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The Game of Love by queen_luna

Format: Novel
Chapters: 30
Word Count: 75,944

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse

Genres: Drama, Fluff, Romance
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Narcissa, Draco, Pansy, Ginny, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: Draco/Hermione, Draco/Pansy, Harry/Ginny, Ron/Lavender, Draco/OC

First Published: 01/08/2008
Last Chapter: 11/08/2009
Last Updated: 01/31/2010

Beautiful banner by the talented GryffindorGirl153 at TDA!

When Harry and Ron sign Hermione up for a show called the Game of Love, she is whisked away to an aristocratic manor where she competes against 49 other women for the heart of one bachelor. Will she find love? Is that even possible, considering the history she's had with the bachelor? Based on the ABC series The Bachelor with a twist called Dramione!

11/8/09 - COMPLETED!

Chapter 1: Chapter One: The Beginning Of It All
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Author's Note: Welcome to chapter one of THE GAME OF LOVE! Enjoy, and don't forget to review!


"D'you think she'll get mad?" Ron Weasley whispered anxiously as he took a pink sheet of parchment titled Do You Want To Be In The Game of Love? out of an envelope that had been delivered to him by owl post that morning. 

"Of course she'll get mad," his best friend Harry Potter whispered back. "The thing is, this is for her own good and she'll thank us later for it." He took out a battered quill from his pocket and unscrewed a bottle of ink. 

"You write it," said Ron fervently, "your handwriting is better than mine." 

Harry rolled his bright green eyes. "Fine. Just help me fill this out quick." 

The first blank was easy. Under NAME, he wrote Hermione Granger. The second and third were also easy. Under AGE, he wrote 27 and beneath EDUCATION he scribbled Hogwarts (graduated at the top of the class, most brilliant witch of my age). The fourth was a bit difficult. The question was, DESCRIBE YOUR APPEARANCE. They didn't want to exaggerate, but they didn't want the judges, or whoever picked the contestants, to pass her up either. In the end he wrote, curly brown hair, brown eyes, 5' 6", slender, very pretty. He added a picture just in case. The photo was moving, of course, and Hermione was scowling at them as if she knew what they were doing. The next question, DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONALITY, was also hard, and so was WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN THE OPPOSITE SEX? By the time they were done filling out the little questionnaire, they were exhausted. 

Ron sent the pink parchment back to the Game of Love headquarters just as his girlfriend of three years, Lavender Brown, walked in, yawning and stretching. She noticed Ron and Harry's guilty faces and narrowed her eyes. "What did you guys just do?" 

"N-nothing!" said Ron. 

"See you later mate," said Harry hastily, clapping a hand onto Ron's shoulder. He nodded to Lavender and then quickly left before his wife, Ginny Potter, became suspicious as well.

…A week later…

A loud tapping noise caused Hermione to raise her head from her cup of coffee, which she had almost fallen asleep in. She looked up and saw the most ridiculous owl she had ever seen in her life fluttering on the other side of the kitchen window. The owl's feathers were various shades of hideous pink and it had a red ribbon tied around its neck (do owls have necks?). Shaking her head, Hermione let the owl in and untied the scroll of parchment. The owl hooted disdainfully, looking a disheveled Hermione up and down. Hermione scowled and slammed the window shut after shooing the owl back out. She unrolled the scented pink parchment, read what it said, and then sat down in a daze.

Dear Miss Hermione Granger,
You have been chosen to compete in the first-ever season of the Game of Love with 49 other women. The objective is to win the heart of our handsome bachelor, ***** ****** (his name is highly classified information). The show will air on WizardVision next spring. The competition begins in a week. You will, of course, attend the ball. An official invitation will be sent soon. It will be a masquerade, so please dress accordingly. At the end of the night, 25 women will remain. And when we say 'of course,' it means you are magically bound to take part in the Game of Love. Our handsome bachelor cannot wait to meet you. See you soon! Au revoir!

M. Claude Beaumont
Chief Executive Officer of The Game of Love, Co.; So You Think You Can Duel?, Co.; Living Like A Muggle: The Reality WizardVision Series, Co.; and other affiliated companies.

"What...the…bloody…hell." Hermione set the letter down. This had to be a stupid prank. Maybe Fred…or George…or the both of them. 

As if on cue, the door to her small London flat burst open and a redheaded man stumbled in, though it was not one of the prank-loving twins. It was Ron Weasley, and right behind him was Harry Potter. 

Hermione raised an eyebrow. "Hello, boys," she said pleasantly enough, hiding the letter behind her back. She didn't want them to jump to conclusions, after all. 

"Hi," said Harry. Ron attempted to smile. 

"Er…is something the matter?" said Hermione. 

"Oh, er, we were just wondering, did you, um, receive a letter by owl post this morning?" said Harry. 

Suspicion hit Hermione very hard. She said, in a voice of forced calmness, "What sort of letter?" 

"A letter from…ah…yes, a letter like that." Ron caught sight of the pink parchment Hermione held up and braced himself for an explosion. 


Harry and Ron cringed. "We…we thought it'd be for your own good…." 


"We were worried about you, Hermione…all you do is work, work, and work. You don't come out with us anymore, you don't see your friends…you need a…a…" Ron's voice trailed off. 

"A love life," finished Harry. 

Hermione calmed down a little. "Well, thank you very much for your concern," she said, "but don't you think you could have asked me about this first? According to this letter, I can't decline--I'M MAGICALLY BOUND TO ATTEND THIS BLOODY MASQUERADE!" 

"You--you would have said no," said Ron in a small voice. He brightened a little. "But masquerades are cool…you'll have lots of fun." He smiled hopefully. 

Hermione sighed, shook her head of messy dark brown curls, and smiled slightly. "So…I'm going to be on the Game of Love." She remembered the mushy reality TV shows her mum used to watch and cry over and then tell her about. Now she was going to be a contestant on one of them. A sudden thought struck her, and she smiled evilly. "Hey…if I act absolutely abominable, then the bachelor, whoever he is, won't choose me…and I can leave after one night!" 

"No!" cried Harry. 

"Hermione, please…just be yourself. At least try…for us…." Ron made a sad puppy-dog expression and Harry hastily rearranged his face to copy him. 

Hermione closed her eyes a little wearily. "Fine," she said at last. "I'll do it." She paused. "I can't believe I just said that." 

There was a pause. 

"Well, this has been a fun morning!" said Harry. "But I have to get to the Auror office--" 

"OH MY GOD! WORK! I'M GOING TO BE LATE!" With that Hermione dashed to her bedroom to change, leaving Harry and Ron to stare after her sheepishly. 

Please review!

Chapter 2: Chapter Two: A Day With Ginny
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A/N: Here's chapter two! You know I own nothing but the plot. And please excuse my fantastically horrible French.


Hermione was incredibly stressed out. She had forgotten all about the ball and the stupid show until now, two days before the scheduled masquerade was to take place. She needed a dress! She needed to fix her hair! She needed to find a bloody mask!

She glanced at her refrigerator. Stuck to the door with a magnet was a very fancy invitation. It has a rose wax seal, and it was written in deep red ink on heavy scented parchment. She sighed. She had nothing to wear to the ball.

Against her better judgement, she called Ginny Potter over the Floo network.

"Ginny," said Hermione wearily. "I need help."

Ginny sprung up from her seat at the kitchen table and beamed. She knew what was up. She had practically been counting down the hours to when Hermione would call for her help. She grabbed her purse and shouted "I'll be right there!" and "I'm going out shopping with Hermione, Harry!" before Disapparating to Hermione's flat.

Hermione turned around to see Ginny in a bubble of excitement, standing by her door, barely containing herself.

"Come on! Get dressed! We're going shopping!"

Hermione absolutely hated shopping, unless it was for books. She sighed, tugged at her plain shirt and old jeans, and took Ginny's proffered hand. The red-haired girl grinned and Disapparated once more.

"Where are we?" said Hermione at once as she took in the unfamiliar surroundings. She had a feeling they weren't in London anymore, let alone England.

"Hermione dear, welcome to Paris, France! The shopping capital of the world!" Ginny straightened her dress and then dragged an unwilling Hermione through the sunlit streets.

"I come here every time I need something fancy," Ginny explained, taking Hermione through an alleyway.

"Er…Gin--" Hermione tried to say.

"This is the absolute best place to shop for something like a masquerade," Ginny continued, stomping over some stubborn weeds that had grown through the cracks of the sidewalk.

"Ginny, why are we in a dark, scary alley?" Hermione asked as they came to a halt at the end of the alley.

"Because," said Ginny, pulling out her wand and tapping a certain brick three times, "this is the entrance to Diagon Alley of Paris."

The wall began moving and formed an archway, and Ginny wasted no time in pulling Hermione through.

"Ta-da!" Ginny announced, beaming.

It was indeed a "ta-da" moment. Hermione's mouth dropped open at the sight of the fancy magical shops and the stylishly dressed wizards and witches bustling throughout. Hermione caught a few French words from a cliquey group of girls standing a few feet away.

"Oui! Je vais aller a la boum pour le bachelor."

"Vraiment? Moi aussi! Tu peux faire du shopping avec moi!"


Hermione watched as they skipped away and realized she had probably just met some of her fellow contestants. She couldn't help but feel her heart sink as she watched their silver-blonde hair rippling in the sunlight. How could she compete with girls like them?

Ginny waited patiently for Hermione's stunned speechlessness to end. When it did not, she said, "I know, it's amazing, right?" Without waiting for an answer, Ginny dashed into a store called Tres Jolie with Hermione at her heels.

"Time to find the perfect dress!" Ginny said excitedly, clapping her hands together.

It took a grand total of eight hours. In between the fancy stores, Ginny also forced Hermione to buy casual but pretty clothes for dates and such. They bought shoes, purses, and jewelry. Hermione repeatedly handed over her precious gold Galleons, wincing each time her moneybag became a little lighter. She caught sight of the French girls again, but didn't bother listening to their conversation to try and translate it into English. It had been a while since she studied French. Five hours in they found The Dress.

Oh yes. Not just any dress, but The Dress.

They found it at a small boutique tucked away in a corner of the shopping avenue. The lady assured them that it was handmade, one-of-a-kind. The Dress was made of deep purple silk. It went with Hermione's dark brown hair perfectly, and it made her pale skin glow. It hugged the curves she had been blessed with, showing them off. It was simple, but very elegant. Another hour later, they found a mask to go with it. The mask was purple as well, studded with small diamonds.

After all the shopping, Ginny sent the packages back to Hermione's flat with a wave of her wand.

"Can I go home now?" Hermione begged, dropping down onto a bench to let her poor feet rest.

"Of course not! We still need to get you a haircut and a manicure and a pedicure and a facial…." Ginny pulled Hermione to her feet and led her to a fancy spa.

Another two hours later, Hermione was completely and totally beautified. Her hair was silky and wavy and cut into layers, though it was still long. Her fingernails, gnawed to the quick due to various bouts of stress, were filed and polished. Her face was fresh and glowing with health.

Ginny sighed happily. "Perfect. Now, I order you to take the day off tomorrow and simply rest. Got that?"

Hermione nodded. She was unable to get rid of the silly smile that was now planted on her face. A few hours at the spa do wonders.

The next morning, Hermione followed Ginny's advice and lounged around the house relaxing. As she drank a cup of tea and finished reading Pride & Prejudice for the thousandth time, she allowed herself to fall into a lovely daydream involving herself and the mysterious bachelor. He would be handsome and tall and strong. He would be charming and chivalrous, opening the door for her, sending her flowers…. He would be intelligent as well, someone who was capable of keeping her interest in a spirited and lively conversation. He would also be an avid reader, like she was…. Now Hermione's imagination zoomed into overdrive and she pictured a wedding she had always dreamed of, with the no-longer-a-bachelor at her side; a honeymoon that involved touring the entire world; and a lovely house with a spacious library for all her--their--books. Fast-forward a few years, and Hermione imagined herself in the backyard, lounging on a blanket while her husband held her in his arms, watching their two perfect children play.

The sound of someone knocking sharply at her door interrupted her thoughts. She opened the door and found herself staring at a bouquet of a dozen red roses.

"For you," said the florist abruptly. He stomped back down to his truck, where Hermione could see dozens of identical bouquets in the back, waiting to be delivered.

She looked down at the tag. It read, "I have no idea who you are, but I cannot wait to meet you. See you at the ball tomorrow night, at seven o' clock!"

How sweet! Flowers! Hermione smiled, sniffed the roses, and placed them carefully in a glass vase that she had never used before.

Although she tried very hard not to show it, she was actually excited for the ball. 

I know, that was kind of fluffy and filler, but next chapter will have lots more action! Plus our leading man makes his first appearance! I would love it if you REVIEW! Criticism, comments, rants, raves, ideas, suggestions, anything! 
Yours till the Snorkack's horn crumples,
Queen Luna

Chapter 3: Chapter Three: Hermione Arrives At The Ball
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Chapter Three: Hermione Arrives At The Ball

The morning of the masquerade, Hermione received a call from her boss at the International Magical Office of Law. Her boss was a very kind old man, though he was prone to explode in anger.

"Where were you yesterday, Miss Granger?" he shouted. Hermione walked over to the fireplace with her breakfast.

"I asked for a day off," said Hermione calmly. "Bacon?"

"Oh, go on."

"I would also like to be excused from work for the duration of…er…a couple months."

Her boss almost spat the bacon back out. "What? Why?"

"I'm going to be on the Game of Love. Of course…" said Hermione, remembering the pair of perfect French girls she had glimpsed the other day, "…if I get kicked off the show early I'll come straight back to work."

"Oh. I see. Very well…you are my best lawyer, Miss Granger, and I should definitely allow you a chance to be on this lovely--er, entertaining show…."

Hermione hid a smile. "Are you familiar with the Game of Love, Mr. Macmillian?"

Her boss turned a deep shade of red and turned around. "Oh, yes, Ernie, I'm coming. I must go now, my son is calling me…and good luck."

"Thank you, sir." Mr. Macmillian vanished.

Hermione felt a shiver of anticipation, nerves, and sheer excitement run down her spine. Tonight she would finally be able to see who the bachelor was.

A young man with white-blond hair lounged in a green dragon-skin chaise in his room--no, wing--in his family's manor, his arms behind his head. A silly grin was plastered on his face. Tonight the manor was going to be filled with fifty beautiful women, and he was free to pick and choose among them. No competition.

Then again, he thought to himself arrogantly, if there were other men in the room he'd still have no competition. He was filthy rich after a few years of playing the Wizarding Stock Market. He was very handsome. He had a lean, muscular frame, skin that was pale as porcelain and smooth as silk, and sharp light gray eyes. He was intelligent, charming, and funny (or at least he thought his jokes were funny). What's not to love?

His mother knocked on the door at that moment, soft and tentative.

"Come in," he said, putting down the book he had just picked up.

"My dear," she said, pushing her long blonde hair out of her face. "Are you ready for tonight? You must be very excited."

The young man snorted. "'Course I am. This is going to be the best thing that's ever happened to me."

His mother nodded slowly. "Yes, it is. This is our chance to preserve the family name, your chance to show the world that we are not Death Eaters anymore. Now that your father," she paused, her face tightening, "is gone, we can act without fear. We can clear up any doubts by going through with this thing."

"Yeah," he said impatiently, "and I get to meet fifty women in a single night, and they all want me."

His mother frowned slightly. "Now, dear, don't be so conceited. None of the girls know who you are. If they knew your name, and your past, I'm sure that at least a few of them would walk out of the room right away."

The young man frowned too. "Nah, they wouldn't do that. Honestly, Mum, who would pass up the chance to date me?" Catching the look on his mother's face, he added hastily, "I mean, yes Mum, I'll be charming and polite like the gentleman I am."

His mother smiled. After the war was over and the Dark Lord vanquished, it had taken two entire years for her son to completely heal from all the torture he had been put through. It took much longer for him to slowly be able to trust again, to be able to love again. It was only a year ago when he became the same confident boy he was before he was given his task in sixth year. She had been instrumental in this transformation, constantly buffering and bolstering his ego. Now she was a little afraid that she had gone a bit too far.

The young man picked up the book that was lying on the mahogany coffee table. Jane Austen. Pride & Prejudice.

So he did have a thoughtful, sensitive side, she thought, relieved.

"I will talk to you later, dear," she said, and left the room.

It had rained recently, and moisture hung in the air. Hermione carefully got out of the Muggle cab she had hired to get her to the location of the ball. She felt a little silly as limousines lined up behind her but ignored the other girls, paid the driver (whose expression suggested that he had recently been doused with a bucket of cold water), and started up the long brick drive. At the end of the drive was an impressive, stately mansion. Hermione had to stop and gaze around her in wonder. The large ornate windows glowed with candlelight. Ivy clung to the huge columns. Gothic-style carvings decorated the exterior. There were statues and fountains and serpent-shaped hedges everywhere. Hermione thought she even caught a glimpse of a white peacock strutting around. Where was she? It seemed to be an aristocrat's manor. She felt awfully out of place.

"Excuse moi," someone said, and Hermione felt herself being shoved aside. She caught her balance before she fell over and turned toward the girl who had pushed her, but she was already halfway up the drive, holding up her pink skirt and gracefully dodging rain puddles. Silvery-blonde hair floated behind her. Hermione huffed angrily and made her way to the mansion, ignoring the girls in groups of two and three around her.

The butler bowed his head after she gave him her name. While he checked the list, she studied the intricate M emblem embroidered to his uniform. Where had she seen that before?

"Welcome, Miss Granger."

"Granger?!" a familiar voice shrieked. Hermione turned to see a livid Pansy Parkinson moving furiously toward her, but she was stopped by the butler. Undeterred, she shouted at Hermione, "What's a Mudblood doing here?"

Someone standing near Hermione gasped. Hermione turned and saw a girl with silvery-blonde hair, but she wasn't the one who had pushed her.

"Excuse moi? What sort of language eez zat?"

Hermione was annoyed for some reason. "I can defend myself, thank you very much." She turned to Pansy. "Pansy, I am here for the ball. Mudblood or not, I was given the chance to meet the bachelor. And why do you still call me that? We're not at Hogwarts anymore. Besides, Voldemort's gone. The war is over. Blood doesn't matter."

"You--" Pansy slapped the butler's arm, which was still blocking her way. "Move, you idiot! It's started to rain again! My hair!" Pansy shrieked and ran inside. She shot a nasty glare at Hermione before dashing into a nearby bathroom.

Other girls outside started to cry in dismay as the summer storm released all its fury. Great big drops of rain came pelting down, creating a rather dismal atmosphere for the ball. The butler nearly got trampled as a stampede of girls rushed in.

"Oh, for heaven's sake!" said Hermione exasperatedly as several dripping wet girls rushed past her, crying. "You know, there's a simple spell you could all use…Impervius!" She aimed her wand at the crowd at random.

A relieved girl with dark hair and dark skin smiled at Hermione. "Thank you so…oh! Hermione! I wasn't expecting to see you here!"

"Parvati!" Hermione gave the Indian girl a hug. "At last, a friendly face."

Parvati Patil nodded understandingly. "As I was walking up here, all I heard was French. It's like the Triwizard tournament all over again, with those Beauxbatons girls…. And Pansy Parkinson!" Parvati wrinkled her nose. "Why on earth would they pick someone like her to meet the bachelor?"

They walked toward the ballroom as they talked, but both of them were stunned into an awed silence when they saw the location for the evening's festivities. Rain continued to lash at the windows, but the warmth of the enchanted candles and the exquisite décor but the weather at the back of Hermione's mind. The ballroom was huge. The floor was pure white marble, set with precious rainbow-colored gems. Exotic flower arrangements with live birds floated in midair, a few feet above Hermione's head. A small band was setting up on a stage complete with red velvet curtains. It was amazing.

"Hermione, have I told you, you look stunning," said Parvati kindly.

"Thank you," said Hermione. "So do you."

"I agree, you look tres belle," said a voice behind Hermione. It was the French girl who had defended her not so long ago. Her voice held a tiny hint of sarcasm, as if suggesting that Hermione's personality wasn't tres belle at all.

"Oh, hello! Listen, I'm so sorry I snapped at you earlier. You were just trying to help. I was just annoyed at Pansy. Can we start all over?" said Hermione. She did not want to start the competition with enemies.

The French girl smiled brilliantly. "Oui! I am Isabelle Delacour. And you two are?"

"Hermione Granger. This is Parvati Patil. But wait, did you say Delacour?"

"Oui. Do you know my cousin, Fleur? She visited 'Ogwarts a few years ago."

"Oh! Yes, yes, I know Fleur…er, sort of…." Hermione smiled at Isabelle.

"Sally-Anne! Susan! Lisa!" Parvati cried suddenly and bid a hasty good-bye to Hermione before going off to greet other familiar faces from Hogwarts. Hermione, not knowing any of them particularly well, stayed with Isabelle.

Nearly an hour had passed since Hermione had arrived, and she was itching to meet the bachelor. 

There's the third chapter! The next one we will FINALLY see some interaction between Hermione and the bachelor. Please, please, please REVIEW! They seriously encourage me to write more. Even a simple two-worded review would be nice. Just scroll in the box...and let me know what you think!
Yours till the Snorkack's horn crumples,
Queen Luna

Chapter 4: Chapter Four: The Masquerade
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Author's Note: I decided to focus on The Game of Love because I'm having trouble with the fourth chapter of So You Think You Can Duel. Anyway, enjoy this chapter and let me know what you think in a review!

Chapter Four: The Masquerade

"Bienvenue, mademoiselles! Je m'appelle Claude Beaumont…. I am very sorry about the rain. I can help you find your true love, but I cannot control the weather." There was polite laughter. The thin, handsome man who stood at the stage with his voice magically magnified beamed at the crowd. "I am Monsieur Beaumont, and I am so glad all of you could make it. Welcome to the Game of Love! The bachelor will be coming out very soon, but here are some general rules…first, no one will remove their masks or inform the bachelor of your identity. I understand that some of you have already introduced yourselves to your fellow contestants. That is fine, just be careful not to reveal who you are to the bachelor until the unmasking ceremony. Secondly, please do ignore the cameras. If a cameraman asks you for an interview, you may oblige or decline. But please do not feel nervous because of the cameras. You all look very lovely, I assure you. And lastly, note that only half of you will remain at the end of the night. This is not a time to play 'hard to get.' Enjoy yourselves! Au revoir!" He left the stage and disappeared from the ballroom.

The band began to play a light waltz.

"Zis is rather silly," said a heavily French-accented voice, but it wasn't Isabelle. It was the girl who had pushed Hermione. "Only one man and fifty women. And zey call it a ball. 'Ow do zey expect us to be entertained?"

"Georgina! How are you?" said Isabelle, though a little reluctantly.

"Fine. I 'ope ze bachelor eez worth waiting for. Zis masquerade eez terribly boring. 'Oo are you?" she said suddenly to Hermione.

"Oh, er, I'm Hermione. Pleased to meet you." Not really. Thanks for shoving me earlier. And you're really snobby, by the way.
The girl, Georgina, disregarded her as though she were a bothersome fly. "I'm off to find Genevieve. 'Ave you seen her, Isabelle?"

Isabelle shook her head.

Hermione watched them. She couldn't decide who was more beautiful, Isabelle or Georgina. She deduced that Isabelle was part veela due to her connection with Fleur Delacour, and she suspected that Georgina had veela blood as well. She suddenly felt a bit diminished in appearance.

Georgina walked away gracefully.

"I'm sorry," said Isabelle, apologizing for her friend's rude behavior, "she's not ze nicest person."

Hermione gave a hollow laugh. "I didn't expect her to be nice at all."

Isabelle gave no comment.

A few gasps and a flurry of excited murmurs alerted Hermione to the arrival of the bachelor. From a distance, Hermione could make out the fact that he was tall, thin, and had very light blond hair. He looked rather handsome in his black tuxedo. She felt her heart speed up with excitement.

He made his way through the throng of excited girls slowly, shaking hands and welcoming them. It was a very long time before he reached Hermione and Isabelle.

"Good evening, ladies," he drawled. Hermione nearly frowned. It was almost like a reflex. Where had she heard that voice before, and why did her face automatically respond in such a negative way?

"How do you do?" said Isabelle, curtsying and holding out her hand. He kissed it.

"Pleased to meet you," said Hermione. She almost told him her name, but caught herself just in time. She looked at his face. He was wearing a black mask with silver designs that matched his light gray eyes perfectly. He looked oddly familiar, but she just couldn't pinpoint where or when she had met him.

The band struck another tune. He tilted his head toward Hermione. "May I have this dance?"

"Yes, you may," she said, as confidently as possible. She allowed herself to be lead to the dance floor. Shouldn't she feel pleased that she was asked for the first dance? Dozens of envious faces told her so. She found Isabelle in the crowd and was surprised to see that the French girl seemed to be excited for her.

She held his hand and put her other hand on his shoulder. He put his around her waist and drew her closer to him. He smelled tantalizing, like sandalwood and spices.

"So, since I don't know your name, how should I get to know you?" he said with a sort of a swagger in his voice.

"Why don't you start by asking what my favorite color is?" She had a strong feeling she knew this person, and did not like this person, but she could flirt, for the time being.

He raised his eyebrows and looked at her dress, his eyes lingering for a fraction of a second too long on her chest. "I would think that it is purple."

Hermione felt her face heat up, knowing exactly what he was thinking at that moment. Pervert. "Oh, Gi--my friend picked this out for me. My favorite color is actually deep red…and gold."

"Ah…a Gryffindor."

Did he know who she was? If he did, he didn't show it.

"My favorite color is green." He smirked. Her heart skipped a beat. That smirk…hadn't she seen that smirk a hundred times at Hogwarts? Was it…he? No, it couldn't be. No, it was impossible. No!

"A Slytherin," said Hermione in the same tone he had used. Her heart was fluttering madly. She would be so disappointed if this man was he, that boy at Hogwarts she'd hated all her life.

"Favorite activity?" he asked now.

"Reading," said Hermione, barely keeping her voice even. "And you?"

"Quidditch. Although reading comes in at a close second."

He plays Quidditch, Hermione thought. Everything matches so far. Except for the bit about reading. That was unusual. 

"You look beautiful, by the way," he breathed in her ear as the song drew to a close. His breath on her skin felt wonderful. She had expected herself to cringe. "But I'm afraid I have to meet the other women before they start a riot."

"Of course," said Hermione, curtsying. "It was a pleasure dancing with you." He released her, smirked again, and she left the dance floor, the image of his smirk burned into her brain.

Parvati ran to her side first. "So, how was it? Is he nice?"

Hermione nodded. "You know, I think I've…" she began a little faintly. Was it wise to tell the other former Hogwarts students who she thought the bachelor was? "Oh, never mind."

"Okay," said Parvati a little disappointedly. Hermione smiled inwardly. The girl was as eager for gossip as her Hogwarts days. The other girls in the vicinity who had been eavesdropping immediately turned their attention back to the bachelor, who was now dancing with Georgina.

The night passed by at a slow pace after the dance, which seemed to have lasted two seconds as Hermione looked back. After all, the bachelor did have fifty girls to dance with…. He didn't have time for any second dances.

She was wrong. As the clock struck nine, the bachelor appeared before her again. 

"Do you mind?" he said abruptly. Without waiting for an answer, he pulled her to her feet and they started waltzing again. Hermione felt dizzy even though they hadn't even started to spin yet. Just being in the presence of this man made her feel this way. It was disconcerting.

"Of course not," she said, a little concerned at his irritation and agitation.

"Sorry," he said once they were dancing. "It's just that Pan--I mean, that woman over there…she got into this thing because she knows my mother. And now her father has bribed Mr. Beaumont, so I'm forced to give her a rose tonight."

Pansy…he was talking about Pansy! And didn't that boy at Hogwarts have that same tramp tailing him all the time?

"Aren't you tired?" said Hermione, for lack of better things to say. Her brain was very muddled when she was around this man…maybe because she was busy hoping that he wasn't who she suspected he was.

They continued dancing through the next song, and the next. Hermione had no idea what they talked about, but she was very aware of the jealous stares boring into the back of her head.

At the beginning of the third song, he murmured, "I could have sworn I've heard your voice before…. Did I go to school with you? Were we in the same year?"

Hermione's throat was dry. "I was a sixth year when Albus Dumbledore died." She did this on purpose, of course.

The bachelor immediately stiffened, and dropped his arms to his side. His eyes had gone from a light gray, almost silver, to a dark, stormy color that matched the sky outside. He turned away without speaking.

It was all Hermione needed, the final verification. She could feel angry tears burning the inside of her eyelids as she hurried away towards the edge of the ballroom, away from him. But she couldn't escape the prying eyes and the gossip that traveled through the room like wildfire.

"What happened?" said Isabelle, concerned.

Hermione dabbed at her eyes with a napkin. "Nothing."

Girls around her were muttering mutinously. She caught bits and pieces of their conversations.

"What did she do?"

"Did you see that? He just left her in the middle of the floor."

"She must've offended him."

"Maybe he realized she's a Mudblood," said a scornful voice. Pansy, of course.

Hermione's fists were clenched so tightly that her knuckles were white. She had almost withdrawn her wand from a hidden pocket in her skirt when the lights dimmed and a spotlight focused on Claude Beaumont.

"Attention, ladies! The time has come. Our handsome bachelor will choose exactly twenty-five women to continue." He nodded toward the bachelor, who nodded back. There were twenty-five roses on a silver tray that floated in midair. "This is how it will work. The roses have been 'tagged' already. With the wave of my wand, they will fly over to whomever they belong to." He waved his wand, and Hermione watched as twenty-five roses flew into the air.

To Hermione's great surprise, one of the roses was veering straight towards her. She grasped the rose in her hand. A thorn pricked her finger.

Hermione gazed at her rose in wonder. It was as red as the drop of blood that beaded her pricked finger. After all that, he still chose to give her a rose. She was staying, only she wasn't particularly sure if she wanted to.

"If you have not received a rose, I am sorry but you must leave us now. If you have received a rose, then congratulations. Please come forward and remove your masks."
This was the moment.

Hermione stepped forward with Isabelle and Parvati, both of whom had also received roses. Her hand tugged at the ribbon holding her mask to her face. She was reluctant to reveal her identity. Wearing the mask had made her feel protected, guarded. The bachelor had not removed his yet either. Most of the other girls were already unmasked, and they waited eagerly to see the bachelor's face.

Slowly, Hermione turned to face the bachelor. She was standing the closest to him. She raised her eyes to meet his, and all other thoughts seemed to disappear. It was as if they were the only two people in the room.

She pulled the ribbon loose, but caught the mask before it could fall and held it to her face, unwilling to reveal herself.

The bachelor did the same, gazing at her intently. He was no longer smirking.

Hermione lowered her mask slowly, her chocolate-colored eyes staring in disbelief.

"Hermione Granger," the bachelor stated, in a tone that was completely neutral, so quietly that only she heard.

The bachelor's mask fell away. They stared at each other intently. Hermione could barely breathe from all the tension.

"Draco Malfoy," Hermione whispered. And then she ran out of the room. 

I would like to thank the lovely readers who have reviewed. I seriously love reading reviews. When I get new ones, this huge goofy grin appears on my face. So continue reviewing! If you haven't, please start! They encourage me to write.
Yours till Fudge cooks the goblins,
Queen Luna

Chapter 5: Chapter Five: A Walk Down Memory Lane
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Hey there! Sorry for the long wait...I had validation issues and writers' block and a ton of schoolwork. I hope you enjoy this chapter...please review at the end. Thanks!

Chapter Five: A Walk Down Memory Lane

Hermione ignored the crew shouting at her and shoved her way through the throng of weeping girls standing near the entrance, waiting for the rain to subside. She turned left and ran down the empty corridor, brushing away her tears angrily. Why was she crying? More importantly, what was he doing here? He had no right to be on the bachelor, no right to dance with her, after all that he had done.

She could hear people yelling at her, and among them she was able to single out his voice, but she paid no attention and rounded another corner of the manor, the thick plush carpet muffling the sound of her stiletto heels.

She found a balcony. At last, a sanctuary. She pushed open the glass door and stumbled through. A ferocious wind bit at her exposed skin, and she lifted her face to the rain.

She couldn't do this. She had to leave.

The rain had washed away her salty tears, but more came as the memories flooded her mind….

First year…

…An eleven-year-old Hermione Granger stepped onto the Hogwarts Express for the first time ever, a bundle of nerves and excitement. She waved at her parents, who stood on the platform, looking amused and baffled because they were surrounded by wizards.

The train slowly gained speed, and Hermione soon lost sight of her parents. She looked around and began walking down the narrow aisle, trying to find a compartment she could sit in.

The first compartment was full of giggling girls that were much older than she was. The second held a rowdy group of guffawing boys. Growing desperate to find a friend, she reached the end of the train and saw a small boy her age sitting alone. She knocked on the door and slid it open.

"May I sit down?"

The boy looked at her. He had sleek blond hair and a pale, pointed face. He looked her up and down and sneered. "Who are you?"

"Hermione Granger."

"Granger? I've never heard that name before."

"I--my parents aren't wizards, you see."

"You're a Muggle-born? I don't associate myself with you lot, so get out."

Holding back tears, Hermione left, nearly colliding into a pair of thickset boys who entered the same compartment she had just left. They didn't come out again.

She wiped her eyes on her sleeve. A round-faced boy bumped into her.

"Sorry!" he said. "Have you seen my toad?"

Second year…

…Hermione was on her way to the library. In her bag was the restricted potions book that had helped her create the rule-breaking Polyjuice Potion. It was overdue, and Madame Pince was sure to explode with anger.

She hurried down the silent corridor. Everyone else was at dinner, but she figured she should return the book first. She was almost there when someone knocked into her from behind. Surprised, she lost her balance and fell over. To make matters worse, her bag split open and the potions book tumbled out in its decrepit state.

The person who had knocked her down stood over her, bent down, and picked up the book. She realized who it was a little too late.

“What’s a Mudblood doing with a book about dark magic?” Malfoy sneered, flipping through the old book carelessly. A page ripped at his touch and fell out, fluttering to the floor.

“Careful!” said Hermione, snatching up the page. “And give that back, Malfoy.” She stood up and tried to reach for the book, anxious to get to the library.

“Fine,” he said. He dropped the book to the floor only because another one had caught his eye. It was bound in wine-colored leather, with gold details. He had the feeling that it was very precious. “What’s this?” he said, snatching it up.

It was Hermione’s treasured volume of Pride & Prejudice. She gasped audibly. Her favorite book was in the hands of the enemy. “Give that back, Malfoy,” she said in a commanding tone.

Malfoy read the title and gave a derisive laugh. A Muggle book, by a Mudblood author. He held it out of her reach, his gray eyes glinting tauntingly. “I think…” he said slowly, staring at her maliciously, “I think that I’ll keep this book for now…you can have it back later.”

“No!” cried Hermione. “Malfoy, please. I really need that book. It’s not yours.” What on earth did he want to do with a Jane Austen book for?

“No,” said Malfoy, tucking the book securely under his arm. “It’s mine now. See you later, Mudblood.” He began stalking away.

Hermione wasn’t about to give up without a proper fight. She took a running leap and tackled Malfoy to the ground. He gave a shout of surprise and pain as he crashed to the stone floor with Hermione practically wringing his neck. “Give me the book, Malfoy, or I’ll curse you to oblivion!”

“Get off!” Malfoy sputtered. Suddenly, there was the groaning sound of the doors of the Great Hall opening and light spilled into the formerly deserted corridor. Voices grew louder as the students began dispersing throughout the castle to their dormitories.

“Merlin’s beard! What’s going on here?” Percy Weasley, Gryffindor Prefect, came striding into view. A crowd of curious onlookers grew in numbers behind him, giggling and pointing at Malfoy’s undignified position. A few Gryffindors began cheering to see Hermione with the upper hand.

“Malfoy stole my book!” said Hermione, releasing Malfoy as she thought it was safe now. She hoped she wouldn’t be put into detention….

Malfoy was sullen and silent. His normally sleek blond hair was ruffled and his face was flushed. Hermione knew he would never admit to getting tackled by a girl, a Mudblood no less.

“Fighting is prohibited at Hogwarts,” said Percy sternly, “but I’ll waive the offense this time. Now get to your respective dormitories, immediately. I hope the two of you will reconcile and refrain from resorting to violence in the future.”

Hermione nodded solemnly, thankful to escape punishment. But it also meant that Malfoy had escaped detention as well. She sighed and walked into the arms of her Gryffindor friends, deferring their inquisitive questions with made-up excuses. It was two hours later when she was lying in bed, staring at the red canopy when she realized that Malfoy had never returned her book.

Third year…

…Hermione walked through the empty hallway at a fast and furious pace, on her way once more to the library. She had an insane amount of homework to do. Ron was driving her mad because he insisted that Crookshanks had eaten Scabbers, when she knew it wasn’t true. The time-turner that was currently tucked into her robes was also making her life hell. On top of it all, Hagrid was losing his case with Buckbeak. She couldn’t help but feel it was her fault.

She reached the library and sat down at her usual table, slamming her books onto the desk. Annoyed glances flickered her way, but she ignored them. She did not notice a blond-haired boy staring at her in the corner. If she were to look his way, she would see that it was Malfoy. She would also see the red mark on his cheek, thanks to the slap she had given him not too long ago.

