"Ooh, Happy Valentine's Day, Draco!"

Pansy's squeals echoed through the common room and rang sharply in Draco's head. He shook his head in irritation to clear the piercing shriek from his nearly shattered eardrums. Suddenly a pair of arms wound around his neck from behind and he found himself pinned to the sofa by the squealing demon.

"Aren't you going to wish me a Happy Valentine's Day, too?" she whispered not so coyly.

"Aren't you going to let me breathe?" he choked out contemptuously.

With a huff she released her choke hold on him and flounced around the sofa to stand in front of him. "Jocelyn Everett got a dozen roses and a box of chocolates from her boyfriend for Valentine's Day."

"Is that right?" Draco asked disinterestedly, looking deliberately away from Pansy.

"Well," she began dramatically, "that is what boyfriends do, after all."

After a long pause Draco looked up to see Pansy with her hands on her hips and her foot tapping impatiently. "Well," he said snidely, "I wouldn't know, considering I'm no one's boyfriend."

Pansy's jaw dropped at Draco's statement of harsh fact. Then she harrumphed and spun on her heel, leaving an eye rolling Draco in the wake of her apparent fury.

Ah, silence is golden, he thought as Pansy's incoherent babblings muffled behind her slammed dormitory door.

"Hey, Draco." Crabbe's voice entered the common room as he and Goyle ambled in from the corridor. "These are for you. We found them outside the common room door." The two then proceeded to dump armloads of letters and cards onto Draco's lap.

Draco jumped back against the sofa in abject horror as the offending objects poured over him. "Honestly," he said, disgustedly picking up a nauseatingly bright pink heart shaped card from the top of the pile addressed to My Slytherin Prince. "This has got to be the poorest excuse for a holiday in the history of wizard kind."

Goyle sat next to him on the sofa and picked up a square card lined in green foil with a silver foil heart in the center. As he opened it a squeaky high pitched wail began singing as a cutout of Draco's head sprang out and bobbed around to the song. "Oh, Draco Malfoy is my king. When he's near my heart just sings..."

"Oh, Merlin!" Draco tore the card from Goyle's hand and swiftly proceeded to handily toss the non-talent card into the fireplace. Within seconds the card and song shriveled away into nothing but a few ashes and a shuddering memory.

"Funny," Crabbe said after opening and tossing a dozen or more cards and letters into the fire, "but none of them are signed."

"Would you sign your name to one of these atrocities?" Draco asked while holding up a lime green and pink heart flashing "Be Mine" in red.

"Ah, right." Crabbe then stood up, followed by Goyle. "So, ready to head down to breakfast?"

"I'll be along in a minute. I still have to feed the fire." Draco picked up another singing card and immediately chucked it into the fire.

Crabbe and Goyle merely shrugged before leaving Draco to his task.

After opening a few more ear-splitting cards and a heart shaped box with colors resembling a regurgitated rainbow, he began quickly feeding the fire with the remaining unopened Valentines. "I wonder if the Boy-Who-Lived-to-be-an-Idiot has to deal with this nonsense," he mused as he picked up the last letter.

Just as he was about to turn the final offering into cinders he stopped. This letter wasn't like the others. It wasn't ostentatious or loud or ridiculously shaped. It was a plain piece of light pink parchment tied with a simple gauzy white ribbon. Where the other Valentines had only irritated him, this one intrigued him with its understated simplicity. Ah, may as well read it, he reasoned.

He slid the ribbon off the parchment and unrolled it. As per the others, it was not signed either. But, unlike the others, it was also not addressed to anyone.

A poem, he decided quickly upon seeing the shape and length of the text. You've got to give them points for creativity. Although the others get negative points.

In the back of his mind he fully expected a poem along the appeal of "Oh Draco Malfoy is my king..." After the first few lines, however, Draco found himself entranced by the words, his eyes sliding eagerly over each new idea. He read and re-read the poem half a dozen times, each time more slowly and deliberately than the last.

