Chapter 1: Sweet Significance
Warm Up Week: Draco
Word limit: 350
Harry and Ron stared in shock at the organized chaos in Grimmauld's kitchen.
"Malfoy,” said Harry. Their roommate was wearing a ruffled apron, surrounded by apple peel and dicing with a potioneer's precision. "What the fuck?"
"I'm baking." Draco scraped fruit into a bowl with the back of his knife, and then transferred hot pastries from baking sheet to cooling rack. "I'd think you could figure that out, even if you're both rubbish in the kitchen."
Ron wandered over for a closer look. "No complaints here, mate. These smell amazing." He reached for one, earning himself a spatula smack to the hand. "Oi!"
"Not for you." Draco glared, sprinkling coarse sugar over the rack.
Ron looked crestfallen - pastries dangled, then denied. "Who are they for, then?"
"None of your business." Draco wiped his palms on his apron and leaned a hip into the counter. "Look, I'll have some sent over from the manor. Berry, chocolate - whatever you want. But I certainly didn't have Ceely teach me to bake just to watch you inhale these."
Harry examined a peel curiously. "What's so special about apple?"
Draco gave a resigned sigh. "These are Golden Nobles. My father had the tree transplanted to the manor for my mother when they were married. It reminded her of a Greek myth and - anyway, these apples are…meaningful." His cheeks flushed, and he turned back to his project.
"Why are you baking, though?" Harry asked. "Instead of elves?"
Draco focused on the bowl, but Harry saw the corner of his mouth turn up. "They'll be better received this way."
The next afternoon, Hermione stopped in for tea. Draco had been out late with the mysterious beneficiary he’d deemed worthy of his sacred apples, and was spending the day with his mother, but he'd followed through. The boys served her leftover berry turnovers.
"Good." She nodded appraisingly. "Not as good as the fancy apple ones, though. Did Draco make any more?"
Ron's eyes widened as he choked on pastry. Harry patted him on the back, shaking his head with a smile. "Leave it, Ron.”
Chapter 2: Lion's Den
Week One: Leo
Word Limit: 400
Granger waved off Draco's apology at the beginning of the term. "Thanks, but let’s leave it there. Do you want to dice the shrivelfig or stir?"
She was still brilliant, but less swotty. Interhouse peacekeeping appeared to be the singular focus of her eighth year, and she exercised vigilante justice by fiercely hexing bullies. Even the Gryffindors. Especially the Gryffindors.
Granger was ruthless. Draco was intrigued.
She was coolly confident. He'd never seen anything hotter.
Draco hoped to run into her in the library, but she’d been conspicuously absent in the evenings. His curiosity was piqued when he overheard Finnigan.
"It's like wizarding Fight Club, mate. Only it's a one-witch show, and Hermione's Tyler Durden."
Draco understood enough to want to know more. Careful sleuthing led him to Myrtle's bathroom that evening, where Weaselette leaned against the sink, smirking. "Good luck, Malfoy."
Then she hissed, and the sink shifted. Draco traversed the revealed tunnel, entering a damp stone chamber. He edged through the crowd to see Granger, mane voluminous and untamed, effortlessly dueling the Patil twins’ younger brother.
It was no match. She disarmed him mercifully, already looking for someone new.
"Malfoy." She pointed at Draco. "Let's go. I need a challenge."
He approached warily. "What is this, Granger?"
He snorted. "Bollocks."
She sighed, casting a Muffliato. "I have nightmares. It helps to be exhausted before bed."
He could relate. "Dreamless Sleep?"
"I'm not keen on trading one problem for another," she said dryly. "Are we doing this?"
Draco considered. "I'd like to wager on the outcome.”
“What'd you have in mind?”
“If I win, you teach me to conjure a corporeal patronus."
She nodded slowly. "Fair. When I win, I want in on your private lessons with Minerva."
Of course Granger knew about his very secret animagus training. "You know she'd give you your own lessons."
"I know." Gryffindor boldness let her hold his gaze, but nothing prevented her cheeks from pinkening.
