Summary: Hermione Granger works for the Department of Mysteries. Her current task is to examine dark objects. She needs help, so the Minister of Magic gives her a 'dark object expert' to help her with her work. Little did she know that the 'expert' is none other than Lucius Malfoy. She would rather die than except his help. That's the problem…she just might die, if one object does its job.

He finds her incredibly irritating, very annoying, and extremely pretty. He will find helping her no problem at all, except when one object just might be the death of her, then, he will find himself in a reluctant obligation to save her lift. He would just let her die, but he finds her quite fetching these days. If he had to save her life, he will, but he will want repayment of some type. Will she repay the debt that is owed him for saving her lift?

All characters belong to JKR

A Reluctant Obligation


AnneM Oliver


Everything seemed in order, but that didn't stop Hermione Granger from being nervous. This important project, if successful, would guarantee that she would be awarded the money needed for her research. It was also important for another reason; if her project failed the Ministry would continue to further their 'trimming down' of her department. The Department of Mysteries had garnered a bad reputation since the end of Voldemort. Many, including those within the Ministry, felt that it was irrelevant to keep investing funds into something they knew so little about, and understood even less. If her plan succeeded, she would be able to prove to the Ministry that her department was still worthwhile. She would win back the respect that it was due, and still deserved.

She started working in this department three years ago when she first became engaged to Allen Newman. He was a Muggle-born, two years her junior, and the virtual love of her life. It was at his suggestion that she leave her job in Magical Law Enforcement and come to work in his department in research and development. His job was top secret, since he was an Unspeakable, but she knew he did dangerous work. The first day they met, there was an instant attraction between the two. They dated a year before they moved in together, and became engaged shortly after that, and then four months before their wedding, Allen was inexplicably killed, never to be seen again. There was no body, and no evidence of a homicide, yet that was what the Ministry declared. His death had to do with his job so she was never told anything more than that. He was there one day and gone the next.

Therefore, in many ways, she wanted this to succeed for him as much as for herself. Yes, she had a lot to prove.

Her research was based on dark objects, more specifically, how everyday objects could be used for dark purposes. She came up with the idea after Voldemort used sentimental, though common objects, for his Horcruxes. The Ministry was not happy with her research, for they felt it wasn't relevant. Harry Potter, head Auror, helped fund the project originally, and just having him in her corner meant a lot. He still had a great deal of influence with the Ministry. She felt by examining dark objects, they could learn how to defeat them. The Ministry had a whole archive filled with confiscated artifacts, and she wanted to start her research there. Many of the things were taken during the war with the round of up Death Eaters.

She felt her research and the study of dark objects would help future Aurors and even Hogwarts students to learn how to defeat dark magic and dark wizards. It would help them to know what they were up against when dealing with such things. The Ministry thought that the study of dark objects would attract dark wizards, but Harry pointed out to them that if they had been taught about Horcruxes and Hallows when they were younger, then perhaps the Dark Lord would have been defeated years before he was, and many people would not have lost their lives.

Finally, compromises were reached and her research began. She was given a small staff of five, and they were given two months to do their initial research, and then to present to the Wizengamot. If the Ministry felt their work was significant, then they would be given the grant to fund more research, and the real work could begin.

Harry donated all the former Horcruxes to Hermione for research. She wanted to carefully catalog all the items in the Ministry's possession, so that one day they might even open up a sort of "Dark Object" learning center, so future generations could learn from past generation's mistakes. A great many of the items that had been confiscated had belonged to Lucius Malfoy. After all, it had been at his residence that the Dark Lord had spent his last days. The entire home was picked apart, piece by piece, brick by brick, and destroyed. Any item not destroyed was given to her team to examine. Most of the items had been in storage for a very long time, but Hermione was sure their magic was still strong. However, it would have been dangerous for them just to start examining these items, when they didn't even know what dark magic they held.

She went to the Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shackelbolt, and asked him if he could recommend a dark object expert. When he contacted her a week later and told her he found a perfect candidate, she was elated. When just two days after that she found out that person was Lucius Malfoy, she wanted to run away and hide.

As part of his early release from Azkaban, he would exchange his services and knowledge of all the dark objects the Ministry had confiscated. His wand would not be returned to him, unless needed in the research, and in addition to helping Hermione and her team, he would be under house arrest during his probation.