"Wow!" he said out loud, thoroughly impressed at the depth of the written offering. If I didn't know better I'd think I wrote this myself. Who else could know what my life is like and how I feel? After reading his Valentine poem one more time he decided, Someone is definitely paying closer attention to me than I realized. But who?

As he carefully rolled up the parchment and slid the ribbon back onto it he determined to watch everyone to see who may be watching him in return. Surely whoever it was who sent the poem would want to see his reaction and would be watching him. He had to discover the identity of this poet. No one had ever truly understood him before, but in fourteen lines someone had finally managed to capture the essence of his soul. This person he had to meet.

With great care he gently placed the parchment inside his robes and walked toward the Great Hall, intent on uncovering the one with the chillingly accurate insight into his existence.

"It's the most wonderful time of the year..."

Hermione awoke groggily to the light and airy singing of her roommates. She groaned and pulled her sheets up to her chin when all of a sudden her senses were accosted. The singing grew steadily louder in her ears, a bright flash lit up the inside of her eyelids, and a harsh fragrance of lilacs attacked her nose.

"Please, please stop. You're killing me," Hermione begged from under the cover of her pillow.

"Oh, come on," Lavender pouted. "My singing's not that bad."

"No, no, you sing fine, but you're loud and, for Merlin's sake," she bellowed as a second flash blinded her just uncovered eyes, "what are you trying to do? Wake the dead?"

"Well, I'd say it worked. You're awake now, aren't you?" Parvati giggled as she set down her camera.

"Oh, please tell me you were not just taking pictures of me," Hermione pleaded.

"Of course not," Lavender said. "We were taking pictures of each other. We both did something new to our hair for Valentine's Day and wanted to document it."

Hermione looked between Lavender and Parvati and noticed thick strands of red streaking through their hair. "You dyed it?" she asked surprisedly.

"No, it's just a spell. It will wear off by tomorrow," Parvati explained. "Now get up. We want to try it out on you, too."

"No way," Hermione rejected, scrambling up against the headboard of her bed. "I refuse to walk around the castle looking like a half dipped candy apple."

"Oh, come on, Hermione," Parvati pouted. "It's Valentine's Day. Do something daring for a change."

"Daring?" Hermione questioned. "Fine. I'll actually eat Hagrid's treacle fudge today, but I will not allow you to get your wands anywhere near my hair."

"Oh fine. Be a scrooge then," Parvati said going back to her mirror.

"And, by the way, it's not Christmas." Hermione stomped over to the bathroom and loudly shut the door.

"Bah humbug," Parvati said haughtily, feeling mildly hurt. "That girl really could use a Valentine today."

After her getting-ready-for-the-day routine Hermione felt better. She emerged from the bathroom and found Lavender and Parvati still primping at the mirror.

"Feeling better?" Lavender asked.

"Actually, yes," Hermione said, a slight twinge of guilt for her earlier outburst settling over her.

"Good. Now come over here and put on a little make-up. And no more complaining," Lavender commanded.

Still feeling guilty, Hermione did as instructed and sat on the edge of Lavender's bed. She tried to politely decline as much of the make-over as she could, but still ended up with a light smattering of brown and pink on her eyelids, a trace of blush, and a brownish mauve tint on her lips. She had to admit, she was no raving beauty queen, but Parvati and Lavender were masters of make-up.

Feeling surprisedly pleased with her light make-over, she went to her trunk and pulled out a small box containing a silver heart pendant on a chain. Her mother had given it to her for Christmas, and somehow she felt vaguely inspired to wear it.

As she rearranged the trunk's contents she realized that something was not right. She shuffled items back and forth, searching wildly for something that wasn't there. "Oh no," she exhaled with dread.

"What?" asked Parvati concernedly.

"Have you seen a piece of pink rolled parchment with a white ribbon sitting around anywhere?" she questioned hopefully.

"Ooh," Parvati squealed in delight. "A Valentine?"

"No," Hermione stated firmly.

"Oh," Parvati responded, her smile drooping. "I'm afraid not. Why?"