Hermione began working on a Potions essay that was due tomorrow. She had never put off homework this late before, which made her more cranky and irritable. Plus she had to write an outstanding essay that would pass Professor Snape’s standards and perhaps earn her a little respect from him.

She tapped her quill on the blank parchment, dotting it with drops of black ink. Suddenly someone sat down across from her, knocking over a tower of books so he could see her properly. It was Malfoy.

“What do you want?” she snapped irritably.

Malfoy glared back. “I am going to make your life hell.”

Hermione snorted. “As if you don’t already.” She looked up from her essay, feigning interest in what he had to say. In a falsely sweet voice, she said, “Would this have anything to do with the slap I gave you?” Her voice rose on the word ‘slap.’

Malfoy stiffened. “Shut up, Granger, or you’re really going to wish you were dead.”

Hermione glared at him fiercely. “You deserved it. You are such an arrogant, spoiled, cruel, mean, conceited, egotistical--"

His expression hardened so his face was like a piece of exquisitely carved marble. “Is that what you think of me, Granger?”

“--prat. I hate you.”

“You’re wrong. And I loathe you as well,” he said. He stood up. “I’m leaving.”

“Good,” she said scathingly. “I didn’t even tell you to come over here and start talking to me.”

He looked at her one last time, slamming his fist onto the table. “Hell,” he said. “That’s what you’re getting…Mudblood.”

The biting word hit Hermione like a curse, as she now knew what it meant. And it made her feel as though she were lower than the dirt on his shoes.

Fourth year…

…Hermione was in the middle of the most exhilarating night of her life. She, the bushy-haired bookworm, was dancing with famous Viktor Krum. It was unbelievable. And she looked stunning.

Even better was that when Malfoy had caught a glimpse of her, he had no words to say. It made her feel that same sense of satisfaction.

The night wore on. Dance after dance, glass after glass of butterbeer. Finally, she had to tell Viktor she needed some air and stepped outside into the courtyard for a moment.

Quite unexpectedly, she stumbled into someone.

“Watch where you’re going, Mudblood,” said a familiar voice. Malfoy. Of course. No one else called her Mudblood.

“Shut up, Malfoy,” snapped Hermione. “I don’t need you to ruin my night.”

His expression was unreadable. He seemed hurt, and he seemed to be struggling internally with something. “But you’ve made mine,” he finally said. They both stared in shock at each other. There was a lengthy pause. “You look beautiful.”

Hermione thought her heart had stopped, and she was dead. The next thing she knew, Malfoy was leaning in towards her. He wasn’t…

She slapped him across the face. He staggered back.

“Bloody hell!” he groaned, clutching his face. “What in Merlin’s name was that for?”

“You can’t insult me for four years and then try and kiss me!” Hermione said, tears spilling down her cheeks. “Get away from me!”

“I--” Malfoy stopped. There was a very ugly look on his face. “Forget I even spoke to you, let alone tried to kiss you. I was obviously temporarily insane. Malfoys don’t kiss Mudbloods.”

“Go away,” Hermione snarled. She furiously wiped away her tears and then stomped back to the Great Hall. Mudblood. Merlin, how she hated that word. And she could not believe what had just almost happened.

Fifth year…

…Hermione was very happy. She had been made prefect, along with Ron. As the pair of them made their way to the prefect carriage, however, the sight of Malfoy bullying the first years burst her bubble…especially when he caught her eye, smirked, and flashed his prefect badge at her.

Scowling, Hermione stomped toward Malfoy. "You are despicable, taking advantage of your position to bully the younger students!"

His smirk faded and he whispered malevolently, so quietly that nobody but her heard him: "How did a Mudblood like yourself become prefect?"

Hermione bristled with anger. "Stop. Calling. Me. That."

"Not until you act like a Mudblood's supposed to…subordinate to a pureblood like me."

"How dare--" Hermione whispered ferociously.

Malfoy stepped back. "You're breathing on me, Mudblood. Now my lungs have been contaminated."

"What'd you just say to her?" said Ron menacingly, finally catching wind of Malfoy and Hermione's conversation.

"Nothing important, Ron. We shouldn't even listen to what a stupid ferret has to say," said Hermione, remembering the time Professor Moody transfigured Malfoy into a blond, bouncing ferret.

Ron smirked at Malfoy and then stepped inside the compartment, thinking that Hermione would follow him. Before she could, Malfoy grabbed her robes by the neck and pushed her against the wall, seething with anger.

"You better watch what you say, Granger."

"You're touching me. Aren't you afraid of my Mudblood germs?" she said back coolly, though, for the first time, she was terrified at what he might do to her. He snarled and released her.

Sixth year…

…Hermione hurried along the dark corridor, troubled by what she had just seen. She had been walking by Moaning Myrtle's bathroom on her way back from the library when she heard the sound of somebody crying. Curious, she opened the door carefully and slowly. Whoever was in there did not hear her. She looked straight across and saw, reflected in the mirror, Draco Malfoy's face. He was much paler and thinner than before, and he was sobbing. Before he could look up, Hermione had run away. She did not want to find out what Malfoy would do if he saw her watching him cry.

But why was he crying?

It was all so strange.

Malfoy was different this year. He kept to himself, he didn't say much, and he didn't even use his prefect power to abuse the younger students. He no longer boasted about what his family, his name, and his pureblood status. He wasn't like the Draco Malfoy Hermione knew and loathed.

At the end of the year, she knew why. Harry was right all along. Malfoy had been planning something sinister and evil. Why didn't he look at the other options? Why didn't he come to the light side after Voldemort threatened him and his family? Was he a coward? She felt pity for him when Harry told them what had happened on the lightening-struck tower. But it didn't erase or soften any of the hate she still felt for him.

Seventh year…

…That was the year she spent with Harry and Ron out in the wilderness, hunting for Horcruxes, escaping the clutches of death time and time again.

…The Final Battle. Hermione fought bravely that night, never stopping in taking down Death Eaters and helping out her friends, even as the trio raced through the chaos trying to destroy the last Horcrux.

And Malfoy? They had saved his life in the Room of Requirement, where his supposed friend Crabbe had tried to kill her. They saved his life. Then later, he tried to tell a Death Eater he was on their side and they saved his life again.

He was a coward, no doubt about that.

Later, when it was all over, Hermione caught sight of the Malfoys sitting in a corner of the Great Hall, pale and uncertain. When she walked by them, Lucius and Narcissa regarded her indifferently while their son avoided her gaze.


The bitterly cold rain had soaked Hermione completely, chilling her to the bone. She was shivering violently, yet she had no inclination to move to a warmer location.

The glass door slid open. Someone had found her. "Hermione!" gasped Isabelle. "Hermione, come with me. You've probably caught a cold. Let's get you inside."

Hermione was numb. She allowed her new friend, along with Parvati, to drag her inside and into a small chamber, where they wrapped her in warm towels. But her shivering did not stop.

There was a knock, and the bachelor stepped in.

"Is she--"

Hermione’s fists clenched. "GET OUT!" she screamed at him.

Draco Malfoy, for the first time ever, obeyed her without question.

He didn't blame her.

Thank you to all the lovely people who have been reading and reviewing! I would also like to note that GryffindorGirl153 made the amazing banner. Please review!
Yours till the butterbeer necklace breaks,
Queen Luna

Chapter 6: Chapter Six: After The Storm
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Chapter Six: After The Storm

Hermione awoke quite suddenly, snapping her eyes open to see a raven-haired man and two redheads staring down at her anxiously. The light streaming in through the gauzy maroon curtains met her eyes and she closed them again, groaning and pulling a blanket up over her eyes. Apparently the rain had finally ceased, but the stormy skies would have better matched her current mood.

"Where am I?" she said, her voice muffled.

"You're at home, in your own flat," came Ron's worried voice.

"How the hell did I get here?" she said. Everyone winced at her choice of words. She was obviously still angry, though no one knew why.

"Some girl with a French accent called me on the telephone and requested that we come pick you up," said Harry, his voice full of concern. "So we went, to the Malfoy Manor, to get you and we found you in a half-dead state. Hermione, what in the name of Merlin happened last night?"

"I'm tired," Hermione grumbled. "I'll tell you later."

"Let's go," whispered Ginny. "She needs to rest."

Hermione, from under her protective blanket, listened as they all tiptoed out. When she was sure they had all gone, she allowed the hot, prickly tears that had been welling up at the thought of the events of last night spill over onto her cheeks. A sob escaped her throat.

She cried herself back into a delirious sleep.

When Hermione woke up for the second time that day, she was finally feeling the effects of her late-night rendezvous in the cold rainstorm. Her skin was hot to touch, as though it was on fire, and yet she was shaking with the chills. Her entire body, from her head to her toes, was aching. She sneezed. She felt miserable and was about to wallow for another hour or so in self-pity when her bedroom door opened and her friends trooped back in.

Ginny, thank Merlin, was carrying a smoking glass filled to the brim with Pepperup Potion. Hermione took the glass gratefully and downed it in one gulp. She instantly felt better even though smoke was pouring out of her ears.

"How are you feeling?" said Ron.

"Much better," said Hermione, sitting up in bed and removing the mountain of blankets and quilts that she had been sleeping under.

"I meant--" Ron began, but was silenced by Ginny, who shot him a reprimanding look.

"I'm fine," said Hermione loudly in a would-be cheerful voice, getting out of bed and pulling some random articles of clothing out of her closet. She disappeared into the bathroom to shower and change, taking her time. To her disappointment, when she returned to her bedroom, everyone was still there, waiting for her to start talking. She took the purple dress off of its hanger and inspected it for watermarks. There were plenty. She took out her wand to begin fixing it.

"Hermione, will you please tell us what happened?" said Harry, sitting down in a chair to indicate he wasn't leaving anytime soon.

Ron joined in. "Oi! I can't believe I didn't ask earlier--who is the bachelor?" he asked, his face lighting up. "Is he a nice bloke?"

Ginny leaned in eagerly to hear her answer. She clearly wanted to know as well.

"Well?" prompted Harry.

Hermione suddenly caught sight of the red rose sitting in a crystal vase she did not remember ever purchasing. She had the sudden urge to shatter the vase into a thousand pieces, along with the rose and her heart.

She set down the dress along with her wand and clasped her hands together tightly, holding them in her lap. In a quiet voice, she said simply, "Guess."

"Do we know him?" said Ginny, frowning and sitting down by Hermione.

Hermione nodded. She could feel the tears coming again and turned to face the window, blinking rapidly. "Blond. Slytherin. Git," she mumbled.

Comprehension dawned on everyone at once. Ginny gasped. Harry and Ron looked at each other, alarmed and guilty.

"Not Draco Malfoy!" said Harry in horror.

Ron's face turned red with anger at the mention of their old enemy. "That bastard! What did he do to you? I'm going to go over there right now and pound his face until--"

"Ron, calm down!" said Ginny sharply.

Hermione nodded grimly, turning away from her pillow to look at her friends.

"Draco Malfoy--Malfoy--how--" Harry stuttered.

"This is completely our fault," Ron groaned.

Hermione shrugged. "Don't blame yourselves, Harry and Ron. He didn't do anything horrible, really," she continued, looking at none of them and staring at the opposite wall. "He was perfectly nice and charming…a bit arrogant and conceited, kind of like how he was before he became a Death Eater. But honestly…he's Draco Malfoy. I can't stay in the damn Game of Love and date him."

"And I wholeheartedly agree--" Ron announced, only to be silenced by Ginny.

"Ron--Harry--could you two let us girls talk for a bit?" said Ginny, biting her lip.

The two men obliged and left, muttering darkly.

"Hermione…" said Ginny slowly, sitting down on the edge of the bed. She smoothed the covers unnecessarily and began toying with the fringe decorating the edge of the bedspread. "Hermione, I think…I think you should give him a chance."

"What?" said Hermione, flabbergasted. She had completely expected Ginny to take her side and perhaps hunt down Draco and give him a good Bat-Bogey curse. "Give Malfoy--give him a chance?"

Ginny nodded earnestly.

"Not until hell freezes over," said Hermione stubbornly.

Ginny sighed. "Come on, Hermione. Be a little forgiving. You said so yourself that he was perfectly nice! Maybe he's changed. I think he has. He didn't want to join Voldemort, Harry told me. He didn't want to kill Dumbledore. Sure, he's teased and taunted and insulted us to no end, but…maybe he's grown up. Maybe he doesn't give a damn about blood anymore."

"Maybe, but that doesn't change our past. Ginny, do you know what he did to me at Hogwarts? Do you know how he made me feel? I absolutely hate him…how am I supposed to fall in love with him?" said Hermione, burying her face into her hands.

"I'm not asking you to fall in love with him," said Ginny, a small smile on her face, patting her gently on the back. "Just give it a chance. You never know what will happen."

"Thanks for trying, Ginny, but there is no bloody way I'm going back to the Game of Love. No bloody way am I going back to the Malfoy Manor, and no bloody way am I going to even try to like that man."

Ginny sighed. "Just think about it, Hermione…. I'll--we'll leave you alone now." She gave Hermione a hug and then left the room. A few minutes later Hermione heard her front door slam shut and the crack of Disapparation.

When she was sure her flat was empty of visitors, she left her bedroom and shuffled into the living room. Right away she noticed two letters sitting on the coffee table.

She sighed and picked up the two letters. One was in a familiar shade of revolting pink, with a heart shaped seal. The other was thick and heavy, with a Malfoy family seal. She instantly knew who had written each of them. She opened the pink one first, reading it as she wandered back to her bedroom.

Dear Miss Hermione Granger,
I am very sorry to hear that you are ill. Forgive me if the masquerade was the cause of your distress. When you recover, please return to the Malfoy Manor. All twenty-five contestants are to stay at the manor for the duration of the Game of Love. Everyone should arrive promptly at 3:00 PM. There will be a formal dinner at 7:00 PM. It is essential that you attend. Merci beaucoup.

Best regards,
M. Claude Beaumont

Hermione threw the letter over her shoulder, not caring where it landed. She sat down on her bed and glanced at the other letter with much trepidation. Her name was written in deep green ink. The handwriting was thin and elegant. The letter seemed to be multiple pages long. She really did not want to read what it had to say, so she stuffed it under her mattress, intending to forget about it. Humming a little tune, she went into the kitchen to boil a pot of water for some tea. Her stomach grumbled. It was nearly noon. She looked around her pantry for something to eat.

When the clock struck one, Hermione was curled up on her couch contentedly, concentrating on the book she was reading, or attempting to read. She refused to allow her thoughts to even flick towards Draco, even though she was counting down the minutes until the moment she was supposed to be at his manor to accept the rose and continue on with the Game of Love.

She shook her head to clear her thoughts and redirected her attention to the Jane Austen novel in her hands. She was about to begin the next chapter when, quite unexpectedly, someone knocked on her front door.

Hermione jumped up in her seat; the book flew out of her hands. She willed her heartbeat to slow down and tiptoed to the front door. She peeked through the curtains and caught a glimpse of none other than Draco Malfoy, dressed in a crisp black Muggle suit. He was here, at her flat. How did he track her down?

But of course, Monsieur Claude Beaumont would have told him.

She had fully intended on pretending she wasn't at home when he caught her eye. He looked at her pointedly. Damn. He knew she was inside. Scowling, she opened her front door.

"What?" she said ungraciously, standing with her hands on her hips.

Draco was at loss for words at the sight of a very angry Hermione standing a mere foot away from him, but quickly collected himself. "Hello, Granger. Did you receive my letter?" he said smoothly. 

Hermione thought for a second. Technically…"Yes."

He made a small movement, as though he expected to be let into her flat. He paused. "Did you happen to read it?"

Hermione's scowl deepened. "No, I did not happen to read it. In fact, I lost it." Maybe he would leave her alone now.

"Excellent," said Draco, a look of mild surprise on his face. "I decided, after sending it, that it would be better it I told you in person."

"Told me what?" said Hermione flatly.

At this, he lost patience. "Look, Granger, I am about to tell you something very important. Could you at least let me inside, ask me to sit down, and perhaps offer a cup of tea or something of the sort?" There was a ghost of a smirk on his face.

The nerve of him! Hermione stared him down before relenting. Fine. He could come in…but she would make sure he didn't enjoy his stay.

She left the door open and stomped into the kitchen. Making a great deal of unnecessary noise, she slapped together a cup of tea.

Draco was standing in the living room, waiting politely. "Do sit down," Hermione snapped sarcastically, slamming the teacup down onto the coffee table. He sat. Hermione was pleased to see he looked a little uneasy.

But the next words he spoke startled and surprised her greatly.

"I'm sorry." 

I hope you enjoyed this chapter! I rewrote it so many times before finally deciding to just post it. Thank you to everyone who has been reading and reviewing this story! Please leave a review. I love hearing what you think.
Yours till the Nargles infest your brain,
Queen Luna

Chapter 7: Chapter Seven: Apologies and Arguments
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Here's chapter seven! Enjoy!


Hermione thought her ears had stopped working. Or maybe she was hallucinating and simply imagining everything. Perhaps she was still asleep and dreaming.

"Pardon?" she said, her mind completely blank.

Draco drew in a deep breath and repeated, "Granger, I'm sorry."

"Sorry for what?" Hermione managed to say, still deeply immersed in shock.

Draco closed his silver-gray eyes very briefly. "Granger, you're making this really difficult for me. I'm sorry for everything I've done to hurt you in the past. I apologize for all the curses I've sent towards you, all the teasing and taunting, and all the times I called you a Mudblood. I was a fool, I regret it, and I'm sorry."

Hermione opened her mouth, but did not know what to say. "I…"

What he said next astounded her even more.

"I also want to ask you to come back. I gave you a rose, and I sincerely wish you would stay in the Game of Love…. Please, just give this a chance." He gazed at her solemnly, unblinking. Hermione felt herself being drawn into the silvery depths and forced herself to turn her head, to look away.

He spoke once more. "Granger, will you please say something? I feel as if I'm attempting to converse with the wall here." His voice held no hint of amusement.

"Thank you," Hermione said quietly, looking at the floor.

"Pardon?" he said, frowning slightly and leaning in a bit closer.

"Thank you for coming all the way here and apologizing, Malfoy, but I'm going to need some time to think about it," said Hermione, a bit more loudly and firmly. She stood up. He took it as his cue to leave.

"Of course," said Draco, standing up as well. "Take your time."

Hermione watched him make his way to the front door. Before turning the knob, however, he turned and raised his wand.

"Accio letter." There was the sound of something shoving its way through a thick barrier--the mattress, Hermione remembered--and the next thing she knew Draco was handing her back the letter.

Hermione took it without saying a word.

"In case you need a little more convincing," he said, giving her a wry smile, "read my letter." He opened the door, stepped outside, and left.

Hermione waited until his footsteps had faded before tearing open the letter, her hands shaking slightly. She stood there in the dim light, by her front door, and drank in his words.

Dear Hermione Granger, the letter read.

First and foremost, how are you? I hope you are feeling better.

Secondly, I apologize. I apologize for everything. I am extremely sorry for every curse I have ever aimed at you, every slur I have ever hurled at you. I take back all the insults I have ever directed at your blood or your appearance or your brain. I am about to go much deeper than that. Please bear with me. This may bring back some unpleasant memories, although I think you have already unearthed them.

By calling you a Mudblood, I was foolish and ignorant. A few years ago I would have blamed my ignorance on my father, but now I can see that I was simply much too proud and prejudiced. I no longer believe in the importance of blood. I should have realized it when you beat me in every subject, every test.

When I called you a know-it-all, I was jealous of your success and frightened at what my father might do to me when he found out that I could not outsmart a Muggle-born. Instead of putting my efforts into studying, I chose to wound you. My tactics obviously did not work. If my words did not hurt you, that shows how desperate I was. And if they did, you hid your pain expertly. I do not know how you did it. If I had been on the receiving end of my own wrath, I would not have been able to deal with it like you did. For that, I admire you.

As for my insults on your appearance…that does not matter anymore. You are beautiful, you always were. I was blinded by hate and could not see. Do you know when I first discovered this? It was fourth year, at the Yule Ball. You were stunning. I still remember, very clearly, our encounter in the courtyard.

I am sorry for causing all these problems for you during your years at Hogwarts. I was immature and an idiot. I did not know any better. I hope you can forgive me one day, and see me as the man I have become, not the boy I once was. Could we please forget the past? Let's keep moving forward. Dwelling on the past, especially one like ours, will only hurt the both of us even more.

Lastly, please come back. I did not know who you were when we first danced together, but I was intrigued by your mind and captivated by your beauty, and I still am. Please come back, and give this a chance.

Sincerely yours,
Draco Malfoy 

"What a load of rubbish," Hermione said out loud, though she heard the uncertainty and the falseness in her own voice. "I can't believe this. I refuse to believe this. And I am definitely not going to forgive him!"

"What are you talking about?" someone behind her said.

Hermione shrieked and nearly jumped out of her skin for the second time that afternoon. She spun around on her heel, ready to scold the intruder.

"Ginevra Weasley Potter! What in the name of Merlin are you doing in my flat? How long have you been standing there like that?"

Ginny rolled her eyes. "I just got to your flat a second ago. I Apparated into your bedroom and came out here to find you. So what were you talking about?"

"None of your business," said Hermione crossly, stuffing Draco's letter into the pocket of her jeans.

Ginny's eyes narrowed. "Was he just here?"

"Who?" said Hermione, moving to clear away the untouched teacup.

"Hermione, you know as well as I do that you're not that daft. Was Malfoy just here? What'd he say?" Ginny tried to reach for the letter that was sticking out of Hermione's pocket. Hermione swatted her hand away.

"What happened to leaving me alone? Why are you here again?" Hermione groaned.

"I thought you would have made up your mind to go back by now, but apparently my instincts are right. You're still here, determined to make your own life miserable. Now let me see the letter," said Ginny sharply.

"Ginny, honestly. This letter is for my eyes only, even if it is a load of rubbish," said Hermione, adding the last part under her breath.

"Let me read it and I'll determine if it really is a load of rubbish," said Ginny determinedly, holding out her hand.

Hermione sighed, "Don't you have any sense of respect for someone else's personal belongings?" But she slapped the letter into Ginny's hand.

Ginny grinned. "When you've grown up with six older brothers, then you may ask me that question again."

Hermione rolled her eyes and sank into her favorite armchair again, closing her eyes wearily while Ginny read the letter. She had almost fallen asleep when she thought she heard a sob and the sound of someone blowing her nose into a tissue.

"Ginny! Are you crying?" said Hermione in disbelief, snatching the letter back.

Ginny nodded while dabbing at her teary eyes. "He--he's so sweet!" she cried.

"Are you sure you didn't hit your head while you read this thing? Surely you can see through his--his lies…" said Hermione, her voice trailing off.

Ginny suddenly stopped crying. "Even you believe it. You're just too stubborn to forgive him."

"Am not."

"Are too."

"Am not."

"You're just proving my point. Hermione, you are going to go back to the Malfoy Manor and participate in the bloody Game of Love."

"Give me one good reason why I should," said Hermione defiantly.

"He apologized profusely. Now, I don't know much about Malfoy but I'm pretty sure it was hard for him to write all that."

"Only because he's an arrogant prat," Hermione snapped.

"You can't just ignore him and attempt to get on with your life after he apologized like that!" Ginny cried. "You have to go back."

"Make me," Hermione dared.

"Oh, trust me, I will." There was a dangerous glint in Ginny's eyes, and Hermione knew her fate was sealed.

"Ron wouldn't approve," said Hermione desperately.

"To hell with what Ron thinks. You're going back to the Game of Love." Ginny turned around and disappeared down the hallway.

"What are you doing now?" Hermione groaned, running after her.

"Packing your things!" Ginny shouted.

"Ginny, please let me decide if I want to go back or not. This is my life, after all," said Hermione, standing in the doorway and watching her entire wardrobe fly into a trunk.

"No," said Ginny, locking the trunk with a wave of her wand.

"Why not?" said Hermione in protest.

"Because I'm not going to let you miss out on this chance! You never know what will happen. You might even fall in love. I refuse to watch my best friend grow old and stay single and live alone in a cottage with thirty-seven bloody cats!" Ginny's voice had risen to a hysterical shout. She glared at Hermione, daring her to argue.

"Fine," Hermione snapped, glancing at her watch. "I'll go, if it makes you shut up." The twitching corners of her mouth blew her angry cover away. "But I can assure you that there is a high chance I will not fall in love with the ferret."

Ginny's face broke into a grin and she threw her arms around Hermione in a hug. "Thank you Hermione! I love you! Remember, this is for your own good. We--Harry, Ron, and I--are just looking out for you."

"I am so incredibly lucky to have all my best friends forcing me to take part in the bloody Game of Love, even though the bachelor is clearly incompatible with--"

"Hermione, stop talking nonsense and go change," said Ginny cheerfully, throwing a yellow sundress into her arms.

"I'm not wearing yellow," said Hermione rebelliously, folding her arms over her chest.

"Hermione, what have we learned this afternoon?" Ginny tapped her foot impatiently.

"Never befriend a redheaded girl, because she will be sure to take control of your life?" Hermione tried.

"No. Never argue with Ginevra Weasley Potter because I will always win," said Ginny cheerily. "Now go get ready! That means hair and makeup too, young lady! I'll Apparate back home and drive back here to send you off!"

"Drive? You're going to drive? That's definitely not a good idea, and completely unnecessary! It'll be faster if I just Floo there!" said Hermione, clearly alarmed at the thought of someone like Ginny behind the wheel.

"Don't be silly, Hermione! You'll arrive with a bigger bang in my new shiny red convertible!" Ginny shouted, preparing to Disapparate.

"You have a shiny red convertible?" Hermione shouted back.

"Harry bought it for me! Oh, and by the way, about what you said about not falling in love with the ferret…I am going to bet ten galleons that you will!"

"You shouldn't gamble like that, Ginny!" said Hermione, glaring at her. "And I bet twenty galleons that I won't!"

"You'll be losing some gold then, mark my words! See you in a bit!" Ginny Disapparated with a crack, leaving Hermione standing there in shock at the turn her life had recently taken.

She glanced at her watch again. Only half an hour until three 'o clock. She sighed. How on earth did Ginny manage to single-handedly turn everything around? Now she was going to be in the Game of Love, and there was no backing out. 

You gotta love Ginny, lol. What do you think of this chapter? Please review! I love it when you lovely readers review. It makes me one very happy author. And if you have time, come to my lonely Meet the Author page! I'd love to meet my readers.
Yours till the Erumpent Horn explodes,
Queen Luna

Chapter 8: Chapter Eight: Let The Game Begin
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Yay! The queue has gone down, thanks to our wonderful validators :) Well, here is chapter eight! 

Chapter Eight: Let The Game Begin

"Ginny, are you absolutely positive you have your driver's license?" shouted Hermione over the sound of the red convertible's engine and the roaring wind. She was holding onto her seatbelt for dear life as Ginny merely laughed and accelerated, zooming along the quiet country road.

"Don't worry, Hermione!" Ginny shouted back. "I've got everything under control here--"

"Watch out for the bicyclist!" Hermione shrieked, grabbing the steering wheel and sparing the lone cyclist’s life by an inch.

"I can drive, Hermione," said Ginny, taking over the wheel once the danger had passed. "Just enjoy the ride. We're nearly there. What time did the Bellemonte fellow say everyone had to be there?"

"Monsieur Beaumont said to be there at three in the afternoon," said Hermione. "Which means I have exactly two minutes to get to the Malfoy Manor."

"Well, this Muggle car can't go any faster, so I suppose you're going to have to be, hmm, what do they call it? Oh yes…fashionably late." Ginny turned to Hermione and grinned.

Hermione attempted to smile back, wondering how in the world she had allowed Ginny to convince her to be dropped off in a flashy red convertible. The car swerved dangerously. "Keep your eyes on the road!"

"Right. Sorry."

Another ten dangerous minutes later, Ginny's red convertible screeched to a stop at the front of the Malfoy Manor. Unfortunately, she applied the brakes a fraction of a second too late and collided into a fancy black stretch limousine with a loud crash. A shrill alarm went off.

"Oh, damn," said Ginny cheerfully as a blonde girl and her chauffeur came running outside, screaming in French.

"That's Georgina," Hermione observed, removing her sunglasses and attempting to tame her hair, which had gone completely crazy during the car trip.

Ginny peered over the top of her sunglasses to see the chauffeur dropping to his knees and sobbing dramatically as he inspected the dent in the side of his car. She elbowed Hermione unnecessarily in the ribs as Georgina raced over to the red convertible and began shouting in unintelligible French, waving her thin arms around madly.

"What do you think she's saying?" Ginny whispered out of the corner of her mouth.

"Well," said Hermione dryly, "I'm not sure what her exact words are, but I'm fairly certain she's a little angry."

Georgina finished ranting, her eyes flashing angrily at Ginny. Ginny figured it was her turn to speak.

"Hello, Georgina. I can't speak French at all, so I'm going to apologize in English. I'm very sorry for damaging your fancy little limousine, but honestly, there is no need to freak out like that because a simple Reparo will fix everything. I can do it right now if you'd like," said Ginny with a winning smile on her face.

Georgina huffed and stomped away.

"What's the matter with her?" said Ginny, becoming hot-tempered. "I offered to fix the little scratch!"

"Forget it, Ginny," said Hermione, finally ready to get out of the red convertible, after managing to smooth her hair into a French braid. She popped open the back of the car and used her wand to levitate her trunk out. "Thanks for the life-threatening ride."

"Bye Hermione! Have fun!" shouted Ginny, waving.

"For the record, I don't plan on having any fun while I'm here. Please avoid crashing into anything or anyone on your way home." Hermione pretended to glare at Ginny and then laughed. She began ascending the stone steps to the front door of the manor, waving at her redheaded friend the entire time.

"I'll try! And remember…I'm betting ten galleons, you're betting twenty!" Ginny hollered before speeding away in a puff of smoke.

Hermione shook her head, laughing, and stepped through the threshold to enter the Malfoy Manor. She had barely gotten the chance to look around when someone grabbed her by the shoulders and gave her two swift kisses on the cheeks.

"You must be Miss Hermione Granger!" exclaimed the thin, handsome Frenchman that was Claude Beaumont. Hermione smiled warily.

"We were getting worried. Anyway, let me see where you are staying... ah, yes, you are rooming with Georgina Auclair and Isabelle Delacour. It is up this staircase, on the third floor, the last room in the hallway. Settle down, put away your things, and then prepare for dinner at seven." He paused, looking around. "Would you require assistance in bringing your trunk up to your room? I see you do not have an attendant with you."

Hermione raised an eyebrow. An attendant? How wealthy were these girls? "No thank you, I can manage perfectly fine on my own."

Monsieur Beaumont smiled a smile that did not reach his eyes. "But of course. On behalf of the bachelor, enjoy your stay at Malfoy Manor."

Hermione almost laughed for no reason at all, but stopped herself and strode past Monsieur Beaumont up the grand spiral staircase. When she reached the second landing, someone collided into her.

"Hermione!" Parvati shrieked, throwing her arms around the startled girl. "I'm so glad you're back. How are you feeling?"

"Much better, thanks," said Hermione, smiling genuinely. She dropped her voice to a whisper. "To tell you the truth, Ginny had to drag me here. I'd really rather stay at home."

Parvati nodded understandingly. "Don't worry. Draco's been really nice to all of us. He's really changed."

"Really?" said Hermione, feigning surprise and concealing her doubt. "Well, I guess I'll see when I meet him again."

"Where's your room at?" said Parvati, joining Hermione as she continued her ascent up the staircase.

"Somewhere on the third floor. I'm with Georgina and Isabelle."

"Oh dear," said Parvati, shaking her head.

"What?" said Hermione.

"Oh, nothing…it's just that Georgina--" Parvati dropped her voice to a low whisper "--has been really, really mean." She nodded knowingly, her eyes wide.

"Why, what has she done?" said Hermione. She was surprised at her own interest since she usually avoided gossip like the plague.

"There have already been twelve rows around here, and Georgina was part of all of them. Most were over trivial things, such as accusations of stolen shoes or copied outfits. But the biggest one was started by Pansy. Pansy told everyone Draco was sure to choose her in the end, and Georgina told her to shut her mouth, and it erupted into an all-out cat fight, with fingernails and everything."

Hermione raised an eyebrow. "I'll be careful not to provoke her, but…" She suddenly remembered Ginny's car crashing into Georgina's limousine. She started laughing, even though it really wasn't funny to be making enemies this early in the competition.

"What's the matter?" said Parvati, beginning to giggle too.

Hermione stopped. "Nothing important. Thanks for telling me, Parvati."

"Oh, you're welcome. I've got to go finish unpacking now. Cute dress, by the way. It's so…sunny." Parvati smiled, waved, and then skipped back down the stairs.

Hermione glanced down at the yellow sundress Ginny had picked out. She had forgotten she was wearing such a bright color. Reminding herself to change before dinner, she forgot to concentrate on where she was going and heard someone collide into her levitated trunk and scream something that sounded like, "Aie!"

"Oh dear," said Hermione. She had a feeling she knew who she had bumped into. "Je regrette! Or is it, désolée…oh, to hell with my French. Sorry." She removed the levitating charm and let her trunk drop to the floor. There was another squeal of pain.

"Mon nez! Et mes pieds!" Georgina cried dramatically. 

As far as Hermione could see, her nose was perfectly fine. As for her feet…well, the trunk was still on top of them. She quickly moved the trunk.

Georgina glared at her. "Premiere, la voiture. Maintenant, moi. Je suis furieuse!"

"I'm really sorry," said Hermione again, having gotten the gist of what the other girl had said in French. "But I honestly didn't see you coming."

Georgina glared and stomped off again, muttering in rapid French. Shaking her head, Hermione levitated her trunk again and carefully made her way to the room at the end of the hallway.

The room was airy and spacious. It featured a large bay window with a window seat that overlooked the serene countryside, three white country-style four-poster beds, and a pretty desk and vanity. There were two wardrobes and a second door leading to the roomy bathroom. The walls were painted a sunny yellow to match her dress. It was a very cheerful room, which was quite the opposite of what Hermione had been expecting in the Malfoy Manor.

Strewn across the bed nearest to the door was an array of clothes, shoes, and accessories. Sprawled on the next bed over was a thin, silvery-blonde girl who was deeply engrossed in a glossy magazine.

"Isabelle?" said Hermione, a little uncertainly.

Isabelle raised her head. "Oh! Hermione! Bonjour, et bienvenue chez nous!" She got off of the bed gracefully and gave Hermione a hug.

"Hi Isabelle!" said Hermione. "Thanks for seeing that I got home safely last night."

"You are welcome," said Isabelle, beaming. "Are you feeling better now?"

"A lot better, thanks. So we're rooming together, huh?" Hermione knelt down by her trunk and unlocked it. In her haste to arrive on time, she certainly hoped that she (or Ginny, rather) had packed everything she needed.

"Oui. I was so glad, but you probably know Georgina eez with us," said Isabelle, lowering her voice. "She can be a kind person, but…"

"Yeah," said Hermione a little absentmindedly. She was a bit preoccupied with the fact that Ginny had found it necessary to pack twenty pairs of lacy thongs and matching bras in various shades of red. What did that girl think she would be doing?

"You can take zat armoire," said Isabelle, peering into Hermione's trunk. She suddenly gasped. "Are those ze new purple pumps featured in ze fashion section of ze most recent Witch Weekly?"

"Pardon?" said Hermione distractedly, stuffing the lingerie away.

"I suggest you hide ze shoes," said Isabelle, her eyes widening. "Georgina has ze exact same pair, and she has already freaked out because some American girl down ze hall uses ze same brand of mascara."

"Are you serious?" said Hermione. She glanced at the stylish shoes. She didn't exactly remember buying them…or the lacy thongs, now that she thought about it. "What's wrong with--"

The door to their room flew open and Hermione hastily tossed the purple pumps under the bed. She was keen to avoid starting the thirteenth row on the first day of the Game of Love.

"Isabelle, ze dinner starts in an hour. Why aren't you dressed yet?" said Georgina disdainfully, checking her appearance in the full-length mirror by the door to the en-suite bathroom.

Isabelle sighed. "I was helping Hermione unpack." She casually took out a red suede miniskirt from the trunk (Hermione again wondered where it had come from) and tossed it under the bed to join the purple pumps. Winking at Hermione, she sat back down onto her own bed and picked up her magazine again.

Georgina glanced at Hermione suspiciously before saying, "Isabelle, for 'eaven's sake. Stop combing over zat magazine. You are not going to find his name, or any news about 'im, in zair." Georgina sniffed, smoothed her red suede miniskirt, and strutted out of the room with the air of a model prancing down a catwalk.

Isabelle tensed, but her face betrayed no emotion. She carefully placed the magazine under a pillow. "So what are you wearing to ze dinner, Hermione?"

Deciding to ignore Georgina's puzzling comment, Hermione pulled the pumps and the miniskirt out from under the bed and transfigured them into a pair of dowdy old boots and a wooly cape before stuffing them into the back of the armoire. "I don't know…is it a fancy dinner? Must we dress up?"

"Oui, zat is what Monsieur Beaumont said."

"I'm not sure how much more dressing up I can take," Hermione muttered, picking out a black dress. It had thin straps, a ribbon sash, and it fell just above her knees. Discreet, plain, and definitely not something that would grab the bachelor's attention. Hermione did not want Draco to notice her, mostly because she hadn't quite figured out what she would say to him when she saw him.

