Continuing Tales

A Great Task of Solitude

A Harry Potter Story
by Laurielove

Part 21 of 27

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Although the sleep which overcame Lucius was peaceful and restorative, he didn't permit it to keep him from his conscious care of Hermione for too long. Several times during the night he awoke and dropped his gaze to the woman sleeping in his arms. Her breathing was gentle - still shallow, but reassuringly regular.

Already, colour was returning to her cheeks, and the pallor which had swamped her was being banished. There was a peaceful calm in the room, as if the air itself had settled to allow her to recover. The horrific torment which had beset Lucius during the purging of the curse lingered in his consciousness, but such was the delight which now pervaded him that it had lost the potent agony. All was well; he knew it. She was back.

Through the night he watched her, slept a little, watched her more. When the thin grey light of morning started to dispel the darkness of night, he still didn't move but remained gazing down at her. He could see how the gaunt lines which had embedded themselves on her face were already diminishing. The hue of her cheeks was by now a faint rose, and her lips were as full and pink as when she had first appeared in his sitting room all that time ago. He couldn't prevent himself leaning down and planting a soft kiss on her forehead.

If he had forsaken great, unimaginable things for her, it was worth it. There was no doubt. He had saved her. But far more significantly, she had saved him. He admitted it to the silence of the room. The visions he had experienced were still remembered, but he had endured them and had endured them well. His love for her had carried them both through.

As had Harry's. Never had Lucius been so grateful for the presence of another person. Never had his perception of someone been so fundamentally put to the test. Lucius surprised himself with the trust he had put in his sworn enemy. He had thought it had been out of necessity. At first, it had, but then, as they were both ripped through the anguish of their own darkness, they had simply become two humans bound into trust and respect by their love for one woman.

Lucius couldn't quite fathom the shift in perception now within him. If his respect for Harry had taken him by surprise, his realisation of love for Hermione had equally yet to be fully reconciled. That it existed, there was no doubt; he had known for some time if he was being honest with himself, but it was only when he knew he was losing her that he had acknowledged it.

It was not his love for her which confused him - such certainty did not lead to confusion - but the fact remained that he had seemingly abandoned his life-long beliefs and principles. If he stopped to consider it would he baulk at the idea? Of course not. He had been choking under the weight of ideal and principle he forced himself to maintain after the war. It had been a falsehood, part of the reason why he had become so isolated and reclusive. In his heart he had known he could not cling to the old beliefs, but he had not had enough faith in himself to let go of all he was familiar with: the only set of moral values he knew. And therefore he had clung to them amidst an otherwise shifting world, shutting out the inevitable momentum of change, retreating further and further into the ghostly remnants of the past. But that change, which he knew was out there, had come crashing into his disappearing world in the shape of this beautiful, brilliant Muggle-born and had pulled him towards salvation.

When the folly of glory had been dangled before him by the curse - glory which had at last, after years of inaccessibility, seemed real and attainable - he had finally and fully seen the truth of what was slipping away from him: not power and triumph, but life in its purest and simplest form - honesty and love.

She had revealed that to him: love for her and acceptance of himself.

The woman in his arms moved a little. It was already a stronger movement than any he had felt in her the previous night. He smiled to himself as she opened her mouth and breathed in an awakening breath of fresh morning air. And after the breath, her full lips remained open and widened further into a yawn.

The yawn was such a simple, base thing, but it filled him with more delight than ever. He exhaled a gentle laugh of happiness.

Hermione's eyes blinked hesitantly against the light but eventually opened. At first they seemed to stare unseeingly into the room, but then her head moved a little, and she looked up into Lucius' eyes.

She smiled softly.

"Good morning." His words felt almost apologetic amidst the silent stillness which had existed.

"Hello." Her voice was stronger than he would have anticipated. She nestled back into his chest. Lucius held her close, not daring to let her go. "You smell nice," she murmured. He smiled and kissed her head again.

Hermione's limbs flexed and she stretched gently. "I feel ... I don't know ..." Her voice trailed off as she struggled to pinpoint the heavy ache still permeating her body. But as she moved tenderly, straightening her arms, she found that the pains were already dwindling. "What time is it?"

"I'm not sure." Lucius answered truthfully. He hadn't thought about time.

"I feel as if I've been asleep for an age."

"You simply slept through the night."

"I ... it's weird ... There was somebody here ..." Her brows uncreased a little as she remembered vague glimpses. "Was Harry here last night?" The incredulity in her voice was evident.


"I ... something to do with me?"


"I remember ... I remember him being here, but ... I can't recall anything before him leaving. But ... I know something went on ... my head is so full, yet so washed out at the same time, as if it's trying to shut something out of my memory. I ... want to remember ..." She furrowed her brow in an attempt to do so.

"Shh ... not now ... you must recover slowly. You have been very ill, and it will be some time before you are back to full health. You must give yourself time."

