A/N: Thanks to SiriusMarauderFan for handing me this plot bunny. I didn't have time to find a beta, so I hope it's okay. Eek...
Hermione put her Potions book on the table and sat down, smiling pleasantly at Neville, who elected to be her partner again this year. It didn't annoy her at all, she just felt that if Neville really wanted to learn about potions, he should have been with someone who didn't take control over every project. Hermione knew she did it. She was teased enough about it by friends, other students, even on occasion by teachers.
"Hey, Hermione," greeted Neville, then glanced down at the table before her. Hermione followed his eyes until they landed on a folded piece of parchment. Her name was written on it in neat, cursive letters. One of her eyebrows rose into her blond bangs as she looked back at Neville. "It isn't from me! It was there before I came in."
She picked it up and unfolded the parchment carefully. The ink on the front still looked a little wet. She had time to read Dear Hermione Granger when Slughorn came cheerfully through the dungeon door, causing her to quickly stuff the parchment into her robes. She was intrigued, but not enough to distract her from a lesson. In fact, Neville looked more interested than she was.
Hermione followed the lesson actively, and once Slughorn had set them loose to make their own potion, she opened her textbook and set to work. When her draught was simmered five minutes of ten, Neville suggested she read her letter.
"But I was going to go over the technique of chopping valerian roots with you," she said hopefully, but the look on Neville's face said he was dreading it. "Oh, all right. I suppose I can show you after I read it."
She took the parchment out of her robes with a glance to the front of the classroom to make sure Slughorn was occupied. He was looking into Crabbe's cauldron which held his attempt at Draught of Living Death. Smoothing out the edges on the table, she glanced up again at Slughorn.
Dear Hermione Granger,
I hope you don't find this too juvenile, but I found there was really no other way of talking to you but through letters. For a whole term, I've tried to get close enough just to say "hello," but it's a lot more difficult than it sounds. I really like you, though from my pervious statements I'm sure you've guessed that. You are a brilliant girl, as well as beautiful. I'd like to know more about you, if you're willing to give a bloke a chance. I hope you accept. I don't take rejection well.
Your Secret Admirer
Hermione stared at the parchment in silence until she saw the sway of Slughorn's robes. She stowed it away and started stirring the cauldron counter-clockwise. The new Potions Master looked in her cauldron, smiled and moved on to the next table.
Neville was grinning at her, but tried to hide it. This made Harry and Ron lean over.
"What was that?" asked Harry with a small smirk.
"None of your business," Hermione replied, pretending to be distracted by her potion.
"Aw, why'd you have to go and say that?" asked Ron, mirroring his best friend's facial expression. "Now we're just gonna bug you until you tell us."
"That's where you're wrong, because I'm an expert at Silencing Charms."
Harry rolled his eyes as Ron turned back to his bubbling-over draught. "You're an expert at everything."
She turned to see an anxious-looking Neville watching Slughorn stroll past his chair. He lowered his head slightly and whispered, "Are you going to write back?"
"Of course I'm not going to write back," she replied matter-of-factly. "What would I say? 'Hello, thanks for admiring me, here are some personal facts about my life.' I don't even know who it is!"
Neville shrugged and said, "If I knew a girl thought I was brilliant and beautiful, I'd want to get to know her." Hermione couldn't help but laugh, making Neville blush. "Well, you know what I mean!"
After the twenty minutes of simmering was up, Hermione poured in her sopophorous bean juice and stirred it continuously in counter-clockwise motions. She was watching deep purple smoke file out of her cauldron in satisfaction. She was almost finished when Harry raised his hand. She goggled at him, and a pleased Slughorn walked over, inspecting his draught.
"We have a winner," he announced pleasantly.
Harry? she thought, incredulous. Maybe Snape really was the reason he got such horrible grades in before.
Thoughts of Snape grew widely more irritated when she went to Defense Against the Dark Arts that afternoon. They worked on silent incantations, and Hermione was having a great deal of trouble with them.
"I thought you were supposed to be brilliant, Miss Granger," Snape drawled, pleased when nothing coming out of her mouth resulted in nothing coming out of her wand. He walked away smugly and Hermione grit her teeth in a brutal way she knew her parents would not appreciate. She took out a piece of parchment and her quill and scrawled across it:
Dear Secret Admirer,
If you want to know more about me, know that I despise the new Defense professor. If you are in any way acquainted with him other than as teacher to student, I want nothing to do with you.
"Honestly, Hermione, that's a little harsh," Neville told her as they walked out of class.
She folded it up and stuck it in her robes, making a mental note to leave it there until her next Potions class. "It's the truth. If he doesn't like it, he should go find someone else to secretly admire."
"You have a secret admirer?" Both Harry and Ron, who had somehow managed to sneak up on her, were staring with wide eyes. Then they succumbed to laughter. All she could do in her defense was glare.