"This is only the first day!" said Isabelle, laughing.

Hermione made a face before joining in, making a mental note to talk to Ginny about all the mysterious articles of clothing she had discovered in her trunk.

The dinner took place in the ballroom because it was more practical than stuffing twenty-five women, a full staff, a crew of cameramen, a host, and a bachelor into the formal dining hall, even though the Malfoys' dining hall was, of course, immense. There was one long rectangular table. The table was set with gold forks and knives for twenty-seven. In front of each chair was a place card. That was when Hermione realized the seating had been arranged beforehand. She had hoped she was far, far away from wherever Draco was sitting, but there was no such luck. She wound up sitting directly across from him.

Hermione kept her gaze focused on her plate, speaking to no one. Every once in awhile she would feel Draco's silver gaze on her, but she resolutely refused to look at him. Instead she picked at her food, which consisted of a dainty bite-sized piece of salmon and a leafy green spinach salad. She was starving, but she hated spinach. So instead she stabbed at it with her fork, tearing it into little pieces and moving it around her plate.

Across from where she sat, Draco gave a cough. She chanced a glance at him to see him concentrating on cutting a piece of the steak he had been served, the corner of his mouth twitching. She immediately returned her gaze to her plate of mutilated spinach salad, glaring at it as though she wished to set it on fire.

Monsieur Claude Beaumont was sitting at the end of the long dining table, eating something that looked like an orange duck. Hermione wished he would eat faster so she could perhaps escape the Malfoy Manor and order some real food, like pizza. Her stomach growled in agreement. A pizza heaped with cheese and sausages sounded absolutely heavenly at the moment.

Finally, Monsieur Beaumont finished eating the orange duck and wiped his mouth daintily with a napkin. He stood up, cleared his throat, and tapped the side of his glass goblet. The chattering died down and twenty-four girls turned to look at him. Hermione raised her eyes carefully, spotted Draco gazing at her again, and redirected her attention to her plate.

"Congratulations to all twenty-five of you young, beautiful women for making it to the second round of the Game of Love. The real fun begins now that you have settled into the Malfoy Manor." Everyone apart from Hermione cheered. Draco clapped twice.

"Let me explain how this will work. Every week, our handsome bachelor will take each and every one of you on a date. The cameramen will record every date. This week, there will be five group dates with five girls in each group. You will be notified by owl post. You may be able to see Mr. Malfoy in between dates if he happens to be wandering around the guest wing. However, Mr. Malfoy has informed me that no one is allowed to explore the manor without his permission." Monsieur Beaumont paused and noticed that Hermione found her plate to be much more fascinating than what he had to say. He frowned slightly before continuing.

"You are allowed visitors, but you must inform me first. All meals will be provided." Monsieur Beaumont stopped shortly, his eyes darting between Hermione and Draco, who was still looking at her. "Miss Granger," he said suddenly, "how was the spinach salad?"

Hermione vaguely realized that she was being addressed and tore her eyes away from her salad. She blinked, confused. "Oh…it was…delectable."

"Excellent," said Monsieur Beaumont stiffly. Hermione had the feeling he didn't like her very much, not that she cared in the slightest bit.

She looked away from Monsieur Beaumont and, for the first time that evening, at Draco. He was smirking at her in that annoying way of his. She willed the dinner to end.

"At the end of the first week our bachelor will choose twelve girls, no more and no less, to continue. My only advice for you is to flirt until you drop. Do not play hard-to-get. Let your inner feelings be known!" Hermione managed to turn her snort of laughter into a sneeze, while the majority of the other girls nodded seriously. Draco was smirking in a very arrogant way that Hermione found to be quite irritating.

"For the duration of this competition, I do ask that you refrain from attempting to sabotage another girl's chances. This means to behave in a lady-like manner: no fighting, name-calling, or anything of the sort. But then again, all's fair in love and war."

Hermione couldn't help but roll her eyes. She clapped along with the other girls as Monsieur Beaumont finally finished his speech, but only because she was glad she could finally leave the smirking bachelor and her shredded spinach salad behind, and order that pizza.

Not much D/Hr action, but this filler chapter was neccessary. Now that Hermione is at the Malfoy Manor, the real fun begins! Please leave a review! They keep me going :)
Yours till the Nargles infest your brain,
Queen Luna

Chapter 9: Chapter Nine: Malfoy Manor
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Oh my gosh, it's been nearly a month since I updated this story.... I'm sorry about the long wait! Anyway, here's chapter nine!

Chapter Nine: Malfoy Manor 

Hermione woke up just as the sun began its ascent in the sky. It took her a moment to realize that she wasn't lying in her own bed in her own flat. No, she was currently snuggled up under unfamiliar covers in a four-poster bed in a strange new room with two other people she barely knew. She got up slowly, the covers rustling. Making sure to stay quiet so she would not disturb her French roommates, she quickly dressed and tiptoed out of the room.

Hermione found her way down the marble staircase, out the door, and into the vast gardens. A cool, gentle breeze tickled her face pleasantly. She took a deep breath of fresh air and let it out. Glancing around, she found that she was the sole person awake at this hour and let out a laugh. Never in a million years would she have imagined herself staying, practically living, in the Malfoy Manor.

She suddenly thought of the last time she had come here. She had been seventeen years of age. No, she must not think of that visit. She shook her head, clearing her thoughts, and began exploring the gardens. The bordering hedges towered over her head. Serpent-shaped bushes dominated the entrance to the pathway. Fragrant scents drifted up to her nose.

The sun continued to rise as Hermione wandered deeper and deeper into the gardens that seemed to stretch on forever. Then, she heard footsteps ahead and paused. Someone had joined her.

The two hedges on either side of her opened up to reveal an exquisite fountain. Water trickled down into the gathering pool; the splashing sound was like music. A tall, thin man stood at the edge of the fountain, gazing into the watery depths. Draco.

Hermione watched him silently, hidden behind the hedge. She was unconsciously admiring his features: the face of carved marble, the silver-gray eyes, and the silky white-blond hair. He was undoubtedly handsome.

"I can see you staring at me, Granger," he suddenly said, without looking up from the fountain. There was still a trace of a smirk on his face this early in the morning.

Hermione cursed inwardly; she had been hoping to escape before he saw her. Now she was obliged to walk up to the fountain and converse with him. When she was near enough so he that could reach out and touch her if he wished, he finally looked up from the water and fixed his eyes on her. Hermione was suddenly reminded of the fact that she had not yet brushed her hair. She wondered vaguely what she looked before shaking the image away. Who cared if her hair looked like a rat's nest at the moment? She certainly didn't.

"I see you came back," he said when it was clear that Hermione wasn't going to take the initiative to strike up a conversation.

"Yes, I did," said Hermione quietly.

"Was it because of my letter? Did my excellent prose win your heart?" He was full on smirking by now.

Hermione scowled. He was so full of himself. "Yes, Malfoy, your letter was practically dripping with eloquence. I nearly cried," she said sarcastically, folding her arms over her chest and looking at anything but him.

There was silence. "So I take it you haven't forgiven me yet," he said, becoming suddenly serious. He looked at her apologetically, almost pleadingly. It was quite unnerving.

"You really can't expect me to melt into your arms right away, can you?" she said for an answer.

"No," he said, looking back at the fountain. "I don't suppose I can."

"I've realized, this is the longest conversation we've had without you insulting me," Hermione noted when both of them seemed to have run out of things to say.

"When you think about it, Granger, you weren't exactly innocent in your Hogwarts days either. You've insulted me plenty of times."

"What do you mean? Twitchy little ferret? That wasn't an insult, it was a fact." Hermione couldn't help but grin.

"It hurt my feelings," Draco groaned, pretending to look wounded.

"Well, I'm sorry," said Hermione.

"You aren't being sincere in the slightest bit."

"You are completely right."

A sudden noise alerted both of them to a crewman tinkering with his camera, which was emitting purple smoke. He looked up when he noticed the conversation had stopped. He grinned a toothy grin. "Don't mind me. Carry on."

"Goodbye, Malfoy," said Hermione abruptly, striding away.

"See you around, Granger." He glanced at the cameraman, who looked disappointed, and then disappeared into the depths of the gardens.

When Hermione reentered the manor, it was a great deal noisier. In the guest wing, girls were shouting across the hallways and clothes and shoes were flying out of the rooms. On the first floor, a group of house-elves wearing towels like togas were scurrying around, carrying trays laden with food.

Hermione caught a whiff of chocolate chip waffles and her mouth began watering, making her momentarily forget about freeing the house-elves. She had sat down at the long dining table and was drowning a plate of waffles in syrup when Isabelle joined her, yawning, her long blonde hair piled up on top of her head

"G-good m-m-morning, Hermione. What's for breakfast?" She reached blindly for a piece of toast and began buttering it.

"Morning, Isabelle," said Hermione, giving her a smile.

"How long have you been up?" said Isabelle, taking a bite of her toast and chewing very slowly.

"Since dawn."

Isabelle dropped her toast. "You're a morning person?" she said, astounded.

Hermione laughed. "As it turns out, I am. It used to drive my roommates at Hogwarts crazy."

"Hermione!" someone squealed. It was Parvati, who was practically bouncing up and down with excitement. "Guess what? I'm going on the first group date! Guess where we're going!"

"Erm…skiing?" said Hermione.

Parvati shook her head. "Of course not! There's no snow around at this time of year, silly. Draco's taking us to the beach!"

"How lovely," said Hermione politely. Isabelle closed her eyes wearily.

"I know! I get to see Draco in nothing but swimming trunks!"

"You're going too?" another girl squealed. She had a pixie haircut, and she was very petite. "I'm so excited! Aren't you?" The two girls clasped hands and began skipping around the dining table.

"Are they insane?" Isabelle mumbled.

"Quite possibly," said Hermione, calmly starting on her second waffle. While last night's dinner had been appalling, the breakfast was amazing. She contently bit into the syrupy goodness.

The rest of breakfast was a loud affair. The three other girls who were also going on the beach date joined in with Parvati's ruckus. Pansy was one of them, and she lost no time in telling everyone how great she looked in a bikini.

As Hermione tried to find her appetite again after overhearing Pansy's nauseating comments on her bikini-perfect physique, the other nineteen girls made plans to go shopping in downtown London. Hermione politely declined. She had spent more than enough gold on her new wardrobe, and thanks to Ginny she had an excess of clothes she would never wear.

When Draco took the five girls to the beaches at Cornwall and after the other girls departed by Floo powder, Hermione had the manor all to herself. She decided to take the opportunity to properly explore the place, completely aware that she was deliberately ignoring Draco's rules.

She started from the foyer and took a proper look at it. The ceiling was vaulted and high and was adorned with faded fresco paintings. The floor was decorated with precious stones arranged in patterns; at the center was a large, emerald M. When she felt as though she had memorized every detail, she pondered where to go next.

Instead of going up the marble staircase, Hermione went straight ahead. She discovered a magnificent living room with dark leather couches, exotic fur rugs, and large oil portraits of generations of dead Malfoys. They all had the same pale, pointed faces and exactly the same shade of gray for eyes. The moving portraits stared at her sternly, making her feel very uncomfortable, and she quickly left.

Next she found the large cavernous kitchens where a team house-elves (it took a fair amount of self-control not to free them right then and there) bowed and greeted her. They offered her a variety of pastries and sweets, which she kindly refused.

A little further along she found a quiet and airy chamber that held a beautiful black baby grand piano. Hermione couldn't help herself and played a few notes from what she remembered from her piano lessons long, long ago. The piano was slightly out of tune, and the music echoed in the tall chamber. She left the piano and wandered around for another hour, peering into various rooms and halls, and soon, though she didn't know it yet, she was quite lost.

Hermione passed under yet another archway and ascended a couple of old stone steps. She pushed open the heavy door and gasped in wonder. The room she was now standing in was enormous. The height of the ceiling could easily accommodate three separate levels. Thousands of books lined the walls. Lit torches gave off a warm light, along with the sunlight pouring through the tall windows. Comfortable-looking couches and armchairs were scattered here and there. She had discovered the immense Malfoy library, and knew at once that it was entirely possible for her to spend her entire life in that one room.

She walked through the library, her footsteps echoing on the smooth, highly polished dark wood floor. She walked along the shelves and ran her fingers across the spines of the books. She found a stack of books that had been haphazardly placed on a desk. She glanced at the titles and saw Moby Dick, Wuthering Heights, Northanger Abbey, A Tale of Two Cities, and Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Hermione reread the embossed titles on the books, her fingers tracing words over and over again. So someone in this manor was a fan of the great Muggle classics. She smiled and picked up one of the books, flipping it open to the first page. Familiar words and phrases jumped out at her like old acquaintances. She decided right then and there that a few hours of reading was a good way to pass some time. Settling into a cozy green armchair, she began to read, losing herself in another world.

She soon lost track of the time, however, and looked up only when her stomach began to growl, reminding her that she had not eaten anything since breakfast that day. She rubbed her tired eyes and returned the stack of books she had gotten out to their proper shelves. Then she hurried toward the door; the dark corners of the library were beginning to look a little scary.

Hermione soon realized she had a horrible sense of direction. After a couple of wrong turns, she was utterly lost and was walking along a completely new corridor of the Malfoy Manor, wishing dearly that she had left a trail of breadcrumbs or something of the sort.

A floorboard beneath her creaked loudly, causing her to gasp, her heart beating rapidly. She darted beneath an old stone archway, and suddenly found herself in a new, frighteningly familiar room.

Though at a first glance the room was quite large, the moment she crossed the threshold the dark purple walls seemed to close in on her, pressing against her at all sides. It was horribly claustrophobic. Her breaths of air became stuttering gasps, and her heart was pounding erratically. Something was not right.

Confusing lights swam across her vision, and she spotted a chandelier hanging from the ceiling, glittering though it was covered in dust. She thought she must have been hallucinating, because for one wild moment she saw that the shards of glass were spotted with dark red blood…her blood.

Without even knowing what was happening, Hermione dropped to the ground, her knees hitting the carpeted floor as though she was in prayer. Her hands clutched at her head and heart, willing the painful pounding to end. Her eyes darted back and forth. Dark shadows seemed to leap out at her.

Hermione felt as though she were sinking, drowning slowly. She could not think. She could not move. Pain wracked her body, even though no one else was there to inflict it on her. She opened her mouth to scream, but couldn't find her voice.

She heard a voice, no, an echo from long ago and cried out in fear. It was the cruel voice of the woman who had ceased to be human and had tortured her at this very spot, ten years ago. Hermione was reliving the most traumatic hour of her life, and she could not make it stop.

Dimly, vaguely, she heard a shout followed by hurried footsteps. Then, quite unexpectedly, a pair of strong, warm hands picked her up as though she were merely a fragile china doll and she heard a new voice.

"Granger! Granger, can you hear me?" The voice was deep, male, and frantic.

As her savior lifted her up into the air, the world tilted dizzyingly and everything faded to black. 

What do you think? Again, sorry about making you awesome readers for waiting so long! I promise to update more quickly in the future. Please leave a review; they keep me going :)
Yours till Stubby Boardman proves he really is Sirius Black,
Queen Luna

Chapter 10: Chapter Ten: Explanations and Invitations
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Hello again! To make up for the long wait for the previous chapter, I decided to post Chapter Ten extra early :) And here it is....

Chapter Ten: Explanations and Invitations

Whatever Hermione was lying on was as soft as heaven. The same fluffy softness was piled all around her. Through her shut eyelids she could sense a ray of light coaxing her to wake up. She felt as though she had been asleep for a very long time.

As her senses began to reawaken, she detected the presence of another person very near her. In fact, someone's arm seemed to be strewn across her waist protectively. At this new revelation her brain decided it was about time to wake up. She opened her eyes…and immediately shut them again.

She was lying in a king-sized four-poster bed, under silky Slytherin-green covers. She was not in her bed at home. She wasn't even in her bed in the guest wing, with Isabelle and Georgina. No…she was in Draco Malfoy's bed.

What was worse was that the arm that held her so closely belonged to Draco. And he was lying right next to her, asleep and breathing deeply.

Panic and confusion welled up inside of her, building into a feeling of muted chaos. Her first thought was to check that she had her clothes on. She reached down with her free hand, the one that wasn't being pinned to her side because of him, and grasped wildly for something that felt like clothes. She realized she was wearing some sort of silky nightgown, and wondered where and when she had put it on.

After acknowledging the fact that she was fully clothed and slowly coming to the realization that nothing had happened while she was sleeping in Draco's bed, she calmed down a little. But there still remained the fact that she was sleeping in his bed.

Hermione chanced a glance at Draco. He was still asleep, thank Merlin. She noticed the angelic calm in his face, something that was very different from his usual arrogant smirk, and quickly looked away. Now was not the time for contemplation. She had to concentrate on getting out of this very sticky situation.

At the very moment she began to move away, Draco groaned and drew her even closer. She gave a muffled cry as she was forced back onto the bed, her arms flailing in protest. One managed to hit Draco in the face.

"What the hell--" Draco awoke with a start, releasing Hermione as though he had scalded his hands with boiling hot water. Hermione immediately leapt out of the bed, tearing through a sheet that was in her way.

"What the bloody hell is right," she said, her voice rising. "I--"

"Granger, let me explain," said Draco, slowly getting out of bed, sensing an outburst coming.

"Explain what?" Hermione said, slightly hysterically. "Did you drug me? Kidnap me in the middle of the night? What the hell did you do?"

"Stop with the accusations, Granger," he said, somewhat wearily. "I didn't do anything. You were the one who decided to pass out."

"What? When did that--" She stopped short, her eyes opening wide with fright. "Oh!" she said softly.

"You found the drawing room," he continued, running a hand through his disheveled hair. "The forbidden drawing room, mind you. Do you know what I did to conceal that room and hide it away in the depths of the manor? I don't even know how you found it…but you are the brightest witch of our age." His tone was slightly bitter and ironical.

"I didn't mean to…." Hermione said, her voice fading.

"I know you didn't," said Draco. "No sane person would want to revisit their worst memories. There are Dementors for that." For a second Hermione saw a dark shadow cross his silver eyes.

"How did you find me?" she whispered.

"I don't know," he said, frowning. "I sensed that something was wrong. I was running through the manor, checking that everything was in order, when I heard you screaming for mercy."

"I…was screaming…screaming for mercy?" she said, her voice barely audible.

He did not need to answer. "I had to get you out of there," he continued after a pause. "My first thought was to bring you back to your room of course, but then I remembered…. I once had a tortured soul, Granger. During the war--during Lord Voldemort's reign--I was put under that godforsaken curse on a daily basis. You have no idea what it did to me. My father didn't give a damn, but my mother took care of me. When I screamed in the middle of the night, she woke me up and gave me potions for a dreamless sleep. She stopped me from reliving the torture. Even after the war was over, after my father was dead and gone, I still had moments where the torture was horribly real again. But my mother was there."

Hermione could not speak at all. She stared at him, the terror still present in her eyes.

"I was screaming in my sleep?" she whispered at last.

"Every scream was like the twist of the knife in an old wound," he said, shaking his head, his hair falling into his eyes. He seemed to be pleading with her again, imploring her to understand. "Ten years ago, when I stood in that very drawing room watching her torture you, I was scared to death. I was too much of a coward to intervene…and I'm sorry."

Hermione shook her head. "You would be dead if you had done so," she mumbled.

There was an uncomfortable silence in which Hermione slowly recovered and began to understand.

"I hope I didn't scare you," he finally said. "Waking up next to the enemy must have been a fright." He smirked and raised an eyebrow.

Hermione finally cracked a wry smile. "We're not enemies anymore, Malfoy," she said, surprising the both of them with her words. She looked around the room for a door, and when she turned away, she did not glimpse the genuine smile that appeared on Draco's face for a fraction of a second.

"Take this," he said, breaking the brief moment of silence and pulling a small glass bottle out of his pocket. He placed it into her hand and closed her fingers around it. He could feel her trembling, whether it was because of the recent events that had occurred or because of his touch, he did not know. "It'll help to end the nightmares, trust me."

"Thank you," said Hermione quietly. She cleared her throat, feeling a faint blush creep onto her cheeks. "Er--can you show me how to get out of here? This manor is bloody confusing."

"None of this would have happened if you had just followed the rules," said Draco, smirking as he led her into the maze of confusing corridors. "And here I was, thinking that you were a rule-abiding Gryffindor."

"Surely you must know that Gryffindors have a penchant for breaking the rules," Hermione retorted, carefully noting inside her head all the twists and turns.

"So do Slytherins…we just don't get caught as often."

"But only because you lot aren't quite as brave and daring in your rule-breaking." They had reached the foyer. The air was silent. Evidently the rest of the inhabitants of the Malfoy Manor were fast asleep, as they should be.

"I'll be seeing you in a bit, Granger," Draco said as he began to leave, a shadow of a smirk appearing onto his face.

She looked back at him, confused.

"We're going on a date," he clarified, throwing in a wink.

And he left Hermione staring at him openmouthed. A date! She had completely forgotten about the actual contest. She quickly returned to her room and sure enough, a pink owl was perched on her windowsill, a pink envelope tied to its leg.

Hermione strode across the room briskly, noting that Isabelle and Georgina were not in their beds (she wondered vaguely where they could be), and took the letter from the owl. She ripped open the envelope and read:

It's your turn. We're going to a professional Quidditch game. Transylvania vs. Bulgaria. No objections, correct? Join me (and four other women) at the main entrance at 10 a.m. sharp. Don't be late. Wear something sexy.

In a second, Hermione was furious. He had the nerve to tell her to wear something sexy. Well, she was going to deliberately defy him. She would wear a turtleneck and old-lady slacks.

"Where's my disgusting green turtleneck?" she said out loud.

"Why on earth do you want to wear that for?" a familiar voice retorted.

"Ginevra Weasley Potter!" Hermione shrieked, spinning around.

"That's my name, don't wear it out," said Ginny cheerfully. "So what's this about the turtleneck? Ooh, you're going on a date, aren't you? Where are you going? Skiing? That's not possible, not in this weather!" She stopped talking for a second and tackled Hermione for a hug.

"Oof! Hello, Ginny, nice to see you too. But honestly, why do you keep sneaking up on me like this?"

"Just doing my duty as a good friend," said Ginny briskly. "Anyway, if you're not going skiing what are you doing?"

"Quidditch game," Hermione grumbled. "Transylvania versus Bulgaria."

Ginny's eyes widened. "Did you say Bulgaria?"

Hermione nodded. "Yes. Why?"

Ginny raised an eyebrow. "You can't be that daft. Viktor Krum will be there."

"Ah." She had nearly forgotten all about the Bulgarian Seeker, but now all her memories of fourth year came flowing back. The meetings in the library…the Yule Ball…being what he would 'sorely miss'…the long letters afterward….

"Earth to Hermione," Ginny was saying, waving her arms in front of her face. "You shouldn't think about Viktor. You're dating Draco now."

"Er, no I'm not," said Hermione, glaring.

"Oh, let's not start this again," said Ginny, sighing dramatically. "As I was saying, you're in the Game of Love--"

"D'you have to remind me?" Hermione muttered.

"--and you're trying to win Draco's heart--"

"No need to make it sound like I'm trying to court him," Hermione groaned.

"Let me speak!" said Ginny, stamping her foot impatiently. "You need to focus on the bachelor. Not some international hotshot of a Seeker."

"If I remember correctly, you brought him up in the first place," Hermione snapped.

"True," said Ginny. "But forget that for now. We have more pressing matters at hand."

"What do you mean? Is there something wrong with Harry or Ron?" said Hermione, suddenly urgent.

"No, no, they're fine," said Ginny, rolling her eyes. "I meant that we have to find you something to wear! You are most definitely not wearing that disgusting green turtleneck that should have been tossed into the fire the second your Aunt Gracie bought it for you!"

"It was my Aunt Lucy, mind you," said Hermione, disgruntled.

"Whatever," said Ginny impatiently. "You get my point. So, are you supporting Transylvania or Bulgaria?"

Hermione sighed. She knew she was not getting out of this. "Bulgaria, I suppose, for old times' sake."

"Good choice," said Ginny approvingly. "Your skin tone is more compatible with red." She flung open the armoire doors and began pulling out various articles of clothing, tossing them onto Hermione, who realized she was being turned into a mannequin.

Ginny would have gone on for two more hours had Isabelle and Georgina not entered, yawning and wearing their pajamas.

"Oh! Hello, Hermione and friend," said Isabelle, stopping with surprise.

"Hello," said Hermione, struggling under the multiple tops Ginny had piled on her.

"Good lord, eet's ze red 'ead again," said Georgina disdainfully. "What are you doing?"

Ginny grimaced at Hermione before saying in a falsely sweet voice, "Finding an outfit for Hermione. What do you think, the denim miniskirt or the black shorts?"

"Depends on what you are pairing zem with," said Georgina shortly, sounding for half a second as though she genuinely cared.

"This red top," said Ginny, brandishing a shirt that had a certain lack sleeves Hermione would never be comfortable in.

"Ze black shorts," said Georgina. "And you should bring zat gold clutch, eet would look nice."

Hermione was just about to begin to change her perspective of Georgina when the bubble burst.

"Are you quite done now? You shouldn't even be 'ere," said the French girl grumpily.

"Don't get your knickers in a twist, I'm leaving," said Ginny, rolling her eyes. To Hermione she said, "Tell me how it goes!" and with a crack, she Disapparated.

"How what goes?" said Isabelle curiously.

"My date," said Hermione.

"Oh," said Isabelle. "Well, have fun!"

"Thanks. So where were you two?"

"Ze same could be said for you," said Georgina mysteriously.

"If I don't ask you, you won't ask me?" Hermione tried.

"Okay," said Isabelle quickly. She blushed, and Hermione tried not to pry despite her growing curiosity to find out what exactly Isabelle was hiding.

Hehe, the next chapter should be lots of fun for you to read. As always, please review! Thank you so much for reading my story :)
Yours till Xeno's diadem falls apart,
Queen Luna

Chapter 11: Chapter Eleven: The Quidditch Date: Part One
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Hello everyone! I just wanted to thank all of my lovely readers and reviewers. You guys are awesome! I hope the updates are coming faster now. And here is Chapter Eleven! 

Chapter Eleven: The Quidditch Date: Part One

At promptly twenty to ten 'o clock, Hermione donned the outfit Ginny had so kindly picked out for her, took one look in the mirror, and just nearly tore it off again. The red top featured a pair of skinny spaghetti straps that revealed her shoulders. It hugged her figure so much that it was almost like second skin. The black shorts were so short Hermione thought her legs had suddenly sprouted another ten inches. She could not go out looking like this.

"I think you look fine," said Isabelle when Hermione voiced her thoughts out loud. The French girl looked up from her magazine and tilted her head to one side. "A touch of mascara and lip gloss and you'll look amazing."

Georgina sauntered in and stopped short, looking Hermione up and down. "You could do with gaining some weight. You 'ave such skinny legs." She said this in a disapproving manner that made Hermione feel very uncomfortable.

"I think Draco will like it," said Isabelle, earning a glare from Georgina.

Hermione hastily dabbed on some lip gloss and applied mascara with difficulty and left the room before another row would start. She made her way down the marble staircase, nearly twisting her ankles because of the ridiculously high-heeled shoes Ginny had forced to wear. She breathed a sigh of relief when she made it out the front door without falling and breaking her neck.

She was met by a strong gust of wind that almost made her lose her balance, but a pair of strong arms held her up. She had almost relaxed into the mysterious person's embrace when she remembered where she was.

"Dra--Malfoy!" she said, startled. She moved back a few feet, rubbing her bare arms where he had touched her.

"Hello again, Granger," said Draco smoothly, folding his arms and leaning back on a marble pillar nonchalantly. He was wearing a pair of dark-wash jeans, a crisp button-up shirt, and sunglasses. He lifted the shades and peered at her critically.

Instead of shrinking away self-consciously as she had always done when someone judged her appearance, she held her head up high and gazed back at him evenly.

He let out a low whistle. "I must say, I am impressed, Granger. Who knew you had such shapely legs under those frumpy Hogwarts robes?"

Hermione glared at him while unsuccessfully trying to shield her legs from his unabashed stare. "You wore the same frumpy robes, but I could always see your arrogant, large head."

"Ouch, Granger," said Draco, pretending to wince. "You possess a harsh tongue."

"Some might call it a sharp wit," she shot back.

"Either way, it hurts," he said, smirking.

"Do you ever stop doing that?" said Hermione, huffing impatiently.

"What? Impress you with my charm?"

She scowled again. "No, smirk."

"Ah." He paused, pretending to contemplate. "No."

"Bloody git," Hermione muttered.

"What was that?"

"Nothing of importance. Where is everyone else? They're late!" Hermione checked her watch and then threw her hands up in annoyance.

"That's because I told them to come down at half past ten." He seemed very pleased with himself.

"Then you must have made a mistake on my invitation," she said, trying to remain calm.

"No, I don't believe I did." He smirked again.

"You made me come early on purpose!" she sputtered in indignation.

"And what do you suppose that purpose might be?" he said, raising an eyebrow at her provocatively.

She eyed him warily. "To make me as infuriated as possible and on edge for the rest of this bloody date, I presume."


"I would really love to slap you right now," Hermione informed him.

"Please refrain from releasing your unhealthy anger on me," he said smoothly. "Potter and Weasley may enjoy your abuse, but I do not."

This time Hermione really did slap him, without providing any warning.

"Ow! Hey!" he said, bringing a hand to his cheek. Of course it did not hurt, since she hadn't put much power into it, but it still stung a little.

"How's that for abuse and unhealthy anger?" said Hermione sarcastically.

"Okay, okay," said Draco, putting his hands up in surrender. "How about we declare a truce for the rest of the day?"

"Just for today?"

"I don't think I can stand being civil to you for more than twenty-four hours."

"Same here. Truce." They shook hands. Hermione nearly burst out laughing at the absurdity of her new relationship, for lack of a better word, with Draco Malfoy.

At that precise moment, the four other girls came out, each wearing as little if not less than Hermione. They all stared at her suspiciously. Draco quickly let go of her hand.

"Good morning, ladies," he said, glossing over the sticky moment. "Who's ready for some Quidditch?"

Everyone but Hermione cheered enthusiastically and swarmed around the bachelor, casually bumping Hermione out of the circle.

"How are we getting there?" one of the girls piped up. She was very tall, almost as tall as Draco himself, with straight blonde hair.

"Excellent question, Maddi," he said, flashing her a smile that made her flutter her eyelids. Hermione all but expected cartoon hearts to pop up around her blonde head.

"What better way to arrive at a Quidditch game than on a broomstick?" Draco continued, looking even more pleased with himself.

Hermione's heart nearly leaped out of her chest. "What?" she said loudly, causing everyone to turn to her.

"Brooms, Granger," said Draco slowly and condescendingly. "We're going to fly."

"I can't," she said right away. It was true. Flying had always been Harry, Ron, and Ginny's field of expertise, not hers.

"In that case, you can ride with me." The other girls' mouths dropped open and they glared at Hermione enviously.

She ignored them. "I refuse," she said stubbornly.

Draco raised an eyebrow. "Oh really? It's a good thing I see that as a challenge, Granger. Accio broomstick!" he shouted suddenly, pulling his wand out of nowhere. A sleek silver broomstick came flying toward them and Hermione instinctively ducked. But in one swift movement, Draco had mounted the broom and had grabbed her by the waist (causing her to scream), lifted her up into the air (while she continued screaming), and deposited her unceremoniously onto the seat behind him.

"For the rest of you more talented women, choose a broomstick and follow along!"

Hermione ignored the insult and clutched Draco very tightly around the waist, squeezing her eyes firmly shut.

"Merlin, Granger," said Draco, chuckling. "I didn't know you were so terrified of flying."

"Put me down, put me down," Hermione begged. She really, really hated flying. Muggle airplanes were fine, but broomsticks? No bloody way. "Malfoy, put me down!"

"Absolutely not. And I know I'm attractive, but you don't need to hold me so tightly." He sounded as though he was enjoying this far too much.

"But then I'll fall," she said, almost child-like.

"Come on, Granger," he said. "I know we still hate each other, but I wouldn't let you fall…well, actually, I'd let you fall for a little bit just to scare you out of your wits, and then I'd save you."

"Not helping!" said Hermione, not relinquishing her grip on what she felt was safety. "Have we started flying yet?"

"If you'd only open your eyes, you'll see."

"I don't think so." She suddenly felt a burst of speed and swallowed her scream, trying to put on a brave front. She failed. "Slow down!"

"We'll never get there in time for the game if we go at this pace," he said, subconsciously enjoying the feel of Hermione holding on to him for dear life.

Hermione, for her part, wasn't enjoying anything in the slightest bit. Her head was spinning, she was cold, and she felt slightly nauseous.

"Granger, just open your eyes."

"No." Nothing he said would reassure her, ever.

"The other women are shooting dark, jealous glares at you," he noted, chuckling again.

"Trust me, I would rather be on solid ground and far away from you. Why don't you tell them that?"

"You and I both know there's nowhere you'd rather be right now than on this broomstick."

"I feel sick," said Hermione in reply.

"You're not going to be sick on me, are you?" he said, becoming slightly nervous.

"I can't guarantee anything at this point," she groaned.

"Nearly there," said Draco in a would-be encouraging voice. He really didn't want Hermione, or anyone for that matter, to throw up on him. Too bad he never bothered to console anyone before, so the attempt at encouragement failed and Hermione felt sicker than ever.

After what seemed like an agonizing three hours, which in reality was only twenty minutes, Draco landed lightly. Hermione could not sense anything with her closed eyes, and she tumbled down ungracefully into the grass.

"Oh, sorry Granger," he said carelessly.

All he got in reply was a groan. She didn't even try to stand up.

The four other girls landed shortly after, every single one of them throwing Hermione a scornful glance.

"Is she going to be alright?" said the one named Maddi, sounding as though she didn't really care that much.

"She better be," said another girl scathingly. "The game starts pretty soon. I don't want to miss anything."

"Granger?" said Draco, reluctantly kneeling down beside her and shaking her slightly.

"Just leave me here," she said petulantly. "Leave me here to rot and die."

"Oh, no, I don't think so." And with that he lifted her up as though she was as light as a feather and began walking towards the gate. Halfway there, Hermione realized what was happening and jabbed him in the ribs until he put her down, or more like dropped her. She staggered to her feet, shot him a glare, and walked the rest of the way on her own, feeling a little better.

They skipped the queue and entered the Quidditch stadium without any trouble. An usher showed them to their seats, which were high up and in the middle. Getting expensive tickets was not a problem if one were the most eligible bachelor in all of London.

After climbing up what seemed like a thousand flights of stairs, Hermione found herself sitting in the Top Box of the glittering Quidditch stadium. It was not as fancy as the one for the World Cup, but it was just as immense. When they had entered the Top Box, Draco had acted the part of the gentleman, allowing four of the five women to go in ahead of him while rudely cutting in front of the last woman, who happened to be Hermione. As a result, he had craftily ended up with Hermione sitting on his left and the other four on his right.

Hermione saw through the entire not-so-subtle act and was beginning to wonder what his motives were. Did he want to spend more time with her? Or was he doing it just to annoy her to her wit's end? Was he--Merlin forbid--attracted to her? Well, Hermione thought to herself firmly, I certainly am not attracted to him…right?

The stadium slowly filled until Hermione thought it would collapse under all the weight and finally, the game started.

"Bulgaria begins with ten points!" shouted a familiar voice. Hermione was not surprised at all that Lee Jordan had become a professional Quidditch commentator. Draco noticed this too.

"It's that bloody Gryffindor of a commentator, isn't it? I thought I had escaped his useless drabble when he left Hogwarts," said Draco, whispering in her ear.

She gave an involuntary shiver when she felt his hot breath on her skin, not sure if it was from pleasure or disgust. "I think he's a great commentator," she retorted, edging away from him slightly. Fortunately for Hermione, the girl sitting on the other side of him, Maddi, successfully forced the bachelor's attention all on her by engaging him in a spirited debate over whether Bulgaria or Transylvania would win.

"And Bulgaria scores again!" shouted Lee.

The fans of Transylvania booed. A chaser from the Transylvanian team flew by the Top Box just then. He had a pale face and dark hair. Hermione was suddenly and explicitly reminded of vampires. She shook the thought away.

Hermione cheered halfheartedly for Bulgaria. She normally enjoyed watching Quidditch, but only when she was either watching or watching with Harry and Ron. Instead, she sat with her hands knotted tightly in her lap, muttering something about "dangerous" and "could get themselves killed like that" and "those bloody Bludgers."

Maddi, on the other hand, was screaming herself hoarse with things like "GO BULGARIA!" and "I LOVE YOU, VLADIMIR KOFFSKIN!"

Draco clapped every now and then, but his mind was far from the game. For some reason he kept thinking about one of the girls sitting next to him. She was a know-it-all, her hair was currently a mess due to the wind, she irritated him out of his mind with her attitude, and she could not ride a broom to save her life. And yet he found her strangely attractive. He waved that thought away as soon as it flitted into his brain. No. He was most definitely not attracted to her. He turned his attention back to the game with difficulty.