Hermione continued to look frantically in her trunk and answered, "It's missing. And it's very important."

"Well," Lavender offered, "maybe someone saw it, thought it was a Valentine, and delivered it."

"But it wasn't addressed to anyone," Hermione defended, hoping that that particular scenario was an impossibility. Unless someone had read it and had figured out who it was written about. After all, it really only fit one person...

"Well," Parvati was saying as Hermione broke out of her thoughts, "have you checked your school bag or your robes?"

After a thorough check of everything and still no pink parchment Hermione decided, "Oh boy, I'm in trouble."

Lavender's ears perked up and she pried, "Was it a love letter?"

"No," Hermione answered defeatedly. "It was just some random writings, and it was highly personal." Well, it was mostly the truth. It was a highly personal piece of writing, but it definitely wasn't random. She wasn't the type given to flights of fancy, or poetry for that matter, but she distinctly remembered the incident that had inspired her poet within.

Just before the Christmas holidays she was on her way to Snape's office to turn in an "extra credit" assignment he had punished all of the Gryffindors with that day. She knew she could have turned it in the next class meeting, but she didn't want Ron snooping around for "help." Not that Ron ever cheated, but Hermione felt he would learn a greater lesson by having to prepare his assignment by using his own notes, which, knowing Ron, were most likely nonexistent.

As she rounded the corner to the hallway where Snape's dungeon classroom resided she heard a distinct slap and saw Lucius Malfoy pulling his arm back from Draco's face. "Never talk back to me, boy. You know your duty. And if you've forgotten it, you would do well to swiftly remember it."

Hermione quickly but quietly retreated back around the corner so as to see but not be seen. She felt guilty about spying on her enemy and his father, but she couldn't seem to drag herself away.

"You're beginning to seem as worthless as that Mudblood Granger," Lucius spat out viciously.

Hermione felt like she now had just been slapped.

"She's the most brilliant witch at Hogwarts, Father," Draco admitted. "She may have dirty blood, but she's not worthless."

A smack echoed loudly through the corridor and Lucius once again pulled the back of his hand away from Draco's face. When Draco turned his face back to meet his father's, blood trickled down from his mouth. Hermione covered her mouth tightly with her hands to keep from crying out in horror.

"Remember your place," Lucius said in a threateningly dead monotone.

"Yes, Father," Draco responded, a look of pure venom in his eyes.

Lucius raised his wand to Draco's face and muttered something. Instantly the blood stopped flowing and disappeared. "There," he said. "None will be the wiser. Your skin is again unmarked and unflawed. But you still feel it, don't you?"

Draco lifted his hand to his mouth, discovering the blood had gone, and nodded.

"Let this pain be a reminder to you of your place and a foreshadowing of what will be should you neglect your duty again." Lucius then put his wand away.

Hermione, aghast at what she had just witnessed, backed up further and noisily scuffed her shoe against the wall. She stood frozen, fearfully awaiting her turn at the wrath of Lucius Malfoy if he discovered her.

"I will deal with you at the holiday," Lucius whispered menacingly to his son. "Now get back to your common room."

Hastily retreating footsteps alerted Hermione to Draco's departure, and, without delay, she, too, retreated back to Gryffindor Tower at a run.

After she entered the common room, out of breath and shaking, she waved off Harry's and Ron's inquiries, mumbled something about Filch on patrol, and vanished up the stairs to her dorm.

She couldn't sleep the whole night, the horrific scene from the dungeon replaying in her mind. When she did finally drift into slumber, she was plagued by constant images of a little blonde boy being abused and berated by Lucius Malfoy. Finally, she sat up in bed and leaned back against the headboard. What she had seen that night had probably not been the first instance of that occurrence. She shuddered to think of Draco enduring that sort of tyranny since childhood. Even Draco, her worst enemy, should not have had to endure Lucius' terror, especially as a child. She felt disturbed and horrified and disgusted. And, somehow, compassionate. Draco had been molded to be horrible. Sure, he did fine on his own without being constantly prodded by his father to be vile, but the fact remained that Lucius had bred him to follow in his evil ways. And for that Hermione felt pity and compassion towards the abused boy.