Hence, the meeting she was so nervously awaiting. Lucius Malfoy was set to meet with her and two of her staff members in less than ten minutes, and she was nervous as hell. She had to admit; his help would be tremendously valuable. Many of the items they were studying were still a complete mystery to them, and since over half came from his home, he should at least be able to shed some light on what they were used for and how the dark magic could be removed from them.

Hermione and two of her staff members, Joy Humphries and Mark Weaver, were all sitting at the conference room table, waiting for Lucius Malfoy to appear. She continued straightening the already neat stack of papers in front of her. She was tense. She didn't want to appear anxious once the man arrived.

Her secretary, Diana, ran in and said, "Two Aurors are bringing Mr. Malfoy in now. They're early."

Hermione stood up. She was nervous, that was for sure. Why was Lucius being brought up with Aurors? That wasn't part of the arrangement. While he was at the Ministry, he was to be considered a free man. When the two Aurors walked in the room, flanking the man, she asked them this question directly. "Gentleman, thank you for escorting Mr. Malfoy up to the room, but I hardly think we need to Aurors stationed with the man, when he doesn't even have his wand. Why are you escorting him?"

"Harry Potter's orders Miss Granger. We are to accompany him at all times. More for his protection, apparently, than for the masses. He's gotten many death threats. People don't like the idea of him walking around free," the man said.

"Oh, well, thank you Jeff," she said. She looked over at Lucius, who already seemed bored with the whole affair. He was every bit as imposing as he was the last time she saw him, which was back at the Battle of Hogwarts. Prison had not been kind to him these past ten years. He was very thin, and was starting to look his age, but yet, he still looked striking in his designer robes, his long blond hair tied back, and his ever impressive cane, which Hermione was sure was now just for ornamental purposes, since he did not have his wand.

"Well, you gentlemen can wait for him outside, alright?" Hermione said. She walked over to the door, opened it, and led them to the hall. She turned back around and said, "Mr. Malfoy, I take it you remember me. I'm Hermione Granger." She sat down and showed him a seat immediately to her right, which he took, and she said, "Across the table from you is my head researcher, Mark Weaver, and his assistant, Joy Humphries"

"Charmed, I'm sure," he said, not even looking at the two. He kept his stare, which was full of disdain, directly on Hermione Granger. He said, "And of course I remember you, Miss Granger. May I have something to drink?"

"By all means, we want you to be comfortable," Hermione said. She started out of her chair, when his cane came down on the table. Joy and Mark instinctively backed away from the table. Hermione merely looked at the man and said, "Yes?"

"Do you not have a secretary or a staff member who can get me some water? Must you do it yourself? Is the Ministry on such hard times that the bosses must do the work of the underlings?"

"I'll get the water," Mark said, standing. He walked over to the credenza, poured some ice water, and walked back over to the table. He placed it in front of the man.

"Mark is the project manager for this project, Mr. Malfoy. I know the Minister already informed you what our purpose is, and how you will be able to assist us. We still have many dark objects in our possession about which we are completely in the dark about, and which we are frankly weary of as well. That's where you'll come in. You will assist us with any knowledge you have of these dark objects, what their purposes are, and how we might deactivate them. We also need to know how dangerous they are and to whom they originally belonged. As I said, Mark is our project manager and you will work directly with him."

"And why would I do that?" he asked.

Hermione looked confused. She looked over to Mark and Joy and then back to the man and said, "That was the arrangement for your early release. You will do it or spend the remaining part of your sentence, which I believe is another ten years, back in prison. Now, as I said, you will be working directly with Mark…"

"That is what I meant," he interrupted. "Why will I be working with, what is his name, oh, Mark?"

"Because he is the project manager," she said once again.

"No," Lucius said.

"Excuse me?" she asked.

"Are two-letter words too difficult for you to understand, Miss Granger?" he asked sarcastically. "I said no."

"Do you want to go back to jail?" she asked.

"No would be my answer to that as well," he said.

She glowered at him and said, "Then you will do as we ask, and you will work with Mark."

"No," he said once more. He smiled at her. She already wanted to hex him.

She slammed her fist on the table and Mark and Joy stared at each other in shock. Lucius looked highly amused. Hermione said, "Minister Shacklebolt told me I would not have trouble from you, Sir."

"Well, he told me," Lucius began, "that I would be working exclusively with you, Miss Granger. That is what I agreed to, that is what I signed up for, and if that is not what is to happen, then I will indeed leave, but you will be the one to go against the expressed wishes of the Minister of Magic. Good luck with your project, for you will need luck without me."