"Bulgaria pulls ahead with three spectacular goals and the score is fifty-zero to Bulgaria!"

Hermione glanced at her watch subtly. Nearly an hour had passed since the start of the game, and neither Seeker had seen the Snitch. Not even a glimpse of the tiny golden ball had been reported. Thinking of the Snitch made her think of Viktor Krum, whom she had sighted many times, swooping over the field on his broomstick. He had not seen her yet, and she did not expect him too. After all, she was just a tiny speck in a crowd of ten thousand.

Meanwhile, Emmett Bochinsky of the Transylvanian team had scored three times in a row. The Bulgarian Keeper was apologizing profusely.

"My muzzer bought me this Muggle celly-fone!" he was saying. "She just sent me a whaddyoucallem, a text mezzage and I haff to reply!"

While he was yelling at the rest of his incensed team members, Jasper Moldovan of Transylvanian scored twice, tying the score to fifty points apiece.


Suddenly, Viktor and the Transylvanian Seeker, Edward Szekely, both went into spectacular dives. The Snitch had at last been sighted.

Maddi's screaming escalated to a new height. "GO VIKTOR! COME ON!"

Even Draco winced and covered his ears.

"Come on Viktor, come on, come on!" muttered Hermione under her breath, her eyes following his dive. He looked exactly the same as she had remembered with his dark eyebrows, surly face, curved nose, and black eyes.

The Snitch took a sudden change in direction, speeding upwards. Hermione could not believe it. The Snitch was flying straight towards the Top Box.

Viktor and Edward Szekelysped upwards, neck at neck. The Snitch continued its path of ascent. Then it stopped, hovering right by the Top Box.

"Oh no, go away, you stupid Snitch," Hermione muttered.

"What's wrong?" said Draco, confused. Then it dawned on him: Hermione and Viktor Krum had had some sort of relationship in the years past and judging by the anxious expression on her face, she did not want to see him again. Draco had the sudden impulse to protect the girl sitting next to him. He tried shaking off the feeling, but it wouldn't go.

"Nothing," Hermione said in a whisper. Draco's hand gave an involuntary twitch and suddenly her hand was clasped in his. His first thought was to let go, but his hand refused to obey. Hermione, for her part, clung on without really knowing whose hand she was holding.

The Snitch remained in its hovering state. The two Seekers continued at their breakneck speed and reached out their arms, fumbling for the tiny golden sphere.

The Snitch dodged both of their grasps. In the confusion, Edward Szekelyforgot to brake and shot upwards, while Viktor slowed.

He had one hand out. The Snitch was inches away. A Bulgarian victory was moments away. Then he raised his dark eyes and caught sight of something else.

A familiar face framed within a mass of curly brown hair. It was she, the girl who had captured his heart years ago, at the Triwizard Tournament.

He stared at her in complete surprise. Hermione was very agitated.

"Viktor!" she choked out.


"THE SNITCH!" Hermione shouted.

Viktor snapped back to attention and reached for the Snitch once more. This time he caught it, its golden wings struggling for release.


The red supporters roared their approval. Maddi had gone star-struck at the sight of Viktor Krum a mere two meters away. The other girls were muttering mutinously: "Why is he staring at her like that? Does she know him?" Draco was silent. Hermione was speechless.

Viktor's eyes traveled over Hermione until he saw the intertwined hands. A look of hurt washed over his face, and he grasped his broomstick firmly and flew away without glancing back.

Hehe...are there any Twilight fans out there? ;)
How was Hermione's first date with Draco? It will continue in the next chapter... what do you think is going to happen? Please review!
Yours till radish earrings become fashionable,
Queen Luna

Chapter 12: Chapter Twelve: The Quidditch Date: Part Two
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Oh, wow. I cannot believe the last chapter received over fifty reviews! Thank you so much! And here is chapter twelve....

Chapter Twelve: The Quidditch Date: Part Two

"Come on," said Draco, tugging Hermione to her feet. That was when they both realized they had been holding hands all this time. Hermione, feeling embarrassed and very confused at the same time, wrenched her hand away. Draco looked down with surprise, as though he didn't remember grabbing her hand in the first place. There was an awkward pause. He cleared his throat. "There's an after-party to go to. Granger, do you want to come? If not--"

"Are you mad?" said Maddi, cutting in. Her eyes were wide with excitement. "An after-party? With the Quidditch players? Of course we have to go! Lighten up, Hermione!"

Hermione nodded without really knowing what she was agreeing to. "All right, let's go."

The party was held in a large, colorful tent that had been erected in the middle of the field. Buff security wizards were continuously throwing out people who had sneaked in without V.I.W. (Very Important Wizard) passes.

"VLADIMIR KOFFSKIN!" screamed Maddi the second they had entered the tent. The young Bulgarian Chaser looked up, surprised. "I love you, I love you, I love you!"

"Er, hello," said Vladimir uncertainly.

Maddi and a couple of her friends ran after him, joining a mob of screaming fan girls.

"Oh dear," said Vladimir mildly, before running and ducking behind a huge, troll-like bodyguard.

Hermione ignored the chaos of the party and the superficiality of the screaming fan girls, wishing she possessed Harry's invisibility cloak. It sure came in handy at times.

"Hermione, if you're that afraid of seeing him, we can leave--" Draco began, somewhat impatiently.

"I'm not afraid!" Hermione protested. She wasn't afraid, was she? What was there to be afraid of? Meeting a boy she had dated, briefly, when she was a young girl of fourteen who knew nothing about love? She was being silly. What happened to all her plucky Gryffindor courage? She concluded that today was simply not a good day.

The Bulgarian Keeper strolled by just then and noticed her. "Are you the reason vy Viktor is drowning his sorrows over zair?" he said, pointing to a hulking figure who was hunched over the bar, knocking back a shot of firewhiskey.

"Er," Hermione squeaked.

"Just checking," he said. There was a ringing noise and he pulled out a tiny red cell phone. He shook his head. "My muzzer again. Zat woman needs to stop texting me. I zon't even know how to text back." Then he walked away, straight into a mob of screaming fans.

"I should go talk to him," said Hermione nervously. "He's completely depressed and it's all my fault."

Draco shrugged, ignoring the flare of some unknown emotion that ignited in his chest for a brief moment. Later he identified it as jealousy. "Go ahead," he said shortly, watching as she walked away from him.

Hermione walked tentatively towards Viktor, nervous as hell. It had been so long. What was she supposed to say?

"Er--hello, Viktor," said Hermione hesitatingly, standing about a foot away from him. Up close, she realized he was bigger than she had remembered. She backed up a little.

"Vat? Who said that?" said Viktor, raising his eyes from his empty shot glass blearily.

"It's me, Hermione. I know it's been a long time--"

"Hermy-own?" said Viktor, his eyes focusing on her with difficulty.

"Yes, Viktor. I'm Hermy--I mean, Her-my-oh-knee."

"Ah! Herm-own-ninny! I remember. I remember very vell." He got off of the barstool with difficulty and enveloped Hermione in a bone-crushing hug. Hermione was explicitly reminded of Hagrid. Viktor had grown quite a lot of muscle.

"Yes," said Hermione, extracting herself from his embrace.

Suddenly Viktor frowned. "I saw you earlier. In the stands. Vith a strange man." He narrowed his eyes.

"Oh! Malf--Draco is not a strange man. And I'm date--I'm in the Game of--er, it's sort of complicated." Her voice trailed off feebly.

"Complicated?" said Viktor, raising a dark eyebrow.

"Yes. Very, very complicated," Hermione mumbled. Complicated indeed.

"I see," said Viktor. "So tell me, Herm-own-ninny. Vy did you stop vriting to me?"

"I told you, in my last letter," said Hermione, pleading for him to understand. "I just want to be friends with you."

"Just friends?" said Viktor, looking very hurt.

"Yes, I--"

"Vell, friends still vrite letters to each other, don't they?"

"I--I suppose--"

"You just don't like me at all." Viktor gazed at her dismally.

Hermione suddenly realized that the entire conversation was pointless, since he was obviously drunk and would not remember any of it later. She threw up her hands in exasperation. "Viktor, you're intoxicated. I'll talk to you when you're nice and sober." She started to walk away when Viktor threw himself to the floor and grabbed her around the ankle.

"No! Don't leave me again!"

"What the bloody hell--VIKTOR! Let go!" Hermione tried to pull her ankle out of his grasp and ended up tripping and falling, landing on the hard ground. She cursed. "Viktor!" She tried pulling out her wand, but her arms were pinned beneath her and she could not use them at all.

Just when she was about to scream out loud for help, not caring if she caused an international scandal, someone shouted an incantation and Viktor was blasted off of his feet and into the side of the tent. The fabric ripped, a wooden post broke cleanly in half, and the entire structure groaned and threatened to fall down on them all.

Hermione looked up to see Draco standing over her. "Malfoy!" she said, ignoring his proffered hand and clambering up to her feet on her own. "I had everything completely under control!"

"Save your breath, Granger," he snapped, angry for some reason. "You obviously didn't." He turned away from her to face Viktor, who despite being drunk had managed to pinpoint his attacker.

"Nobody attacks me and gets avay vith it," Viktor snarled, reaching for his wand. "Nobody, especially not you."

"Calm down, you madman," said Draco evenly, ignoring the crowd that had gathered around them. "Or I might have to curse you."

"Go ahead and try…Death Eater." Viktor's face twisted into a menacing sneer.

Hermione gasped. She was almost afraid to see how Draco would react to this unjust comment, this cruel accusation. And yet she took a step closer to him. She would help him like he had helped her. She would be his ally.

Viktor's last two words seemed to hang in the air. Draco stopped short. His pale face hardened into an icy mask of cold fury and his gray eyes glinted with anger. "Never call me that again," he said threateningly, his voice shaking as well as his entire body. "I am not a Death Eater."

"Liar," Viktor spat at him. He raised his wand. "Stupefy!"

"Protego!" cried Hermione. The Shield Charm gave her enough time to grab Draco's hand, look into his cold gray eyes, and Disapparate.

Maddi looked around, her light blue eyes narrowing. "Did you hear that?" she said.

Her best friend Jenna, who also happened to be in the Game of Love, shrugged. "What? That crash? Must've been one of those drunken idiots they let in." She glanced at her watch, sighing impatiently. In her opinion, the group date had been a total failure, at least for her.

"I thought I heard Draco's voice," said another girl, an American named Caitlin. Her twin sister, Lauren, nodded.

"And Hermione's," said Maddi, her eyes flashing with jealousy. "Why is she always with him?"

"They have a history," a new voice cut in bluntly. The four of them turned around in surprise to see Pansy Parkinson removing a pair of oversized sunglasses that shielded her dark eyes and a silk scarf that covered her dark hair.

"Pansy?" said Maddi incredulously. "What are you doing here?"

Pansy waved her hand carelessly. "Doesn't matter. Anyway, don't you all know that Draco and Hermione Granger have been enemies since day one?"

"Ooh, tell us more," said Caitlin, her light blue eyes widening at the opportunity to gossip.

"Oh, trust me. You girls would die to hear some of the stories I've got about the two of them." Pansy’s eyes glittered dangerously.

"You don't mean--" Jenna began.

"No, no, nothing like that. Draco would have never dated a Mud--a bushy-haired know-it-all like Granger. I'm talking about the fights--the insults--the pure animosity."

"So why is Hermione here? Why is she with all of us?" Maddi snapped.

"Maybe she has had a change of heart," Jenna suggested.

Pansy snorted. "As if. I don't know what game she's playing, but it's not going to work because she won't win in the end. I'll make sure of it."

"Plotting against and sabotaging another contestant is against the rules--" Jenna tried to say.

"Who cares about old Beaumont and his stupid rules?" snapped Pansy unkindly. "Beside, I'm not planning anything too evil."

"Great!" Caitlin piped up. "Can we help?"

"I'm not in this," Lauren interrupted, speaking for the first time that afternoon.

Caitlin rolled her eyes. "What kind of game would this be without a little drama?"

"The drama is a given," said Maddi, rolling her eyes. "Hermione must be pretty smart if she has Draco wrapped around her finger like that, so I don't think you can beat her."

"What're you saying?" said Pansy, raising a sleek dark eyebrow. "Are you giving up already?"

"No," said Maddi haughtily. "I'm saying that if you can't beat her, you can't beat me either. I'm in this to win it."

"So are the rest of us," said Caitlin, cutting in.

"And what do you mean she has Draco wrapped around her finger?" said Pansy, looking far too calculating as she absorbed this new piece of information.

"I mean I saw him walking her back to her room this morning. I think we all know what that implies," said Maddi.

Jenna frowned. "How is that possible? I thought Pansy said they loathed each other!"

"They do!" said Pansy, suddenly angry. "I don't know what's gotten into Draco's mind! But--she is the brightest witch of her age. There could be some sort of love potion involved."

"Monsieur Beaumont can detect those sorts of things," said Jenna.

Pansy whirled around to glare at her. Jenna fell silent, eyeing the group warily.

"Maddi's right," said Caitlin after a pause, twisting a lock of strawberry blonde hair around her finger. "Hermione somehow has Draco's attention focused all on her. We don't need to get rid of her completely; we just need to make this game a little more fair."

"I have a brilliant idea," said Maddi slowly, glancing at Pansy and then looking away.

"Please tell me it has nothing to do with a love potion," Jenna groaned.

"It could work," Maddi argued. "I'll just slip a little into his drink, just enough so that he starts noticing me."

"And what about the rest of us?" said Pansy, her voice low and dangerous.

"What can I say?" said Maddi coolly. "In a game like this, it's every woman for herself."

"Let go of me," said Draco as soon as they arrived back at the Malfoy Manor, in his bedroom. His voice was stony and cold.

Hermione released him at once, feeling as though something had shocked her. Her mind was in a whirlwind. She had not yet fully processed what had just happened. All she knew was that Draco had been deeply hurt by Viktor's drunken statement, and that she was bizarrely on his side for once in her life.

"Go away," he said abruptly. He turned around on the heel of his shoes, walking away from her.

"No," said Hermione.

"What d'you mean, no?" he said bitterly. "Just leave me alone." He sat down at the edge of the bed, dropping his head into his hands.

"Not before I thank you for saving me again." She stopped, shaking her head. A bitter sort of smile was on her face. "You seem to be doing that a lot lately."

Silence fell around them after the words left her mouth. He didn't seem to hear her. Hermione listened to an old grandfather clock tick. Something was stirring in her heart, but she did not know what it was. But she could feel it. It was awaking and growing, slowly but most definitely.

"I'm not a Death Eater," he whispered suddenly.

Not knowing what possessed her to do so, Hermione knelt down before him, gently grasping his wrists so he would look up at her.

"I'm not," he repeated, despair clouding his silver eyes. "Believe me, I never wanted to become one of them."

"I know," she whispered, slipping her hands into his. "I believe you."

Outside, the sun was beginning to descend, its weakening rays of light melting away into darkness. 

And thus Hermione's first date in the Game of Love concludes. I hope I didn't disappoint all the readers who felt sorry for Viktor Krum.... Anyway, I won't be able to update anything for the next ten days because I'm going on vacation with my family. We're going to visit San Francisco and then drive to a couple of national parks. I won't have access to a computer, which means I'll be deprived of HPFF for ten whole days! How will I survive? Anyway, please continue to review. And thank you for reading!
Yours till the lion hat roars,
Queen Luna

Chapter 13: Chapter Thirteen: A Dozen Roses
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Hello everyone! It's good to be back after a ten day break :) I was going to update right when I got home, but I had to edit some things. Plus I kept getting distracted by The Host by Stephenie Meyer. Hehe. Anyway, here's chapter thirteen! Enjoy!

Chapter Thirteen: A Dozen Roses

The next few days passed in a daze for Hermione. She did not see Draco again, and she was glad of it. Their past few encounters were too confusing for her to comprehend.

She had never been good at relationships. Viktor Krum didn't even count. She had been a mere fourteen-year-old girl, naïve in the notions of love. He liked her. She liked being adored by someone. But it wasn't love. And now, in light of recent events, she never wanted to see him again.

Then there was Ron. According to Harry, they had flirted and fought for the most part of their years at Hogwarts. She was pretty sure the redhead liked her, but she didn't know if she liked him. Then, during what should have been their seventh year, she thought she felt something and held on to it. She initiated their first kiss. For the first few months following the Final Battle, they acted like they were head over heels in love. But Hermione knew, as well as Ron, that the spark that had once been there was gone. They returned to being simply friends. After a long awkward year, they could go on as though they had never gone beyond being best friends.

Now she was sitting by a window in the Malfoy Manor, participating in a game in which the ultimate prize was the love of a man, a man she would have never considered in a million years had Harry and Ron not signed her up for the Game of Love.

It surely was impossible. What happened to their hatred of each other? Seven years of strong dislike did not just dissipate like that. If someone asked her if she liked him now, she was fairly certain she would respond with a vehement no. But deep inside, she knew it wasn't exactly true.

Before she knew it, the next rose ceremony was taking place. From twenty-five women the bachelor would choose exactly twelve to continue. A mere week ago, Hermione would have wanted more than anything to be allowed to go home and get back to her old, boring life. But now, as she stood in the foyer with the other twenty-four women, she realized she really wanted to stay.

She had actually taken the initiative to dress nicely for the occasion. She wore a sky blue dress with fluttery sleeves and a ribbon sash. It fell about three inches above her knees, revealing a little more leg than she would normally be comfortable with. She chose a pair of two-inch high peep-toe shoes, as opposed to the dangerously high stilettos that Isabelle had tried to get her to wear. Her hair was down, silky instead of bushy, and slightly curled. She hoped she didn't look like she was trying too hard.

The women had been standing for about fifteen minutes while the cameramen tinkered around with their magical gadgets. They were actually waiting for Monsieur Beaumont to show up, which he finally did after another five minutes.

"Bienvenue ladies, to tonight's rose ceremony," said the French host, beaming at all of them. None of them smiled back. "As you are all aware of, the bachelor, Mr. Draco Malfoy, will be choosing twelve and only twelve of you beautiful young ladies to continue. Remember how this goes? I will wave my wand at the bachelor's command, and the twelve roses will fly over to those who have been selected. Once all twelve roses have been accepted, the others should exit quietly to pack their bags. Merci, et bon chance."

Monsieur Beaumont finished his little speech and nodded to Draco, who stepped forward. Hermione could visibly see him take a deep breath. The silver tray that held a dozen roses hovered next to him, waiting. 

"Good evening," he said, flashing a smile that caused the tension to break. All twenty-five girls smiled and giggled. Even Hermione couldn't help herself and grinned.

"I have spent a highly enjoyable week with every single of you," he continued, his voice as smooth as silk. "Unfortunately, I can choose only twelve of you to stay." The tension returned as smiles disappeared. Hermione felt jittery.

The bachelor glanced at Monsieur Beaumont, who waved his wand with a sweeping motion. At once the twelve roses were lifted up into the air. Hermione shut her eyes for a second, and when she opened them again there was a rose hovering right in front of her. She smiled, caught the rose, and let out a small sigh. She was here to stay for another week.

She looked around at the faces she recognized and yet did not know. To her disgust, Pansy had a very smug smile on her face and held a red rose in her hands. Isabelle and Georgina had received roses as well. The tall girl named Maddi was smiling complacently. The petite brunette called Jenna who stood next to her held one as well, although her smile was uncertain.

Hermione searched the room for the other girls who had been with her on the somewhat disastrous group date. Of the American twins, Caitlin had received a rose and was chatting animatedly with Maddi while Lauren was staring stonily ahead into space, her arms folded over her chest. Hermione looked at the girl next to Lauren and realized that Parvati Patil had not received a rose. She walked across the room to comfort her old dorm mate and friend.

"I-I was just beginning to get to know him b-better!" Parvati wailed. Hermione conjured a handkerchief for her and Parvati took it, sobbing, her tears black and glittery from mascara. "Good luck, Hermione," said Parvati as she made her exit dramatically. To Draco, she managed to say "good bye" before dashing off, fresh tears staining her cheeks.

The bachelor stood by the spiral staircase, looking very uncomfortable as he bid his farewells to the thirteen unlucky girls. Hermione noted dryly that his crisp black suit was going to need a thorough cleaning before this night was through.

"We made it, Hermione!" Isabelle said happily, giving her a hug. Georgina merely looked at her, offering no friendly words.

"Yes," said Hermione, her eyes on Draco, "we did."

The dinner that night was meant to be celebratory, but Hermione found herself playing with her food again. This time Monsieur Beaumont chose to serve a tiny bite of lobster that Hermione wolfed down in seconds, along with a heap of cucumbers. A hungry and dissatisfied Hermione quickly chopped the cucumbers into minute pieces and spent the remainder of the meal moving them around her plate. She wondered if Monsieur Beaumont was purposely trying to starve her, one dinner at a time.

The dining table had shrunk accordingly to accommodate twelve girls, one bachelor, and one host. Hermione was sitting four seats down from Draco. She wallowed for a while in self-denial before admitting she was disappointed in the seating arrangements.

The French host finished his meal of bouillabaisse and wiped his mouth daintily with a napkin. Then he tapped the side of his wineglass with a silver fork and the talking died down. He cleared his throat.

"Congratulations to all of you for making it thus far in the Game of Love." He paused for a smattering of applause. "This week there will be three group dates, two consisting of four women and one with three. If you can do math, you may have realized that this leaves one young lady out. This lucky girl, whom I shall select at random in just a second, will have the chance to go on a one-on-one date with Mr. Malfoy!"

Many of the girls began murmuring at this new development. Hermione crossed her fingers under the table, but immediately uncrossed them. Why was she so eager to go on the one-on-one date with Draco? It's not like she wanted to spend more time with him.

Oh, stop lying to yourself, whispered the voice inside her head.

Shut up, Hermione snapped at her conscience.

Monsieur Beaumont snapped his fingers and a house-elf appeared out of nowhere, holding a black top hat. In the hat Hermione could see small slips of parchment. Monsieur Beaumont drew out one of these slips and announced, "Miss Isabelle Delacour! You have been chosen!"

Hermione clapped; she was one of the few to do so. Isabelle blushed and said, "Merci beaucoup. Je suis trés excitée."

Monsieur Beaumont beamed. "Desert will be served in just a moment. Please chat amongst yourselves while I check on the kitchen."

Hermione leaned back in her chair, pushing her plate of mutilated cucumbers away. She glanced around the table at the other girls. Most of them looked sullen and kept casting envious glares in Isabelle's direction. A sudden flurry of movement on her left caught Hermione's eye. She froze in her seat and stared in disbelief.

If she wasn't imagining things, she had just seen Maddi tip something into Draco's glass. It had been done quite artfully. Draco was looking the other way at Caitlin, who had asked him a question, and the tall blonde girl had carefully spilled something into Draco's drink under the pretense of reaching for her own glass.

However, it didn't escape the eyes of Pansy Parkinson.

"You foul, cheating, scheming hag!" shrieked Pansy furiously. Everyone, including Draco, looked up in surprise. Monsieur Beaumont chose this moment to walk back into the dining room.

"Miss Parkinson! What sort of language is this?" he said sternly.

With her mind furiously working out a plan, Hermione figured that if Pansy saw it, then Maddi had indeed slipped some sort of potion into Draco's drink. Well, she didn't want to wait until Draco had drained the rest of his drink to observe its aftereffects. She aimed her wand under the table at Draco's glass and timed her spell so that his goblet exploded just as Pansy shouted "Stupefy!" at Maddi.

"What the hell?" Draco exclaimed, jumping up to his feet when his glass spontaneously exploded, showering an unconscious Maddi with red wine. Pansy narrowed her eyes and swept her gaze across the bewildered girls, stopping at Hermione. Hermione looked away.

"Miss Parkinson!" said Monsieur Beaumont, horrified at what she had done. "Come with me at once."

Pansy huffed angrily and kicked her chair back, stalking out of the dining room after Monsieur Beaumont.

"Ennervate!" said Jenna frantically, her wand directed at the still unconscious Maddi. Maddi blinked, straightening up.

"Erm," she said, bemused. "What'd I miss?"

Hermione narrowed her eyes at the tall blonde. She had only just now realized how low some would stoop to win the bachelor's heart.

"Do you know what ‘appened?" said Georgina curiously as the three roommates climbed into their respective beds a few hours later.

This was the first time Georgina had ever shown an inclination to have a civil conversation with Hermione.

"I think so," answered Hermione shortly, pulling the covers up to her chin. "Maddi slipped something into Malfoy's drink when she thought no one was looking."

"You mean like a love potion?" Isabelle exclaimed, her eyes wide.

Hermione nodded. "Possibly."

"Idiot girl," Georgina sniffed. "What do you suppose 'appened to Pansy?"

Hermione shrugged. "She's probably just getting a warning for Stunning another girl." She yawned, curling up under the covers. "Well, this has been an exciting night. I'm going to sleep now."

"Good night," said Isabelle. The lights were dimmed so Hermione could sleep while the other two girls stayed up for awhile longer.

Hermione had just drifted off to sleep when she heard someone tap on the glass window.

"Eet's an owl," she heard Georgina say.

Through her eyelashes, Hermione saw Isabelle open the window and release a snowy owl of its burden, a small package wrapped in gold paper.

"Eez eet from 'im?" Georgina whispered.

"Je ne sais pas," Isabelle murmured back. She ripped open the package and Hermione saw, in her sleepy state, a shower of pink petals and a note fall out onto Isabelle's bed.

Isabelle was speechless for a moment as she gingerly unfolded the note. At last, she whispered in shock, "It is."

"'E's 'ere?" Georgina exclaimed.

"Shh!" said Isabelle, her eyes scanning the letter. There was a pause in which Hermione was surprised to see tears welling up in the French girl's eyes.

Hermione had to strain her ears to hear what Isabelle said next and she did not understand it.

"Mon amour," Isabelle murmured. "Où étais-tu tout ce temps?" 

Just a note, the French at the very end may not be very accurate because I was too lazy to think of the little French I learned in school and used one of those free online translators instead. Anyway, it shouldn't be too hard to figure it out. I'm going to try to write some more, if I can manage to drag myself away from The Host. Until I finish it, I don't think I can concentrate on anything else though... As always, please review! Thank you for reading!
Yours till the Nargles infest your brain,
Queen Luna

Chapter 14: Chapter Fourteen: A Happy Place
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Hello everyone! Here is chapter fourteen. The title is somewhat lame, but I couldn't think of anything else. Hehe. Anyway, enjoy! :)

Chapter Fourteen: A Happy Place 

"Bonjour, mademoiselles," said Monsieur Beaumont the next morning at breakfast, looking extremely harassed. He had a hint of stubble on his chin and his hair wasn't as sleek as usual. "I have some unfortunate news. Pansy Parkinson is no longer with us."

"What?" shrieked Caitlin, raising her head up from the bowl of cereal she had been nodding over. "She died?" Hermione restrained from rolling her eyes with difficulty.

"No, no, no!" said Monsieur Beaumont hurriedly. "That was a very bad choice of words. What I mean to say is that Miss Parkinson had decided to, er, withdraw from the competition."

"You mean you told her wealthy father that you won't accept his bribes anymore, and she's been kicked off the show," said Maddi matter-of-factly. The tall blonde had dark circles under her eyes, as though she hadn't slept very well. Serves you right, thought Hermione, surprised at how she was still angry about last night's events.

"Er…no. I mean yes, you are correct, Miss Hallmark," said Monsieur Beaumont, looking very flustered. He cleared his throat nervously, looking around at the girls surrounding him. Most were half-asleep, but some were staring at him with suspicion. "Anyway! We had an issue with the owls this morning, so I will tell you right now who will be going on today's group date…. Yes, I have the list right here, somewhere…ah! Miss Georgina, Miss Elizabeth, and Miss Hermione, you three will be accompanying the bachelor to Disneyland Paris!"

Nearly everyone who sat at the dining table stared back at him blankly, but Hermione's face immediately lit up. Disneyland! She hadn't gone to that amusement park since she was seven years old!

"Aren't you all excited?" exclaimed Monsieur Beaumont a little too enthusiastically.

"Pardon?" said Georgina stiffly. "I may be from Paris, but what eez this Disneyland you speak of?"

"It's a Muggle amusement park," said Hermione, unable to keep quiet. "Built in honor of Walt Disney and his achievements."

"An amusement park?" interrupted a girl with long black hair. Hermione assumed her name was Elizabeth. "Are you telling us that we're supposed to have a romantic date at a Muggle amusement park?"

"Oui," said Monsieur Beaumont just as icily. "You will be traveling by Floo powder. The bachelor will meet you by the marble fireplace in approximately one hour." With that, he left the room.

"An amusement park!" huffed Georgina and Elizabeth at the same time, both of their voices dripping with disdain. Hermione observed that Georgina had met her British contemporary in Elizabeth.

"It's rather fun," Hermione said in defense of her Muggle background. They both ignored her.

"I'm sure it is," said Isabelle kindly. Hermione was suddenly reminded of the mysterious letter that the French girl had received the previous night. However, Isabelle didn't look bothered or preoccupied at all, and Hermione wondered if she had merely dreamt about the entire scene. She came out of her reverie to hear Isabelle say, "I've never been there before though."

"I'd gladly trade places with you," Georgina sniffed. "I can go on ze one-on-one date with Draco and you can go to zis silly park."

Needless to say, Isabelle turned down Georgina's offer.

Hermione sighed happily as she strolled through Disneyland's Main Street. She took in the colorful buildings, the shouts of excited children, the shrieks coming from the nearby roller coaster, the smell of popcorn and cotton candy, and the life-size Disney characters signing autographs here and there. If she closed her eyes, she could pretend she was seven again and didn't have to worry about things like the Game of Love.

Draco was walking a few paces ahead of her with Georgina clinging to his left arm and Elizabeth clutching onto his right. Hermione had fallen back as soon as they had entered the park; she wanted to enjoy this day as much as possible. Now, after taking in the familiarly cheerful surroundings, she watched with amusement as both Georgina and Elizabeth attempted to catch Draco's attention.

Hermione hadn't even been able to say a word to Draco since they convened by the fireplace. She was slightly (perhaps more than slightly) disappointed when Draco didn't take the initiative to talk to her. Besides, Georgina and Elizabeth took the spotlight with their endless vapid chatter, so Hermione decided to use the Disneyland date as an opportunity to simply reminisce and just have some fun.

She sped up as they neared the great light blue castle. She could see the tall white peak of her favorite ride, Space Mountain, but the line was quite long so she decided to go on Splash Mountain first, completely forgetting about the bachelor and the other two women, until one of them shouted after her.

"Granger, where are you going?" called Draco.

Hermione abruptly turned around, smacking into a family of five screaming kids. She apologized to the harassed mother and sidestepped a crying toddler. By then Draco, Georgina, and Elizabeth had caught up with her.

"Ow, my 'eel broke!" Georgina was crying in dismay, hobbling around on one foot. Before Hermione could say anything, she pulled out her wand and muttered, "Reparo!"

"You can't do magic here!" said Hermione in shock. "There are Muggles everywhere!"

Georgina scowled. "Whatever, 'ermione." If Hermione wasn't afraid of looking like an immature six-year-old, she would have stuck out her tongue.

Draco cleared his throat. "So, where were you going, Granger?"

Hermione pointed to the five-story high waterfall behind her. "There," she said, smiling brightly. Right on cue, a chorus of screams erupted from the scene.

Elizabeth looked horrified as she observed the free-falling boats. "That looks dangerous! Are these Muggles insane?"

Hermione rolled her eyes. "It's perfectly safe. I'm going to go. Does anyone want to join me?"

Both Georgina and Elizabeth were shaking their heads frantically. Draco, looking a little hesitant and unsure of himself, said, "Sure, I'll try it out." Then he stopped short, wondering what he had just gotten himself into.

Hermione practically beamed at him. She would have hugged him too, but didn't. "Great, come on!" And she dragged him into the line to wait for a turn. Just when she thought she had shaken off the other two girls, they came running towards them.

"We want to go too," said Elizabeth, catching her breath.

"Oui," said Georgina, though she looked terrified.

The line was thankfully short and in no time they were directed to jump onto a swiftly moving boat. Hermione hopped in herself, but Georgina and Elizabeth either needed or pretended to need the aid of the bachelor. Draco helped them in and then, to their chagrin, got into the empty spot beside Hermione.

"Are you enjoying yourself?" he said to Hermione, who could feel her heart rate speed up just being close to him.

Stop acting like you're already in love with him! she scolded herself.

"Oh, yes I am. It's been so long since I've been here."

"If my father could see me now, I think he'd have a heart attack," he mused.

"I thought you would've suffered from one by now," she said.

"What d'you mean?"

"Well, think about it. You're sitting on something that countless Muggles have sat on before. In fact, you're surrounded by them. Wouldn't a pureblooded wizard like you would be appalled by your current situation?"

"Come on, Granger," he said, a surprisingly genuine smile on his face. "You of all people should know I'm not like that anymore."

Before Hermione could ask him what he meant, they had reached the five-story drop. Hermione let go of the safety bar in anticipation of the free-falling sensation. Draco followed her example, looking a little confused. In front of them, Georgina and Elizabeth were holding on to each other, already screaming their heads off.

The boat tipped over the side of the waterfall and Hermione let out a scream, although hers was more of happiness and freedom than of fear.

Draco was shouting something that sounded suspiciously like Arresto momentum. He dropped his arms and was clutching the slippery safety bar for dear life. Merlin's pants, he felt like he was going to fall out of his seat to his doom below!

Hermione was laughing now, and the drop ended with a resounding splash. A wave of water crashed down upon them, causing Georgina and Elizabeth to continue their screams that were now mingled with sobs.

"Wasn't that exhilarating?" said Hermione. She couldn't stop grinning now.

"You…Muggles…are…crazy," said Draco. He was gasping for breath.

"A few more rides and you'll see what I mean," said Hermione, eager to climb out of the boat, dry off her hair and clothes as best as she could, and continue her adventure.

"More rides!" shrieked Elizabeth, turning around. Her makeup was running and she looked rather comical with her bugged-out eyes. "Are you mad?" Georgina turned around as well, but she was speechless with shock and fright.

Hermione spared the pair of them another eye-roll and just smiled and nodded. "Perhaps I am."

The boat came to a stop and they all clambered out, Georgina and Elizabeth with difficulty.

"What's next, Granger?" said Draco.

She looked at him surprise. "You really do want more of that?"

He smirked and edged a little closer to her, locking her chocolate brown eyes with his silver-gray ones. "I want to see what you mean by exhilarating," he said so only she could hear.

She couldn't help but feel a jolt of something when his breath tickled her ear and his arm brushed against hers. She searched her mind for a witty comeback, but came up empty. Merlin, what was he doing to her brain? "Great," she said lamely, taking a step back so she could breathe properly.

He was smirking again. She found herself liking that smirk of his.

What the hell am I thinking? I do not like it when he bloody smirks!
Oh, yes you do, whispered her conscience knowingly.

No, I most adamantly do not!

Stop arguing with yourself
, the voice replied smartly.

Hermione looked up to see Draco looking at her curiously.

"Dazed by my presence, Granger?" he said, still smirking.

If only you knew, sighed the little voice in her head.

Oh, shut up, Hermione snapped at herself.

The date at Disneyland passed by much too quickly for Hermione's liking. She was enjoying everything immensely. First of all, after being shell-shocked by Splash Mountain, Georgina and Elizabeth refused to go on anything else and instead tottered to Minnie Mouse's little cottage, where they thought the plastic furniture was intended for the tourists to rest.

Draco had gotten over his initial fear of fast-moving rides and stopped shouting random spells for all the Muggles to hear. By the end of Space Mountain he was as hyper and giddy as a schoolboy. He was so different from the way he normally acted that Hermione found herself feeling proud that she had discovered another side of him. But it didn't end there.

When they took a break for a snack in the middle of the hot afternoon, they saw a little Muggle boy drop his ice cream onto the cobblestone street. It melted into a puddle under the hot sun, and the little boy's lower lip trembled. Tears and a tantrum were surely on their way.

That was when Draco leaped up from the bench he was sitting at with Hermione and bought another ice cream cone from the distressed vendor on the side of the road. He knelt down before the little boy and offered him the cone. The little Muggle boy immediately cheered up and thanked Draco with a smile complete with missing teeth before skipping away to join his family. Draco came back to the bench, looking both surprised and pleased at the same time.

Hermione felt elated on the inside. This Draco was so much better of a man than the boy she remembered from Hogwarts. Inside, she knew that at the moment he handed the little boy a new ice cream cone, she had forgiven him. She didn't tell him this, of course, but looked up and smiled.

"One more, before we leave?" he asked hopefully.

Hermione laughed. "Of course!"

They found their way to the ride nearest to them and got into a boat all to themselves. It pushed off slowly into a tunnel. Familiar music played. Hermione sighed happily.

"What?" said Draco, looking a little disappointed when he realized it wouldn't be going any faster.

"It's a small world after all," she said, smiling. "When I was little this was my absolute favorite."

"Really?" he said quietly. Hermione realized how closely they were sitting. She jumped when his hand went to her face. Her heart was pounding in her ears; it was a wonder he didn't hear it beating.

"I…" she said. She couldn't speak. She couldn't think. She couldn't breathe. This was what he seemed to do to her, every time.