Win-win. He'd pull no hexes.
Draco lost sense of how long they parried and countered, evenly matched and unrelenting. Her hair was spectacular - a furious stormcloud extension of her crackling energy. He'd drop his wand for a chance to sink his fingers into it.
Finally, her Stinging Jinx beat his Protego by a split second, the fierce intensity knocking him backward. Eyes closed, panting for breath, he thought the burn had never felt sweeter.
Chapter 3: Tea for Three
Week Two: Pavo
Word Limit: 500
Sure, when they meet friends for drinks, he always sits next to her. Yes, the press of his thigh against hers sends pleasant heat elsewhere.
Of course, they study together. For hours on end in companionable near-silence, taking turns choosing takeaway. Okay, he knows how she takes her tea, and he reminded Harry last week that she doesn't like coriander.
But they share friends, and they're both in Healer training. When he asks her - and only her - to tea at the Manor, it's the first time she's reasonably confident it's more than convenience and proximity. There might be actual reciprocated interest.
Hermione is beyond interested. She’s thirsty. Tea with Draco sounds delicious.
So it’s hard to believe anything could pull her attention from him, and yet here it is. "This is going to sound odd, but I think that peacock is staring at us."
Draco looks over his shoulder. "Christ." He heaves a great sigh and scrubs a palm down his face. "That's...my father."
Hermione tilts her head. The peacock, perched proudly on a pillar, gives a decidedly Malfoyesque lift of his beak. "That's Lucius."
It's not a question, but Draco nods grimly anyway.
"I wasn't aware of your father's animagus registration."
Draco focuses resolutely on his teacup, which he's rotating in the saucer.
"He's unregistered? He's on probation," she hisses, as if anyone can overhear. "What if he’s up to something?"
"He's a massive white peacock, Hermione. He can barely fly. I’m not worried he’s masterminding world domination. Besides," Draco glares at the bird. "He's hardly subtle."
"It takes extraordinary effort. Why’d he pursue it?"
Draco shrugs. "He's bored. He comes out here to have a sulk. Reassure himself Mother's not having secret trysts amongst the roses." Another long-suffering sigh. "Sometimes I think he's spying on me."
Hermione laughs. "You're an adult."
He quirks a brow at her. "Who still lives at home with his parents. For now, anyway - until training's finished." Another embarrassed glance at peacock-Lucius, and he hangs his head. "Maybe not that long."
Flushed and flustered Draco Malfoy simply has no business being this attractive. His hair is falling over his brow, and she's been aching to touch it for weeks. Longer, if she's honest. Impulsively, she leans in, kissing him softly.
She meant to be quick, just to see his reaction. But when he makes a sinfully surprised sound and his fingers catch her own hair, her lips part and she lingers. Ruffling Lucius's feathers is a decent cover if Draco has second thoughts.
She pulls away, enjoying a few moments of his adorably dazed smile before it slips. He clears his throat. "Was that for my benefit, then? Or his?"
Hermione finally registers the screams - Merlin, there is no other word - of an indignant peacock. She lifts one shoulder and then takes Draco’s hand, missing the showy display completely. "Two birds, one stone."
Chapter 4: You Always Know What to Say
Week Three: Pyxis
Word limit: 500
Warning: Major Character Death
Hermione rarely left Draco's side, but she always returned to find him with a stack of parchment. He ignored questions, pulling her into his increasingly frail arms instead.
She’d assumed they'd have a Last Moment—an intentional, cognizant goodbye—and then he'd slip away. She was horrified to realize his increasing somnolence had culminated in a sleep he simply wouldn't wake from.
Hermione spent three days aching to hear Draco's voice again, her body curled and draped around his. When he exhaled his last, rattling breath, she clutched the smart lapels of his striped pajamas, screaming herself hoarse until Harry pried her away into a tight embrace.
Ginny numbed her with Dreamless Sleep. As Hermione drifted, she stared unseeingly at an unfamiliar wooden box on her nightstand.
