libraries and places such as Hogwarts, and most in private hands, but there is one place which we know contains many volumes, but which I have been unable to get to."

"Why not?"

"The owner has been quite reclusive since the war – disappearing from society for some time. He still only emerges rarely. In addition to his reputation being left in tatters in the aftermath of the war, his marriage broke down; something which I believe affected him very badly, resulting in his further withdrawal. He was largely shunned by many of his former acquaintances, friends and enemies, after what happened under Voldemort. That's one of the reasons we have been unable to get into his house. Nobody wants to go. Nobody wants to be associated, even professionally, with the man. And he trusts no one, it seems."

"Why was he shunned by society?"

Shacklebolt looked at her cautiously. "He was a Death Eater."

Realisation was dawning. She suspected she knew who this man was; a former Death Eater, a broken marriage, a private library. Her suspicions were confirmed when Kingsley spoke a moment later.

"Hermione – it's Lucius Malfoy."

Hermione sat in silence for a while. Shacklebolt had not yet asked her what she knew he was about to ask. She tensed and inquired tersely, "And where do I fit into all this?"

Shacklebolt chuckled nervously, holding his hands up in a gesture of confused need. "Well, you are my last hope really. I need these books documented. I was wondering if you might be willing to – go to Malfoy Manor and register them."

His request was not a surprise, but Hermione could not help the indignation brewing up inside her. She spoke coldly.



"You want me to go to Malfoy Manor?"


After a heavy silence where Hermione simply stared at him, she said sternly, "Minister. Do you know what happened to me the last time I went to Malfoy Manor?"

Shacklebolt swallowed hard. This was not going as well as he had hoped.

"Yes, I'm sorry, I just hoped, thought ..."

"I was tortured." She spoke clinically.

Shacklebolt could no longer look at her.

"I was tortured in Lucius Malfoy's house while he looked on."

At length, the Minister finally met her eyes, and drew himself up. "Hermione, if anyone can meet this challenge, it is you. Nobody else with the skills necessary will even contemplate going. I know the place holds bad memories for you – but time has passed – you've moved on, I know you have. And Lucius Malfoy certainly has ... changed, believe me. And in any case, the library at Malfoy Manor is supposedly vast, full of fascinating, rare volumes. I thought you would ... enjoy the opportunity to explore it."

Hermione sat, as indignant as possible, but knew in her heart that the prospect sounded intriguing. She had been desperate to get her teeth into something. Was this it? Kingsley was right, time had passed. It was nearly twelve years since that fateful night of torture at Bellatrix Lestrange's hands. Although returning to the site of it would be deeply disturbing, she knew she could do it. Still, there would certainly be many problems to overcome. She turned sharply to the Minister.

"And why on earth do you think he is going to let me, of all people, in. Do you know what I am in his eyes?"


"What?" She was daring him to voice it.

"A Muggleborn."

"Not quite, Kingsley - a Mudblood, a dirty, filthy, Mudblood. Do you really think he'd let me within ten miles of the place?"

"I am hoping he may accept you into his house due to a combination of – intrigue and respect."


"Yes, Hermione – you are renowned throughout the Wizarding World - still. You are, after all, the brightest witch of your age." He chuckled a little to try to diffuse the tension.

Hermione crossed her arms and glared at him. If she had a penny for every time someone had said that in an attempt to win her over...

Shacklebolt held her gaze. "Anyway, Malfoy has to comply with this. He has been monitored carefully since the war. Harry's exoneration of him was accepted with several provisos. He has no option but to accept whomever we send. If he doesn't, he will suffer the consequences. It is not his acceptance I am worried about particularly. He really has no choice. The trouble is, I have run out of options at this end. No one will go. I need you, Hermione. I am asking you this, not only as an employer, but also as a friend."

He looked at her seriously. She sighed deeply. "He may not have a choice, but I get the feeling that I don't either."

Shacklebolt remained silent. They sat, waiting for the other to break the tense atmosphere. It was Hermione who at last spoke.

"I will go, but I cannot believe he'll tolerate me."

Kingsley smiled gratefully at her. "Thank you."

"When do you want me to start?"

"As soon as possible. These last books need to be documented. The list is nearly complete. I want to present it finally to the Wizengamot at the next session. It will reassure them further that we live in a secure world."

"Am I to remove any books you, or I, consider to be particularly threatening?"

"Not necessarily. I will leave that to you. There is no need to deprive him of his possessions unless you consider there to be a significant and real danger. Simply knowing of their existence will suffice in most cases."

Hermione looked away, a small furrow of concern knitting her forehead. "I'm not comfortable with this, Minister."

"I know, Hermione. But – I wouldn't send you there if I thought you would be put in any danger. Malfoy knows he must behave impeccably or he will be thrown back into Azkaban for the rest of his life. As I said, I hope you'll actually get a lot out of working there."

She tried not to look convinced, but Hermione knew deep down he was right. She could not ignore the tingle of excitement that was starting to creep into her limbs.