She felt rattled and knew she wouldn't be able to go back to sleep again that night. She needed something to do. Usually, homework provided much needed distractions, but she had finished all of hers for the next two weeks. So she took out quill and parchment and began to write. Before she knew it, she had written a poem. A sonnet, to be exact. She had always loved Shakespeare, and the form had just seemed to take its own shape as she wrote. It was cathartic, and soon her discomfort and trepidation were melting away.

After that experience, she would chastise Ron and Harry for verbally abusing Draco, knowing full well he got enough of that for all of them. Draco had also seemed to have stopped tormenting them, well, Hermione, at least.

"Hello, hello, earth to Hermione."

Hermione blinked her eyes and suddenly realized she was still in her dorm, Parvati's fingers snapping and waving in front of her eyes. "Oh, sorry," she said, finally shaking out of her reverie.

"We'll have to hurry if we want any breakfast," Lavender said. "Come on, ladies. Our Valentines await."

Hermione rolled her eyes but followed her roommates down to the common room and out the portrait hole to the Great Hall. As they walked, a small cherub carrying a bow and arrow zoomed past them, causing Lavender and Parvati to breaks into coos of oohs and ahs. Honestly, Hermione thought. This has got to be the stupidest holiday of the year.

When they entered the Great Hall Lavender and Parvati were quickly whisked away by Parvati's sister Padma to the Ravenclaw table. Hermione just shrugged and made her way to where Harry and Ron sat, undoubtedly on their second helping of everything.

"Heh, Hum-u-nee," Ron garbled around a mouthful of sausage.

Hermione stared at him as she sat down next to him. "Yeah. Hey," she responded a little distastefully. She turned to look at Harry sitting across from her, his eyes twinkling with humor.

"Hi, Hermione," he said.

"Ah, finally, a civilized greeting. Hi, Harry."

"Hey," Ron objected while wiping his mouth on his hand, "I'm civilized."

"Okay, Ron," Hermione said with a half smile. She began filling her plate when both boys suddenly handed her cards.

"Happy Valentine's Day!" they chorused.

Hermione expected this, since they were the only ones to ever give her Valentines, but she still smiled at their eager faces. "Thank you," she said warmly, taking the proffered cards. "And Happy Valentine's Day to you, too," she returned, producing cards of her own for each of the boys.

"So, did you see that Cupid roaming the castle?" Ron asked.

"Yes. Lavender and Parvati nearly had aneurysms cooing over him."

"Well, he almost shot his arrow at Harry," Ron said on a laugh.

"Really?" Hermione's eyes widened at Harry. "What did you do?"

"I ran like the wind. I didn't want that arrow hitting me while I was with Ron. Can't you just see me following him around all day declaring my love for him?" Harry made a face and Hermione joined Ron in laughter.

Hermione glanced quickly around the Great Hall and her eyes rested on the Slytherin table. Draco Malfoy was scanning the room, his eyes darting up and down the tables. What's he looking for?, she thought. He then looked directly at her, his eyes resting momentarily on her before darting onto a new subject.

Just then Hermione's stomach seemed to drop completely out of her body. What if he had gotten the sonnet and was now trying to figure out who gave it to him? She immediately turned her eyes down to her plate and began pushing her eggs around with her fork. Oh boy, I am definitely in trouble.

Who is it? Who is it? Draco kept chanting this mantra in his head as his eyes raked over every girl in the Great Hall. He figured he would be able to discover his poetess quite quickly, but he hadn't counted on at least a couple dozen girls eyeing him with great interest and adoration. He had been surprised to find Granger looking at him. After all, he hadn't pegged her as the Valentine spouting sort. But she was obviously available, and perhaps desperate times did call for desperate measures, in her case.