Professor Snape has been and will always be, I'd wager, a horrible example of an unbiased teacher. He points out the most miniscule mistakes and makes it seem as though it means the world. I've also had to deal with his inadequacies and I wish I could apologize for how he treats his students, especially you. He was jealous of your intelligence in his Potions class. He needed to be the best at it, since he couldn't be at anything else, if you understand my meaning. I hope you don't judge people who he more willingly aids similar to his light. Well, you haven't told me very much about yourself and I can deduce very little from your hatred of a teacher…
Your Secret Admirer
Hermione smirked as she read the letter by the fire, having draped it over her Transfiguration essay. She acted like she was proof-reading for the third time.
"Give it a rest, will you, Hermione?" Ron said suddenly. The noise made her jump. "That paper has probably got better punctuation than the bloody textbook!"
She looked around, giving off the persona of a person interrupted from deciphering a very intricate ruin. Harry looked up from his own essay, which he hadn't gotten very far on. Ron was playing with one of Fred and George's new inventions, neglecting to finish his essay entirely. She knew he would procrastinate until the last possible moment, and it was due in one day.
"Hey, Hermy," Harry said, making use of the hated nickname she had acquired from a certain giant last term. She was loath to hear it, but she couldn't think of a way to keep her two best friends from saying it in a way that was less painful than sewing their lips together. "Let me see your essay. I'm stuck on the part about Switching Spells."
"That's what the entire essay is about, Harry," she replied shortly, her eyes skimming over the letter once more.
"Seriously?" Harry asked, looking down at his paper. "You've got to be joking. I've been writing about everything on the list!"
"You were supposed to pick one spell on the list," she explained simply, not really paying attention to either boy's reaction, "and write the essay on it. Were you even listening to Professor McGonagall during class?"
The boys scoffed at the question. Harry leaned over and tried to grab the parchment away from her, but she quickly brought up her knees to keep it out of reach of his hands. Her heart was beating fast. He could have just snatched away her letter. They must have been able to see her heart thumping hard against her ribcage, because they both smirked at one another.
"What is that?" Ron asked, throwing the Weasley Wizard Wheezes product on the couch and trying to peak over her knees. She drew them up closer so that the parchment's contents were hidden against her chest.
"It's my essay, and you're not copying any of it."
Harry grinned and shoved Ron in the shoulder. "I bet it's from her secret admirer."
"A love letter? 'Oh, Hermione!'" Ron mocked in a Shakespearian voice. "'I dream of your hair shimmering in the sunlight and swim in your soft brown eyes.'"
Hermione gathered up her books and stood up, narrowing her eyes. She whipped around and stomped up the stairs, leaving Ron and Harry rolling on the Common Room floor.
Personally, I prefer 'Moine' to 'Hermy', but that's just my opinion. I know you don't like nicknames altogether, so I'll make this short work for you. You friends are famous for their dependency on you for help. All you have to do to get them to do what you want is to take away that help until they submit to your commands. Whatever you do, don't help them. It'll probably be pretty difficult for you, but just remember that if you do, 'Hermy' will be written across your forehead for a very, very long time.
Your Secret Admirer
P.S. What's your favorite number?
Hermione entered her Potions class to find a group of Gryffindors surrounding her desk. She heard Neville's voice protesting to something, but she couldn't make sense of it because of all the noise the group was making.
As she stepped closer, the students cleared a path for her and she immediately saw five beautiful roses that changed color as light hit them. She made a tiny gasp at the sight of them, and all the girls around her giggled furiously. Neville was holding the folded parchment in both hands, shielding it from some intrigued hands. He shrugged helplessly at her when she nearly melted into her chair.
I thought you'd like a little extra attention, because it seems to me that you're brilliance has lately been thwarted by several less important endeavors, one being a violent game that involves people trying to knock each other off brooms. Congratulations on finally silencing 'Hermy'. Your work for S.P.E.W. is impressive. I can't believe someone like you stays up all night knitting hats to free House-elves. You seem like such a passive girl.
Your Secret Admirer
The smirk on her face caused an outbreak of mickey-tearing from her two best friends once again, but by now she didn't care if they read the notes. Receiving the last letter, Hermione had realized that she had begun to admire her admirer.
Each day, her Potions table was bombarded by laughing students. In fact, all had joined in but a few Slytherin boys. Crabbe and Goyle were glaring while Malfoy and Zabini whispered fiercely at each other as the crowd dispersed from her desk. She didn't wonder why all the other Slytherins were interested in her affairs until later that evening, because Slughorn had sauntered in to begin the lesson.
I've been trying to catch your attention lately, but you haven't seemed to notice. I figure if you had, we'd no longer be writing letters. My friends have been somewhat occupied at the moment, so I have to say your letters are the only thing I look forward to.
Your Secret Admirer
P.S. I don't want to delve, but you aren't interested in anyone, are you?
Hermione was at a loss for words when she finished reading over his letter for the sixth time. Was she? Not that she knew of. Zachariah Smith had been a ploy to annoy Ron. She definitely hadn't meant anything by bringing him to that party. But if she told him the truth, that she wasn't interested in anyone, would he stop sending her letters? She didn't want him to, but the more she thought about it, the more she wanted to know.
Who was he?