When she awoke, a parchment rested on his pillow: I'm sorry, love. I’d do anything to spare you this. I'll always be with you.
She examined the box. It was hollow, rustling faintly when shaken, sealed and impervious to spell. A map of starry sky was etched into the surface. She smoothed her fingers over Pyxis, having never felt so lost.
Parchments continued to appear. The next day: I miss you already, love of my life.
She wept and rested fitfully, refusing food. Three days later: Scorpius needs you. Get up. Clean your teeth.
When Molly and Narcissa pressed her about a service: Let them handle it. No fucking peacocks, though.
Hermione checked his pillow obsessively. She could only sleep with the growing bundle of his love and guidance clasped against her heart.
She couldn’t fathom what charmwork Draco had performed. When she fell to her knees after his service, a parchment appeared, propped against the baseboard: Find that steely strength, Granger.
Weeks passed. People checked in on her less, though her anguish was strong as ever. All-consuming.
She was eyeing the potions cabinet when she saw on the counter: Do you know you're the most beautiful, impressive witch I ever laid eyes on? My love for you is eternal.
She craved his words and sought them with reckless abandon.
An orderly row of Dreamless Sleep was arranged before her, bottles uncapped. She reached for another from the cabinet, pulling back a neatly-rolled parchment instead: Don't you fucking DARE, Hermione.
She tipped them down the sink one by one.
Months and years rolled by. He never missed a beat. Sometimes mundane, always on milestones, he offered navigation through the choppy waters of her grief.
On anniversaries: Marrying you was the best decision I ever made.
The anniversary of his death: You gave me a life I never dreamed I'd have.
After a tearful date she hadn't wanted: Ours was a once-in-a-lifetime love, but I don't need you to wallow for the rest of your lifetime.
Scorpius's graduation: You did so well by him, Granger. I couldn’t be prouder.
Her own days dwindled until only one parchment shifted inside the box: I've waited so long for you, love. You're almost here.
Chapter 5: From Spark to Flame
Week Four: Phoenix/Firebird
Word Count: 500
“‘Soon?’ How can he tell?” They’d come a long way since Buckbeak, but Draco still questioned Hagrid’s judgment.
Hermione shrugged. “I don’t know, but he seemed certain. He said he’d only trust the Head Boy and Girl with it.” She examined the pale blue egg in her cupped palms for signs of imminent hatching. “Phoenix eggs can take years to fully develop.”
"I didn't even know they hatched," Draco said. "I thought they just...were. Out of the ashes, and all that."
Hermione sighed. Her focus was NEWTs, not avian husbandry. This was disruptive to her rigorous study plans. "Let's leave it here and go do some research."
"Whoa, whoa." Draco placed one hand beneath her own and carefully scooped the egg into his much larger palm. His touch was a firm caress she felt after it was gone.
"We're not just leaving this anywhere.” He cradled the egg protectively against his chest. “She's been entrusted to our care."
For once, Hermione felt like the weaker half on a project. Draco refused to leave the egg unattended. He created a schedule, which she accepted hesitantly. Hermione made schedules.
"This is unnecessary, you know." She smirked as Draco struggled to remove the sling he’d transfigured for egg-wearing. "Phoenix eggs don't require incubation."
"Put it on, Granger. Or I’ll take your shift, if you can't handle it."
Affronted, she slipped on the carrier and allowed Draco to snugly secure the egg. "I didn't say I can't handle it. I said it's unnecessary. There's a difference."
Weeks of egg-tending passed. Hermione was wide awake one night, wondering if the egg would hatch before graduation, when she heard frantic knocking at her door. It burst open before she could answer.
"Granger, it's happening!" Draco was uncharacteristically rumpled, his pajamas and hair awry. He clambered onto her bed without invitation, holding the soft nest he'd crafted aloft with both hands. "She's hatching!"
"I hope you have a few names picked out.” She’d teased that Phoenix was too on-the-nose for his family’s naming traditions; he’d have to get creative. “Don’t Malfoys always have male firstborns?"