He was now so close that she could feel his breath on her skin. She was locked into his gaze, drowning into the silvery depths. He drew closer still; she was frozen in place. And then--


The cameraman who had discreetly followed them throughout the entire date had leaned back to get a better shot when he lost his balance and fell into the moat. He surfaced, sputtering and coughing up water, his face beet red.

Hermione jumped back from Draco, startled. What in Merlin's name had she been about to do?

"Sorry," he muttered, looking away from her.

But there's nothing to be sorry for, she wanted to shout. Instead, she swallowed hard and settled back into her seat, a safe distance away from the man she had almost kissed.

Well, well, well! I hope you aren't hating the author right now for that last bit. I swear it was all the camera guy's fault! ;) I haven't been writing as much as I would like mostly because I have found another distraction in TDA, Photoshop, and graphic-making. I just started so I'm not that good yet. *sigh* Also, there's the House Cup competition on the forums... I have too many Harry Potter addictions/obsessions! Anyway, please leave a review!

Chapter 15: Chapter Fifteen: Friends and Farewells
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Despite all my distractions, I have put up another chapter. Enjoy!

Chapter Fifteen: Friends and Farewells

Hermione spent the rest of the week sitting in the cozy room she shared with Isabelle and Georgina. She stayed away from the swimming pool in the courtyard, where the rest of the girls splashed around and showed off in their skimpy bathing suits, hoping that the bachelor would be looking at them. She refrained from wandering around the manor, even though she was itching to go back to the library to indulge herself in a few more books. She came down for meals and the occasional walk outside, but other than that she stayed inside the room. There she didn't have to confront Draco or admit that she was feeling something different for him. It was no longer hate or loathing, but not love. No, certainly not love…. Not yet.

As she imposed upon herself this voluntary solitude, she began to miss life outside Malfoy Manor. It had been more than week since she had seen Ginny and almost a month since she had seen Harry or Ron. She wondered how her boss and coworkers were doing without her at the International Magical Office of Law. She wanted someone to talk to, but she didn't feel like she could trust anyone in the Game of Love besides Isabelle, who was on her one-on-one date that day. She was just about to sneak out of the manor under the nose of Monsieur Beaumont when she heard a crash and voices below.

She ran out of the room, thankful that she had changed out of her pajamas into a comfy pair of jeans and a shirt. If the Malfoys had visitors, she wanted to look presentable at the very least. She skidded to a stop at the top of the staircase, her shoes sliding on the slippery white marble. What she saw down below in the foyer made her heart leap with joy.

"Oi!" a gangly, redheaded man was saying. "I think I just broke a priceless vase!"

"You idiot," huffed a girl whose hair was just as red as his. "Lavender should send you to take ballet lessons so you can learn to control your limbs."

"It's okay, Ginny," said a man with untidy black hair. "I can fix this easily." He took out his wand, muttered "Reparo!" and watched as the Malfoy family heirloom pieced itself back together. He looked up as he stowed his wand away. His face broke into a smile.


"Harry! Ron!" said Hermione happily, running down the rest of the stairs to throw herself into the arms of her two best friends.

"What about me?" said Ginny, standing with her hands on her hips. She tried to look indignant but the corners of her mouth twitched.

"Ginny!" Hermione removed herself from Ron's embrace and gave her a hug too. "What are you all doing here?"

"I told them we shouldn't bother you, and that you were perfectly fine, but these two wouldn't believe me," said Ginny, rolling her eyes.

At this, Harry and Ron became serious. "Is he treating you decently? Is he being a stupid git? Do they feed you properly here? They don't make you sleep in the dungeons, do they?"

Hermione laughed out loud. Simply seeing her friends and hearing their voices made her world seem a lot brighter. "No, of course not! Here, let's go up to my room so we can talk. Monsieur Beaumont won't like seeing unregistered visitors here."

"Who's this Mon-zeer Boomontee fellow?" asked Ron as they followed her back up the marble staircase.

"Monsieur Beaumont is in charge of the Game of Love. He came up with this whole thing."

"You're not mad that we signed you up for this, are you?" said Harry anxiously.

Hermione dwelled upon that question before answering, leading her guests to her room. "No, I'm not." She didn't add that she was actually very glad that they had done what they did.

"Oh…this is a nice room, I guess," said Ron, stopping on the threshold. "Who knew the Malfoys could decorate their rooms with sunshiny colors?"

Hermione sat down on the window seat. Harry took a seat by the desk. Ginny flopped onto her bed. Ron sat down on the edge of Georgina's bed, mistaking a poofy designer gown for a pillow.

"Ron!" barked Ginny. "Get up!"

Ron leaped to his feet right away. "What is it?"

"You just sat on some snotty French girl's dress! And wrinkled it too!"

"Why do you care?" said Ron, bemused. "If she's snotty and all?"

"Because she'll kill Hermione for it, that's why," snapped Ginny.

Ron wheeled around. "Malfoy locked you up with a murderess?" he shouted in alarm.

Before Hermione could calm him down, Ginny was yelling at him again.

"Figure of speech, Ronald! Merlin, how thick can you get?"

Ron's face turned red. Harry turned to Hermione, who was laughing.

"So you're perfectly alright then, Hermione?" he said, directing the attention away from Ron's embarrassment.

"Honestly, Harry," said Hermione, "and you too, Ron. You both worry too much for my sake. I'm fine."

"I told you so," said Ginny. "Now leave."

"What'd you mean, leave?" said Ron. "We just got here!"

"I need to talk to Hermione!" said Ginny. She stood up and shoved her brother out the door. Harry hastily followed them.

"See you, Hermione!" he said over his shoulder.

"Harry!" said Hermione, getting to her feet. She ran over to him and hugged him again. "Thanks for coming all the way out here to check up on me."

He chuckled. "We care about you. And Ron was going ballistic."

Ginny came back, her face red. "Harry dear, can you check on my brother please? You'll find that he's covered in bat bogeys at the moment."

"Such a temper," said Hermione. "Bye Harry."

"I'll come by again later," he said, kissing Ginny. And then he disappeared to go help Ron.

"Now that those idiots are gone," Ginny said, flouncing over to the bed again, "we can talk."

"About what?" said Hermione as though she didn't already know.

"About Draco Malfoy, of course? How was your date at the Quidditch match? You didn't write to me like you said you would!"

"Yes, I did!" argued Hermione.

Ginny pulled out a small piece of parchment from her purse and read out loud. "Dear Ginny. The date went well, I suppose. Love from, Hermione." She raised an eyebrow at Hermione, clearly dissatisfied.

Hermione nodded. "There's nothing else to tell you!" she lied, thinking of the fight between Draco and Viktor. "Oh, and I've been on a second date since then."

"You never tell me anything!" Ginny wailed.

"Yes, I do!"

"No, you don't!"

"Ginny, honestly. This is my life. Do I have to pretend you're like my diary and tell you everything?"

"You keep a diary?" said Ginny, her eyes lighting up.

"Figure of speech, Gin," said Hermione, laughing.

"Oh, fine," said Ginny grumpily, holding up her hands in defeat.

"Really?" Hermione was surprised. She was so sure that Ginny would pry every last detail out of her.

"Just answer this," said Ginny. "Do you like him?"

Taken aback, Hermione was tongue-tied for a few seconds. "I--no, of course not!" she sputtered.

Ginny stared at her beadily. Hermione was reminded of both Professor McGonagall and Molly Weasley. "You're not telling the truth, Hermione."

"How do you know?" said Hermione crossly.

"You aren't! And you do!" said Ginny excitedly.

"What are you blabbing about now?"

"You like him. You like Draco. I'm right, I'm right, I'm right, aren't I?"

"No," said Hermione flatly.

"Yes! I knew it!" crowed the redhead. She paused to take a breath. "You're not denying it."

Hermione opened her mouth. "No." Wait…what?

Ginny jumped up and gave Hermione a hug. "Hermione, you are well on your way to winning the Game of Love." With that, she skipped out of the room.

Hermione stared after her, openmouthed. Yes, she had enjoyed the last date with Draco. Sure, the bachelor had almost kissed her. But what about the eleven other girls? For all she knew, one of them may have already gotten the first kiss. And elimination--that is, another rose ceremony--was taking place tonight. Four girls were going home while eight stayed. Who knew what would happen?

Hermione stood next to Isabelle and Georgina, breathing easily. She had gotten through to the next round. She admiringly examined the rose she had been given. The perfect deep red petals were just beginning to unfurl.

The bachelor was now saying goodbye to the four girls he had rejected. Jenna--Maddi's friend--and three other girls Hermione didn't really know were being gently escorted out the door. All but Jenna were weeping dramatically. Hermione even thought that Jenna looked happy to be leaving.

"We survived!" said Hermione cheerily. "Shall we go celebrate?"

Georgina opened her mouth to answer, but then stopped short and stared at Isabelle instead. Hermione glanced at Isabelle too. She hadn't moved since she had gotten her rose. She was as still as a statue, staring at her rose.

"Isabelle?" said Georgina.

"Is something wrong?" said Hermione, concerned.

The bachelor had finally shaken off the four women he had rejected and came back to join the other eight for a celebratory toast. Isabelle finally looked up.

That was when she broke all conventions and said, in a clear and unwavering voice, "Desolée, but I refuse to accept this rose." She handed Draco the rose, lowered her gaze to the floor, and stepped back.

Monsieur Beaumont gaped at her like a fish for a few seconds before fainting, his legs giving out on him. Three four rejected girls, who had been slipping out the back door to end their humiliation, came swarming back, demanding that Draco choose one of them to stay. Hermione and the other girls, apart from Georgina, stared at one another and at Isabelle, utterly confused and flabbergasted. Only Draco and Georgina remained perfectly calm.

Draco ignored the three rejected girls (Jenna was the one who hadn't bothered to come back to gain a spot) and turned to Isabelle. In a solemn voice, he said, "I understand."

Hermione was confused the sincerity of Draco's statement. He really did understand. But why? Wasn't someone like Draco used to getting all the girls he wanted? Wasn't he supposed to be the one who dumped the girl, not the other way around?

"Merci," said Isabelle before walking out of the room. And just like that, she was gone.

Hermione shook her thoughts and questions away and ran up the spiral staircase with hopes of seeing Isabelle before she left. Georgina was right behind her. But when she entered the room, it was empty. Isabelle's armoire was open and completely cleaned out. Her giant shoe collection was absent. Her fluffy pink bathrobe had disappeared from its hook beside the bathroom door. The knitted blanket on her bed was gone.

"Why?" said Hermione out loud.

She heard footsteps behind her and turned around, but it was only Georgina. She didn't look surprised in the slightest bit.

"You knew everything," said Hermione, not meaning to sound accusing.

"She eez my best friend. We grew up together."

"Oh," said Hermione, not knowing what to say.

"She left you a letter," said Georgina, walking over to the window seat and picking up a scroll of parchment tied with pink ribbon. "'Ere you go."

Hermione caught the scroll Georgina had tossed. She was about to unroll it when the door banged open.

Monsieur Beaumont stood at the threshold, his gaze sweeping the room. Apparently he had regained consciousness. "So she's really gone?" he said sadly.

Georgina nodded silently.

His shoulders drooped. "Ah, well. It happens. I just didn't think it'd be her." He paused before continuing. "The reason why I am disturbing you ladies at this hour is because room assignments are changing. With only eight--no, seven--girls left, everyone gets their own rooms. Miss Georgina, you may stay in here. Tomorrow you will find that it has shrunken down to accommodate just one bed, which is all you need, I'm sure. Miss Hermione, come with me." His lips pursed in a way that made Hermione wonder if she was in trouble.

"Should I pack my things?" she asked as she clutched Isabelle's letter in her hand.

"The house-elves will take care of it," said Monsieur Beaumont. "Now, follow me."

Hermione obediently followed him out the door, down the hall, and up a small flight of stairs she hadn't noticed before.

"Er, where are we going?" She assumed she would be placed in a vacant room across the hall or something.

"The bachelor himself requested that you be placed in the room I am leading you to. I personally think he's gone mad, but what do I know what goes on in his head?"

Hermione raised an eyebrow

"It's not far from your old room," he said. "Just one flight higher. And here we are." He flung open the double doors.

Hermione stood at the door of her new room and gasped. It was more than a room; it was like the presidential suite of a luxurious five-star hotel. It was bigger than the room she had previously shared. A king-sized bed with deep red hangings dominated the center of the room. The white carpet was plush and soft. Antique, dark wood furniture was tastefully placed here and there. Best of all, every inch of wall space was lined with books Hermione couldn't wait to get her hands on. It was like having her bedroom in her own private library.

"Malfoy--Draco wanted me to have this room?" she said, feeling like her eyes might well up with tears from his sweet thoughtfulness.

Monsieur Beaumont sighed and nodded. "Like I said before, I don't know what he was thinking." In a tight voice, he added, "He must really like you."

"What?" said Hermione, blushing. "Oh, I don't think so." She was denying his statement even though her heart leaped at the possibility.

"Good night, Miss Granger," was all Monsieur Beaumont said. "The house-elves will be up here shortly." He left and shut the door behind him.

Hermione was so happy she wanted to dance around her new room, but instead she settled into a cozy velvet chaise and pulled out Isabelle's letter again. After a slight moment of hesitation, she unfurled the parchment and read:

Dear Hermione,

I am sorry about leaving so abruptly, without telling you anything, but I had to. I just wanted to let you know that you are one of the best friends I have made in a long time, and hopefully this letter will explain everything.

I attended Beauxbatons, as you may already know. Georgina and I were, and still are, best friends. She may seem mean at times, but deep inside she is very kind. She was brought up by her high society parents to act like that towards people she does not know very well.

At Beauxbatons, I met Guillaume. Guillaume is the love of my life. It has been that way for as long as I can remember. I am a believer in love at first sight, because that is precisely what happened. When we were old and mature enough to date, we became inseparable. My friendship with Georgina started to break at this point, but in the end she came through and understood. But not everyone, particularly his parents, felt that we belonged together.

Guillaume's father is the magical Prime Minister of France. He is very wealthy and holds a lot of power. He comes from a line of elite wizards; his wife is the same. My parents, on the other hand, have humble beginnings. They came to Paris from the French countryside. Don't get me wrong; I love them very much.

Monsieur Auclair did not like me at all when Guillaume brought me to meet him during the Christmas holidays one year. He forbade his son from seeing me. That didn't stop Guillaume, and we fell more deeply in love. He was willing to sever his family ties to stay by my side.

Everything was fine until the war came along. The Death Eaters had allies in France who were just as cruel. Guillaume disappeared. It was said in the papers that he had been taken hostage. Perhaps You-Know-Who was hoping for a total surrender of France to help his cause in Britain. Instead of saving their son, the Auclairs went into hiding. My family followed Fleur's example (she was in the Order of the Phoenix, wasn't she?) and fought bravely. When the dust settled, I looked around for Guillaume. I waited and waited for any sign of him. There was none. I thought he had died.

I was determined to get on with my life though. I went back to school and studied to become a Healer. A few years later, Georgina persuaded me to sign up for the Game of Love. I agreed because Guillaume was gone, and it would be futile to wait for him to come back.

But then everything changed. Suddenly he started sending me letters. I thought it was a cruel joke at first, but then I saw him with my own eyes. I was in Paris with Draco. We had Apparated there to have dinner at the top of the Eiffel Tower. We were about to take a cruise on the Seine when I saw him. He was just sitting there on a park bench. He was looking right at me, and I knew it was my love. For the rest of the cruise I explained everything to Draco. And when we docked he let me go to Guillaume. He said he understood perfectly.

I couldn't believe it at first. I asked him where he had been all this time. And he told me some dreadful things that I can't bear to retell. In short, the Death Eaters had taken him and abused him until he lost his memory. He was locked away for a long time. When someone finally let him out, he had forgotten who he was. He wandered around until something triggered his memory and it all came flowing back. And now we are together again.

Hermione, we will see each other soon. For now, I wish you the best of luck in the Game of Love.

Love from,

Isabelle Delacour

Hermione hadn't realized she had been crying until a tear splashed onto Isabelle's signature. It was such a beautiful story, tragic but with a happy ending. As she gazed out the window to the darkening sky, she realized that though Isabelle had left the competition, she had won her own game of love in every way.

And there you go. No more confusion over Isabelle, I hope. For the first time since I started this story, I have no finished chapters waiting to be edited and submitted. Please be patient with me. ^_^ Oh, and if you are from Australia, where I understand it's winter right now, I need your help. If Hermione and Draco happen to go skiing or ice skating or sledding in the snow, where exactly in Australia would they go? (Wow, that rhymed.) I hope I'm not revealing too much here! 
Yours till Fudge cooks the goblins,
Queen Luna

Chapter 16: Chapter Sixteen: Snow Day: Part One
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Hello everyone! First of all, I apologize for the long wait. I updated my other two stories first, so hopefully you will all forgive me. Also, thank you to my awesome reviewers, particularly if you’re an Aussie who gave me tips on ski resorts. :) And here is chapter sixteen!

Chapter Sixteen: Snow Day: Part One

The next morning, Hermione woke up so suddenly it was as though someone had doused her with a bucket of cold water. As her eyes adjusted to the dim light, she realized that a pair of large yellow orbs was staring back at her.

Hermione stifled a scream and scrambled out of bed. Forgetting that she was situated in a new room, she stumbled over a leather ottoman that should not have been there and fell over. As she sat on the floor, nursing her sore knee, she calmed down and thought rationally for a second.

Hoot. Hoot. 

Ah ha, she thought. Owl post. But, judging by the darkness, it was clearly the middle of the night.

A huge pink owl fluttered down from the rafters above her bed and dropped a large, white box down by her side. It landed on top of it, clearly waiting for Hermione to do something.

"Oh," Hermione mumbled. Her fingers deftly untied the string that bound the owl to the box. "Sorry."

The owl ruffled its feathers. Still it did not fly away.

"What?" Hermione snapped impatiently.

The owl hooted indignantly.

"Here, do you take Knuts in place of owl treats?" Hermione compromised, reaching into the pockets of her pajama bottoms, hoping to find some spare change.

Hermione wasn't sure if owls could roll their eyes, but this one seemed to do just that before it flew away. Deciding to forget about the owl for now, she turned her attention to the mysterious white box.

If she tilted her head to the side, she could see light reflecting off of the smooth surface. She pulled the box closer to her and realized that there were tiny, iridescent snowflakes stamped onto the seemingly plain white box.

Hermione furrowed her brow. Snowflakes? It was the middle of summer here in London--why would someone send her a Christmas gift at this time of year?

Her curiosity took over and she practically tore the lid off of the box. Cold air drifted out toward her face. She stuck a hand into the box without thinking and gasped. The box was filled with snow.

Her fingers felt around the snow for a note of some kind. Just when she thought her hand was going to go numb from cold, she noticed that there was an envelope stuck on the underside of the lid. Scowling at herself for not seeing it right away, she snatched her hand out of the snow, burrowed it into the rug she was sitting on for warmth, and with her other hand slid a small square of folded parchment out of the envelope.


Your name came out of the magical hat, so you get to go on a one-on-one date with none other than the bachelor, which so happens to be me. Under normal circumstances Monsieur Beaumont would have told you so, but I saw him trying to switch your name with some other girl's after it came out of the hat. After I confronted him about it, he apologized profusely and allowed me to dictate this letter myself.

I am being unnecessarily chatty for some reason, so I'll cut to the chase. You--me--snow. Yes, Granger, we are going for a jaunt in Australia, where it is winter right now. Try not to push me off of a snow-covered cliff while we're there, and I'll do the same.

You will find that there is an outfit hanging in your new closet that is more appropriate for winter weather. I picked out the coat myself.

We will be using a special kind of long-distance Floo powder to get there. This way we will avoid any mishaps that will inevitably occur when attempting to use regular Floo powder to transport ourselves halfway around the world. Meet me in the kitchen as soon as you finish reading this letter. Why the kitchen you ask? Well, there happens to be a fireplace in there and no one else but you would bother to go in there. I don't want the other women to make a fuss. As appealing as that sounds, mainly because it would annoy you, I don't want to put up with the tears and tantrums.

You may also be wondering why I am waking you up so early. It should be around 3 a.m. Don't start throwing a temper tantrum; there's a time difference you need to account for.

Now go, Granger. Go get ready. I look forward to strapping myself into Muggle contraptions and going skiing (whatever that is) down steep mountains with you. Yes, I am being slightly sarcastic.


Hermione stared at the letter in shock for a moment before springing to her feet and dashing over to the closet. Her eyes scanned all the familiar articles of clothing before landing on an outfit at the very end. She couldn't help but roll her eyes.

The coat Draco had picked out was Slytherin green. It had silver buttons and silver embroidery on the sleeves. She pulled it off of its hanger and saw, as expected, that it was lined with silver silk. It was a beautiful coat, despite the overwhelming presence of Slytherin colors, but it was rather impractical for skiing.

Hermione set down the coat for a moment and disappeared into the bathroom to shower and perhaps do something to her hair, which refused to behave this particular morning. Ten minutes later she came out again with her hair flowing down her back in soft waves. She put on a pair of comfy jeans that were easy to move around in, a creamy white sweater, and black velvety boots. She gathered up the coat, along with a matching pair of mittens and a scarf, and inspected her reflection in the mirror. She was quite pleased with what she saw. A brief smirk appeared on her face and then disappeared. She must be spending too much time around Draco, because that smirk was definitely his. But that couldn't be helped today. Hermione made sure her wand was tucked securely in her jeans and then finally traipsed down the stairs toward the kitchen, carefully avoiding the other girls.

When she arrived, a pair of diligent house-elves immediately took the coat, mittens, and scarf off her hands and offered her a variety of breakfast treats. She picked out a scone and had already devoured it by the time Draco showed up.

Her breath got stuck in her throat when she saw him and she inwardly cursed him for being so good-looking. He was wearing a gray turtleneck sweater that defined his toned upper body and matched his eyes. His black jeans were obviously new and probably some sort of expensive designer brand. He no longer wore his hair combed back; he had stopped doing that a long time ago, but only now did Hermione notice how the style suited him. A black coat was draped over his arm. When Hermione finally stopped staring at him, she wondered why she was forced to wear a Slytherin green coat when he was allowed to wear normal colors.

"Good morning, Granger," he said smoothly, smirking because he knew exactly why she had been staring at him. His voice brought her back to her senses.

"Hello, Malfoy," she said calmly enough, as her eyes wandered back to his face. She wondered if he remembered their last date, and what had almost happened.

"Shall we?" he said, politely showing her towards the stone fireplace. She followed his lead, taking back her coat and things from a helpful house-elf.

Draco lit a fire with his wand, pulled a glass jar filled with purple powder out of nowhere, and threw a handful into the fire. The flames became purple instead of green.

He shrugged on his coat and nodded at her. "You probably want to put on your things so you don't lose anything."

Taking his advice, she pulled on the coat, wrapped the scarf around her neck, and stuffed the mittens into her coat pockets. It was now uncomfortably warm. She looked up to see Draco looking at her.

"What?" she said loudly.

"Green looks nice on you," he said, smirking again.

Hermione felt even warmer, if that was possible.

He didn't wait for her to answer. "Our destination is Perisher Blue, more specifically the Wizarding Lodge. Got that?"

Hermione nodded, hoping she wasn't still blushing like an idiot, and stepped into the purple flames. She shouted out the destination Draco had given her, and the Malfoy kitchen disappeared.

She kept her eyes firmly shut as she went spinning and whirring for so long she wondered if something had gone wrong. At last she came to a stop and nearly fell out of the fireplace, but someone held her up by the arm and kept her from planting her face into the floor.

"Welcome to the lodge," said a cheerful, blond, and tan young man with an Australian accent. "I'm Dirk. We've been expecting you and--"

At that moment Draco came stumbling out of the fireplace, but he managed to look more graceful than Hermione had.

Dirk seemed to just realize that he was still holding onto Hermione's arm and quickly let go. "Good day, Mr. Malfoy. I was just telling Miss Granger--"

"Just Hermione," Hermione interjected quickly.

"Right. As I was saying, it is a little past twelve 'o clock here in Australia. Mr. Beaumont sent me an itinerary for you two lovebirds--"

"We're not lovebirds," interrupted Hermione loudly.

At the same time, Draco said, "Let's forget about whatever Monsieur Beaumont has planned, shall we?"

Dirk stared at them, not knowing what to do. At last he handed Draco a sheet of paper. "Do what you want. I'll be at the information desk if you need anything." He walked away, shaking his head.

"What's wrong with the itinerary?" Hermione asked, trying to take a peek at it.

Draco showed it to her. "I don't want to take ski lessons from a professional ski instructor."

The words flew out of Hermione's mouth before she could stop them "You're right. Who needs a professional when you've got me?" she said playfully.

"You know how to ski, Granger?" he said, raising an eyebrow.

Hermione nodded and smirked again. Merlin, she had to stop doing that. But she couldn't help it, because she was thinking about how she would astonish Draco with her skiing prowess. She was also picturing him falling over repeatedly. She stifled a laugh.

"What are you thinking?" he said in a low voice, interrupting her thoughts.

Hermione lifted her eyes to meet his, and then wished she hadn't. His gray eyes were strangely, alluringly hazy. His gaze made her dizzy for some reason.

"I was thinking that we should go rent a pair of skis," she said, silently imploring him to look away before she got anymore lightheaded than she already was.

He seemed to be able to read her mind, because he looked away, but not without smirking slightly. "I'm following your lead, Granger."

Hermione couldn't help but smile at that as she looked around for an exit. Before she could take two steps, a hand slipped into hers. Amazed, she turned around and looked questioningly at Draco.

"They think we're lovebirds," he explained, smirking all the while. "We might as well play the part."

Hermione didn't trust herself to speak, knowing she'd probably say something idiotic. For some strange reason, as she spent more time around him, her witty defenses melted away. So instead of answering back, or protesting, she set off towards the ski rental booth, dragging him along.

A half-hour later they were standing at the top of a secluded hillside. Draco, without bothering to consult Hermione, had hired a snowmobile to take them to a less crowded area. Hermione had come to two conclusions about this. Either he didn't want to learn to ski in public, which could be potentially embarrassing for a grown man, or he wanted to be alone with her. She also noticed that they had left the cameraman, who had been tailing them, stranded at the lodge.

Even as she pondered over Draco's motives, she was preoccupied with the fact that they were still holding hands. The hand he was holding was very comfortable and warm. The other, though protected by a mitten, still felt the chilly air.

Now they were quite alone. It was very quiet. The wild beauty of the surrounding landscape made Hermione feel small and lonely, even though there was someone else standing right next to her. And no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t ignore his presence.

"Are you ready, Granger?" Draco said nonchalantly. "I'm waiting."

Hermione blinked. "Oh. Right. Well, these are skis," she began lamely, gesturing toward the pile of ski equipment at their feet.

"Really?" he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "I thought we hauled them up here for firewood."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Okay then, so let's get started. First you put on--"

"You know, this slope suddenly looks very steep," he interrupted, gazing over her head at the declination ahead of them. "Maybe we should, I don't know, go sledding instead." He pulled his wand out of nowhere and transformed the two pairs of skis into a large, wooden sled.

Hermione rolled her eyes again and tapped the sled with her foot. "You're the one who insisted we come out here. I could have taught you how to ski on the bunny hill, but no, you wanted--"

"Okay, okay, never mind," he said, looking slightly annoyed.

"Are you scared, Draco?" she teased him.

"No, I--" he started to say, but then stopped. He looked at her strangely.

She raised an eyebrow. "What is it now?"

"You just called me Draco," he said quietly.

Hermione looked away. "It was a slip of the tongue," she said. "Sorry, Malfoy."

"You know, Granger, it'd be better if you called me Draco. What kind of lovebirds would we be if we addressed each other by our surnames?" He cocked an eyebrow at her.

"You're the one who always calls me Granger," she snapped, starting to get angry. "And for the last time, we are not lovebirds."

"Well then, Hermione, what are you doing here in this bloody Game of Love?" he said coldly, no longer teasing and smiling.

Hermione glared at him. Inside, though, her heart was pounding in her chest. She couldn't even begin to think of a way to respond his question. Snow had started fall again, very lightly, distracting her. An icy cold wind blew, and she shivered, wrapping her coat a little more tightly around her. He was still waiting for her answer.

A wave of recklessness came over her, and she took a step closer to him. "I'm here for this," she whispered into his ear, and before she lost her nerve, she reached up and kissed him.

And suddenly, it wasn't so cold anymore. 

Yay! FINALLY! Lol. Sorry about the cliffhanger. *devious grin* Part Two will be coming up next. Oh, and if any of you are knowledgable about the sport of skiing (I'm not, and yet I'm attempting to write about it...), it would be great if you could give me some tips. As always, please review! Thank you for reading!
Yours till the heliopaths escape from the Ministry,
Queen Luna
P.S. I have officially started my junior year of high school. :( Only the first week has gone by and I am already swamped with homework. Remember, patience is a virtue. :P

Chapter 17: Chapter Seventeen: Snow Day: Part Two
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Hello everyone! Thanks to the amazing staff, the queue has cleared and I can present to you the highly anticipated (thanks to that nasty cliffhanger at the end of the last chapter :P) chapter seventeen… Enjoy!

Chapter Seventeen: Snow Day: Part Two 

The coldness of the air surrounding them, the sound of the wind rushing around them, and the entire world seemed to disappear as soon as her lips met his. She may have initiated the kiss, but soon, after a moment of shock, he took over, pressing his lips firmly to hers. She felt like her mind had been wiped blank. She couldn't think rationally anymore.

Her hands had found their way up his chest and were now clasped behind his neck, pulling him closer still. His hands were tangled in her hair, setting her nerve endings on fire. She gasped for breath, and still he kissed her like she had never been kissed before.

At last Hermione had to pull away, completely dazed and out of breath. Draco, unwilling to let go of her just yet, left a trail of kisses from her mouth down to her neck, finding a sensitive spot right by her left ear that made her shiver again, though this time it was not because of the cold.

At last she realized that his touch sent waves of pleasure, not disgust, though her body. At last she admitted she was attracted to him. And at last she succumbed to the fact that she was already halfway to completely falling in love with him. And now she wanted him to kiss her again.

"Hermione," he said, pulling away without letting go of her. He tenderly moved his fingers through her hair and touched her face, making it rather difficult for her to breathe properly.

She finally opened her eyes. Chocolate brown met molten silver, and the world disappeared again. "Draco," she said finally. "Draco." How very right it felt to say his name like that.

A flurry of snowflakes whirled through the air. Some of them settled on her eyelashes for a second or two before melting away. She was still staring at him, unable to look away from his intent, unreadable gaze.

"When did this happen?" she said softly. "How?"

He gently placed a finger on her lips, stopping her from speculating any further. "Don't think. Not now." She smiled, and he replaced his finger with his mouth, drawing her close to him for another kiss.

"Draco. What are you doing?" Hermione asked, trying not to laugh.

It was hard to keep her face straight when he was shuffling around in the snow, attempting to make his skis point in the right direction. A second later he had fallen over backwards. His skis snapped off.

This was the third time it had happened. They hadn't even begun to actually ski down the slope yet. Hermione could only imagine how many times he would fall. A peal of laughter escaped her.

"It's not funny, Hermione," he said from his splayed position on the ground.

She stopped laughing, but she couldn't help but smile. Every time he called her Hermione, it made her feel elated inside.

"Do you need help?" she asked sweetly, standing over him.

He looked at her innocently and held out his hand. "Thank you, Hermione."

There it was again. It was almost like he was making up for lost time.

She took his hand, but instead of pulling him up, he swiftly pulled her down on top of him.

"Draco, how are you going to learn to ski like this?" she said, trying to wriggle away.

He efficiently trapped her with his arms, and she stopped trying to escape for a moment. He took advantage of this and deftly turned over so that she was now the one lying on the snow-covered ground.

"I'm cold," Hermione complained, looking away from his face, which was a mere inch away. "Let me up."

"I don't think so," he replied before kissing her forehead and then her nose and finally full on the mouth.

"Mmm." Hermione halfheartedly struggled to push him off. She marveled at how comfortable she was with his touch.

"Still cold?" he asked, whispering into her ear.

"No." She smiled at him. "Let's get back to skiing, shall we?"

Draco looked down at the beautiful face smiling up at him and drank in the sight. Never in a million years would he have imagined that it'd be possible for the two of them to feel something other than hatred towards each other. But it was happening. He could feel it. It was stirring in his heart. It scared him a little, but he loved what was happening between them. He could only hope that whatever it was, it would continue to grow. That much he was certain of.

After letting his mind wander for a few seconds, he turned his attention back to Hermione. She was still smiling at him. His heart skipped a beat or two.

He jumped up to his feet and pulled her up too. He carefully brushed the snow out of her hair, a gesture that made Hermione wonder if he had always been that sweet.

"Okay," she said, switching into her role as a ski instructor once more. "Put on your skis again, Draco."

"Do I have to?" he said, pouting like an insolent schoolboy.

"Yes, you do. I am determined to get you down this slope at least once," said Hermione. The steely glint in her eyes told him that she was completely serious, and that there was no backing out of this.

"I can walk," he tried, even as he put on his skis for the fourth time. Or was it the fifth? He had lost track of how many times they had come off.

Hermione ignored him. "Ready?" she asked. Her skis were strapped on and ready to go.

"I suppose," he grumbled, feeling like a penguin with overly large feet.

"Great!" she beamed. She watched him, amused, as he cautiously edged toward the slope. At least this time he was facing the right way. "Now, slowly push off--"

Draco used the funny sticks that Hermione had given him and slid into the snow, slowly gaining speed. Amazing! He had gone at least a couple of yards without falling over. He was so preoccupied with the fact that he was still standing that he didn't realize how quickly he had accelerated. He was now skiing down the mountainside at an alarming speed. Trees and snow whooshed past him.

"I said slowly, Draco!" called Hermione, gliding behind him.

"I can't stop!" he yelled, panicking, looking around for her.

"Don't look back!" Hermione shrieked. "Watch out for that--"

He swerved to the left, narrowing avoiding a tree. In the process, he fell over onto his side, sending a shower of snow onto Hermione, who had skidded to a stop beside him.

"Draco?" she said, prodding him gently.

"My arm feels numb," he said, his voice muffled.

"Maybe we should take a break," she suggested. "How does hot chocolate sound?"

"It sounds wonderful," he said, still a little dazed from his fall. He rolled over onto his back.

Hermione was suddenly reminded of something that she used to do when she was little. To Draco's surprise, she lay down on the snow beside him and began moving her arms and legs around.

"May I ask what in the name of Merlin are you doing?" he said, in a polite tone so he wouldn't offend her.

"I'm making snow angels," she said, looking and sounding so happy that Draco just had to do it too.

"Well, this is rather fun," he said after a while, amused.

"Isn't it?" said Hermione, laughing. "Wait. Don't tell me you've never done this before."

He shook his head. "My parents never told me to go play in the snow in the winter. The closest I've ever come to doing anything like this is ice skating."

"Oh," said Hermione. Another idea came to her. "So you've never made a snowman either?"

"Of course I have," he said, suddenly remembering one of the happier days of his youth. "At Hogwarts. Christmas holidays. I stayed behind one of those years; I think it was second year. Anyway, Blaise and I made a snowman. We modeled it after Snape."

Hermione laughed out loud, trying to imagine a twelve-year-old Draco building a Snape-shaped snowman. "Did you do it by magic or the normal way?"

He scoffed. "Magic, of course."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Then it doesn't count. Here, let me show how the proper way to make a snowman." She got onto her knees and began sculpting a snowball, rolling it around. She traced a path around Draco, because he was still lying on the ground, watching her amusedly. The ball of snow steadily grew larger until it was a decent size.

"Help me make another one," she said, leaning against the one she had made, resting.

"It's a lot quicker if I just use my wand," he said. "And a lot better. That one is rather lumpy; I don't think people will be able to distinguish it as a snowman." He ducked as Hermione hit him on the arm.

"All right, all right, I'll do it." He grinned at her, placating her, and then got to work.

Hermione watched him struggle for a little while before starting on the head. Soon, the basic structure of their snowman had been constructed.

"It may be lumpy," she said, tilting her head to the side as though she was inspecting a piece of art, "but it has character, don't you think?"

"You're right," Draco agreed. "Now what?"

Hermione pulled out her wand.

"Hey, I thought magic wasn't allowed."

"I know. But unless you're willing to freeze and give the snowman your hat and scarf, then I'm going to conjure something for him to wear."

Draco watched as she conjured a red-and-green striped scarf and a matching hat. "Hermione," he said, interrupting her when she was about to give the snowman a pair of arms and a face. "It's not Christmas yet."

"I know," she said, grinning. "The red stands for me, and the green represents you." She finished her handiwork and stepped back to admire their creation.

"Ah," he said. "Symbolism. How clever."

"Thank you," said Hermione, beaming at him. For a second she wondered what Harry and Ron would do if they could see how she flirted with their former worst enemy. Remembering that it wouldn't do them well to dwell on whatever had transpired between them in the past, she shook that thought away. A new idea floated into her mind, and a sly grin appeared on her face. She bent down and scooped up a ball of snow.

Draco, who had been watching her the entire time, noting the changes in her facial expression, suddenly realized what she was intending to do. He began backing away.

"Where are you going?" Hermione called out innocently.

"Away from--" he began to say, only to be stopped by a snowball that Hermione had expertly flung at him.