It's a secret. That's why I call myself your secret admirer. Don't get me wrong—I would love to be able to meet with you in person. The reason I started to write you letters was because I didn't know how to approach you. Now I realize I didn't know how to approach you because you would sooner hex me than smile at me. So I continually ask myself if I really want to put that choice on you, and I always answer the same way. You don't want to meet me, Moine. It'd be better for both of us.
Your Secret Admirer
There wasn't a chance she would accept that. She had to find out who it was and if he wasn't willing to tell her, she would just have to figure it out herself.
On several occasions, she came to Potions class a half an hour early, but every time, the letter was already on her desk. On Friday, she stood outside the classroom to survey every male student who entered, giving them all calculating glances—quite oblivious to how much she was embarrassing herself. She even asked fellow Gryffindors to station themselves around the Great Hall to see who left lunch early.
To her complete and utter disappointment, none of these tactics had the slightest bit of success.
Brilliant though you are, you will never be able to guess who I am. I suggest you stop trying. Though I must admit, your attempts are very amusing. And cute.
Your Secret Admirer
There was one thing Hermione would not back down on, and that was solving a mystery. That was her greatest skill, she liked to think. Harry may have had all the bravery in the world, but he would never have been able to get through the potions obstacle to get the Sorcerer's Stone, or have been able to figure out that the monster in the Chamber of Secrets was a basilisk, or that Professor Lupin was a werewolf, or that Bulbadox Powder is supposed to turn blue in the last two seconds of its steaming cycle!
She would not give up; she had a plan.
"Harry, I need to borrow your map," she said, sounding urgent.
He turned his head to one side and looked her up and down. "You don't look sick."
"Quiet, Harry," she said impatiently, holding out her hand. "Give me the map."
He smirked at her. "Is this for that—"
He slid it out of his back pocket and placed it gently into her hand. "Use it wisely."
She smacked him across the head with it before strolling off to lunch.
There's a lot I haven't told you about me, obviously since I'd rather my identity remain unknown. Just know this about me: I really like you. Hopefully the rest won't matter. And when I reveal myself, it will be blatant.
By the way, you seem to be a bit stressed out lately. The bottle is full of Calming Draught. It'll calm your nerves. Trust me, I'm a good alchemist.
Your Secret Admirer
She looked over the bottle and the contents it held, analyzing it, then shoved it aside. She picked up a roll and opened the Marauder's Map, pouring over it like a textbook. She watched the small dots moving throughout the corridors and her eyes darted to one that was moving down in the dungeons. She looked at the familiar name above it and her heart almost stopped.
Malfoy? Draco Malfoy!?
She shook her head in horror as she watched his dot move into the Potions room, linger for a just a moment, and then move out, heading back to the Great Hall.
There was a perfectly good explanation for this, but it really didn't measure up to the somewhat-illogical one that she had already finished formulating. Harry had said Malfoy was sneaking off lately. She would much sooner hex him than smile at him. She wouldn't have noticed any of his advances. The whispering. Snape's doting.
Merlin's blistery bunion! Malfoy was her secret admirer!
I'm not sure if you fell, hit your head and now have amnesia, but this thing we're doing—it's on a give and get basis. I give you a letter, you get it. You give me a letter, I get it. The chain continues until our hands fall off or our quills break. We call this correspondence. If you really do have amnesia, I'm sorry. If not, I know you're ignoring me and I haven't got the slightest clue why.
Still Your Secret Admirer whether you like it or not
"You need to talk to him," Neville said softly, looking over the last letter she'd received. Hermione just sat in her chair, glancing nervously at Malfoy's table every other minute. She nodded slightly, but didn't really know she was doing so. "You liked his letters. Maybe that's what he's really like when he's not, you know, a complete jerk."
He gave her a reassuring smile, but there was no real reassurance behind it. Of course he wasn't going to support a relationship between her and Malfoy. She didn't even support a relationship between her and Malfoy. But she was positive that all the answers of what to do would be revealed to her once she talked to him. She just had to figure out how to do it.
Neville made a mess of the squid tentacles they had worked with during class that day, and Hermione had elected to clean up for him. Malfoy was taking his time to collect all his books after class, and Hermione, though unsure of what to say, stopped him at the door. They were alone in the classroom. Malfoy looked perturbed.
"Out of my way, Granger," he drawled.
She shook off her sticky, squid-smelling gloves and barred the door. "We need to talk, Malfoy."
They stared at each other for a long moment before Malfoy rolled his eyes. "What? Want to hang it over my head that you got into the Slug Club? That's great, Granger. I'm really happy for you and Saint Potter."
Hermione recoiled, then looked around the room again to make sure they were alone. They were. Quite alone.
"I—you're not—" she stuttered, confused.
"Oh, hell," Malfoy said, stepping back a foot and a half. "You think I'm your—"
"You aren't?" Hermione asked excitedly, her eyes gleaming with relief.
"No, that would be me."
Hermione spun around upon hearing the voice behind her. A small smirk played on his face at her surprise. "Blaise Zabini!?"
"No," he said calmly, resting a hand a few inches from where Hermione's laid on the doorframe. "Your secret admirer."