He dragged his gaze from the cracking and lifting eggshell to give her a withering look. "She's a bird, not an heir."
They huddled over the nest in comfortable silence, focused on the new life emerging between them. Though it would be reborn many times, this first glimpse felt like a profound secret only they shared.
Draco plucked away eggshell until the chick was revealed, fluffing as it dried.
"Merlin," he whispered, reverently stroking one downy wing. "Imagine knowing no matter how you go wrong, you'll get to start over fresh."
Hermione swallowed thickly. Australia and what-ifs were never far from her mind.
Draco cleared his throat, misty eyes on the chick. "I'll let you sleep. I just didn't want you to miss this."
He reached for the nest, but she caught his wrist—the one she knew carried his own what-ifs. She lay back against her pillow, tugging gently. "You should stay."
Chapter 6: Never Made Whole
Week Five: Libra/Justice
Word Count: 100
Warnings: Implied/Referenced Miscarriage or Pregnancy Loss
The plan took months.
It came together on the floor of their second bedroom. Detailed drawings and precise notes, drafted in the shadow of an unused cot.
Draco researched specialists. He wanted to try again. Hermione doubted Muggle science could undo curse damage, but it was something to consider.
The tiny dream she’d carried was irreplaceable, but grief demanded recompense. Unanticipated consequence of a single spell: a life stolen years before they'd ever wanted anything so much.
Infiltrating Azkaban was complicated, but they were well-prepared, slipping into the cell unnoticed.
It was the closest thing to justice.
Chapter 7: Stole the Show
Week Six: Orion/Hunter
Word Count: 394
This was it for me! I had so much fun and highly recommend the competition.
Draco sighed at the hand gripping his thigh. He’d earned the "warning squeeze." Danger: tone, volume, and/or number of drinks neared the upper range of acceptable.
Refreshments offered at the play were noticeably lacking in alcohol, and he was perfectly pleasant. His commentary must not have been hushed enough for the auditorium.
"Okay, okay." He eased Hermione's hand, brushing his thumb across her knuckles. "It's just that you said he was the hero. It's fine if he's not; Scorpius would make a dashing villain. You just set a certain expectation."
"Just watch, Draco."
So he did. He shuddered as the McLaggen sprog puffed his chest, threatening to hunt and kill every animal. He cheered indulgently when Scorpius, aptly cast, vanquished Orion with his sting.
But when Hermione searched for his reaction, he just lifted a shoulder, face impassive.
Her brow furrowed. "Scorpius wanted to make you proud."
"I am! Really, darling. He was brilliant. He was the...stinging-est scorpion there ever was. It's just…" He pulled a grudging thumb toward his left. "Their kid gave him orders."
Hermione leaned around Draco, smiling apologetically at Harry and Theo. "Lily made a lovely Gaia," she whispered. "I can tell she practiced. And her costume!"
"Yes, well." Theo gave a smug wink. "She needed to be fit to direct her subordinates."
"Scorpius won’t be doing anyone’s bidding!” Draco hissed, gripping the arms of his seat.
Theo gaped at him for a moment before patting his arm in contrite recognition. Hermione stroked Draco’s thigh reassuringly. "Shhh. Of course not. It's just a play."
Heads had turned at Draco's hoarse outburst, and Theo glared, twirling a finger. "Show's up front."
Harry gave Theo his own warning squeeze, and Hermione bit her lip to stifle a laugh.
"Sorry," Draco cleared his throat. "Just—sorry. Lily was breathtaking."
Theo shook his head magnanimously. "The scorpion saved the animal kingdom, though. If that was so easy, Gaia could've just fucked Orion up herself."
Harry snorted, but Draco was mollified. "True. He could've told her to sod off, but he did the right thing. Because he wanted to."
Theo nodded gravely. "You're raising a hero, mate." He whispered to Harry, who blushed furiously. “It’s your turn, but we’ll take Scorpius tonight if you take Mother Earth for the weekend.”
Hermione’s hand slid higher up Draco’s thigh—no longer a warning, now just a thrilling promise. “Deal.”