Continuing Tales

A Great Task of Solitude

A Harry Potter Story
by Laurielove

Part 24 of 27

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Hermione approached Ginny and Harry's house without her usual sense of anticipation that Christmas Eve.

Clutching the presents in her hand, she was acutely aware of their meagre appearance. Her feet bore her up the steps towards the door, but her heart was pounding so fiercely that it practically convinced her to turn and run.

She almost did. But just as sense deserted her, folly was foiled by the door opening and Ginny standing in the warm light which flooded from it.

"Hermione! I thought I heard someone out here. We'd almost given up hope of seeing you. Come in, come in. Shit, hurry up, it's bloody cold tonight." And before she could focus properly, Hermione found herself being bundled into the familiar cosiness of Harry and Ginny's cottage.

Harry's accumulation of wealth in the aftermath of the war had meant he and Ginny could buy a beautiful eighteenth century cottage in Richmond, an exclusive town on the outskirts of London. It was called a cottage, but it was in truth large and sprawling, the low ceilings adding to the charm but not detracting from the considerable size.

Ginny continued to push Hermione through into the warm kitchen, where a large pan sat bubbling on the Aga, its welcoming aroma diffusing into the air around them. "Look who I found! And we thought she was ignoring us!"

Three further pairs of eyes turned to note her arrival: those of Harry Potter, George Weasley and Ron.

"Hey, 'Mione!" George stood immediately and came to clasp her in a bear hug. "Long time no see. Harry said you weren't going to make it to the Burrow this year, so it's bloody good to see you."

Hermione smiled warmly at George before turning to Harry. "Hi."

He returned her smile softly. "Hello, you. How are things?"


Hermione moved around. Ron had stood and approached her. "Alright, Mione? Good to see you." He reached in for a wary hug. Since their split, despite the lengthy passage of time, any physical contact was tentative and awkward.

"Hi, Ron. I'm really well, thanks. You?"

"Yeah, not so bad."

"Do you want some soup, Mione? It's just about ready," Ginny asked over her shoulder from the stove.

Hermione hesitated, her fingers running cautiously through her hair.

"Go on, woman," chided George. "Look at you! You need fattening up - you're all skin and bone."

Hermione smiled wearily. "Alright then. Thanks. I, err ... brought you all these."

She sat down at the table and placed the presents before her.

"Thanks, Mi. I think there's some bit of tat lying around for you somewhere too," George grinned at her. She laughed back, but the usual relaxed atmosphere was strangely lacking.

There was a moment of silence which threatened to grow awkward. Ron's abrupt interjection didn't ease Hermione's discomfort.

"Harry says you've been working for Lucius Malfoy."

"Not working for him." Hermione glanced at Harry. He looked back at her, his face set straight.

"So ... what then?" It was clear Ron didn't like the idea.

"I was asked by Kingsley to go and document his library to find any Dark books."

"You've been there a while now. You haven't been round the Ministry for ages."

"No. It's taken a long time."


"Just about."

"Thank Merlin for that. Bet you couldn't wait to get out of that bloody house. Bloody hell. Do you remember what we all went through there? What the hell was it like going back?"

"It was okay actually." Her head was down, but she spoke clearly.

"You must be kidding, Mione. You were tortured in that place. I can't believe you could bear to be back at all," Ginny said, dishing up the soup.

"It's a beautiful house. It's not the fault of the house that all those awful things went on there."

Ron sniffed. "Rather you than me. I'd like to see the bloody place burned to the ground."

"I've loved spending time there."

Ron's mouth gaped in disbelief. "Loved spending time there?"


Her ex-boyfriend's arms were crossed and his head was shaking slightly.

"And what about long-haired Lucius, Mione?" grinned George. "Never see him around these days. Some people say he's turned into a bit of a weirdo, hiding away in the Manor."

"He prefers to stay at home, that's true."

Ginny had by now served the food and joined them at the table. "Did he treat you alright?"


Harry coughed on his first mouthful. "Sorry." He hammered his chest hard. "Pepper."

"What, so, you like, got on okay?" questioned George.


There was silence as they sipped their soup, apart from the occasional clink of metal on china.

"We've become quite close."

The clink of metal stopped.

Hermione stared into her bowl but knew all eyes had turned to her.

"How close?" Ron's voice was low and cold.

Hermione took three breaths.

"We're in a relationship."


"Well fuck me."

Hermione looked at George. His eyes held a mixture of horrified surprise and twinkling amusement.

Ginny's jaw hung so low she resembled a caricature of herself. Her spoon dangled from her hand and soup dripped unnoticed from it onto her lap.

The thundering silence was broken suddenly by Ron pushing back his chair and standing to march from the room.

Hermione glanced at Harry, who reached across and took her hand, squeezing it gently.

"Did you know about this?" George asked him, an excited lilt to his voice.


"How's that?"

Harry inhaled deeply, not sure what to say.

Hermione intervened. "Harry had to come to the Manor to help sort some books out. There was no point in keeping it from him." It was virtually the truth.

"You kept that quiet." Ginny glared at her husband, her arms crossed.