This is going to be harder than I thought. Well, let's think this out. It was a very intelligent poem. Actually, I suppose it was technically a sonnet. I doubt any Hufflepuff would even know what that is. And a Slytherin would have been cruel, not kind. And what Gryffindor in her right mind would send me a Valentine? Well, okay, so even the Gryffindors can see what a catch I am. So it's Ravenclaw and Gryffindor. He turned his attention solely to those two houses, but was still at a loss.

That Ravenclaw Patil girl? No, she's eyeing that Boot kid. Mandy Brocklehurst? No, she's dating some Hufflepuff. Brown? Maybe Lavender Brown. She's the Valentine sort.

Just then Lavender and Parvati giggled and batted their eyelashes at him. Obviously they'd caught him staring. He granted them his signature smirk and looked away.

This is futile, he thought as he stood and began walking out of the Great Hall. There has got to be a better way.

On his way from the Great Hall to the Potions classroom he turned a sharp corner and had to swerve to avoid running headlong into a group of chatting students. He sneered in true Malfoy form and continued on.

"You received a mysterious and anonymous Valentine today, didn't you?"

Draco walked quickly past the Patil twins, one of whom was questioning Terry Boot.

"It didn't happen to be on pink parchment and tied with a white ribbon, did it?" the other twin asked.

Draco immediately stopped. The words anonymous, pink parchment, and white ribbon captured his attention quicker than Potter could ever capture the Snitch. So as not to appear to be eavesdropping he dropped his quill and slowly bent down to pick it up.

"No, it was a red and white heart," Terry replied. "Why?"

"Oh, it's nothing," the Gryffindor twin, Parvati was it?, said. Draco stood up with his quill. "It's just that Hermione Granger lost a pink parchment note tied in a white ribbon this morning."

Draco dropped the quill again.

"She was frantic, afraid that it had accidentally been delivered as a Valentine," Parvati explained.

"Well, who was it to?" Terry asked.

Parvati just shrugged. "No one. It wasn't addressed, so it could have gone to anyone. And she wouldn't tell me what was in it, either, but she was beside herself about it being missing."

Draco unconsciously grasped his quill and slowly stood up as the Patil twins and Boot moved down the corridor. Granger? Granger?, Draco repeated disbelievingly in his mind. No way. The girl with the key to unlocking his soul was not know-it-all Granger. Not a chance. He shoved his quill in his robes and stomped down the corridor to the dungeons with a scowl on his face.

Hermione was glad that she sat on Harry's right during Double Potions because he blocked her view of Malfoy. Throughout class Malfoy had turned and glared at them. What is his problem?, Hermione thought. Oh, please don't let him have received my sonnet as a Valentine, she silently prayed as she measured out the specified number of lacewings for her potion. I would rather have Snape receive it, she thought as the Professor walked past, peering into every cauldron and snidely humpfing at each one.

Finally class was over and Hermione, Harry, and Ron raced out of the Potions room, up through the castle, and out to the grounds and their Care of Magical Creatures class.

I can't believe it. Draco was still in disbelief as he walked towards Hagrid's hut, flanked as usual by Crabbe and Goyle. Granger. Why couldn't it be, say, Lisa Turpin. She's actually quite attractive. I'd even rather it be McGonagall. But Granger? Mortal Enemy Number One. Well, maybe Number Three.

As they neared the hut Hagrid's booming voice rang across the grounds. "All right, all o' yeh. Gather round and listen up. Today we're studyin' quillerbies."

The class hesitatingly moved toward the pen set up in Hagrid's side yard, none of them quite sure what to expect from quillerbies. Within the pen sat ten small balls of fur, resembling rather large guinea pigs, that would periodically curl up in balls and roll about the pen. One of them rolled to the edge of the pen nearest the students and turned its round face up to them, its little black nose sniffing the air in a way that elicited soft ahs and oh, how cutes from the girls.