"You will be working with me as well, since I will oversee everything," she said.

"I will only work with you, Miss Granger," he reiterated.

"I will be there frequently," she added.

"You, Miss Granger," he repeated.

"But Mark is project manager," she repeated.

"You," he repeated.

"He is very knowledgeable," she added.

"You," he said with finality.

"He is a pureblood," she finally said.

"You," he said once more.

"Mr. Malfoy, you can't tell me you would rather work with a Mudblood and possibly soil yourself, than with a pureblood," she said half-heartedly.

Mark looked over at her and said, "Don't say that word, Hermione."

Lucius sighed and said, "First, I highly doubt I will 'soil' myself by merely working with you. I don't intend to touch you in any way, shape or form."

She threw her quill across the table. "You will work with whom I want you to work, or go back to prison," she said. "That's the end of it."

"I will work with the person I agreed to work with, or I will go back to prison, and you will find yourself without a dark object expert, and you can kiss your grant money goodbye. Yes, I know about the grant. Take my offer or don't, I don't care. If I am going back to prison, I would prefer to leave now. They serve my favourite gruel at lunchtime."

"Mark, Joy, please wait out in the hall with the Aurors," she said. They both left and Lucius leaned back in his seat to examine his nails.

"What is your ulterior motive, Mr. Mafloy?" she asked.

He really didn't have any, but she didn't need to know that. He just wanted to make her angry. He also didn't really have any sort of arrangement with the Minister regarding whom he would or would not work with. Again, she didn't need to know those particular details. He highly doubted she would check his story.

He didn't know why the thought of causing her discomfort warmed his soul so much, but it did. He had to admit one thing, she was beautiful. She wasn't always beautiful, but she was now, she really was. He had always known she was smart. He had to listen to his son complain about that fact all during their school years. He admired her intellect, but more than that, he admired all she had accomplished, although he would die before admitting as much. He could barely admit it to himself. His body was aware of his admiration, if the bulge in his trousers was any indication. He would chalk it up to too many years in prison, and too many years without female companionship.

He had plenty of witches in his day, and if he had been in his prime, he probably wouldn't have given her another look. He had seen pretty witches all day long, starting with his discharge from prison, (the little medi-witch was quite comely) to his interrogation with stupid Harry Potter, (his partner was a fetching witch, although he suspected she might swing the opposite way.) Yes, he had seen many pretty witches today, some who openly stared at him, some who flaunted their assets his way, but only she caused this distressing reaction of an erection. Curious.

It had been two years since his wife's suicide, and even though he strayed all throughout his marriage, many times, he loved his wife, and she was the only woman he ever really desired. However, she was gone now, and he was alone and a man with needs, and he certainly wouldn't kick the little Mudblood out of his bed if she wanted to join him, which he doubted. It would be nice if she was willing. He wouldn't even have to put a bag over her head, since she was so pretty.

"Mr. Malfoy, are you listening to me?" she asked.

"No, no I wasn't," he said truthfully. "I was actually fantasying about having sex with you."

Her mouth hung open in shock. It was a nice little mouth. He wondered what that little mouth could do. She finally grimaced and said, "You can leave. We don't need your assistance after all."

"You need me and I will refrain from such vulgarities in the future. Please note the fact that I have been in prison for years and I forgot how to speak in front of a woman," he said. That should placate her. When Lucius Malfoy turned on the charm, women couldn't resist.

She stood up, opened the door, and said to the Aurors in the hall, "You may take Mr. Malfoy back to prison. We won't need his services after all."

Lucius stared at her and thought, 'what a little bitch'. He finally said, "I apologize. Is that what you wanted to hear?"

She shut the door, (the Aurors weren't standing right outside anyway, they were down the hall) and she said, "You will not show me disrespect sir, and I will try to extend the same courtesy to you. We will work together until this arrangement is over, and I request, no demand, that you treat me accordingly, or I will not hesitate to have you thrown back in jail. Agreed?"

He stood up. He strolled over to her. "You are a vixen," he said.

She frowned.

"Oh, did I say that out loud? I meant to say, I agree." He held out his hand. She looked at his hand, then at his eyes, and then back to his hand. He rolled his eyes and said, "No manners whatsoever." He reached down for her hand and held it in his. He pumped their joined hands up and down several times. He said, "Do you agree as well?" He pulled her closer to him. She swallowed hard. He grinned. She agreed. He knew she would.