"It wasn't up to me to tell you, was it? I wasn't going to betray Hermione's trust," Harry countered.

"God, Mione. You could have let me know sooner."

"I'm sorry, Gin. It's all been a bit of shock to me too, I suppose. And I didn't know how you'd take it."

"Yeah, well ... shock is the right bloody word."

"Well ... how long've you been together?" George was maintaining his air of calm curiosity.

"Several weeks now."

"Lucius Malfoy, Hermione?" Ginny frowned in disbelief.

"I know. But ...he's extraordinary and ..."

"Go on."

"Well, you know how disillusioned I was earlier in the year. I really didn't know if I could stick it out at the Ministry or even in this country. Life was just so suffocating."

"What ... and the fragrant conviviality of Malfoy Manor allows you to breathe does it?"

Hermione stared hard at her friend. Ginny's bitter words cut her.

"Yes, Ginny, it does. I wouldn't expect you to understand, but ... you'll just have to accept. He's a very different person now. Believe me, it took a long time for us to ... become aware. But he is ... remarkable. We just work together. I can't say anymore now, but, please, just ..."

Ginny sighed. "You can't deny us a bit of time to process it, Mione. I mean ... bloody hell!"

Hermione raised her eyes to her warily, but eventually Ginny managed a watery smile of resignation, which she returned.

George leaned into her. "But you're Muggle-born. I mean, I'm surprised he didn't curse you as soon as you set foot over his threshold."

"Yeah, well, so was I to start with, and so was he probably, but ..." She shrugged, not sure how to continue without going into personal detail.

Just then Ginny glanced around with sudden awareness. "Where's Ron?"

"I'll go." Hermione stood quickly. She found Ron in the garden, leaning against the back wall of the house.

He barely looked at her as she approached.

"Please don't let this affect you, Ron."

He sniffed derisively.

"He's a very different person to what he used to be. You'll just have to accept that."

"Nothing to do with me, Hermione. You can shag who you want. Even fucking Death Eaters."

"Don't be like that. That was all so long ago."

"Some things can't be forgotten, Mione ... or forgiven. I thought we agreed on that."

Hermione opened her mouth to speak but stopped herself. "I'm not going to talk about it now. We'll only end up shouting. He treats me very well."

Ron swayed with a sneer. "Oh, please."

"Please don't let this get to you over Christmas. I wanted to tell you in person before you found out another way."

"And what about Draco? Does he know?"

"Yes. Only since this morning."

"Oh well - you're his step-mum now! You can have lots of little cosy heart-to-hearts. Reminisce about old times! If you're lucky, Luci babes might even let you have a threesome!"

"Oh, Ron, stop it! Don't be so bloody awful." She moved away from him. He stood kicking the ground, arms crossed. "I'm going now. There's a present for you on the table. I hope you have a good Christmas. Goodbye, Ron."

She turned to step inside.

"Are you happy?" His words were shot sharply into the cold night air.

Turning back, she looked into his eyes. "Yes."

Ron's lips pursed and his head nodded almost imperceptibly. "Bye, Hermione. Happy Christmas."

Hermione managed a faint smile and walked back to the others. The other three were standing in the kitchen, looking a little lost in their own home.

She came and stood beside them, her arms rising to the sides. "I'm sorry to shock you. But ... life is full of surprises, as we all know ... what more can I say. I know it will take time to get used to, but ... when you see him, when you see us, I hope you'll understand."

"It's you, Mione. We understand already."

Hermione looked up at George, tears welling immediately into her eyes. She rushed over and embraced him. He circled his arms about her and stroked her back. "It's alright, Mione. You can't get rid of us that easily, y'know."

Laughter mixed with her tears and she pulled back, wiping them from her face. She turned to Ginny, who now had a faint smile on her face.

"Gin ..."

Her friend reached her arm out and drew her into a hug.

"Y'know, Mione, I always thought Draco's dad was quite tasty. Seems I wasn't the only one." They laughed together in their embrace before moving apart. "Before I forget, here you go." Ginny placed a beautifully wrapped present in her hands. "It's from all of us. I'm sorry you can't be with us this year, but ... we understand."

"Thanks, Ginny. Maybe it's best that you don't tell your parents about all this yet. Do you mind?"

"No, that's fine. A wise move."

Hermione took a deep breath and smiled around at them. Ron had by now come back into the room and stood in the background, hands in his pockets, but seemingly resigned to the situation.

"I'd better go. Merry Christmas, all of you. I'm sure I'll see you soon enough in the New Year. There's the Ministry ball after all. Not sure if I'll make it, but ... you never know."

She moved to the door, kissing and hugging them, apart from Ron who still got a warm smile which he returned.

"Bye for now. I love you all."

And, with a wave, she was off, disapparating back to the Manor.

On arrival, she called wearily into the house, the welcoming glow of the Christmas tree immediately soothing away the emotional exhaustion of her trip. "I'm back!"

Lucius appeared almost instantly from the sitting room and walked straight over to embrace her. She nestled into his soft shirt and held herself tightly against him. "Hmm ... missed you."