She managed to smile at him. In any case, she didn't have the energy to worry about it now. Her stomach rumbled loudly. "God, I'm starving!"

Lucius smiled. "I'm delighted to hear it, my dear. What would you like?"

"Oh, nothing much, maybe some toast and cereal."

"Very well. I won't be long." He raised himself from the bed and walked towards the door. Once there, he stopped and, turning back towards her, crossed over once again to the bed and kissed her. "Don't go away."

Hermione smiled tenderly up at him. "Somehow I think that's unlikely."

Lucius moved swiftly this time out of the room. He hurried down the stairs but was halted briefly in his progress by the bright light which flooded his vision as he moved into the hallway. The star atop the Christmas tree was once again almost blinding in its radiance. Lucius stared at it and felt his heart swell with the same level of intensity.

But awareness of Hermione's needs pulled him back and he continued down the staircase, entering the kitchen to find Grimble sullenly going about his duties.

"Grimble, Miss Granger requires some breakfast. Nothing heavy - some toast and cereal. Thank you." He turned away from his house-elf before stopping himself. Looking back at Grimble, he said genuinely, "Miss Granger has been unwell, Grimble, but you will find that she is restored to her former health."

The elf looked up at him, the look on his face at first as sour as ever. But as Lucius looked down at him, his sneering features softened a little and he inclined his head to his master before resuming his chores.

Lucius returned immediately to Hermione. He found her sitting up in bed, ever more colour restored to her cheeks. He came and sat gently beside her, stroking the hair out of her face.

"I've been trying to remember ..." Her voice trailed off as she struggled to bring clarity to the fog which was tormenting her mind. "It's so hard ... my mind seems to have blocked so much out. I can recall very little for days ... weeks, it seems."

"That is probably best."

"Lucius, please. What happened to me?"

He stopped, looking away. "You were ill ... possessed almost. A great evil was acting upon you. It resulted in your behaviour changing, deeply and profoundly. It was not a happy time for any of us."

"I recall a little ... emotions ... I felt alive, empowered ... I don't know, but also ... so weak and helpless. I can't remember properly."

"The life was being drained from you, but in a way which sometimes led to the illusion of greatness."

"Was I awful?"

"At times."

"And at other times?"

Lucius sighed and turned away. "You became simply very ... passionate, both in temper and physical need."

She frowned in remembrance, snippets returning to her. "Yes ... I think I knew that ... I'm sorry."

"How can you be sorry for something which was no fault of your own?"

"But it must have affected you."

"Your passion was such that it was ... hard to resist."

She looked at him quizzically. Lucius held her stare, his eyes sparking. Then he lowered his gaze quickly, the memories too conflicting, too painful. He could not forget how alive he had felt at those times, how much pleasure they had brought to each other, pleasure which transcended reason. But the cost to them both, which nearly resulted in Hermione losing her life, was more than could be tolerated.

"Lucius ..." Hermione spoke softly, reaching her hand across to take his. "I remember that feeling ... not in thoughts or words, but ... my body remembers ... I remember desire, profound desire which consumed me entirely, and pleasure ..."

She rubbed her thumb over his hand. It was warm and soft, but did not draw out of him that helpless unstoppable lust which had rendered him so out of control. "It cannot be like that again." He spoke quite plainly.

"I know. I wouldn't want it to be. Would you?"

He paused. "No. It was destroying us both. Never has so much been promised and denied me at the same time."

"How do you mean?"

Lucius sighed. He was not sure if it was the right time to go over it, but looking at the open face of the woman beside him, he found himself speaking. She could take it.

"When I was with you, I felt powerful, invincible, everything I had been brought up to believe I could be. You encouraged that, you, or the spirit inhabiting you at the time. You were so compelling, and so, so beautiful, even as your body became more frail. At those times, you were the most exquisite thing imaginable. I had to have you. Always. And I knew that when I possessed your body it would empower me even more, allow me to see what I could achieve.

"But it was all a deceit, a ruse ... nothing was real. If I had continued, you would have died, and I ..." He hung his head.

"What, Lucius?"

"All the power promised me would have meant nothing, would have been useless."

"Why is that?"

He turned to look at her. "Because you would not have been there."

Hermione looked him steadily in the eyes but could feel them pricking with hot tears. Just then, there was a knock at the door and Grimble appeared with a tray of food. Lucius rose swiftly to relieve him of it. They were both grateful for the intrusion to distract from the raw emotion threatening to overwhelm them both.

"Grimble has gone beyond the call of duty once again, more than ever." Lucius smiled as he placed the heaving tray of toast, preserves, a variety of cereal, and an assortment of fruit before her.

"He can be such a star. Remind me to thank him profusely as soon as possible."

"He would appreciate that," Lucius said ruefully.

"Why do you say it like that?"

