As a little present for you all, but particularly for Wendynat, because she promised me a new chappy of Cloaks for my birthday and delivered!! Woot!

Harry and Ron weren't cruel; but they were shallow, insensitive, thoughtless bastards.

They were boys; what can I say?

They'd never been in love, had no intention of falling in love, and frankly thought the whole business was over-rated. They were therefore the last person on God's earth that Severus Snape should have considered applying to for advice on Romance.

Severus wasn't stupid; he knew that the boys didn't like him, despite saving their miserable lives on several occasions during the War, and that they would regard the idea of him having Romantic inclinations with horror. And that was even before they discovered that his 'target', for want of a better word, was one Hermione Granger, spinster of this parish. He therefore prudently decided to find a 'ringer' to make enquiries of her two best friends as to the best method of wooing her.

He chose Draco: not a bad choice in itself. Of course, where Severus went wrong was in assuming that Harry and Ron had the faintest idea of what women in general considered romantic, let alone Hermione in particular.

Where Draco went wrong was in drinking too much.

Now that the war was over, he had the exquisite luxury of not having to watch what he said, or who he said it to, and could be as rude and indiscreet as he wanted. Which, as it turned out, was an awful lot.

"So," said Ron, who was by this stage listing heavily to port, "what did you want to see us for?"

Draco look bewildered. He couldn't for the life of him remember what the hell he was doing drinking with these two lightweights. Oh. Hermione. Severus. Lurve. Erk. "I was wondering about Hermione," he replied, trying to look innocent and failing badly, "what sort of things she liked."

The two lightweights exchanged looks of mutual incomprehension and then turned back to Draco. "Er, why do you want to know?" asked Ron. He was the more sober of the two, which wasn't saying much, and therefore better equipped to ask questions.

Draco took a deep breath and made the ultimate sacrifice. "'Cos I fancy her."

He tried to force a blush, but his cheeks remained lily-white. He hoped that never got round; he had a reputation to maintain. If Severus ever found out – well, the man wasn't rational on the subject of Hermione – and he'd get all twitchy and paranoid – which in themselves were perfectly sensible responses – and think it was true. He'd either get terribly noble and surrender the field to Draco, which would be disastrous (and unlikely), or he would slip him some poison one quiet evening to eliminate his rival.

Which was fair enough, but some of the antidotes tasted foul.

Draco was slightly worried by the quizzical look that Ron was giving him. He was the brighter of the two, although it was clear that Hermione was the brains of the outfit. He sometimes wondered how the pair of them managed to get their shoes on right without her there to explain the difference between left and right on every occasion.

But it seemed the faint gleam of intelligence was cupidity; the price for the information was putting his hand in his pocket for another round. He hadn't discussed expenses with Severus, but he made a mental note to do so before handing over the information, when it might be supposed that his anticipation was keenest. It was probably not wise to rely on gratitude instead of extortion.

And maybe a little something on the top for his time and trouble. Although nothing could compensate him for the horror of an evening spent in this company.

Drink duly bought and paid for- and he hoped no one he knew would see him carrying drinks with an umbrella in them, because all the money in Gringotts wouldn't help assuage that damage- he transported them back to the table, and watched in amazement as the boys managed the tricky business of knocking back the drinks in one without sticking themselves in the eye.

So they weren't entirely stupid then.

"So," he prompted.

"So," said Ron. "About Hermione." He looked meaningfully at his empty glass.

Draco was fond of Severus, but there were limits. "Tell me what you know, and I'll leave ten galleons behind when I go, and you can get as drunk as you like."

Ron smiled broadly. "Fair enough."

"But ... but we couldn't do that to Hermione," Harry said. "She's our friend, we can't betray her confidence."

Draco was impressed that Harry knew a word with three syllables; much less use it when he was pissed. He exchanged a look of exasperation with Ron: of all the times to develop a conscience. How very tiresome.

Ron's smile dimmed a little. "It's not betraying a confidence, is it Draco? It's helping two young lovers come together."

Draco flinched at that, and then turned it into a nod of agreement. "That's right," he said, trying to sound enthusiastic about the slightly-less-bushy- haired Know-it-all.

Harry nodded wisely. "That's alright then."

"So, what you need to know about our Hermione is that, underneath that determined and forthright exterior there's a closet romantic. She pines, positively pines, for the old days when a man was a man, and he would court a woman properly. There would be flowers..."

"... and chocolates," put in Harry, "she does like chocolates..."

"...and chocolates," confirmed Ron, a little irritably. "Now, it's her birthday in a couple of days time; I'm sure she'd appreciate a romantic candlelit dinner for two, flowers, poetry, the whole works."

Draco, having got what he came for, passed the galleons over and left hurriedly.

"Ron," said Harry. "What did Hermione say when you brought her that bunch of flowers?"

"Something about romance being a subtle snare designed to get housework out of women without having to pay decent wages, and that it was the sugar- coating that made women think that marriage was anything other than an oppressive slave contract, and that she wasn't that stupid thank you very much, and that since she didn't have a vase for them I could stick them where the sun doesn't shine. I don't know what she said after that; I stopped listening."