Shacklebolt stood. "I'm sorry, Hermione, I'm going to have to go. I have a meeting at Gringott's to get to. I will owl Malfoy and tell him to expect you ... on Monday, shall we say?"

Hermione looked at him in some shock. It was already Thursday. Shacklebolt clearly did want to get on with this. She stood and with a resigned sigh, confirmed it. "Alright. Unless I hear otherwise, I'll be at Malfoy Manor on Monday afternoon, two o'clock. I can't go earlier as I have a meeting in the morning."

"That's fine." He ushered her out. "Thank you again, Hermione. I am sure we will be able to reimburse you handsomely for your efforts."

Hermione cringed a little. Money was not going to make this task any easier to burden.

She spent the next few days in a state of some confusion. Surely she had not just agreed to spend time in the home of a man she had detested and reviled, with the best of reasons, for most of her life? Strangely, although she had seen him when she was much older, it was her first encounter with him, as a twelve year old in Flourish and Blotts, that stuck with her the most; his haughty appraisal of her, his disdainful words. She felt anger bubbling up inside her once again, despite the lengthy passage of time.

On that day, now so many years ago, her childish indignation had been piqued and she had held her nerve, glaring as forcefully at him as she could muster. She knew it had further riled his animosity towards her. She could not believe time had soothed his emotions at all. She represented to him all he abhorred. How he was going to tolerate her presence in his house concerned her. She would not be able to work in an atmosphere of bitter hatred. It would be bad enough to control her emotions, without having to contend with searing antagonism from him.

And yet, despite her misgivings, Hermione had been set a task, and with her usual conscientious and assiduous manner, she prepared thoroughly, and on Monday at five to two, took hold of her wand, muttered the familiar words, and apparated to Malfoy Manor.

She landed dizzily outside the gates. The high leaded windows of the Elizabethan house blinked down at her. Luckily, the memory from that night she had been brought here all those years ago had blurred and she did not recognise it from that time. In fact, she could not help but admire the noble structure. It was a beautiful building, one of the finest examples of architecture of the period still surviving she guessed, although she knew it would be invisible to Muggles, or at least appear derelict. There were rumours that Elizabeth I herself was in fact a witch, as was her mother Anne Boleyn. The Queen apparently had significant magical ability, but due to her position, born into the highest echelons of Muggle society, had kept her talents hidden. Still, it was thought she occasionally visited noble wizarding families. Perhaps she herself had visited this place. Hermione felt a frisson of excitement run swiftly up her spine.

Drawing herself up, she walked towards the gates, wondering how she should gain access. She need not have worried, as on approaching them, they swung open for her. She noted with surprise that the paint was peeling somewhat, and the hinges appeared rusty.

Hermione began the long walk up the gravelled drive, her footsteps crunching as she went. She wished they would not.

The lawns leading to the entrance were cut short, but there were no plants, and the borders needed trimming. Large pots stood empty of flowers, and moss grew on the heads of two stone lions guarding the approach to the house.

Hermione at last found herself at the huge front door. A sudden fear took hold of her. She had not before felt intimidated by the task, but now she thought herself rather inadequate to be standing here. She raised herself tall, and shook off the notion. She was Hermione Granger for goodness sake. She could cope with anything.

She reached over and rang the bell strongly.

At first, nothing happened. Hermione felt a ball of tension forming deep inside. What if he would not even acknowledge her arrival? She didn't want to go back to Shacklebolt and tell him she hadn't even been let in.

She rang the bell again.


And then, after what seemed several minutes, there was a loud clunk from behind the door. And then another, and another, as if several large bolts were being drawn back.

Slowly, with a heaving groan, the door opened.

Hermione looked down to see a house-elf staring disdainfully up at her. The elf was dressed in proper clothes, but they were shabby and threadbare, as if they had once been good quality, but had been worn so often as to render them virtually into tatters.

The elf had a thin, pinched face, and reminded Hermione of a younger version of Kreacher, both in manner and appearance.

It did not speak.

"Good afternoon. My name is Hermione Granger. I am here to see Mr Malfoy."

At first the elf merely continued looking at her, an undisguised expression of outright hatred on its face. Hermione was undeterred. She stood looking down at him, not flinching from his bitter appraisal of her. At length, still not talking, he simply stepped aside for her to enter.

She did so.

She stepped into a hallway, so dark and gloomy that her eyes at first did not allow her to focus on any details. But as they grew accustomed to the dimness, she could make out the heavy dark oak panelling, the carved staircase, portraits of long-dead wizards adorning the walls. But as with the exterior, the inside of the house had an air of noble neglect about it. Several cobwebs hung from dark corners. A shaft of light pierced the gloom from the window at the top of the stairs. Thick dust danced frantically within it. Hermione took in a deep breath. The house smelt musty, stale, as if no proper life had moved through it for an age.

The elf shuffled ahead of her, still not talking. She followed it through to a door far down the hall, tucked away in the corner. It led into a large sitting room, almost empty save for a high-backed chair and a side table near a fire at the far side. The chair faced into the fire, which was blazing away relentlessly.