Hermione laughed out loud and quickly began gathering more snowballs to add to her arsenal. "Aren't you going to fight back?" she said teasingly, whipping more snowballs at him.

"Alright, but remember--you asked for it!" He ducked behind the snowman and attempted to retaliate, only to find that Hermione was very good at dodging whatever he threw at her.

SPLAT! A snowball hit him in the shoulder as he unwisely emerged from his hiding place. Before he could come to his senses, another one grazed his head, drenching his hair. He reached up to inspect the damage.

Hermione was bent over double, laughing. "Did I mess up your hair, Draco?"

"This means war, Hermione!" he shouted. His threat was somewhat diminished by the broad grin on his face. He hadn't had this much fun since as long as he could remember.

Hermione danced around in the snow, avoiding every flying snowball that came her way while chucking snow back at him.

At last Draco gave up and put his hands up in the air. "I surrender! Truce!"

Hermione threw one last snowball, hit her target, and then accepted his surrender. "You need to learn a thing or two about snowball fights," she said, smiling brightly.

"I know," Draco answered, brushing the snow off his coat. He smiled back, thinking about how wonderful it would be if someday, the two of them could make their way back to this exact snow-covered mountaintop. He was about to say this out loud when he realized what his words could imply, and instead kept it to himself.

Suddenly she yawned.

"Tired, Granger?" he said gently. He walked over to her and wrapped his arms around her.

Hermione leaned into his embrace, faintly registering the use of her surname. Only now, it seemed more like a term of endearment. "Let's go get some of that hot chocolate, shall we?"

"I'll Apparate us there. Hold on tight."

"I already am."

"Then let's get out of this cold." And he turned on his heel, Apparating them out of Australia and back home to London.

Okay, now that you’ve read this chapter, I can admit that I was slightly nervous about putting it up. Is their relationship going too fast? Was it too fluffy? Please review! Oh, and sorry I'm taking so long to answer reviews from the last chapter--I've just been really busy. In fact, I'm supposed to be doing homework right now, but I'm on HPFF instead. ^_^
Yours till the Erumpent horn explodes,
Queen Luna

Chapter 18: Chapter Eighteen: Falling Hard and Fast
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Warning: More fluff, some French, and a bit of OOC ahead. ;) 


Chapter Eighteen: Falling Hard and Fast

"Why are you so chipper zis morning?" said Georgina irritably, watching Hermione as they all sat down at the table for breakfast. As usual, the house-elves had laid out a grand buffet for the girls to indulge in.

Hermione beamed at her, all smiles. "Oh, it's a beautiful day." Just as the words left her mouth, the dark sky flashed as lightning streaked across the cloudy heavens. A rumble of thunder followed. Rain lashed against the windows. And still Hermione was smiling.

Maddi, one of the seven girls who still remained, glared at her suspiciously. "Are you mental?" she said loudly.

Hermione turned her smiling face toward the tall, blonde-haired girl and simply said, "Could you please pass the syrup?"

Maddi picked up the bottle of syrup and handed it over with more force than was necessary. "Here."

"Thank you, Maddi." Hermione drowned her pancakes with syrup, feeling giddier than ever. The way she was feeling right now could be compared to the way she felt when she scored extremely well on an exam, only ten times better. It was like she was on cloud nine. Or maybe she was in utopia. Nothing could bring her down, not even the dismal weather and six grumpy girls.

She had woken up that morning feeling that way. The previous night, she had fallen asleep while perusing a huge tome that she had found sitting in one of the bookshelves in her room. Her neck hurt because of the awkward position in which she had fallen asleep, but that had done nothing to diminish her good mood. She may be a morning person, but this particular morning she was just so darn happy it was almost unnatural. And she didn’t care, not one bit.

Caitlin, who had also survived the most recent rose ceremony, gave her an appraising glance from across the table. "Wait," she said slowly, as if she were laboriously gathering her thoughts. "Does this mean you got the one-on-one date with Draco?"

Georgina dropped her fork with a clatter. Maddi choked on her orange juice. The other three girls, named Karina, Aubrey, and Natasha, shook themselves awake from their half-asleep state.

Hermione swallowed a mouthful of pancake before answering. "Yes, I did. And it went extremely well."

Her statement was met with a sullen silence.

"That's great," said Caitlin in a false-cheerful voice. Hermione was too absorbed with her own happy thoughts to notice or care.

"Where did you two go?" asked Karina, a tall brunette with a slight Russian accent. Hermione didn't know her very well, but she seemed nice enough.

"To Australia," said Hermione. She beamed as the memories bloomed in her mind. "I taught him how to ski." She giggled uncharacteristically.

"Sounds like fun," said Natasha in monotone. She was petite and had blonde hair that was clearly dyed that color due to the dark roots that were beginning to show. At twenty-two years old, she was one of the youngest competitors.

Aubrey, who was only slightly taller than Natasha and had short dark brown hair, smiled, although it came out more like a grimace.

"Oh, it was," Hermione assured her, still grinning away.

Maddi slammed her glass of orange juice down on the breakfast table, ignoring the juice that sloshed out onto the fine white tablecloth. "I'm going back to bed," she announced crossly.

"But it's seven in the morning," said Caitlin, looking confused.

"I know that," Maddi growled. She turned to leave, fully intending on flouncing out dramatically, but tripped over a bump in the Arabian-style rug and went sprawling to the floor. At the same precise moment, Draco Malfoy entered the breakfast room. He glanced down at Maddi with mild surprise.

"What are you doing down there?" he said inquiringly.

From her undignified position on the floor, Maddi blurted, "I dropped an earring." She batted her eyelashes and tossed her blonde mane flirtatiously.

"Oh, look, chocolate scones!" he exclaimed. He moved past Maddi and her failed damsel-in-distress act, making a beeline for the platter of scones on the table. Quite coincidentally, the platter was sitting right by Hermione.

"J'adore le chocolat," piped up Georgina.

"Oui, moi aussi," said the bachelor in perfect French.

"Tu parles français?" said Georgina, taking advantage of his attention on her.

"Un peu." He smiled at her and then turned to Hermione, much to Georgina's disappointment.

"How are you on this beautiful day, Miss Hermione Granger?"

"I don't understand what's so beautiful about this bloody day!" Maddi snapped, picking herself up and stomping out the door.

"I am positively splendid. What about you?" said Hermione, ignoring Maddi completely.

"I feel just fantastic," he replied jovially.

Georgina, Caitlin, Karina, Natasha, and Aubrey stared at the pair of them with their mouths agape.

"If I didn't know any better," Caitlin mumbled, "I would say that the Nargles had gotten to their heads." She pushed away her uneaten breakfast and left the room, with Natasha and Aubrey following suit.

"So, Draco," said Karina loudly. "What does Monsieur Beaumont have planned for today? You know, for the Game of Love?"

At the mention of the Game of Love, the bachelor seemed to snap out of whatever happy trance had overcome him.

"Oh," he said. "Monsieur Beaumont had intended for me to take three girls out to go horseback riding, but the weather seems to have other ideas."

"Thank goodness," said Georgina. "I detest horses."

"Oh, I adore horses," said Karina, for some reason emphasizing the word adore. She shot a glance at Georgina.

Georgina glared back before turning to Draco and smiling sweetly. "So what are we doing today?"

"Oh…I don't know. Monsieur Beaumont mentioned it to me last night, but I honestly don't remember what he said." He grinned in an uncharacteristic, dazed sort of way.

Karina was now looking at Draco like his brain was severely addled. Georgina seemed to be desperately finding something to talk about. And Hermione was cheerfully munching on her pancakes. Then, suddenly, she noticed that the bachelor's hand was casually resting on top of hers, as if by accident.

Hermione reacted by blushing profusely. Her hand twitched but did not pull back. Draco remained oblivious. She glanced at him sideways. He was pale as always, although his face did seem to have some more color in it. Maybe it was due to his exposure to the Australian sun. His hair was more disheveled than usual, probably because he had just woken up. Perhaps it was a reflection of the light in the room, but his gray eyes seemed brighter. Add all these subtle changes to the not-so-subtle smile on his face, and all the women, Hermione included, realized what had brought this new dimension of Draco Malfoy into light.

Following this epiphany, Hermione blushed some more as she tried to control her thoughts. She didn't trust herself to speak, and instead occupied herself with her breakfast. The presence of Draco's hand on hers was too great to ignore, and her hand twitched again. This time he noticed and responded by smirking and completely enveloping her hand in his. Now it definitely did not look like their hands had accidentally ended up in that position.

Georgina and Karina noticed this, of course, and quietly left the room. Hermione vaguely noticed them head out the door and thought they looked rather defeated. But she didn't know that they were in fact planning and plotting how to get the bachelor's attention. That is, as soon as he took his eyes off Hermione.

Later, that afternoon, the skies cleared and sun came out, feebly casting its rays on the soaked countryside below. Hermione was sitting in her room, curled up in a comfortable armchair, reading a book. The book was Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. She had intended on reading Pride and Prejudice, but to her dismay she could not find a copy of that title anywhere in her room. She could have gone to the Malfoy family's main library, but she didn't want to risk getting lost again.

Besides, she wasn't really reading. No, she kept thinking about a certain someone, and she couldn't get him out of her head.

After breakfast, the bachelor had taken three of the girls--Georgina, Maddi, and Caitlin--out on the first group date of the week. Monsieur Beaumont, for lack of a better idea, had decided to send them into London (where it was equally dismal and rainy) to spend some time in an art museum. Georgina, an admirer of art, had a fine time discussing various paintings with the bachelor, who also had a sophisticated knowledge of the subject. Maddi, who had always preferred physical education classes to art classes, stared at the walls, feeling extremely bored. She couldn't even talk to the bachelor in her usual loud and fast way because the people around them would shush her like she was the one being rude. And Caitlin tried very hard to keep up with the bachelor's conversation with Georgina, interrupting every once in a while with a vapidly vague comment that would make Georgina scoff and Draco cough.

Now they were back in the manor, and Hermione put down her book and stretched. She glanced out the window and noticed that the weather was clearing up. Eager to get some fresh air, and perhaps meet a certain someone, she headed out to the gardens.

Just as she hoped, Draco was aimlessly ambling through the gardens as well, hands in his pockets. He noticed her at once and began striding her way, smiling.

Hermione willed herself to stop feeling so giddy every time she saw him. She couldn't believe he was affecting her like this.

"Hello, Hermione," he said good-naturedly. His extremely good mood was rather strange to Hermione, but she couldn't deny that she liked it. She also liked the fact that she was probably the one who had brought about this new side to him, although she would never voice that opinion out loud.

"Hi," she said, a little nervously.

Draco, upon hearing the little tremor in her voice, exchanged his wide grin for his signature smirk. He leaned in toward her.

"Take my hand," he whispered into her ear.

Hermione jumped. "What?" she stammered like he had just suggested they do something that was much less innocent than holding hands.

Draco sighed. "Merlin, Granger. What's the matter with you today?"

"I could say the same thing to you," she retorted, mentally kicking herself for acting like…like a young girl with her first crush.

"What's that supposed to mean?" he said, still smirking.

"You--you're acting all happy!" she said in a loud voice, mentally slapping herself this time for sounding so idiotic. Get a grip, Hermione!

"Is that so wrong?" he said innocently.

"Yes!" she snapped. Now she was getting herself worked up for basically nothing.

"Would you rather have me be unhappy then?" he said in a tone that clearly showed his amusement.


"Well then--"

"Oh, just shut up and--"

"--And what, Granger?" he said slyly.

"Shut up and kiss me, damn it!" she fumed.

Draco smirked. He couldn't believe he had just gotten Hermione Granger of all people to say what she had just practically screamed at him. "Who knew you could be so assertive, Granger?" he said in a low voice. And then he responded to her demand with a fiery kiss, sliding his hands into her hair, pulling her as close as possible, teasing and taunting her in every way.

When he finally released her, her lips were swollen, her hair was disheveled, and she was gasping for air…and so was he.

"How was that, Hermione?" he said huskily, trying to regain control.

"I…I can't answer that right now," she gasped.

He unwillingly took a step back. No matter how much he wanted to kiss her again, he didn't want her to asphyxiate and die.

"What about now?" he tried.

"It…it was overwhelming," she said when her heart rate had slowed down a little. "Very, very overwhelming."

"Hmm," said Draco thoughtfully. "Does that mean you liked it?"

Hermione looked up at him, wondering if he would know if she lied and said no.


"Yes. Very much." She looked down at her feet, trying to hide her blushing face.

He closed the space between them and gently lifted her chin so he could look into her eyes. "I liked it too," he said seriously. "And I think I'm falling in love with you."

This was a moment Hermione would always remember for the rest of her life, a moment she would never share with anyone else but him.

"You think?" she managed to murmur, feeling like the rest of the world had simply melted away, and it was just the two of them.

"I know," he said before capturing her lips with his once more.

Well, did you like it? ^_^ This was my original version of Chapter Eighteen. After I wrote it I thought about including a hot chocolate scene, as a continuation of the previous chapter, but I never got around to writing it and I didn't want to make you guys wait any longer. I started writing the next chapter...but I have been loaded with homework this weekend. T_T Anyway, please review!
Yours till the lion hat roars,
Queen Luna

Chapter 19: Chapter Nineteen: Those Innermost Feelings
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Hello readers! I am so sorry about making you wait so long! Blame it on homework…. :D

Chapter Nineteen: Those Innermost Feelings

Draco Malfoy is falling in love with me.

Draco Malfoy is falling in love with me.

Draco Malfoy is falling in love with me. 

For the next two days, that was all Hermione could think about. These two days were taken up with spending time in her room, writing letters to her parents and friends and reading sentimental romance novels. The bachelor was busy taking the second group of girls out on a date, so she hadn't been able to see him since their rendezvous in the garden. That didn't stop her from thinking about him around the clock. She could not believe it at first, but she was in love with him too. It was a truly wonderful feeling.

I am falling in love with Draco Malfoy.

I am falling in love with Draco Malfoy.

I am falling in love with Draco Malfoy. 

So that made two things that she couldn't stop thinking about. These two thoughts went around and around her head, driving all other musings away. When Ginny came in to visit her before the next rose ceremony, it must have spelled out onto her face because the redhead wasted no time in reading her mind.

"Merlin, Hermione, you're in love!" she squealed, hugging Hermione while trying to jump up and down in excitement.

Hermione blushed. "How did you know?"

Ginny snorted. "It's so obvious. Have you looked at your face in the mirror recently?" She then attempted to imitate Hermione's love-struck expression.

"Stop," Hermione laughed, throwing a pillow at her friend's face.

Ginny flung the pillow right back and then curled up into an armchair, surveying the room with great approval. "Can you imagine yourself living here for the rest of your life, Hermione?"

At this Hermione made a face. "Forever? Ginny, don't talk about marriage just yet. I am definitely not ready for that."

"I wouldn't be like that if I were you," said Ginny seriously. "Tonight he's going to pick five girls to go on, which means that two are going home. We all know that you are definitely moving on." She paused, as if waiting for Hermione to argue that point with her.

Instead, Hermione nodded. "Right. Go on."

Ginny gave a knowing grin, but didn't say anything. "Okay. So after tonight, there will be three more rose ceremonies in which he chooses the top three, two, and finally the winner of the Game of Love."

"And you think I'm going to be the winner?" said Hermione, a note of skepticism emerging into her voice despite everything that had happened in the past few days.

"I think you're going to be more than just the winner of some silly game," said Ginny, looking smug. "Typically, the game ends in a proposal of marriage, and I think that's exactly what's going to happen."

Hermione's mouth dropped open. "A marriage proposal? Are you serious?"

"Why, what's wrong with getting married?" said Ginny, flashing her own gold wedding band.

Hermione looked troubled. "I don't know…. It's just way too soon, Ginny."

"Maybe so," Ginny argued, "but if you are really, truly, honestly in love, I don't see why you shouldn't see marriage as an option."

"No," said Hermione firmly. "I don't want to get married on a whim. I need time to figure out who I'm going to spend the rest of my life with."

"But can't you see yourself spending the rest of your life with Draco?" said Ginny in a very persuasive manner.

"Maybe," said Hermione evasively, although she was seriously thinking about it.

"Plus, you're not getting any younger. If you want kids, you better get a move on," said Ginny jokingly.

"Ginny!" Hermione was now blushing to the roots of her hair as she thought about actually having children with the bachelor.

"Sorry," said Ginny, not looking sorry at all. "Anyway, what are you going to wear tonight?"

"I have a more important question," said Hermione, hoping to distract the redhead from planning her outfit again. "What do Harry and Ron think about all this?"

"What are you talking about?" said Ginny as she made her way to the wardrobe to select a suitable dress for Hermione.

"You know what I'm talking about," said Hermione impatiently. "Are they okay with the fact that I'm still in the Game of Love? Do they care that I'm dating him?"

Ginny turned around, her hands on her hips. "You shouldn't care what they think," she said. "After all, they're the ones who got you into this thing in the first place." She didn't mention the fact that Ron and Lavender had broken up, and that he was now extremely touchy when Hermione and Draco were mentioned in the same sentence.

"True," said Hermione, satisfied with her answer. For the rest of the afternoon, she allowed Ginny to turn her into a mannequin and select her outfit for the evening.

When Hermione strode into the foyer that night, she looked absolutely stunning and everyone knew it, including, for once, herself. Ginny taken the silky fabric from one of the curtains in Hermione's room and transformed it into a Greek-goddess-style gown. Then she tamed Hermione's hair and applied a scant amount of makeup, saying that her friend was naturally gorgeous. When Hermione feebly tried to point the cause of her beauty to the dress, Ginny adamantly asserted that Hermione was the one who made the dress beautiful.

All of Ginny's compliments, plus her encounters with the bachelor that week, had bolstered Hermione's self-confidence to the point where she was completely sure that she was not going home tonight. Confidence, of course, enhanced her dazzling appearance even more.

And so Hermione turned heads as she made her way to her place in line. The other girls stared at her with ill-disguised envy. Several cameramen forgot what they were doing. The florist who was delivering five fresh roses nearly dropped the crystal vase he was holding. Monsieur Beaumont stopped in the middle of barking out orders in French.

Everyone had gathered their wits and were in position when the bachelor strode in at a quarter past eight, looking rather drop-dead gorgeous himself in a black tuxedo. His reaction to Hermione's appearance was different from everyone else in the paradoxical way that it was subtler and yet stronger. In other words, his face remained impassive as he drank in the sight but his gray eyes, trained on her the entire time, were intense and smoldering.

In turn, Hermione could feel her skin burning the second his gaze fell on her. All she could see now was Draco; everyone else simply blurred into the background. She found it very difficult to focus on what Monsieur Beaumont was saying at the moment.

"…Bon chance," the French host finished his speech and looked over the bachelor expectantly.

Draco stepped forward, sweeping his gaze over all seven women. Hermione could have sworn that his gaze lingered on her face the longest, but it could have been an illusion because whenever she was near him, time seemed to slow to a standstill.

"Well, it's that time again," said the bachelor in an effort to break the tension in the room. However, the air remained thick with anticipation. Maddi reached up and smoothed her perfectly curled blonde locks. Caitlin rearranged her impossibly short dress. Georgina quickly checked her reflection in one of the tinted windows. Hermione willed herself to stay still and focused on what the bachelor was saying, but she found his eyes to be incredibly distracting.

"For me, this has been one of the best weeks thus far in the competition. I have developed feelings for each and every one of you. Whether these feelings are romantic or merely friendly is something I had to consider when I selected the five of you who will remain in the Game of Love." He finished and, like every week before, the roses flew into the air.

Hermione barely registered the fact that she was holding a rose. There was an odd ringing noise in her ears. Did she hear that right? Had he really developed feelings for each and every one of the women standing next to her?

Had everything he had said to her in the past week been true? Or was he playing with her mind? Was the Game of Love really just a game to him? Hermione's head was spinning. Inside, she knew this was not the case and that his feelings, like hers, were indeed genuine but what she had just heard made her overlook the little voice of truth inside her head.

"Are you alright?" Caitlin whispered loudly, looking very cheerful as she waved her rose around in the air.

Hermione nearly scowled as she looked over at the girl standing to her right. "Yes, why?" she said tightly while staring at the bachelor, who was taking an inordinate amount of time to say goodbye to Natasha and Aubrey. And why did those two girls have to be so weepy and clingy? Since when did Draco have the patience to hold them while they said their teary farewells? Without even knowing it, her facial expression had turned into one she usually wore when someone had gotten a higher score than her on an exam, or when she lost a case in court.

"Oh, I don't know," said Caitlin with a smug smile on her lips. She was watching Hermione watch Draco with the other women. For someone who acted quite silly sometimes, she was being unusually insightful at the moment.

Sensing that Caitlin was not yet finished Hermione prompted her. "What?" she snapped.

Caitlin sighed, but her smugness did not leave her. "You seem a bit…jealous." And then she skipped off to gossip with Maddi.

Hermione stared after her with her mouth slightly agape. What in the name of Merlin was Caitlin talking about? That girl was wrong, of course, oh so wrong.

Hermione was experiences many different feeling at the moment, but jealousy was definitely not one of them.

For the remainder of the night, and a good portion of the next day, Hermione remained in a sullen, sulky, and irritable mood. She wasn't sure why, but every little thing seemed to set her off. It was only a matter of time before she threw an all-out temper tantrum.

After the rose ceremony had finally concluded, Hermione stomped up the stairs and took a couple of wrong turns before reaching the sanctuary of her room and flopping down on her bed. (She had actually left early so she wouldn't have to watch any more nauseating displays of interest or affection between the bachelor and other women.) Ignoring the fact that she was wrinkling the gown that Ginny so painstakingly made, she closed her eyes and tried to fall asleep. Unfortunately for her sanity, her overactive brain kept bringing up images of Draco, most of which were of him and some other girl. After repeatedly beating herself on the head with a fluffy pillow, Hermione admitted she was indeed jealous of the attention the bachelor gave to women other than her.

She wondered why it had taken her so long to figure that out. She should have been prepared for this. It was a bloody competition after all. Five girls left and still only one man. Jealousy was forever hovering around in the air.

After reaching that conclusion, Hermione managed to fall asleep. When she woke up eleven hours later, she did not feel good at all. Today, it seemed, was going to be a bad day.

She peeled off the gown from last night and stumbled into the bathroom for a hot shower. Steam poured out from beneath the shower door, fogging up the mirror. When she was done with her shower, she used a towel to wipe the mirror and then involuntarily cringed at her reflection. She looked awful: her face was pale, the skin around her eyes was puffy, and her eyes were slightly bloodshot too.

Jealousy was not a pretty thing.

After fixing herself up as best as she could (she didn't do a great job), she threw on a pair of sweats and shuffled downstairs for some breakfast, hoping that the dear house-elves had not yet cleared the table. It was already past nine. Jealousy, it seemed, also made her oversleep.

When she entered the breakfast room, her already not-so-swell day suddenly became infinitely worse. First of all, Monsieur Beaumont was in the middle of giving instructions for the day. Second of all, Georgina, Maddi, Caitlin, and the fourth girl--Hermione had forgotten her name--were all looking very pretty and made-up, wearing cute summery dresses. Lastly, and worst of all, Draco was standing in the corner of the room, looking handsome and refreshed. The impassive look on his face turned into a devilish smirk when he saw Hermione in her I-feel-like-crap-today-and-I-don't-bloody-care outfit.

Monsieur Beaumont stopped mid-sentence to turn to face Hermione. The disdain was so apparent that Hermione almost shrank to the ground. But then she recalled her Gryffindor backbone and stared defiantly back.

"Interesting look you are going for, mademoiselle," he said snidely. Maddi, Caitlin, and the nameless one were giggling girlishly into their palms. Georgina looked almost embarrassed for Hermione's behalf.

"Oui," Hermione shot back.

Monsieur Beaumont raised an eyebrow. "Is that what you are wearing on the date?"

"I'm going on a date today?" said Hermione, feeling confused and out of the loop.

"We're all going on a date today," clarified Caitlin. "At the same time," she added when Hermione still didn't seem to get it.

"Ah," said Hermione. "A group date, I see. And where are we going?"

"To London for a day of sightseeing and shopping," said Maddi as she pulled a compact mirror out of nowhere to reapply her lipstick.

"Just what I need right now," said Hermione with extreme sarcasm. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Draco snickering.

"You are coming, are you not?" said Georgina, her blue eyes wide.

Hermione briefly considered refusing, but then she realized it would be an act of surrendering. There was no way she was throwing it all away after everything she had been through.

"Of course," she mumbled in answer. She glanced down at her sweats, regretting her choice of clothing. "I'm just going to go…change," she said lamely, exiting the room hastily.

As she stormed back up the stairs, she prayed that the day would get better, but the answer she received in her head was not bloody likely.

Author's Note:
First of all, I apologize again for the long wait for this chapter to come up.
Secondly, I just wanted to say that I would be eternally grateful if you would take the time to re-review some of the previous chapters of this story. It would be extremely motivating. Thank you so much. The next chapter will have the details of the group date! (I sense some drama in the air...)
Yours till the Wrackspurt steals your thoughts,
Queen Luna

Chapter 20: Chapter Twenty: Group Date
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*hides from horde of angry readers* Yes, I know it's been a long time since I last updated...and plus I have something to tell you that I'll save for the end, so you can enjoy this chapter while it lasts. Hehe. ^_^

Warning: Draco and Hermione are strangely OOC in this chapter...

Chapter Twenty: Group Date 

Hermione was not happy. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that it was the middle of summer and much too hot and humid outside, but no. Monsieur Beaumont thought it would be just grand to send the bachelor and his four dates out to survey London from the scorching hot top of a double-decker bus. Maybe it was because she was currently crammed into a corner of said double-decker bus. Maybe it was because said double-decker bus was fire engine red and just screamed the word "tourist!" Maybe it had something to do with the fact that she had always been prone to sunburn, and her wide-brimmed hat and aviator sunglasses were doing nothing to help her in the skin-protecting department. It didn't help Georgina had practically forced her into wearing a strapless yellow sundress that left her poor shoulders exposed to the rays of the sun. Plus the color of the dress totally did not match her mood. Now that she thought of it, neither did the weather. It would have been better if she was wearing a black raggedy dress in the middle of a torrential downpour.

And so she sat in the corner, moody and unresponsive to everything around her. The cheerful young (and, if she bothered to notice, kind of cute) tour guide blasted facts about London through his megaphone, and everyone but Hermione admired the city around them. Instead she remained facing forward, occasionally shooting angry glances at a certain someone.

Draco was sitting on the opposite end of the row, three seats down from Hermione. When they had boarded the bus (attracting a lot of stares from the Muggle tourists) Maddi had run over everyone else to sit on his right. Caitlin had managed to squeeze herself into the space on his left. A disappointed Karina had taken a seat behind him. Georgina was sitting on the other side of Maddi and next to a very moody Hermione.

Draco wasn't exactly sure why Hermione was so irate today, but he did have a hunch or too. Deciding that leaving her alone would be best for now, in case she snapped--or worse, screamed--at him in full view of London's tourist industry, he resorted to admiring her bare shoulders from afar.

Caitlin, being from the United States, was most interested in what the tour guide had to say. She busied herself with taking scores of pictures of everything she could point her camera at. Every now and then she'd turn to Draco and ask him if he'd been there, done that, or seen this.

Maddi was currently trying to get as close to him as possible without sitting on his lap (which she would have done, if she weren't afraid of the wrath of the other four girls). She did this by leaning against him, tossing her blonde hair over his shoulder (and into his face sometimes), and casually resting her hand on his knee. Whenever this happened, Draco would endure two and a half minutes of it before shifting in his seat, causing her hand to slide off. Only when she started gripping his knee tightly did he clear his throat and give her a very clear get-your-bloody-hand-off-my-knee look. But Maddi wasn't daunted by that look. She figured he was actually testing her to see if she really liked him, which she did of course. And so she kept on edging closer to him.

Karina, sitting behind Draco, had to work very hard to get the bachelor's attention. When she got tired of staring at the back of his head, she leaned in towards his ear to whisper something. The first time he flinched. The second time Maddi's blonde hair came flying into her face. Then she started to play with his hair. His hair looked so good on him. But he didn't seem to like her head massages since he refrained from leaning back in his seat for awhile, moving his head out of range for her fingers. So then she asked him if he'd like a "Russian massage." He politely declined the kind offer.

Georgina, for once, wasn't fawning over Draco like the three other girls. Instead she was trying out a different tactic. (She had sent letters to her girlfriends back in Paris asking them for advice.) After reading what they had to say, she had decided to let the bachelor make the advances by making herself as attractive as possible. She used her silvery veela hair to catch the sunlight at the right times. It worked. The bachelor gazed at her hair unabashedly. It worked even more on the tour guide, who frequently stopped in the middle of spouting a historical fact to stare at the beautiful part-veela French girl with his jaw slightly dropped. Georgina also crossed, uncrossed, and re-crossed her legs, letting her dress slide up and down with the movement, revealing several inches of bare, smooth skin. Her final weapon was her come-hither look, which had had a 100% success rate in France at Beauxbatons. She widened her eyes to doe-like proportions, fluttered her long eyelashes, and smiled alluringly. Again, that tactic seemed to work more on the tour guide than on Draco, but it was still somewhat effective.

Hermione saw that look on Georgina's face out of the corner of her eye and huffed angrily. Georgina didn't seem to notice and continued to preen for the bachelor. It was sickening, really. What was more sickening was that the bachelor had two blonde girls latched onto either side of him. Adding to the nausea factor (for Hermione at least) was the fact that Karina had decided to rub sunscreen onto the back of Draco's neck.

"I could use some sunscreen," she snapped, unintentionally loud enough for everyone on the bus to hear.

In response, Maddi wrenched the bottle of sunscreen out of Karina's hands and flung it towards Hermione.

"Thank you," she said, obnoxiously loud. A group of American tourists in front of her turned around to shush her. She ignored them and slapped on some sunscreen, but not before realizing that it smelled like coconut.

Hermione hated coconut. Just then, the bus lurched to a stop, causing her to accidentally squirt coconut-scented sunscreen all over her dress.

How bloody fantastic.

"Ladies, this is our stop," came the sound of Draco's voice. Momentarily distracted, she looked up from trying to rub the white stain off of her yellow dress.

"Where are we?" she grumbled.

"Buckingham Palace," was Draco's smooth reply.

"What, are we having tea with the Queen?" she said sarcastically.

"Ooh, are we?" Caitlin interrupted gleefully, clapping her hands together.

"Of course we aren't," Hermione snapped before Draco could reply. "Don't you know anything?"

Caitlin's face fell and turned into a cross between a scowl and a pout. "Well, you don't have to be so mean about it. Hmph." And then she stuck her freckled nose in the air.

Draco watched, extremely amused, as Hermione chose to stick out her tongue at Caitlin rather than respond in a mature and grown-up way. He thought her flared-up temper had something to do with the four other women's flirtatious advances, and his lack of negativity towards them. In truth, he was trying to remain neutral without totally alienating them. If only Hermione would try to flirt with him in full view of everyone else….

He was about to go down the stairs of the double-decker bus when he noticed that Hermione was still sitting in her seat while the four others had already gone.

"Hermione," he called out sweetly.

She shot him a look of surprise.

He held out a hand chivalrously. "Are you coming?"

"Do I have a choice?" she responded snippily.

"Do you not want to spend the day with me?" he said, looking hurt.

"No!" she said quickly. She blushed. "It's just that…never mind."

He was standing by her side in three strides. "Tell me."

Hermione tried to articulate herself clearly. "It's just that you…and them…and--and coconut-scented sunscreen…." Bugger.

Draco was smirking. "I don't know what the hell you're talking about, but--"

"Oh, so I'm stupid now?" she snapped.

"Would you two mind taking this lovers' spat somewhere else?" the tour guide tried to cut in. One of Monsieur Beaumont's cameramen silenced him impatiently, keeping his camera trained on the bachelor and capturing every second of the "lovers' spat."

"I never said that, Granger," he said, his voice hardening.

"Oh, so it's Granger now? Well, Malfoy, let me just say that--"

"That what? That you have gone completely mental?"

"See!" Hermione furiously pointed her finger at his face accusingly. "You just insulted my brain! Again!"

The corner of Draco's mouth twitched. This wasn't supposed to be funny, especially since her anger was directed at him, but an angry Hermione was just so entertaining, not to mention strangely attractive.

"Well, what are you going to say to that, huh?" she growled. Oh, Merlin. They were so dangerously close now.

"You're an amazing woman, Granger," he said huskily. And then he kissed her, in front of everyone, on top of a bright red double-decker bus that was currently blocking London traffic.

All the unjustified anger drained out of Hermione at the touch of his lips on hers. All thoughts of everything that had angered her that day dissipated instantly. Her hands, which had curled into fists during their short-lived argument, flattened against his chest and slowly traveled up his shoulders to clasp around his necks as the kiss began to make her feel rather weak at the knees.

When he finally released her, the world came rushing back in a very unpleasant manner. First of all, the cacophonic sound of drivers honking their horns reached her ears and rattled her eardrums. Second of all, the tour guide and all the tourists were staring at her and Draco with slackened jaws. Hermione had never been a proponent of public displays of affection, and yet here she was. Third and worst of all, Maddi, Caitlin, Karina, and Georgina had boarded the bus again and were standing right there, looking about ready to knock her brains out.

"Er, hello everyone," she said, laughing nervously. And then she bolted, off the bus and into the nearest air-conditioned area, which turned out to be a store that sold, of all things, lingerie.

"Can I help you?" said a snobby and rude voice. Hermione spun around to find herself facing a gum-chewing young salesgirl with a serious attitude problem.

"No, I'm just hiding," she said.

"There you are, sweetheart!" said an all-too-familiar voice behind her.

"Oh dear," she choked out.

"Hello, darling," said Draco, looping an arm around her waist and winking at her as if to say, play along. To the salesgirl, he said, in a cheeky voice, "We'll be needing something for our honeymoon."

"You've come to the right place," said the salesgirl in a bored voice. "Why don't you two go and have a look at our new 'Sugar and Spice' collection?"

"Sounds fabulous," said Draco enthusiastically. "Let's go have a look--"

Hermione pinched him in the side before he could call her darling or some other ridiculous pet name again. But before she could make her escape out of the lingerie shop, Draco dragged her over to look at the "Sugar and Spice" display.

"I think these would look great on you, darling," he said, a boyish grin on his face. He was holding up a lacy pair of scarlet knickers.

Oh Merlin. This was beyond embarrassing. She was blushing to the roots of her hair.

"I don't think so," she said firmly. "Let's get out of here before the cameras get this on film--hey, where is everyone else?"

"Oh, I may have, er, Confounded them," he said, allowing Hermione to lead him towards the exit.

Hermione looked at him, shocked. "In broad daylight? In front of Muggles?" she hissed.

"No darling, I was going to wait until night to Confound them, when I wouldn't need to," he answered sarcastically. "But never mind them, we've got the whole day to ourselves now. What would you like to--"

At that precise moment, the two of them stepped over the threshold of the lingerie shop and onto the streets of London. At the same time, the store alarm sounded.

"What the--" Hermione's eyes widened as she looked at Draco's hand, the one that wasn't holding hers.

He was still holding onto the scarlet knickers.

"You there!" screamed the salesgirl, rushing out to confront them. "Were you trying to steal a pair of knickers, mister?"

Draco was absolutely unfazed. "We were in such a hurry to get home and take it out for a test drive that we forgot to pay."

Passerby stared at them. Half of Hermione wanted to melt into the ground, but the other half wanted to play along just for kicks. After all, it wasn't often that Draco was in this sort of mood.

"Oh yes. We are so sorry. Here, let me get my purse!" She reached for her nonexistent purse. "Oh no, darling! I think I left my purse at home."

"That's quite alright, sweetheart. Allow me." And then he pulled out a bag of Galleons.

"We don't accept that here," said the salesgirl uncertainly.

Hermione snatched the knickers out of Draco's hand and threw them at the salesgirl. "In that case we'll just leave now." She pulled on Draco's arm and they dashed away from the scene of the crime, laughing madly.

When they were a safe distance away, they stopped to catch their breath. They were standing in the middle of a calm, quiet park.

"We--must--be--mental," Hermione gasped, clutching at the stitch in her side. "There's--there's no other explanation for that fiasco."

Draco was nodding. "Indeed." He recovered a lot faster than Hermione waited for her patiently.

Hermione giggled. She couldn't help it. This had undoubtedly been one of the strangest dates of her life.

"Are you not upset with me anymore?" said Draco curiously. Merlin, he didn't know how to make sense of her. One moment she was yelling at him, the next she was laughing with him. One thing was for sure--he would never get tired of her.

Hermione quickly sobered up. "I…I was never really angry in the first place," she admitted. "Or if I was, it was completely unwarranted." As an afterthought, she added, "I'm sorry."

"Don't apologize, Hermione," he said abruptly.

"I don't even know why I was so temperamental today," she muttered.

A smirk flickered onto his face. "I think I do."

She glanced at him, eyebrow raised. "What d'you mean?" she said quickly.

"You, my dear, were jealous." His smirk widened.

Rather than deny it, since by now she had figured out that it was true, she retorted, "You were the one who was giving me reason to be jealous, you prat."

He sighed melodramatically. "What can I say? The ladies love me."