"I thought that was what she said." Generous people would assume that Harry's powers of reasoning were hampered by the half pint of shandy he had consumed.

Ron busied himself counting the money; he wouldn't put it past Malfoy the try and shortchange him, er, them.

"Ro-on."

"Yes, Harry."

"Why did you tell Draco to buy her flowers then?"

The last time Harry had seen a smile like that it had been on the face of Lord Voldemort.

"Oh." Harry smiled back. "We were planning to go and see Hermione on her birthday weren't we?" he asked innocently.

"Indeed we were, my friend. Indeed we were."

It was only fair that the pair of them would wake up the next morning with a terrible hangover, and be unable to find their hangover potions.

Draco repeated the news to Severus, extracted his 20 galleon fee, and disappeared to the country for a week to let the gossip die down.

Severus then turned his considerable organisational skills to making sure Hermione Granger had as much Romance as even Barbara Cartland could hope for; only less pink and slightly more black.

Flowers – check.

Chocolates – check

Champagne – check. (One bottle to be kept in his quarters subject to a chilling charm for afterwards, in case there was an afterwards.)

Poetry – check.

In fact, he'd worked his way through reams of Muggle poetry of varying degrees of soppiness and artistic merit in search of something suitable. In the end, he'd settled for a book of collected poetry on the basis that she was bound to like at least one.

Dinner – check

He'd booked dinner at the most expensive Restaurant in Hogsmeade and had specified oysters, strawberries, champagne, and more chocolate.

All in all, it was a very satisfied Severus Snape who reviewed his arrangements the night before Hermione's birthday. No one could say he hadn't done his best.

Hermione hadn't been looking forward to her birthday.

She had seriously considered cancelling it; they were the same every year. She knew what she'd be getting: her parents would send her a card and 'a couple of quid to spend on something she fancied'; the boys would get her a book token – didn't they think she did anything other than read?; and Ginny would get her Lavender bath salts, which made her feel as if she were ancient.

She felt about as appreciated as a dose of the clap in a knocking shop.

She hadn't even managed the long lie in she'd promised herself; she woken at eight, as usual, and couldn't get back to sleep. Bored with staring at the ceiling, she stumbled out of bed, put on her long silk wrap – and who had she been kidding about that – and stumbled into the kitchen to make breakfast.

She'd promised herself a treat, and a treat she would get. If no one else was going to pamper her, she would make damn sure she would: croissant, stuffed with herby scrambled eggs, exotic fresh fruit, and hot chocolate made from scratch.

She was feeling a little happier by the time breakfast was over. She decided that if a lie in was impossible, she would at least laze on the sofa in a state of undress, until the boys decided to turn up.

She was indulging her inner child and reading one of her favourite children's books when a tapping at the window disturbed her. An owl; but from whom?

Intrigued, and a little excited, she opened the window to take a small box and a larger card from the animal's leg. "You poor thing," she said, offering it an Owl treat, "that must have been a heavy load." The Owl looked pitiful, and was rewarded with another treat for its trouble, before heading off into the distance.

She opened the card. It was truly appalling: wreathed in roses, with a verse of vapid sentiment and signed From A Secret Admirer.

She sat down on the sofa. She had a secret admirer. That was...odd.

And a bit worrying.

She prodded the box with her wand, and jumped back in shock when it began expanding. Calm down, you silly girl; it's only a standard shrinking spell. Now fully five times larger, the box was wrapped in paper printed with little red hearts, and was surmounted with an enormous red bow. The bow began to unravel itself, and the sides of the box fell open to reveal the largest box of Honeyduke's finest chocolate assortment, and a book of poetry.

The card and the paper may be naff, but her secret admirer certainly knew the way to a girl's heart. She settled back on the cushions, and opened the book to the first page, ah Donne, her favourite. A hand made its way absently to the box of chocolates, and Hermione began to read.

Hermione was so engrossed in her book that she barely noticed the passing of time, other than to begin on the second layer of chocolates, a feat she couldn't manage without putting the book down. She looked up and realised with dismay that it was nearly time for the boys to arrive; she'd better get ready.

The boys were supposed to be taking her out for a drinkies some time in the mid-afternoon, and then on for dinner. She put her hair up and slipped into the shower to freshen up. She had already chosen her outfit – nothing too flashy, the boys never took her anywhere posh. She looked at the plain trousers and shirt laying on the bed; she'd never seemed to dress up anymore.

Bugger it, she was going to dress up, and she was going to make the gits take her somewhere nice. Time for the Little Black Dress with the plunging neckline, the pearls, to draw attention to the plunging neckline, and the stockings with the seams up the back.

She didn't like the smug smiles that the boys were wearing – they looked as scruffy as ever, she noted – as if they knew something she didn't.

And how likely was that?

"You look nice, Hermione," offered Harry, giving her a quick peck on the cheek.