"Quillerbies use their sense o' smell to detect danger," Hagrid explained. "When they smell danger they roll into balls and shoot sharp, spiky quills out through their fur. It's their form o' protection. But as these are just babies their quills haven't formed yet, so yeh'll all be fine. Go on, then. One quillerby for every three o' yeh. An' take a bottle. Their mum went missin', so yeh'll all be feedin' 'em."

As Hermione went forward to pick up a quillerby Hagrid said, "'Ermione, would ya' mind switchin' with Goyle? I want all o' the groups to have someone gentle in 'em."

"Um, sure," she agreed slowly. As she walked toward Malfoy, Goyle, and Crabbe, she shot Ron and Harry an apologetic look. As she approached the Slytherins, Malfoy raised an eyebrow at her. "Hagrid asked me to switch with Goyle."

Goyle shot a perturbed look at Hagrid before tramping his way towards a put-out looking Harry and Ron.

"So," Malfoy said smoothly while watching Hermione sit on the grass and cradle the quillerby like a baby, "just couldn't bear to stay away from me for too long on Valentine's Day, could you, Granger?"

If he had hoped to get a rise out of her, or at least something he could link to his mystery poetess, he was sorely disappointed. "Don't bet on it, Malfoy," she responded surprisingly casually.

After a few moments of trying to entice the baby quillerby to take the bottle it bit down on it and began to feed. "They really are cute little things," Hermione said softly as she instinctively began to rock side to side.

Draco watched Hermione as she continued mothering the little ball of fur. Her hair, although still rather bushy, was contained by a silver headband dotted with heart cut-outs. With her hair somewhat in control, Draco had a good view of her profile. Her eyelids dipped down slightly as she watched the eagerly eating quillerby, revealing long, upturned lashed. Her complexion was fair and clear, flushed slightly from the cool February air. Her full, brownish mauve colored lips curved in a contented smile. And for the first time since the Yule Ball their fourth year, he had nothing negative to say about her looks.

"So, Malfoy," she began quietly, "would you like to try?" She looked up at him with her nutmeg colored eyes and caught his gray ones in a stare.

"Um," he said in a rather un-Malfoy like loss for words, "okay." His response startled both of them out of their stare.

"Well, then, sit down by me," Hermione said as Draco sank down into the grass by her. Very gingerly Hermione slowly transferred the baby quillerby into Draco's arms. As their arms touched in the transfer they both noticed that touching the other wasn't as repulsive as they thought it would be. In fact, it was very nearly comfortable.

"Hold the bottle at a little more of an angle, like this." Hermione reached out andtilted the bottle up, her hand holding his briefly as she helped him find the right angle. At their contact Draco looked back up into her eyes. After a moment she removed her hand from his and looked down at the baby, saying, "That's right. Oh, look. It's going to sleep."

Sure enough, the little fur ball had closed its eyes and released its latch on the bottle. "Hmm," Draco intoned, shrugging slightly.

"Looks like you may be father material after all, Malfoy," Hermione said before thinking. Draco's eyebrows shot up in curiosity as a half-smirk graced his lips. Hermione shifted slightly in discomfort as she realized her admission.

At that exact moment, Hagrid (blessed man, thought Hermione) announced, "Okay, time to bring the quillerbies back to the front."

As Draco stood and carried the sleeping quillerby back to the pen Ron taunted, "What did you do to the poor thing, Malfoy? Kill it with your looks?"

Before Draco could formulate a scathing retort Hermione started in on Ron. "Cut it out, Ron. He doesn't need your verbal abuse. He gets enough as it is."

"Oh, really?" Ron said, feeling a bit upset by Hermione's defense of their enemy. "By who?"

Knowing better than to reveal her witnessing of Draco's run-in with Lucius, she glanced apprehensively at Draco, who was looking curiously at her. "What does it matter?" she answered matter-of-factly. "Let's just go." She then grabbed both Harry and Ron by an arm and dragged them back towards the castle.

As Draco watched her retreating figure he realized that it really must have been Hermione who wrote the sonnet. "Merlin help me," he muttered as he walked swiftly towards the castle, an idea already formulating in his mind.