Hermione narrowed her eyes at him. "And how many do you love in return?"

"Just one."

"Just one?" Her tone was hopeful.

"Yes," he said sincerely.


"Any more questions?" he prompted her.

"It's more of a request, really," she said playfully, inching closer to him and reaching up to finger the collar of his shirt.

"What is it? Pray tell." His signature smirk had reappeared on his face.

"Kiss me," she whispered.

"Your wish is my command." In one swift motion, he brought her closer to him and his lips crashed down on hers.

The highlight of my day, Hermione thought as she responded quite eagerly.

The cameraman hiding behind a nearby tree grinned as he captured the entire exchange on film. What a perfect way to conclude what had been one of the most entertaining dates thus far in the Game of Love.

Hopefully everyone still enjoyed that even though it was kind of all over the place. :P Anyway, what I was going to tell you (some of you already know) is that I, queen_luna, in a moment of pure insanity, decided that it would be a fun idea to sign up for NaNoWriMo, which is where you write 50,000 words in the month of November. Well, there's no backing out now. *cue maniacal laughter* I will most likely be on hiatus for the month of November, because I am not superhuman enough to update my fanfics and write 50K of original fiction at the same time. It doesn't mean I'm abandoning my stories though! So don't worry. I'll be back. :) Please review!
Yours till radish earrings become fashionable,
Queen Luna

Chapter 21: Chapter 21: Various Visitations
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What's this? What? Oh, that's right--I'm BACK! :D I hope you're as excited as I am. I also hope you're not too angry at me for being absent from HPFF for so long. Anyway, you've all been waiting for an update for more than a month now, so here you go! Enjoy!

Chapter 21: Various Visitations 

Hermione stopped acting like a neurotic maniac soon after the fiasco of a group date ended, sobering up quickly when she unexpectedly gave her parents a phone call.

She had completely forgotten that she was the owner of a sleek and tiny black cell phone. She found it while cleaning out her closet. One would assume that she was an extremely organized person, and did not need to clean out her closet, but recently she had gotten rather lazy and had let things pile up wherever they wanted to. Feeling like she needed some therapy after running around all day during that group date, she decided to reorganize it. And that meant doing it the old-fashioned Muggle way--there was simply no point if she resorted to magic.

Long story short, she found her cell phone with a certain amount of surprised, and then realized, to her horror, that she could not remember the last time she had contacted her parents. Oh dear. With much trepidation, she dusted off her phone and turned it on.

As expected, her inbox was crammed with exactly seventy-two unread text messages and she had no less than 281 missed calls, all from her mother. She felt a sinking feeling in her stomach as she pressed the call button, because she was surely in for a scolding.

"Hello?" said her mother, picking up after the first ring. Her voice sounded so familiar and so pleasant that the sinking feeling disappeared.

"Hi Mum," said Hermione, a little warily.

As expected, her mum began to scream. "HERMIONE! MY DARLING HERMIONE!"

"Yes, Mum…it's me. Sorry I haven't called you in a long time--"


Hermione cringed and brought the phone about a foot away from her ear. She could still hear her mother, loud and clear.


"I'm sorry, Mum! I'm sorry, please forgive me! Just stop shouting," said Hermione when her mother stopped in the middle of her tirade to take a breath.

"Oh, of course dear. And I forgive you. Robert! Robert, honey, your daughter is on the phone! Yes, she hasn't disappeared off the face of this planet!"

Hermione heard running footsteps. She decided it was safe enough to put the phone next to her ear once more. "Hi Daddy," she said, very cheerfully.

"Ah, Hermione!" said Robert Granger very jovially. "How are you, my dear daughter?"

"I'm fine, Daddy. And how are you and Mum?"

"We're fine, very fine indeed--your mum is going a little crazy, but that's to be understood--"

Hermione heard something crash. "What happened?" she said, worried.

"Let me speak to her, Robert! I haven't heard her voice in months!" Apparently, they were fighting over the phone.

"Neither have I!" she heard her father argue. She rolled her eyes.

"Hermione?" her mother said.

"I'm here," she said patiently.

"Hermione, your father and I want to know exactly what you have been doing for the past few months," said her mother sternly.

"I haven't been doing anything illegal," said Hermione very hastily.

"That's always good to hear, dear," said her mother placidly. "But where have you been staying? I know you haven't been living in your flat, because I have visited you more than once this past month and you're never there! There's a layer of dust over all the furniture, and your plants are dying! I had to do some housekeeping for you! It's a good thing you don't have that ugly cat anymore…"

"Thanks for taking care of my flat, Mum, but just for the record Crookshanks was not ugly," said Hermione, miffed.

"Whatever you say, dear. Now, answer my question. Where have you been?"

Hermione sighed heavily. How was she supposed to say this? Maybe she could twist the truth a little…and say that she had moved into her boyfriend's house. She could neglect to mention the fact that she was actually taking part in a reality television (or WizardVision) show and that there were four other women vying for the same man. But she knew that telling half the truth never worked, because her mother always found out eventually.

"Hermione? Are you still there, dear?"

"Yes, Mum. I'm just thinking about how I should say this," Hermione explained.

"Just let it out, sweetheart. That's the best way to do it," said her father.

"Mum, am I on speakerphone?" said Hermione in exasperation.

"Why, yes. It's the only way both your father and I can talk to you at the same time."

"There's no one else there, right?"

"Well, we have a few friends here--"


"Fine, fine, I'll put you off of speakerphone…. Go mingle with the guests, Robert. I'll tell you what she says later. Go on, dear."

"But Jane…"

"Just go, Robert."

"Mum…" Hermione was quickly losing patience. She loved her parents dearly, but calling them was always a difficult chore.

"Yes, dear. I'm listening."

"Okay. So, you see, I got invited--you could say chosen--to take part in a reality television series called the Game of Love. Basically, I'm living at this very nice man's house, in a separate room, and I'm not the only one here. There are four other girls too. But in three weeks there will only be one of us. You know what I'm talking about, right, Mum?"

There was silence on the other line.

"Mum?" said Hermione nervously, gripping her cell phone rather tightly.

"I can scarcely believe it," her mother was muttering. "My darling Hermione, my genius daughter, on a reality TV show?"

Hermione dearly wished to shout, "Just kidding!" but knew she could not go back down the path she had already started on. So instead, she waited patiently for the news to sink in.

"Are you making up stories again, Hermione?" said her mother sternly.

"No! I'm not!" Hermione nearly shouted.

"Who is this very nice man whom you speak of?" her mother inquired.

This was going to be difficult. "Er…Draco Malfoy," Hermione managed to choke out.

"What an odd name," said Jane Granger. Hermione could practically hear her frowning. "And it sounds familiar too…Robert!"

"Mum!" Hermione groaned.

"Robert, do you remember hearing about this Draco Malfoy character? I could have sworn I'd heard that name before…. No, dear, they're not married…yet."

Hermione's mouth dropped open. Pretending she did not just hear her mother say that, she refocused her attention on the conversation at the other end of the line. She could just barely hear her father talking.

"…Draco Malfoy…now isn't he that nasty boy she was always crying about?" he was saying.

"I never cried over him!" Hermione protested, trying to salvage her dignity.

"But he was a bully, wasn't he?" said her mother.

"Yes! Well, no! I mean, not anymore!"

"We're going to have to meet him, you know," said her father sternly.

"Well, yes…eventually--but not now, no, definitely not now. In fact, I have to go! Someone is knocking on my door…ooh, it's George--Isabelle!" Hermione almost dropped her phone out of excitement.

"Georgisabelle?" said her mother, evidently confused.

"Yes, that's right," said Hermione distractedly. "She's a very charming girl. Anyway, I have to go. I love you, Mum! Tell Daddy I love him! I'll call later! Bye!" She hung up with a satisfying click and then tossed her phone to the side before giving the French girl who had just walked through her door an enthusiastic hug that some might better describe as a tackle.

"Isabelle! Oh my goodness, Isabelle! I've missed you so much!" she cried.

"Hello, Hermione!" said Isabelle, laughing merrily. She stepped back to examine Hermione with a critical eye. "Tu es trés jolie!"

"Me?" said Hermione, waving that compliment away. "Look at you! Look at your hair! Isabelle, you cut it short!"

Isabelle's fine, silky, silvery blonde hair, which used to be down by her waist, was now just below her shoulders. She looked very different and very much grown up.

"Yes, I thought I needed a change," said Isabelle, laughing again. She casually swept her hair over her shoulder. Something sparkly caught Hermione's eye.

"Is that an engagement ring?" she gasped.

Isabelle nodded excitedly, proudly showing off her diamond ring. "Guillaume proposed a mere week ago. I thought I'd come and tell you the good news."

"Congratulations," said Hermione sincerely, giving her another hug. "I am so happy for you."

Isabelle beamed at her. "Merci, Hermione. You are, of course, invited to the wedding. I am in the midst of planning it at the moment. Fleur has taken over and is insisting on making it the biggest wedding the Delacour family has ever seen. But enough about me…what about you? What has happened since I left?"

Hermione spent a few minutes giving her a recap of everything that had occurred since Isabelle's abrupt departure. She ended by saying, "And now it's just Georgina, Maddi, Caitlin, Karina, and I. There was a group date yesterday. It started out fairly awful, but in the end you could say I enjoyed myself. I think every girl gets a one-on-one date this week…I'm not sure when mine will be scheduled."

Isabelle clapped her hands together. "How exciting…Hermione, do you think you have a chance at winning this thing?"

Hermione wasn't sure what to say to this question. "I don't know…yes, I suppose. Every single one of us has a chance at this point."

"You know that's not what I meant," said Isabelle, grinning.

"Then what did you mean?" said Hermione, pretending to be exasperated.

"I mean, do you think the bachelor is in love with you?"

"I don't know; why don't you ask him?" said Hermione very quickly.

"Maybe I will." Isabelle started for the door.

"Wait!" Hermione called out hastily. "I was joking. Please don't."

"But I'm very curious, and you won't tell me."

"But I really don't know…"

"Oh, but you are lying of course. I shall go find the bachelor now. No doubt he'll be surprised to see me. I'll just ask him a quick question, and then I shall be gone. Your wedding invitation shall arrive in due time. I will see you again very soon."

"Do you have to leave now?" said Hermione, trying to prevent her from going to Draco and finding out all their secrets.

"Yes, I promised Guillaume to be home for lunch. Au revoir, Hermione!" The French girl waved and skipped out the door.

"Isabelle!" Hermione called out, but it was too late. She was gone.

Sighing, Hermione flopped down on her bed, landing painfully on her cell phone. Pulling it out from under her back, she shoved it under her pillow. She had a feeling she wasn't done explaining things to her parents yet, but she figured she'd work that all out later.

Just when she was about to curl up for a midday nap, her bedroom door was pushed open again. Isabelle was back again, quite unexpectedly.

"Isabelle?" said Hermione, sitting up. "What're you doing back so quickly? Did you not find him?"

Isabelle stepped into the room. "Oh, I found him alright. But he expertly deferred all my questions."

"Ha!" Hermione couldn't help but shout.

Isabelle rolled her eyes, but she was smiling. "Instead he made me the unofficial messenger. He told me to give you this, and to tell you that he hates those sodding pink owls, as he so eloquently put it." She pulled out a roll of parchment tied with a red silk ribbon and held it out to Hermione.

Hermione practically leaped out of bed and snatched the roll of parchment from Isabelle, quickly removing the ribbon and unfurling it.

"Someone's a little eager," said Isabelle teasingly.

Hermione ignored her and read the letter:

Dear Hermione,

Today is your lucky day. Your name was the first to come out of the hat. I wasn't too surprised when Monsieur Beaumont didn't seem too pleased, but who cares what he thinks. Anyway, tonight we are going out on a romantic date on a yacht. Now, I'm not entirely sure what in Merlin's beard a yacht is, but I assume you do. Please enlighten me as soon as you can, for I am fairly confused. I don't think I even know how to pronounce that word. According to old Beaumont we will be eating dinner on this yacht and dancing under the moonlight. It sounds quite lovely, does it not? I bet you're enticed. I know you are. There's no need to RSVP. I will see you in the foyer of the Manor at six 'o clock sharp.


"Is someone going on a little date?" Isabelle pondered out loud.

Hermione was grinning from ear to ear as she showed Isabelle the letter. "I can't wait!" she said, laughing at her own excitement.

"Oh, how romantic!" said Isabelle. "I would help you pick out an outfit, but I can't keep Guillaume waiting." She glanced at her elegant silver watch. "I really must go now. Bye Hermione!"

"Bye Isabelle!" said Hermione, giving her friend another hug before she Disapparated with a loud crack. When the French girl was gone, she skipped over to her wardrobe. She was wondering what sort of attire would be appropriate for tonight's date.

Seeing as she really did not have an eye for fashion, nor the patience to put together an outfit, she did what she always did when she was in this sort of situation. She tossed a pinch of Floo powder into the fireplace, stuck her head into the green fire, and gave Ginny a call.

The redheaded girl was sitting at the kitchen table, sorting through a stack of owl post. She looked up at the sound of Hermione coughing.

"Oh, hello Hermione!" said Ginny, looking mildly surprised.

"Hi G-Ginny," said Hermione, still coughing up ashes. "I need your help."

"Ah, you have come to the great one seeking fashion advice, correct?" said Ginny pompously.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Yes, oh great one. Yes. I humbly bow before your greatness. Now come help me pick out a dress!"

"What is the occasion?" Ginny inquired, still using her lofty voice.

"A date on a yacht," said Hermione impatiently. Her ears were beginning to feel like they were on fire. Oh wait--they were.

"What in Merlin's pants is a yacht?" said Ginny, puzzled.

"A fancy boat," said Hermione. "I would really love to hang out with my head in the fireplace all day and just chat with you, but it's getting rather uncomfortable. Are you going to help me or not?"

"Okay, okay," said Ginny, pulling her wand out of nowhere and using a simple Summoning Charm to get her things. "Don't get your knickers in a twist. I'm coming over now. Get your head out of the fireplace before I step on it."

"You are really such a lovely pal," said Hermione before drawing back from the fire. When her head had stopped spinning, Ginny was already standing in her room, tapping her foot impatiently.

"What're you doing?" Hermione asked when Ginny dragged her up to her feet.

"Apparating out of here, of course!"

"What? We're going shopping?"

Ginny gave her an exasperated look. "Do you really expect me to find something suitable in that wardrobe of yours? You've already worn everything at least once!"

"No I haven't!" Hermione argued.

"Yes you have!" Ginny shot back. "Now come along, we're leaving Wiltshire for London."

"But can't you just transfigure something out of the curtains again?" Hermione protested, keen on saving her Galleons from being spent.

Ginny rolled her eyes. "If you think I'm going to go through all that trouble again, you're wrong. Besides, I want to buy a few things myself."

"Does Harry put you on a monthly budget, Ginny? I'm just asking."

"Of course not!" said Ginny indignantly. After a slight pause, she said, "I'm under a weekly budget. That includes groceries, but I really want this new pair of shoes I happened to see in a Muggle magazine."

"You're going to forgo groceries and buy new shoes that you don't need instead?" said Hermione incredulously, not seeing the logic here at all.

"Well, it's not like we're going to starve! Harry can just take me out to dinner tonight. Anyway, enough small talk, let's get out of here. Hold on tight."

Knowing that she wasn't getting out of this, Hermione sighed and held onto Ginny's arm and with a loud crack they Disapparated from Malfoy Manor.

Okay, I know, nothing much happened. And there was no Draco. But he'll be back next chapter, with Hermione, for another date.
For those of you who would like to know, NaNo was an awesome experience. I wrote a novel! Yes I did! 50K words in a month…it was crazy, but really fun.
Thank you for all the reviews. They make me smile. :) I will respond to every single one of them, but it'll take some time. I'll get through them all eventually though. Please continue to review. ^_^
I have final exams this week, but the week after that I'm on winter break! So I can write! Yay! That means I can promise you that the next update will not take quite as long.
Yours till the Nargles infest your brain,
Queen Luna

Chapter 22: Chapter 22: The Love Boat
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Hello dear readers! This chapter was a little difficult for me to write, which might explain why it took so long. o_0 I think it came out all right in the end, so enjoy! Oh, and I’m a day late but HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Chapter 22: The Love Boat

About three hours later Hermione was back from her shopping expedition and standing in her room in front of the mirror. She was wearing a glamorous, pale-gold sleeveless gown. It was something she would normally never have the nerve to try on, which was why she was staring at herself in disbelief.

"Ginny, I cannot believe I let you talk me into buying this," she said loudly.

Ginny rolled her eyes. "You look fabulous, Hermione, and you know it."

"I look like an Oscar statuette," Hermione complained.

"A what?" said Ginny, confused.

"You know," said Hermione, trying to explain. "One of those little gold statues that they give to Academy Award winners…oh, never mind."

"Well, whatever you're talking about, I'm sure they look fabulous too."

"Uh, actually--" Hermione tried to say, but Ginny cut her off.

"I know, I know," she said, eyeing Hermione critically. "You look a lot better. That's what you're thinking, right? You're thinking that you look amazing, which I must say is true."

"Merlin's beard, Ginny. I'm not as vain as you," said Hermione, sticking out her tongue childishly.

Ginny pretended to look hurt. "True. But I have reason to be vain." She tossed her red hair over her shoulder and batted her eyelashes outrageously.

Hermione burst out laughing. "Right. Whatever, Ginny. Can I take this thing off now?"

"No!" said Ginny. "I'm not done fixing you up yet." And she whipped her makeup case out of thin air.

"What are you doing?" said Hermione, alarmed. "My date's not until six 'o clock and--and--" She glanced at her watch. It was half past five. "Oh," she said feebly.

"Yeah," said Ginny seriously, "I know. You have barely any time left before you meet with the bachelor. Now will you cooperate?"

"Fine," Hermione huffed. She strode into her bathroom and sat down on a little stool before the mirror. Ginny followed her

"Good," said the redhead, satisfied. She unlocked her makeup case with the tap of her wand and surveyed her arsenal with a glint in her eyes.

"Keep it simple, Ginny," Hermione pleaded. "I don't need to look like…like a total glam goddess. Really, I don't."

Ginny grinned at her wickedly. "Oh, yes you do. You're in my hands now, Hermione," she said with an evil laugh.

Hermione stared at her, exasperated, and the redhead sobered up.

"Okay," said Ginny, selecting a fluffy brush and tapping it against her hand. "Close your eyes and no peeking."

"Go for it," said Hermione bravely.

"Gladly," said Ginny.

Fifteen minutes later Hermione finally had the guts to peek at her reflection. As a result, she was nearly stabbed in the eye with a mascara brush.

"Ow!" she whined indignantly.

"I told you not to peek!" Ginny scolded.

"Sorry," said Hermione. But then she peeked again. And she almost fell off her chair.

"Holy hippogriffs," she managed to choke out.

Ginny was looking immensely pleased with herself. "I've said it before, and I'm going to say it again," she said smugly. "I am a genius. Draco is going to either pass out or have a heart attack when he sees you…in a good way, of course."

"Thanks, Ginny. Thanks a lot. I mean it."

"You're very welcome, of course. Merlin's pants! Would you look at the time--you're going to be late!"

And with that, the redhead pushed Hermione out of the bathroom and, after a final once-over, out of the room. "Have fun on your date!" she shouted. "You don't mind if I just crash here, do you?"

Hermione forced Ginny to stop pushing her in case she went a little too far and toppled down the stairs and said, "Why don't you go home and tell Harry exactly how many of his hard-earned Galleons you spent today?"

Ginny snorted. "Now why in Merlin's beard would I do that? Don't be ridiculous, Hermione."

Hermione rolled her eyes, but she was grinning. "Fine. I'm leaving. Don't make a mess."

"I won't," said Ginny cheerfully. "Don't fall overboard."

Hermione stopped short. "What d'you mean?"

"Your date is taking place on a fancy boat, right?"

"Oh, right. The yacht…oh, I get it."

"Yeah." Now it was Ginny's turn to roll her eyes. "Enough idle chit-chat. Go woo your man!"

"Ginny!" Hermione protested. "You don't have to say it like that."

"Then hurry up, before he ditches you!" said the redhead, practically fuming with impatience. "You're officially ten minutes late!"

Hermione swore, which made Ginny laugh uproariously. "Bye Ginny!" And then she miraculously dashed down the stairs without twisting her ankle.

When the foyer was within her sight, she slowed down and made sure everything was in order before gracefully descending down the last few steps. Draco was waiting for her at the bottom of the spiral staircase. He looked incredibly handsome in his crisp black tuxedo, but Hermione was focused on the transfixed look on his face. He was staring at her like he had never seen her before.

"Hello," she said, after realizing that he was currently incapable of speech.

He was still gazing at her in total and utter shock. Hermione dearly wished she had a camera at that moment, because she was sure that he would never make that face again.

"Er, you look quite dashing," she said when he still hadn't said a word.

The compliment seemed to shake him back to his senses. "Hello, Hermione," he said, a little dazed. "You look absolutely beautiful tonight."

She couldn't help but blush. "Thank you." They stood there for a moment or two, an awkward silence filling the space. Hermione suddenly wished that she were going on a date where she could wear jeans and sneakers instead.

"I'm sorry," he said suddenly, "for acting like a complete moron." She laughed out loud at that. He took her hand and led her to the door. "After you, Miss Granger."

A sleek black limousine was waiting for them. Hermione slid into the cool interior, followed closely by Draco. He signaled to the chauffeur and the limousine glided out onto the streets.

Hermione opened her mouth to speak, but then the limousine glided to a halt once more. Draco looked out the windows expectantly. "Oh look, we're here," he said pleasantly.

"What?" Hermione mumbled. Barely a second had passed. The chauffeur opened the door and she could taste a salty sea air. As she left the limousine, the chauffeur winked at her.

"Magical transportation services," he said to her in an undertone. "It's like Apparating or Disapparating, only in the comfort of this Muggle contraption."

"Oh," said Hermione, relaxing. "Thank you."

"No problem," he said, giving her a toothy grin. "Have fun on your date, miss."

Hermione smiled at him and then took the hand of the waiting bachelor. They were standing on a pier. Cobalt blue waves rolled in the distance, under a darkening gray sky. Some would say that the view was gloomy, but Hermione thought it was gorgeous.

Towering right next to them was a glistening white yacht. Painted in flowing black script was the name of the boat: Sweet Dreams.

"Ah," said Draco, staring at the boat in wonder. "I have finally figured out what a yacht is." Only, he pronounced the word yacht like yakked.

A smile played around Hermione's lips. "I assume you're talking about that yacht."

"Right," said Draco, "isn't that what I said?"

"Sure," Hermione humored him.

"Is that thing safe?" he said doubtfully. "How does it not sink?"

Hermione rolled her eyes and then led him up the gangplank. "It's perfectly fine, Draco. You've got to give Muggles some credit every now and then."

Draco whistled as he strolled up to the yacht. "That's one beautiful boat," he said. He looked over at Hermione and thought that the night could not be any more perfect.

Hermione was already inside. A steward in a white uniform stood at the door to welcome them.

"Good evening sir," the steward said when Draco passed him. The steward, who turned out to be the captain of the boat, was quite old, with a white moustache. His eyes were twinkling. "That's one special girl you've got there," he said knowingly.

Draco, who had fully intended on walking by with his passive face of carved ice, suddenly gave a fleeting smile. "Yes, that's right," he said. "A very special girl indeed."

"Anything I can do for you, just let the crew know," the captain offered.

"Thanks," said Draco. A few years ago he would have wondered whether the crew were Muggles or wizards, but now he found that he frankly didn't care.

"Draco?" came Hermione's voice from within the depths of the yacht.

The captain inclined his head slightly. "Go on. She's waiting for you."

"I've just thought of a request," said Draco suddenly. "Would it be terribly difficult to keep the cameras away?"

"I'll see what I can do," said the captain. One more knowing smile and then he had vanished.

Satisfied, Draco strode into the yacht and was pleasantly surprised by the elegant décor. Rich, dark velvet covered the walls and the ceiling, which was studded with diamonds made to look like stars. The floor was covered in plush white carpeting. The furniture was all mahogany. Old-fashioned light fixtures provided ambiance. Overall, it looked like something his mother would have decorated--and his mother had excellent taste.

He ventured further in and found that the room opened up to reveal the deck of the yacht. Hermione was standing near the railing, watching the rolling waves with a serene expression on her face. He drew in a sharp breath. With her hair flying in the wind and her gold dress shimmering in the sunlight, she looked beyond beautiful.

In the distance, the pier seemed to be moving away but then Draco realized that it was actually the yacht that was moving. They were going out to sea. He came to stand behind Hermione, wrapping his arms around her. She leaned into his embrace, tipping her head back onto his shoulder.

"I love the ocean," she commented contentedly.

"I--" Draco almost choked on the two words he was about to say next. "Me too," he ended up saying lamely. What was wrong with him? His mind was completely muddled up today, ever since he caught that first glimpse of her on the stairs.

Hermione turned to smile at him angelically, reaching up to kiss him on the cheek. He turned his face and caught the kiss with his mouth. He could feel her smiling as her eyes fluttered closed. Deepening the kiss, he pressed her firmly against him, as closely to him as possible. But it wasn't close enough.

"Draco," she gasped, taking in a shaky breath. He groaned audibly. Neither of them wanted to stop, but they both broke away, albeit unwillingly.

He held her to him as he tried to control his raging emotions. This was madness. Never had he felt so strongly about anyone before. "Hermione, I--" he tried to say.

At that moment, a band struck up a tune. He hastily shut his mouth, quelling his frustration, and then opened it again, only to say something else. "May I have this dance?" he inquired, summoning all the charm he had in him.

Hermione hid the fact that she was still trying to calm her racing heartbeat. She smiled and curtsied before taking his hand. "Yes, you may."

He spun her to him and then they twirled around the deck under the starry sky, dancing, smiling, and laughing, never taking their eyes off of each other. The music was upbeat, keeping time with the tempo of their hearts. Hermione had never thought herself to be a talented dancer, but now, dancing in his arms, she realized she could never dance like this with another man. And then the music slowed, and their dancing slowed, but their hearts still raced. This was the perfect moment.

"I love you," he murmured into her ear, so quietly that for a second he was afraid she hadn't heard him.

But then she smiled, so perfectly, so beautifully. "I love you too," she said.

It had started to rain.

Originally, they were supposed to eat dinner on the deck of the yacht, under the open sky, but with the weather having other ideas they decided to move the dinner inside. It was still a lovely dinner, even with the storm rocking the boat. The dinner was prepared by a world class French chef. Draco had picked out the wine himself, and now they toasted and drank to each other.

"To love," said Draco, not caring how cheesy that sounded.

"To us," Hermione agreed, her glass clinking against his.

When dinner was finished, Hermione found that she was pleasantly drowsy. They settled onto a leather chaise, close together, and listened to the rain drum overhead.

"My mother used to take me to the sea when I was young," he said, after a lengthy but comfortable silence. "It was the only time we could truly be free."

Hermione smiled, a little sadly. "Whenever my parents would take me to the beach when I was little, I would build a magnificent sandcastle, only to watch the waves crash upon the shore and take it down."

He chuckled. He could just imagine a young Hermione watching indignantly as all her hard work was destroyed in an instant. He knew the feeling.

"I think my father loved my mother once," he said suddenly. He wasn't sure why, but he felt like he just had to let that out.

"I think he did," said Hermione quietly, leaning against him.

"He bought her a little chateau by the sea in France," he continued. "I wonder if it's still there. It hasn't been visited in ages."

"A chateau by the sea," Hermione mused. "It sounds so poetic." Her hand was now intertwined with his.

"It was a beautiful, secluded place," he said, a little wistfully. "I wonder why my mother hasn't gone back."

"Perhaps it reminds her of a time she would rather forget," said Hermione, the words coming seemingly from nowhere.

"But those were happier times…" said Draco, his voice trailing off as he pondered.

"Maybe she's afraid to let herself be happy," said Hermione. She suddenly wondered if she had ever felt that way, or if she ever would.

"There are times I'd like to forget," said Draco. "My Hogwarts days…the war…"

"Don't," said Hermione. "We're not supposed to dwell on the past, remember?"

"You're right," he said, letting out a breath.

Hermione closed her eyes, just for a minute. The yacht seemed to be lulling her to sleep. She struggled to stay awake.

Draco seemed to be having the same problem. He was so comfortable at the moment, lounging on the couch with Hermione nestled at his side, he could fall asleep right then and there. Then he remembered that there was something he meant to do. With great effort, he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small, rectangular package. It was wrapped in gold. He had planned on wrapping it in silver, but then decided that gold would be a better match for Hermione, being in Gryffindor and everything. It turned out he had been right about that.

"Hermione," he said.

"Hmm?" she said drowsily. Her eyes widened at the sight of the wrapped package.

"This is for you," he said. There was an earnest, hopeful expression on his face, an expression that was rarely used. He handed the package to her.

"A present?" she said, surprised.

"I feel like I owe it to you," he said. She looked up at him questioningly. "Go on, open it."

Hermione carefully undid the ribbons and tape. It was small and rectangular, thick and compact. It was a book.

The wrapping paper fell away. It was a book bound in scarlet with faded gold letters.

Pride and Prejudice. 

She was speechless. She held the book in her hands and thumbed through the pages. Familiar passages jumped out at her like old friends. This was her favorite book, the one she had lost way back in second year. She had almost forgotten how she had lost it, until now. She couldn't believe she had gotten it back.

She tore her eyes away from the book and met his intense, yearning gaze. She couldn't speak, but he knew what she was thinking.

"Thank you," she said at last.

"It was always yours," he said.

She looked down at the book once more. "You read it, didn't you?"

"Most definitely," he said, giving her a small smile. "More than once too."

"It's a good book," she said, feeling the soft cover under her fingertips.

"A very good book," he agreed.

She smiled at him. "Indeed."

The yacht glided through the dark waters, into the night. The boat was rocking Hermione to sleep again, and she couldn't help but close her eyes, still holding her precious book.

"Good night," Draco told her, but she was already in a dreamland.

That was a ton of romantic fluffiness, wasn't it? :P I couldn't think of a better name for the boat, so if anyone has suggestions let me know in a review. :) 
Yours till the Erumpent horn explodes,
Queen Luna

Chapter 23: Chapter 23: Dreams and Drama
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*hides from mob of angry readers* I could apologize profusely for the long delay, but I don't think that would suffice. Before you all murder me for being away for so long, here's the next chapter of The Game of Love! :D

Chapter 23: Dreams and Drama

Hermione was having a very pleasant dream. She dreamed she was on a ship, sailing across the seas to a faraway land where a fairy tale castle awaited her. And in that castle was a prince…

Hermione, the prince seemed to be calling out to her. Hermione.

She woke with a start. Someone was calling her name.

"Hermione? Are you awake?"

She opened her eyes blearily, and Draco's amused face swam into view. He was already up, fully dressed and with a breakfast tray in his hands. He looked far too awake in her opinion.

"Good morning," he said, setting the tray down on the coffee table and sitting down next to her on the leather couch, where they had fallen asleep the night before.

"What time is it?” she yawned, combing her hair with her fingers in a futile attempt to get it to resemble something that wasn’t a rat’s nest.

"Almost nine," he answered. "We need to get off this boat as soon as possible. Beaumont technically only rented it for yesterday from six to midnight."

"Ah," said Hermione, taking a croissant from the breakfast tray and nibbling it. "He's probably going to have a fit."

"Yes, he probably will," said Draco, looking quite happy about that for some reason.

"And frankly, I don't care."

"Neither do I," said Draco, "but the captain's going to throw us overboard if he discovers we're still here. Are you ready to leave?"

Hermione stood up, realizing that she was still wearing the gold dress. It was very wrinkled. "Where are we going?"

"Home," he said, before taking her hand and Disapparating with a loud crack.

Hermione made her way up the spiral staircase, holding her shoes in one hand. She didn't want to disturb anyone, and plus her balance had been off ever since she had gotten off the yacht.

She made it to her room without being spotted and found Ginny snoozing in her bed. She tossed the shoes to the side.

"Hey Ginny!" she said loudly. "Wake up!"

The redheaded girl threw a pillow in her general direction, but missed. "Oh, sod off," she mumbled. "I'm sleeping."

Hermione grabbed Ginny's ankles and dragged her off the bed and onto the floor.

"Hey!" Ginny protested, rubbing her eyes. "I'm awake now, are you happy about that?"

"Very much," said Hermione briskly. "What are you doing here, Ginny? Didn't you go home last night?"

"No," said Ginny grumpily. She made a face.

Hermione was immediately suspicious. "Why, are you and Harry fighting?"

"No, it's not Harry," said Ginny, sighing. "It's Ron."

"What about Ron?" said Hermione, going into the bathroom to shower and change into something more comfortable. Ginny continued to talk, rather loudly, over the noise of the water.

"He's crashing at our place. Apparently, his flat is rather lonely without Lavender." Ginny said this very sarcastically.

"They broke up?" Hermione gasped.

"Yeah, a couple of weeks ago."

"And you didn't tell me until now?" Hermione nearly shouted.

"Didn't I mention it?" said Ginny innocently.

"No," said Hermione. There was a lull in the conversation as she finished showering and dried off. She emerged from the bathroom in a comfy tee and sweats, with her hair wrapped up in a towel.

"Well, it doesn't bloody matter. He'll get over it eventually."

"So what's preventing you from going home?" Hermione inquired.

"I told you, it's Ron! He's always moping around all the time--it makes me feel depressed just to look at him," said Ginny, scowling.

"Maybe I should go talk to him," said Hermione worriedly. "I mean, he's obviously going through a tough time."

"Might as well," said Ginny, shrugging. "Maybe you can get him to smile again." With that, the two of them Disapparated.

Ron did smile when he saw Hermione, but just barely. "Hello, Hermione," he said, running a hand through his unkempt red hair. He was wearing a wrinkled old shirt and stripped pajama bottoms. He hadn't shaved in days.

"Ron!" said Hermione, giving him a comforting, friendly hug. "How have you been?"

"Miserable," he said. "I'm pathetic, aren't I?"

Hermione pulled back from the hug and wrinkled her nose. "When was the last time you washed?"

"I suppose that answers the question," he said dismally. "So, what are you doing here?"

"I'm just here to talk to you," said Hermione, steering him over to the Potters' living room and sitting down on the couch. "You seem like you need to let a few things out."

"She broke up with me," he said in monotone, sinking down onto the couch next to her. "End of story."

"You still really like her, don't you?" said Hermione gently.

"Yeah, I guess," he said. "You know, the reason why she broke up with me--well, I guess there were many--but one of them was because of you."

"Me?" said Hermione warily. She could see where this was going.

"Yeah," said Ron. "I guess she thinks I still like you…a lot."

Hermione gave a brusque laugh. "Well, you don't, right?"

"I think I do," he said, in a voice that Hermione did not like at all. "Why did we break up again?"

"Because, Ron, we're better off as just friends," she said firmly, moving away from him. "You're just…you're on the rebound."

At that moment, the doorbell rang. Distracted, Hermione watched as Ginny barged through the kitchen to open the door. She was evidently still in a foul mood.

"What?" Ginny barked.

"Hello, Ginevra," said a familiar, girly voice.

"I told you not to call me that, Lavender," Ginny growled.

"Lavender's here," Hermione informed Ron, in case he hadn't figured it out already. Apparently, he hadn't. He was still staring at Hermione with a glazed sort of look on his face.

"Who?" he said.

"Lavender, damn it!" said Hermione, completely exasperated. She was beginning to think that she should have never come. "Your girlfriend!"

"Ex," Ron corrected her. And then he kissed her--or attempted to.

Lavender chose that precise moment to appear in the living room. "I knew it!" she shrieked, pointing a shaking finger at the pair of them. "I knew it!"

Ginny came dashing in behind her. "You're not supposed to be here!" the redhead barked.

"What the bloody hell--get off me, Ron!" shouted Hermione, shoving him away and wiping her mouth. He landed into a bookcase and almost fell over.

"You!" said Lavender furiously, glaring daggers at Hermione.

"That was definitely not what it looked like," said Hermione firmly.

"Ron!" Lavender cried, slapping him across the face.

"Lavender!" Hermione and Ginny both shouted, holding her back.

"I--knew--you--still--liked--her--" Lavender was trying to launch herself at him, but Ginny's grip proved to be very strong.

"Maybe you should leave," said Ginny to Hermione. "I'm sorry Hermione, I'll fix everything."

Hermione sighed and stepped back from the melee. Before she Disapparated once more, she caught sight of Ron looking at her with remorse.

"Sorry," he mouthed.

She shook her head and Disapparated.

Feeling rather distracted after that dramatic episode, Hermione misjudged her destination and landed in the foyer of Malfoy Manor rather than in her room. She was surprised to find everyone there, staring at her.

"Mademoiselle Granger," said Monsieur Beaumont in a clipped, icy tone. "Where on earth have you been?"

"My friend was in the middle of an emotional crisis," she snapped. "I had to go help."

He looked at her, unimpressed with her answer, but didn't say anything more.

"So," said Hermione, looking around. Georgina, Maddi, Caitlin, and Karina were all there. Draco was missing. "What's going on?"

"If you had been here like you were supposed to, then you would know," Monsieur Beaumont sniffed.