"Thanks. Come in; help yourself to a drink."

The boys arranged themselves on the sofa, sitting bolt upright and looking very proper. The dress was obviously making them feel uncomfortable.

Good.

"I didn't think we were going anywhere special," said Ron.

"I just fancied making an effort for once," she replied.

"You can't fool us, Hermione. It's Draco isn't it?"

Harry would be no good at Poker; Harry would be no good at Patience; Harry wouldn't be good at anything other than Exploding Snape. She said nothing; he rose to the bait despite Ron's best attempts to shut him up.

"We know all about it, there's no point trying to keep it quiet."

Hermione still said nothing, but she allowed a faint smile to play across her face, whilst, ever so casually, glancing in the direction of the empty box of chocolates.

"I'll say something," said Ron, "he's a smooth operator. Chocolates, who would have thought, Harry."

Ron's smile was a little too broad for Hermione's comfort; the two of them had obviously been up to something. Now, she just had to wait to find out what. "They were very nice."

"I said you'd like chocolates," said Harry knowingly. "I was right."

Ron twitched. Hermione could guess the rest – they'd been giving Draco wooing advice. She was bit surprised that her secret admirer was Draco – she'd always assumed he was gay – and a little disappointed. He definitely wasn't her type. Too young, too immature, too blond.

Then began the staring contest – who was going to crack first? Everyone considered it was going to be Harry; including Harry. Just before his brains turned to jelly and he was overcome with an urge to confess to everything, there was a knock at the door.

Hermione wasn't expecting any guests; she had a nasty suspicion it would be her Secret Admirer.

Oh well, she'd better prepare to let Draco down gently.

The boys could clearly be heard sniggering as she went through the hall to the door to the flat. She twisted back to tell them to belt up as she opened the door, then turned to see Severus Snape.

She had difficulty believing her eyes at first, so sure was she that Draco would be there; she almost looked behind him for the young man. Then she registered the large bunch of flowers – roses again – the slightly sheepish but rather hopeful expression and it call became very clear.

Severus Snape fancied her; he had sent her the chocolates and the book, and now he was here on her doorstep with flowers obviously about to ask her out.

Good God.

She briefly closed her eyes, offered up thanks to whichever god was watching over her tonight, and prepared to do everything she could to take advantage of this opportunity.

"I'm sorry if you have guests," he said awkwardly, "I didn't think. Of course, you'd have people round on your birthday. I was just wondering if you'd like to go out to dinner with me?"

"Now?"

"Now. Later, whenever."

Hermione thought about the boys, and their stupid prank; and she thought about dinner with Severus. She reached out a finger and stroked one of the petals. They were very nice roses.

"For you," he said, pushing them into her hands.

"Thank you, they're lovely."

There was an excruciatingly awkward silence, which was broken by Ron shouting, "Who is it?" and the sounds of more sniggering.

Severus stiffened and turned to go.

"Severus, just give me a minute to put these in water, and I'll be right back. Dinner sounds wonderful."

"Really?"

"Really. I'd ask you in to wait, but you know what those two are like. They'll never shut up."

She smiled at him encouragingly, and went into the lounge. "Oooo, Hermione's got a boyfriend!" they chorused in an annoying sing-song before collapsing in fits of laughter. If they were girls, it would be called giggling, as they were boys, it was still called giggling. She was overcome with an urge to wipe their silly grins off their faces.

It didn't take long to find a vase, fill it with water, and dump the flowers in – she could arrange them artistically later. The boys had stopped laughing, and were looking at her, faintly puzzled.

"What are you doing?" asked Harry.

"What does it look like?"

"But you don't like flowers and romance, you said so," said Ron, very aggrieved.

"Ron, I don't like flowers when they are a cheap bunch of daisies with the roots still hanging off them, which you give someone as a last minute valentine's day present when you forgot to get something better because you think Quidditch is more important than, say, your girlfriend."

Both boys were gaping at her now.

"You can't be serious; you can't mean to go out with Draco Malfoy?" asked Ron in shock.

"You're quite right," she said briskly, putting her coat on and moving to the door. "I'm not. Draco was obviously asking for a friend; I'm going to dinner with Professor Snape. Don't wait up. Close the door behind you, and could you do me a favour and find that special bottle of champagne under the sink and put it in the fridge to chill."

Harry headed off to do as instructed, bless him; Ron just looked at her. "Snape? What do you want champagne for?"

"For afterwards," she said. "For when I invite him back to the flat, for when I sit him on the sofa, for when I offer him a drink of champagne, and just before I drag him into the bedroom and make mad, passionate love to him all night long. Any other stupid questions? No? Good."

Ron had nothing to say to that, which was a relief.

"You know I heard every word you said in there," said Severus, as she shut the door to her flat.

A lesser woman would have blushed or looked awkward. She just fixed him with a look and said, "Oh good. No need for misunderstandings later then is there."

As he politely offered his arm to Hermione, Severus couldn't help reflecting that he was really rather good at this Romance business.