"I missed you."

Only after she moved back from him did he inquire warily, "And?"

Hermione sighed long and slow and slouched towards the sitting room, removing her coat and scarf in the process before slumping onto the sofa.

"It was okay."

"Okay?" He stood tall beside her, an eyebrow cocked cynically.

"No ... to be honest, it went well. I mean, they were all pretty shocked to start with, but ... they're my friends, they're good people ... they understand."

"And Weasley?"

She smirked up at him. "He'll come round. You don't need to practise your hexes yet."

Lucius didn't look convinced, but leaned down to kiss her tenderly. "Well, I'm glad you're back. You've done well. Let me get you a drink. What would you like?"

"Is there any of that Rioja left?"

Not taking his eyes from her or moving his body, he brought his right hand out to the side. After a moment only, he moved it back before her face; it contained a full glass of red wine.

Hermione laughed with glee and kissed him again. "What a very clever and lovely man you are."

"Not everyone would agree."

"Well, they don't know what they're missing out on." She patted the sofa next to her and he lowered himself into the space. "Our first Christmas together. I haven't got you anything too special, I'm afraid. I normally spend a while planning and getting the perfect presents, but this year has been ... slightly different."

Lucius had his arm around her, his hand resting on her head, stroking her hair. "Don't trouble yourself with that."

They stared into the fire, the warm glow seeping into the reassuring darkness of night.

"Do you remember the first time I came in here? You were sitting over there, in that chair, with your back turned. This sofa wasn't even here then. You didn't look round. I wasn't even sure there was anyone here. You just raised a finger and beckoned me over." She paused to picture the memory. "Pretentious git."

"Now now."

"I thought I'd be finished in a day."

"I remember. Presumptuous cow."

"Oy!" She whacked him hard on the chest.

He chuckled and held her close.

"When I walked into that library for the first time, I just didn't know what to think, where to begin."

"Did you want to leave?"

She thought about it. "No."

"Why not?"

"Because I felt I had a purpose again."

"Making me fall in love with you?"

She laughed with embarrassment into his chest. "Is that what happened?"

He sighed deeply and took a while to continue. "You were right. I was suffocating here, being consumed by my own ideals and prejudices. I knew nothing else. I hadn't been able to deal with the sudden shift I felt around me after the war. I didn't want to. My desertion of the Dark Lord terrified me as much as it saved me. I had done this thing, this thing which forced me to relinquish my hold on all things familiar to me, everything I thought I believed in, but equally, I no longer had the structure to support me, merely a crumbling edifice of the past, a relic of a once well-defined and glorious pureblood dynasty, both in the fabric of my house and the tattered remains of my soul. And here I stayed, propping up what was left, unable to leave for fear it would crumble forever.

"And then you came. You came crashing into this place, into my life, sweeping through, exposing the cracks, forcing me to confront the reality of its inevitable decline: your scent, your eyes, your voice, your body, so new and vital. You provided the scaffolding with which to rebuild, and with that I could breathe again. I was no longer shackled by this immense burden of responsibility for all that had been. You allowed me to realise that things continued without it, not abandoning the noble parts, but adapting, looking forward. I could no longer imagine you away from my house, away from me. You came to define this place and its future as much as anything that had gone before. You were allowing it to live again, allowing me to live.

"But then the past rose up a final time, unable to fully relinquish its control, unable to accept its servant's departure. It held me and put me to the final test, tempting as it does in its desperate bid for survival, enticing me with false hopes and dreams, destroying the one thing that was saving me. And I nearly succumbed, I nearly lost you. Weak and foolish coward that I am."

"No, Lucius, you're not."

"You yourself said it once."

"That was a long time ago. And it was merely a suggestion of what may have been."

"But you were right. I was a coward before: weak, blinded by ambition and glory, unable to think for myself."

"But not when it mattered, Lucius. You did save me. You did what had to be done, and you went through a worse torture than I ever had to endure, because you were confronted by your own fallibility, your own fears and torments. You did that for me. I know that. You saved my soul by flaying yours bare."

Lucius fell silent, his eyes fixed darkly ahead of him.

"You cannot doubt that I love you." He turned and stared deep into her. "Falling in love with you was all I could possibly do."

Hermione returned his gaze, her own eyes glazed with bright tears. He inclined his head and kissed her gently. "My love, my salvation ..." He repeated his words through soft murmurings against her skin.

"I like that," she whispered.

"You know it's the truth."

"I like to think it, over and over and over again ... Lucius Malfoy fell in love with me."

He grinned, still planting soft, delicate kisses over her face, her eyelids, her cheeks, her brows. "Just to be absolutely certain; would you like me to show you exactly how much I fell in love with you?"

"Oh ... I think I'd like that very much."

He bent down to kiss her again and, almost without her realising it, took her in his arms and carried her to the bedroom. The clock in the hall struck midnight, announcing the dark and quiescent start of Christmas Day. As they passed swiftly and silently by, the star shone brightly over them.

A Great Task of Solitude

A Harry Potter Story
by Laurielove

Part 24 of 27

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