The elf brought her just inside the room, then turned and pointed sharply at the floor, indicating for her to wait there. She did so. It moved further into the room and approached the chair. Hermione had not noticed anyone sitting in it, but on closer inspection, could see one long-fingered hand resting on the arm. The elf leaned into the chair and whispered to the person seated in it, the sneer deepening on its features as it spoke.

Hermione swallowed hard. She could not deny the nerves jangling within her. She inhaled sharply, trying to fortify her resolve. She must not let this get to her. She had a job to do and she would do it.

The elf finished his conversation and shuffled over to her, passing her without a glance and leaving the room before shutting the door firmly behind him. Hermione's stomach flipped. She suddenly felt ridiculously vulnerable and young again. An image flicked into her mind. It was that of a young girl writhing in agony as her body was subjected to the most excruciating pain imaginable. The young girl was her, in this house.

"Miss Granger."

She almost jumped. The low voice sounded from the chair, but said no more. Hermione stared across. The hand on the arm rose into the air, and with smooth precision the forefinger and middle finger beckoned her over.

She walked across towards him, slowly, each footstep reluctant in its momentum. She could not ignore the constant churning of her stomach now. It threatened to make her sick.

Hermione stopped just beside the chair, still unable to see the figure within it.

"Closer." The low drawl was familiar to her, but she could not argue with its cold insistence.

She took some more steps forward until she was in front of the chair. Then turning, she looked down at its occupant.

Lucius Malfoy was sitting, one leg crossed over the other, before her. His face was impassive, his eyes staring up at her, the deep grey sparking with reflected firelight. His mouth was set straight.

Hermione almost gasped with the sudden awareness of who she was looking at. She had not seen him since his trial, over ten years ago. His face had not aged greatly in that time, she thought, but he seemed thinner. His cheekbones were sharp, his face pale. He still had his mane of blond hair, but it seemed less vibrant than she recalled, and she suspected its lustre had been tamed by streaks of grey. His patrician features remained, but they were more strained, withdrawn. It came as a surprise to Hermione. Although he still studied her with haughty disdain, the effortless arrogance he had always carried with him in the past, seemed to have been dulled.

She had not spoken, had been unable to. She realised with shame that she was breathing deeply, obviously, her chest rising and falling heavily before him. Concentrating to steady it, she still could not speak. The silence was broken by him.

"So here you are - come to classify, chronicle and catalogue me."

At last she found her voice. "I am merely fulfilling the task required of me by the Ministry, Mr Malfoy. Every book of this type in the country is being catalogued."

"So you do not wish to be here anymore than I wish you to be here?" His cold query made her tense.

Why should she give him anything?


He continued to look up at her. Hermione held his gaze. She could not detect hatred as such in his eyes, in fact, they struck her as holding an expression of curiosity, but there was certainly no warmth there. No humanity even. That unnerved her more than anything.

"Please may I see the library?" She had to say something, the tension was becoming unbearable.

He looked away from her, and took a sip from a crystal glass he held in his other hand. He made no move to humour her request.

Hermione grew frustrated. "Mr Malfoy. The sooner, I begin, the sooner I can finish and be gone from here. I'm sure that will please us both."

He turned his head slowly to look at her again. She thought this time she could detect a dance of amusement in the grey eyes. "And just how long do you think this task of yours is going to take, Miss Granger?"

She shrugged. "I don't know. A few hours. I will try to be finished by dusk."

The corners of his mouth twitched into a smirk. "In that case, perhaps you should indeed see my library now."

Replacing the glass upon the table, he pushed himself up from the chair. Hermione swayed back a little; he was taller than she had remembered. Despite his advancing years, the effect of which, Hermione admitted, was not that noticeable in any case, his physical presence was still impressive. He was broad, lithe, and she noticed an aroma of spice as he stood before her. Malfoy looked down, the smirk which had played on his mouth a moment before, now gone. The coldness had returned. Hermione took an instinctive step back.

"Come," he said sharply and walked swiftly towards the door, throwing it open and sweeping out. She quickly recovered her senses and followed him, almost at a run.

He was going upstairs, his long legs bearing him up swiftly. Hermione had to rush to keep up. On reaching the landing, he moved down a corridor, before coming to a door set apart from any others. He stopped and waited for her to catch up, then fixing her eyes with his once again, he turned the handle and opened it, holding it for her to step through.

Hermione almost passed out. It was the largest room she had ever been in within a private house. That alone was extraordinary, but what made her reel with amazement, was the fact that every inch of wall space, from floor to ceiling, was filled with books. In addition to that, bookcases filled the space in between, once again reaching the full height of the room, every one crammed with leather bound volumes and rolls of parchment. It was at least as big as the library at Hogwarts, and rivalled that of the Ministry. She did not think she had ever seen so many books in one place before. She reached behind to grasp the doorframe for support.

Lucius Malfoy was standing beside her, the faint smile back on his lips. "Finishing before dusk, Miss Granger? A tad on the optimistic side, I think. Don't you?"

A Great Task of Solitude

A Harry Potter Story
by Laurielove

Part 1 of 27

     Home     Next >>