"Let's just say that your temper was not only directed at me while you were ill."

Hermione closed her eyes regretfully. "Poor Grimble. What must he think of me?"

"Clearly he is relieved that you are better, judging by this selection."

"I'll have a word with him as soon as possible."

"Don't rush. You must allow your body time to recover."

Lucius watched as Hermione ate with a remarkably strong appetite, relishing the flavour of the food as if for the first time. "That's so good," she smiled. "I feel as if I haven't eaten for days." It was closer to the truth than she realised.

"Lucius ... what exactly brought this about?"

"You were cursed." Lucius spoke factually. He knew her fastidious mind would appreciate his honesty.

Hermione looked at him steadily, waiting for further explanation.

"It was what is known in pureblood circles as a Purification Curse but, as I discovered, it is otherwise more aptly termed a Soul-Eating Curse."

She furrowed her brows in horror. "A Soul-Eating Curse? I know about those. They are from an extreme branch of the Dark Arts that had all but died away. Usually they're embedded within objects to work upon a non-pure witch or wizard."


"But ... what ...?"

"The Book of Desire."

Hermione shook her head disbelievingly. "But that was such beautiful book. It brought me ... us ... great pleasure."

"Indeed. But it was designed for use solely by purebloods. If its use was 'tainted' - for want of a better word - by a mud- ... by a non-pure witch or wizard, the curse would be put into effect on them." Lucius couldn't look at her. "And it was a book in my possession, which I allowed to act upon you, albeit unwittingly. For that, I will never forgive myself."

Hermione looked at him with tender love and cupped his face gently. "No. You must never say that."

Silence descended upon them again. Although the memory of her time under the curse was indistinct, she knew how destructive a Soul-Eating Curse was, both to the person directly affected by it and to those around them. As she recalled her knowledge, she turned to him.

"But ... it's virtually impossible to rid anyone of such a curse. I don't know of any cure or counter-curse."


"But ... here I am."

"Yes," he smiled gently, "here you are."

"So how ...?"

"Enough for now. You must rest. It will take time for you to recover fully, although it's wonderful to see the progress you've already made." Lucius leaned over and kissed her on the forehead.

"Why was Harry here?"

"He helped to cure you."

"At your request?"

"Yes." He smiled again and squeezed her hand. "He is a good man."

Hermione could only smile back, tears forming in her eyes. She forced them back. His simple words brought her a rush of joy.

"Try to rest now. I will be back soon to see how you are."

Hermione pouted. "Do I have to stay here all day?"


"Alright, doctor," she smirked.

His mouth turned up at the corners. She was still gripping his hand hard. She leaned forward to kiss him. At first he remained still, not moving into her. There was a sudden lurch inside him, a fearful reminder of what had been. For a moment he was consumed with a terrible dread that it would repeat itself yet again. But as her soft lips touched his, as warm and giving as they had been that initial time in her room, all fears were quashed and he found himself returning the kiss as sweetly and innocently as if they were young lovers together for the first time.

His mouth moved to her ear, running lightly along her smooth cheekbone as it went. He held her head gently and whispered against her ear, "I missed you, my darling ... I missed you so, so much." Holding her head to him, he breathed in the fresh scent of her hair, reminding him of what he had come so close to losing.

"Lucius ..." Hermione sighed his name with longing and brought her hands up his chest, running her fingers around his neck and holding him tight.

Lucius felt himself immediately aroused, not with the uncontrollable violent lust he had become used to, but with loving desire for this woman in his arms again. But he stopped himself. It would have been so easy to take her immediately, but he knew it would be with hasty carelessness. When they came back to each other completely, he wanted it to be at a time when they were both fully aware and ready.

He reached up and pulled her hands away from his neck. "Not now, my love ... there will be time ... time for so much ... not yet ... you are still weak ..."

Still she held him but lowered her head with acquiescence. "I love you," came the soft murmur.

Not I want you, but I love you.

Lucius felt once again that glow inside, which had been banished of late. He whispered against her ear, "I love you too."

Then before he found himself unable to, he pulled himself to his feet and walked from her.


He turned at the door.

"What about the book?"

"It must be destroyed."

She frowned regretfully. "But it was so beautiful. In its way, it helped bring us together."

He lowered his gaze, his breathing growing heavier. "It must be destroyed."

Looking at his elegant countenance, Hermione could see in it a determined solemnity that she could not dispute. In that moment she caught a glimpse of what he had suffered for her. She had no memory of what had happened. Lucius had borne both his pain and her own.

"Yes," she concurred.

He raised his eyes to hers again and managed a faint smile. "I'll be back soon. Put it all from your mind for now."

As he closed the door quietly behind him, Lucius glanced back and saw Hermione snuggling down contentedly under the covers.

He was happy again.

A Great Task of Solitude

A Harry Potter Story
by Laurielove

Part 21 of 27

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