Hermione was quickly become very impatient. "Well then, if I'm not needed I'll just go up to my room—"

"We are here because I have a very important announcement to make," said Monsieur Beaumont through gritted teeth.

"Oh," said Hermione. "Carry on, then." She was surprised at her own insolence. She supposed that she got it from Draco.

"As I was saying," Monsieur Beaumont said, turning to address all the girls. "It is time for you all to meet the bachelor's mother. Her name is Narcissa. She has invited you all to an afternoon tea in the parlor. You have about an hour to freshen up. Don't be late."

With that, Monsieur Beaumont left the room with his camera crew in tow, leaving the girls to talk amongst themselves.

"Ooh, what should I wear?" said Caitlin feverishly, twirling a lock of blonde hair around her finger. "I just bought this fabulous new dress…it's pink, do you think his mom will like that color?"

"I'm going to vear black," said Karina in her Russian accent, looking around at everyone haughtily. "I heard that she is steel in mourning for her husband. It vill be a sign of respect."

Hermione almost laughed out loud, but instead decided to quietly retreat from the room. She wasn't going to put up with their nonsense. She would go up to her room, pick something nice and comfortable to wear, and act perfectly normal. Everything would go just fine…or so she thought.

Lavender slammed her purse down onto the bar, muttering to herself angrily as she sat down on a stool. She couldn't believe what she had just seen. She couldn't believe the nerve he had…

"Can I help you, ma'am?" a gruff voice said.

She looked up at the bartender. "Something strong," she requested, trying to sound dignified but failing dismally. She was about to tune everything out and wallow in her bitterness when another voice spoke, a familiar one this time.

"It's too early in the day to start drinking the heavy stuff," remarked a woman with dark hair. She was wearing dark sunglasses, even though she was indoors.

Lavender barely spared her a glance. "I could say the same thing to you," she said morosely.

"I have my reasons for being here," the woman said, stirring her drink with more ferocity than the task called for.

"Likewise," Lavender mumbled. She raised her head as the bartender slid a glass filled to the brim with a mysterious clear liquid and took a sip.

"The man I'm supposed to be with is falling for someone else," the woman supplied, rather frankly.

At this, Lavender finally turned her head to face the stranger, who was in the process of taking off her sunglasses.

"Pansy?" said Lavender incredulously.

"Lavender," Pansy returned.

"Who is this man you speak of?" Lavender inquired, curious. She had always loved a bit of gossip.

"Whom do you think?" Pansy snapped, sipping her drink.

"Hmm," said Lavender, pretending to think. "Draco Malfoy."

Pansy rolled her eyes. "Of course," she sighed.

"And who's the other woman?" said Lavender, trying to seem nonchalant.

Pansy narrowed her eyes. "Why should I tell you?"

Lavender took a long sip of her drink, pondering her answer. "Fine," she said at last. "I’ll tell you about my problems first."

Pansy shrugged. "Fair enough."

Lavender sighed. "My boyfriend—or ex-boyfriend, I should say—is still in love with his ex-girlfriend, although I really can’t fathom why."

"How do you know he's still in love with her?"

"I walked in on them in the middle of a snogging session," Lavender sighed melodramatically.

Pansy raised an eyebrow. "Hang on a second," she said, "your boyfriend—sorry, ex-boyfriend—is Weasley, correct?"

Lavender nodded glumly.

"Then naturally," Pansy continued, "his ex-girlfriend would be Granger." She spat out the name Granger as though it were poisonous. She was struck by a sudden thought. "Granger was kissing Weasley," she said slowly.

"You needn’t remind me," Lavender snapped.

"No, you don't understand," said Pansy, pushing away her drink. There was a strange glint in her dark eyes. "Granger is supposedly dating Draco—my Draco."

Lavender knocked over her glass, ignoring the indignant look on the bartender’s face. "You can't be serious," she said flatly.

For some reason, there was a smug look on Pansy's face. "But I am."

"You're lying."

"I'm not."

"Hermione wouldn't do that…" said Lavender uncertainly.

"What do you mean?" said Pansy evenly, while concocting a devious plan in her mind.

"I know that girl," said Lavender, not sure why she was defending the girl she had just seen kissing her boyfriend. "She was my roommate for six years. She would never double-cross two guys like that."

"But she did."

Lavender mulled over the situation for a brief moment. Anger filled her once more as she recalled the way Ron had looked at Hermione, and how he had kissed her even though he had sworn that he had gotten over her. "Well, what are you going to do?"

"Hmm?" said Pansy, attempting to feign innocence but failing.

"I know you're not going to sit back and do nothing. You've got something evil planned."

"So what if I do?" challenged Pansy.

"I want to help," said Lavender bluntly.

Pansy finally cracked a grin. "You should've been in Slytherin. Now, we haven't got much time, so here’s what we’re going to do…."

Ooh, so what are Lavender and Pansy going to do? Guess you'll have to wait until the next chapter to find out! *evil laugh*
Anyway, you might be wondering why this chapter took me so long. I have my list of pathetic excuses, if you want to hear them: 
1. School. Yep. Junior year is NOT fun.
2. Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. I decided to enter my NaNo novel, so I've been spending the last couple of weeks working on polishing my entry.
3. Writer's block. I wasn't sure where I was going with Pansy's evil little plan and I didn't want to post this chapter in case I changed my mind about the whole thing, but I think I've figured it out now.
Well, this was a long author's note. Please review! I WILL respond to all of them someday. ^_^
Yours till the Wrackspurt steals your thoughts,
Queen Luna

Chapter 24: Chapter 24: Devious Deeds
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I won't waste my time apologizing for the wait--here's Chapter 24!

Chapter 24: Devious Deeds

Maddi fluffed up her blonde hair and gazed at her reflection admiringly. Her skin was tanned and glowing, her blue eyes were sparkling, and her lips were freshly glossed in pink. The bachelor’s mother just had to approve of her. She would be the perfect daughter-in-law, the perfect woman for Narcissa Malfoy’s son. He just didn’t know it yet.

She gave her outfit—a casually cute white dress—one last inspection before turning to leave her room. She reached for the doorknob, but before she could open the door, the door flew inwards and smacked her in the face. She staggered back a few steps, clutching at her face in pain. Someone stepped into the room.

“Oh, sorry about that, Maddi,” a familiar voice said carelessly.

Maddi uttered a few choice swearwords as a greeting before removing her hand from her face. Her nose still hurt quite a lot. She hoped it wasn’t broken. Rushing to the mirror, she was relieved to see that her face appeared quite normal, albeit slightly red.

“Pansy Parkinson, what the hell are you doing here?” Maddi snapped, very irritably.

“I need to talk to you,” said Pansy evenly. Turning her head back toward the door, she called out in a stage whisper, “Lavender, you can come out now!”

A person Maddi did not know appeared in her room, looking a bit guilty to be there. “I presume that your name is Lavender,” said Maddi, still quite annoyed to have all these people invade her room right when she was about to go have tea with the bachelor’s mum.

“You presumed right,” said Lavender, looking at Pansy uncertainly. Pansy ignored her.

“How’d you get in?” Maddi demanded, turning to face Pansy once more.

“I have my ways,” said Pansy mysteriously.

“But how?” Maddi pressed.

Pansy sighed impatiently. “You forget that I’m a family friend of the Malfoys. I used to come around here to play when I was little. I still remember all the secret passageways, you know. Once I got in I simply bribed a house-elf to show me the way to your room. That’s a nice view, by the way,” she added, gesturing to the garden that was visible through Maddi's window.

Maddi was about to inquire about the secret passageways when Pansy cut her off.

“Anyway, none of that matters. We—Lavender and I—need your help.”

“My help,” Maddi repeated slowly. “What’s in it for me?”

“If you’d just listen, you’d see that there’s plenty in it for you. Now, Lavender here has a grudge against Granger. I have a grudge against Granger. I think it’s safe to assume that you do too. Am I correct?”

Maddi barely had time to shrug or nod when Pansy continued. Lavender was looking at the floor the entire time, playing with her hair.

“To make a long story short, Lavender caught Granger snogging her ex-boyfriend, and I plan on using this juicy piece of information to show Draco exactly why he shouldn’t be falling for her. Of course, I can’t just tell him what I heard. He’d never believe me. He doesn’t trust me anymore. Lavender has no reason to tell him herself—she’s not even supposed to know about this bloody Game of Love. So, I went to my handy potions cupboard and fetched a bottle of this.” She plunged a hand into her voluminous purse and pulled out a large bottle of a thick, glutinous potion. “Polyjuice Potion,” she announced with a devious grin.

Lavender was now staring at the bottle looking like she might be sick.

Maddi looked from Pansy to the bottle to Lavender and back to Pansy. “You’re going to impersonate Hermione,” she said slowly.

“Why, yes I am. Actually, Lavender and I shall both impersonate Granger. Now, I understand that you’re having tea with Cissa this afternoon,” said Pansy in a business-like fashion.

“If by Cissa you mean Draco’s mum, then yes. And I’m supposed to be there in less than ten minutes.”

“We can make this work. Lavender, disguised as Granger, will go to the tea party and tearfully spill her guts to everyone. Meanwhile, I shall go find Draco and tell him everything. He’ll believe me, because it’ll come from Granger’s own mouth. Well, it’s my mouth but you get the idea. I will tell him that Granger’s been cheating on him this whole time. He’ll get angry and immediately dismiss her from the Game of Love. The real Granger will find out by letter—she’ll be out of here without even knowing what happened. All I need is for you to somehow obtain several of Granger’s bushy hairs,” said Pansy all in one breath.

“I must admit, that’s a clever plan,” said Maddi, mulling it over. “But what’re you planning on doing with the real Granger while you do all this? Lock her up in a closet somewhere?”

“Precisely,” said Pansy without pausing to think. “Now, about the hairs. Can you get them?”

“Why can’t you get them?” Maddi challenged.

“She’s too smart of a witch,” said Pansy begrudgingly. “Short of Stunning her, I can’t get close enough to her to get them without her suspecting a thing.”

Maddi thought about it for a moment. “You still haven’t told me what’s in it for me,” she said.

Pansy sighed exasperatedly. “Don’t you see? Once Granger is out of the way, you’ll have a better chance at winning the Game of Love.”

“I thought you wanted Draco for yourself,” said Maddi suspiciously.

“Not anymore,” Pansy lied. “I just want him to see why Granger is all wrong for him.”

“Fine, I’ll do it,” said Maddi, beginning to feel the adrenaline rush that always came with participating in underhanded plots. “Just give me five minutes.” And with that, she headed out the door once more.

Wondering whether Pansy's plan would actually work, Maddi headed up the staircase to Hermione's room. She knew which door to knock on because once, out of pure curiosity, she had gone “exploring” to see which room Hermione got to stay in. Maddi had heard rumors that it was the most splendid of all the rooms in the manor, but when she peeked inside she was disappointed. It was a nice enough room, but there were way too many books for her taste.

Anyhow, she knocked on Hermione’s door and waited, but there was no answer. She pushed the unlocked door open and stepped inside. It took her no more than thirty seconds to locate a hairbrush and carefully pull out a few hairs from the bristles. She was itching to snoop around Hermione’s room a bit more, but in the end she decided that she’d better hurry back to Pansy before she was late to the afternoon tea.

“I’ve got them,” she announced victoriously as she barged into her room. “But you’re out of luck, I’m afraid. Hermione wasn’t in her room, so she’s probably already at the tea party.”

Pansy, who had conjured a miniature cauldron in the middle of the room and was heating up the Polyjuice Potion, swore under her breath, but Lavender, who was hovering near the broken window, said, “Look! She’s out there, in the garden!”

Pansy jumped to her feet. “Perfect! Lavender, do you think you can Stun her from here?”

Lavender looked taken aback. “I can't do that,” she said.

Maddi was annoyed. “If you’re just going to Stun her anyway, why’d you need me to get these stupid hairs?” She handed the strands of curly brown hair to Pansy, who dropped them into the cauldron. The potion bubbled and fizzled and turned a shimmering gold color.

“To answer your question, Maddi, I didn’t originally plan on Stunning her but now that the perfect opportunity has presented itself, then I say why not?” said Pansy, stirring the potion with her wand.

“I can’t Stun her,” said Lavender from the window.

Maddi turned away from the scene. "Whatever, I'm leaving," She slammed the door on her way out.

“Lavender, what’s the matter with you? Just Stun her before she goes back inside!” Pansy barked.

“You do it then!” Lavender snapped, backing away from the window and stowing her wand into her purse.

“Fine!” Pansy stomped over to the window, aimed her wand at Hermione, and shouted, “Stupefy!”

There was a shriek as Hermione was caught completely unawares and toppled into a bush.

Lavender gasped and clapped her hand over her mouth, looking as though she really didn’t want to be a part of this scheme anymore.

Pansy simply shrugged before going back to the cauldron, conjuring two goblets, and ladling a fair amount of potion into each one. She unceremoniously handed one to Lavender.

“Drink,” she said bossily.

Lavender sighed. She flashed back to what she had witnessed earlier that day and then gulped the potion down before she could change her mind again.

Anyone happening to look through the window at that particular moment would see something very bizarre indeed. Both girls were transforming, magically morphing into the same person. The sizes and shapes of their bodies adjusted accordingly; their hair either darkened or lightened to become a shade of brown. Before either girl knew it, it was all over.

“How do you feel?” gasped Pansy. Even though she expected it, she was still surprised to hear Hermione’s voice come out of her mouth.

Lavender was on her hands and knees. “Fine,” she managed to say in a strangled whisper.

“We have to hurry,” said Pansy, rummaging into her bag. “I brought a change of clothes for the two of us. I think they will work for the time being.”

Lavender didn’t say anything as she put on the outfit Pansy had handed her. She tried not to look in the mirror, knowing that she would see someone else.

“Remember, all you have to do is tell the other girls what you’ve done. Then just run out of there in tears, like you’re really upset. I’ll meet you back in here in less than half an hour. Got that?” said Pansy.

Lavender merely pressed her lips together in a thin line and gave a curt nod before heading out the door.

Pansy turned to the mirror and tried smiling. The reflection in the mirror, Hermione’s reflection, smiled back. “Hello Draco,” she tried saying. “I’ve got something to tell you. I’ve been cheating on you this whole time with none other than Ronald Weasley.”

It sounded false even to her own ears, but once she started something, she intended on finishing it. She would go find Draco, tell him Hermione’s story, and then watch as, for once, somebody else’s world started falling apart. 

Before she left the room, she sprayed on some of her favorite perfume for good luck, just in case.

Lavender tiptoed down the corridor, feeling like she was a burglar just waiting to get caught. She reached the end of the hallway and went down the spiral staircase, but then she realized she had no idea where she was going. Fortunately, she bumped into a little house-elf wearing a towel like a toga.

“Er,” said Lavender uncertainly. “I’m looking for—”

“Ah!” the house-elf squeaked. “Missus must be looking for the tea party!”

“Yeah,” said Lavender, feeling like a complete idiot. “Can you tell me where it is?”

“Right this way, missus!” Lavender followed the house-elf into a well-lit wing of the manor. Narcissa Malfoy was sitting on a velvet chaise in the middle of the room, sipping tea out of a china cup, looking very lady-like and very aristocratic. Maddi and three other girls were gathered around her. All of them seemed to be on their best behavior.

“Oh, hello!” said Narcissa as she approached. “You must be Miss Granger.”

Lavender stared at her for a moment, but then she recovered her wits. “Why, yes I am,” she said, stuttering a little. “It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Malfoy. Please call me Hermione.”

“Why don’t you have a seat, Hermione dear? And please, call me Narcissa.” Narcissa smiled and gestured toward an ottoman where Maddi was already perched upon. Lavender sat down as gracefully as she could, all the while marveling at how nice and friendly Narcissa Malfoy seemed.

Maddi offered a plate of pastries to Lavender without taking one of them herself. She plastered a brilliantly fake smile onto her face. “Narcissa, these crumpets are simply delightful.”

“Thank you, dear,” said Narcissa. “I made them myself.”

“Oh, do you bake?” said Lavender without thinking. “I absolutely love to bake. I used to make cookies for R—” She suddenly stopped short, catching herself just in time.

Narcissa didn’t seem to notice, although a few of the other girls did. “I just read about a recipe for double chocolate chip cookies in Witch Weekly the other day! It looks absolutely scrumptious. Perhaps you would like to test it out with me one of these days.”

“Ooh, I love baking!” said one of the blonde girls, jumping into the conversation eagerly. Lavender noticed that she had an American accent. “My mum taught me how.”

“Is that so?” said Narcissa, smiling at her.

Lavender bit into the pastry. She was beginning to enjoy herself very much, but suddenly she remembered what she was supposed to be doing. Rather than ruining Hermione Granger’s reputation, she was positively bolstering it. She opened her mouth, intending on telling everyone all about Ron, but then she realized she couldn’t bring herself to do it.

“A Gryffindor through and through,” Lavender mumbled to herself.

“What?” Maddi snapped.

“Nothing,” said Lavender very quickly, taking a gulp of tea. Now all she had to do was get herself out of this sticky situation as soon as possible.

Pansy snuck into the private wing of Malfoy Manor, knowing precisely where she was going. She had gone down this path many times before, mostly in her childhood days. She flashed back to when she and Draco had been best friends. They used to play together. They used to tell each other everything. What had happened to them?

Now she crept along the hallway, listening intently for sounds of approaching footsteps. She reached Draco’s room without any difficulty and paused, wondering if she should knock or just go inside.

Before she could come to a decision, the door flew open and Draco Malfoy stepped outside, immediately catching sight of someone who wasn’t supposed to be there.

“Hermione!” he exclaimed. His arms automatically reached out to hold her, but for some reason she shrank away from him.

Pansy was staggered, just a little. It had been so long since she had been so near him that her senses were overwhelmed. He looked slightly different though, and she realized he was wearing reading glasses and held a book in his hands.

“Hi,” she stammered.

Draco took off his glasses and raised an eyebrow at her. “What are you doing here, Hermione? Aren’t you supposed to be having tea with my mum?”

“Er, yes,” said Pansy, looking down at her feet. Why was she so nervous? She was supposed to be good at this. “But I have something to say to you…something important. Is there somewhere we can sit down?”

Now he was frowning slightly. “Of course,” he said, running a hand through his hair. “Why don’t you…come into my room?”

Pansy took this hesitant invitation and barged into the room, choosing to sit down on a green leather chaise. She folded her hands in her lap and tried to look guilty, which really wasn’t all too difficult.

“What’s wrong?” he said, sitting down on the chair across from her. He leaned forward in his seat, a look of concern etched on his handsome face.

Pansy took a deep breath and then blurted everything out. “I’ve been seeing Ron.”

An impassive look washed over his face as all emotion disappeared. “You’ve been seeing Ron,” he repeated evenly.

“Yes,” said Pansy, trying to look him in the eye.

“You mean to say that…” He seemed unable to process what she was saying, let alone process what he was thinking.

Pansy swallowed hard. She was disturbed by the dark shadow that had flickered over his eyes. Was he really hurt by this?

“You’ve been lying to me this whole time.” He had stood up by now and was pacing the length of the room.

“Yes,” she said, sounding less sure of herself now.

“And you’re not sorry,” he observed.

“I…” She had no idea what to say.

“Do you love him?” He spat the question out, showing anger for the first time.

“I…I do, Draco, I do,” said Pansy, trying to sound as sincere as possible.

Draco paused and looked her over, scrutinizing her. “Hermione Granger, you’re not telling the truth right now, are you?”

“What do you mean?” Pansy stammered.

“I know you too well,” he said. And then, more gently, he said, “Hermione, what’s gotten into you?”

“I don’t know!” Pansy cried, burying her face into her hands. She had underestimated the strength of Hermione and Draco’s relationship. Her plan was ruined.

“You’re not yourself at all,” he continued, slowly. He stopped pacing and came to a halt in front of her.

“What do you mean?” said Pansy again, swallowing hard.

“You seem different.”

“How so?” said Pansy, nervously.

“You…you smell different.” Draco stared her in the eye, daring her to reveal her lie.

Pansy was forced to look away. She was about to open her mouth to give a snappy retort, but then she realized her mistake.

“Hermione, why are wearing Pansy’s signature perfume?” Draco inquired, with mock curiosity.

“I’m sorry, Draco,” was all she could say. 

So, no Dramione but a lot of drama nonetheless. I'm sorry about the long wait time in between updates, but I've been really busy with school. It is spring break though, so hopefully I'll be able to write more (even though my teachers gave me homework over break *cries*). Please review and let me know what you thought of this chapter!
Yours till the Snorkack's horn crumples,
Queen Luna

Chapter 25: Chapter 25: Revelation and Reconciliation
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Chapter 25: Revelation and Reconciliation

Hermione groaned as she struggled to open her eyes. Every inch of her was hurting, especially her head. Completely disoriented, she tried to figure out where she was and how exactly she had gotten there. She sat up slowly, rubbing her arms. It seemed that she had fallen into a rosebush and the prickly thorns had scratched every inch of skin that was exposed.

Nothing was making sense. Did she trip and happen to land on her head when she fell? She certainly couldn't remember anything, and that explanation would explain the sudden bout of amnesia from which she was suffering.

She tried standing up and found that she was able to, although her legs were a little wobbly. She tried thinking back to the moment in time before she had passed out, but that hurt her head too much so instead she concentrated on walking back to the manor. As she slowly made her way back inside, it suddenly struck her that no one had bothered to come outside to find her. How long had she been there, lying on the ground? How much time had passed?

Finally reaching the front door of the manor, she stepped into the foyer. She was making tracks for the safety and comfort of her room when she was suddenly stopped by a house-elf.

"Missus is late for the tea party!" the house-elf squeaked.

Hermione stared at the house-elf with her mouth slightly open and everything, or most of it at least, came flooding back to her. "Merlin's pants!" she groaned. "The tea party with the Narcissa--er, the bachelor's mum!" She was panicking now. Hermione Granger was never late to anything.

"I will show you the way there, missus!" the house-elf squeaked cheerfully. "Right this way, missus!"

"Er, thanks," said Hermione, following the house-elf to the parlor. Half of her wanted to get there as soon as possible, while the other half wanted to fix up her appearance first.

Before she could make a decision, she was at the parlor. The house-elf gave a slight bow before disappearing and Hermione was left on her own. She stepped into the parlor and immediately noticed a mirror image of herself. Only, the reflection wasn't completely accurate. For one thing, the Hermione staring at her in shock was wearing a red strapless dress, and a quick look down at her own outfit told her that she was wearing yellow, not red. For another, that Hermione had managed to transform her head of wild curls into gentle, cascading waves while the real Hermione knew that her hair was beyond messy at the moment, due to having recently used a thorny rosebush as a pillow. And lastly, that Hermione was seated on a pouf and biting into a pastry, while the real Hermione was still hovering by the door.

Her brain was still trying to register what was going, and she seemed incapable of speech. Fortunately, Georgina spoke for her.

"What the bloody hell is going on?" said the French girl, looking from one Hermione to the other, completely confused.

"Why are there two Hermiones?" said Caitlin slowly, as she stared, with much bewilderment, at the Hermione who had just arrived.

Narcissa, whom Hermione had just noticed, set down her teacup. "Well," she said mildly, "we seem to be in a puzzling predicament."

Before the real Hermione could say or do something, there was a commotion just outside the parlor.

"Draco, let me go!" shrieked a familiar voice. The voice was familiar in that it sounded a lot like her own voice…and yet there was something very different about it.

"Not until you tell me what exactly you're up to, Pansy Parkinson!" This voice belonged to a male and was very familiar. It was the bachelor, of course…Draco Malfoy.

"I'm not Pansy!" the first voice returned, a desperate protest. And with that a third Hermione stumbled into the room, crashing into an exact replica of herself.

The real Hermione stared at the two mirror images of herself. This had to be a really bad dream. There was simply no other explanation for it.

Draco Malfoy entered the room at that moment, looking a lot calmer than the three Hermiones and the rest of the women in the room. His stormy silver gaze flickered from one Hermione to the next, lingering for an extra second on the messy-haired one in the middle.

"Alright," he said loudly, his voice resounding around the parlor. "I know that one of you is the real Hermione--"

Karina interrupted him with a scream. The Russian girl had spilled her tea all over her lap and was pointing a shaking finger at the Hermione sitting on the pouf. This Hermione was in the midst of transforming back into her real self. Her hair was straightening and becoming lighter, her eyes were changing colors, her face shape was morphing into something else, and her body was becoming slightly taller and a bit thinner. It was quite disconcerting to watch, which explained Karina's shock.

Draco took a long, hard look at the girl who had looked like Hermione just a few seconds ago. "Lavender Brown?" he said incredulously. "That Gryffindor girl?"

Lavender looked down at her feet, too ashamed for words.

Draco turned his head and looked back at the two remaining Hermiones, only to find that just one was left--the one with the messy hair. The other was now Pansy Parkinson, and she looked close to tears.

"I knew it was you," he said, anger and disappointment mingled together in his tone of voice. "Pansy, what were you thinking? And dragging Lavender along too?"

"She was part of it too," said Pansy accusingly, pointing at Maddi as though hoping some of the blame would be taken off of her back.

Maddi was indignant. "I was not!"

Before Pansy could say something back, Narcissa Malfoy said, in a warning tone, "I think we'll leave Monsieur Beaumont to judge that." Maddi shrank back into the cushions, embarrassed.

"Hermione," said Draco, turning to face her. His arms ached to hold her, and he took a step in her direction, but she shook her head slightly. Her voice was coming back to her, and she intended to use it with full force.

Hermione was shaking with anger. She had never been more infuriated in her life. She was so furious that she could hardly speak, even though she wanted to scream at the girls who had done this to her.

"Hermione…" said Draco again, this time warily. She was about to explode, he could tell.

"What," said Hermione in a low, dangerous voice, "the bloody hell is wrong with you people? Coming back into the game like this, Parkinson? Was this the dignified comeback you had hoped to make? Are you always this selfish, ruining other people's lives so that you might feel a little better about your pathetic self? Trying to sabotage my shot in this game, my chance at happiness? You couldn't bear to see someone else with your Draco, hmm?"

Pansy glared at her even as a tear trickled out the corner of her right eye.

"And Lavender--seeking revenge for something that was all a huge misunderstanding? I don't think I deserved to be betrayed like this. I thought I knew you better than this." Hermione was near tears herself, but Lavender was the one who burst into tears first.

"I'm sorry!" she cried, burying her face into her hands. "It was all a huge mistake. I'm so sorry, Hermione…but you must know that I didn't go through with Pansy's plan. I couldn't bring myself to do it. I know that doesn't make it any better…but I just wanted you to know that."

Hermione paused for a second, her angry gaze softening slightly.

"It's true," said Georgina hesitatingly, not wanting to get involved but feeling like she had to. "She didn't do anything to embarrass you or anything, I promise."

Lavender nodded, her tearstained face pleading for Hermione to forgive her.

But Hermione felt like she should apologize too. "I'm sorry about what happened earlier today," she said. "I swear to you that I have no romantic feelings whatsoever about Ron, and he had none for me either. He misses you, Lavender. You should go see him."

Lavender smiled a watery smile and then stood up to give Hermione a hug. "Thanks Hermione," she said. "And I'm sorry, once again, for going along with something as stupid as this."

"It's fine…I forgive you," said Hermione, smiling slightly. "We're alright now, aren't we?"

"Yeah," said Lavender, nodding enthusiastically. "Hey, one of these days we should all go out or something--you, me, and Ginny…I'll call up Parvati too."

Hermione gave her a real smile this time. "That's a great idea…. I'll talk to you later, Lavender. Ron's probably waiting for you."

Lavender grinned, hugged Hermione again, and then Disapparated with a loud crack.

One down, Hermione thought, one more to go. With much trepidation, she turned to face Pansy, only to see that she was in Draco's arms, sobbing.

"I'm sorry, Draco," Pansy was crying, her mascara streaking onto his shirt. "I never realized…I never thought…"

Before Hermione could get properly jealous (the rest of the girls were already green with envy, glaring at Pansy), Pansy broke away from Draco, wiping her eyes.

"We used to be good friends, Pansy," said Draco. "What happened?"

Pansy sniffed. "I liked you more than a friend," she said brazenly, "and you didn't love me back."

"I can't love you when I love someone else," said Draco slowly and evenly, looking her in the eyes.

Caitlin gasped and started making wild hand motions. "He loves one of us!" she mouthed. Georgina kept her expression calm while Karina looked on haughtily. Maddi made a face. She had recently come to the conclusion that winning the bachelor's heart was quickly becoming a hopeless cause.

"I'm sorry for interfering," said Pansy tearfully. "I'm sorry I came back."

Draco merely gazed at her for a moment before glancing at a wary Hermione. "I think Hermione is the one you need to apologize to."

"Right," said Pansy, taking a deep breath and forced herself to look at Hermione. "Granger--er, Hermione…I'm sorry for impersonating you in an attempt to steal Draco from you. And I'm sorry for Stunning you too."

At this revelation, Draco's expression quickly became something akin to fury. "You went as far as to Stun her?" he said in a low, dangerous voice.

Pansy seemed to shrink a little. "Yes," she said in a tiny voice, "from an upstairs window."

"You Stunned her from behind?" said Draco thunderously, outraged. Pansy shrank even more and cowered as though she expected a bolt of lightning to strike her down.

"That explains a lot," Hermione muttered to herself.

"Hermione, are you okay?" said Draco with much concern, taking two quick strides to get to Hermione's side. He gently took her by the shoulders, holding her out at arm's length, and examined her carefully, noting the bruises and scratches on her arms and face. He was furious that this had happened to her. In fact, he thought savagely, if Pansy weren't a woman he would have beaten her to a pulp for doing this to Hermione.

"I'll be alright," Hermione assured him. She gently shrugged away from him, as much as she wanted to lean into his comforting embrace. But there was business she had to finish first. She took a step toward Pansy, who flinched but held her ground.

"Pansy," she said slowly, "I haven't forgiven you yet. I'm still rather angry with you. But one day, you'll find someone else who loves you back, and you'll learn to forget the prejudices you have toward me…and maybe we'll look back upon this day and…laugh." She ended her little speech softly; the anger had seeped out of her. Suddenly she was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to heal her wounds and sleep the rest of the day away.

"You are far too kind," Draco murmured into her ear. He was by her side again, one arm wrapped around her waist.

"I'll be leaving now," said Pansy, looking down at the floor. She had stopped crying, for now. "Goodbye." She gazed around the room one last time and some of her old self seemed to come back into her. She smiled sweetly. "Thanks for the help, Maddi," she called out. "We couldn't have done it without you."

Maddi turned bright red. Monsieur Beaumont chose that precise moment to come into the room, catching Pansy's last words and looking very confused. "Did I miss something? Mademoiselle Parkinson, why are you here? And Mademoiselle Granger, what happened to you?" he asked. He then caught the guilty look on Maddi's face. "And what did you have to do with it?" he inquired, looking directly at Maddi.

Pansy was hovering by the door, looking like she wanted to stay around to see just how everything would play out, but Draco stopped her.

"Pansy," he said sternly, "leave."

And Pansy Parkinson left without another word. It was the last time Hermione would ever have trouble with her again. 

Yes, it's been awhile. And I'm sorry to say I'll be even more busy these next two months. I have 3 AP tests to study for!!! Unfortunately they are more important than HPFF, although believe me, I'd much rather be writing my stories. Anyway, I'd like to thank everyone for all their reviews. Whenever I have time to write, I look at them for motivation and inspiration. So keep the reviews coming, please! And if you're bored between updates, you can always reread! Chapters 13-18 are especially in want of reviews...(most of the original ones got deleted during the site crash) :D
Yours till the Specterspecs make you blind (thanks to stepnhunguyen for this new sign-off!),

Queen Luna

Chapter 26: Chapter 26: Deliberations and Decisions
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Good news! I'm on summer vacation!!! That means I'll have more time to write. Without further ado, here is Chapter 26 of The Game of Love!

Chapter 26: Deliberations and Decisions

Hermione was sitting at the breakfast table with four other girls, listening to Monsieur Beaumont drone on and on about yesterday’s events. Every detail made her cringe inwardly as she remembered how she had been impersonated by not one but two vengeful women, and how she had been Stunned from behind and left to her own devices in a prickly rosebush. She was glad that everything had worked out in the end and that she had escaped from the ordeal relatively unharmed, but did Monsieur Beaumont really have to recount everything that had happened that disastrous day? Did she honestly have to listen to him go on and on and on?

“. . . And as for Mademoiselle Maddi, since we do not have sufficient evidence that you were involved in yesterday’s—ahem—shenanigans, you can consider yourself innocent until proven guilty,” said Monsieur Beaumont, looking at Maddi sternly. 

Maddi looked relieved, but also defiant. As far as she was concerned, she had done nothing wrong. 

“On a different note,” Monsieur Beaumont continued, “some of you ladies may be wondering when the next rose ceremony shall take place. I have spoken with the bachelor, and he has told me that he is ready to move forward with the competition. Hence, the rose ceremony shall take place ce soir. Tonight.” 

“Tonight?” said Caitlin, looking worried. 

Oui,” he said. “And it must be noted that this time, the bachelor’s mother will be helping him with his decision based on her impressions from yesterday’s tea party.” 

At this, Hermione frowned. That didn’t seem fair to her, considering that she had been out for most of the tea party . . . . 

She cleared her throat loudly. “Monsieur Beaumont?” 

“What is it, Mademoiselle Granger?” said Monsieur Beaumont. 

“I was unconscious for most of the tea party, so I don’t think I have a fair chance—” 

“That may very well be, but unfortunately that was out of my control, and so everything shall proceed as planned,” interrupted Monsieur Beaumont with a tone of finality in his voice. 

Hermione started to argue, but stopped short when none other than Narcissa Malfoy herself strode into the room. She was wearing a set of midnight-blue robes and her blonde hair was twisted into a simple and yet elegant knot on her head. She was tall and thin. To Hermione, she seemed delicate and mild and yet commanding and intimidating when she wanted to be. 

“Monsieur Beaumont,” said Narcissa, her voice like silk. 

Monsieur Beaumont turned around, surprised. “Ah! Madame Malfoy! I was just telling these young ladies about—” 

“Yes, I couldn’t help but overhear,” she cut in smoothly. “And I do think that Miss Granger here has a point.” 

Hermione’s mouth dropped open in surprise, but she quickly closed it. Did Narcissa Malfoy just stand up for her? It couldn’t be possible. 

“Oh,” said Monsieur Beaumont, flustered. “Well—” 

“We could have another tea party,” said Narcissa, “or brunch. Yes, I think we’ll do that.” She paused to smile at the girls. “Ladies, I will meet every single one of you in the sun room for brunch in about two hours. Will that be alright, Monsieur Beaumont?” 

“Oh, yes,” he stuttered, “that’s perfectly fine.” 

“Excellent.” Narcissa made to leave, but then turned to Hermione with a faint smile. “And Miss Granger, please try to make it this time.” 

Hermione smiled back, still in disbelief. “I will,” she said earnestly. 

“Good. I will see all of you in just a little bit.” She gave an aristocratic wave, nodded to Monsieur Beaumont, and then left the room. 

“Well then, Miss Granger, you seemed to have gotten your way thanks to Madame Malfoy,” said a disgruntled Monsieur Beaumont. “You all may leave.” 

Caitlin and Karina strode out the door without another word. Maddi made sure to accidentally bump into Hermione on her way out. Georgina gave Hermione a smile before leaving as well. 

And Hermione couldn’t help but flash a triumphant grin as she passed Monsieur Beaumont on her way out the door, because Narcissa Malfoy was on her side. 


Later that morning, Hermione put on one of the many sundresses Ginny had bought for her, quickly brushed her hair (she had used a charm on it this morning after getting out of the shower so it wasn’t so unruly), and then headed down to the sun room for tea. She had to ask a house-elf for directions, but other than that she arrived promptly and without any hitches. 

“Miss Granger,” said Narcissa as she entered. 

“Mrs. Malfoy,” said Hermione graciously. She felt like she should curtsy, but then thought that it might be a little too archaic. “It’s so nice to finally meet you. And please, call me Hermione.” 

“It’s wonderful to meet you too, Hermione. And you really are Hermione, correct?” said Narcissa with a laugh. 

Hermione laughed too. “Yes, I am. No Polyjuice Potion here.” 

“Thank goodness. I’ve learned that I can never be sure anymore. Would you like some tea?” 

“Yes, please,” said Hermione, taking a seat next to Georgina, who was the first one there. Narcissa handed her a delicate china cup brimming with tea. “Thank you, Mrs. Malfoy.” 

“Oh, please call me Narcissa. Mrs. Malfoy just doesn’t suit me anymore,” said Narcissa as she poured herself a cup of tea. 

Hermione was about to respond when Maddi sauntered in, wearing a hot pink dress.  “Lovely to see you again, Narcissa,” she said, with the air of someone meeting an old friend. 

Narcissa smiled slightly. “Would you like some tea?” 

Maddi responded with an affirmative and then sat down next to Georgina. A few moments later, Caitlin and Karina arrived, and the midmorning gathering officially began. 

They were discussing the weather when Narcissa suddenly stood up. “I think I need to go to the kitchens to check on the house-elves,” she said. “Hermione, will you accompany me?” 

Hermione stood up as well, surprised. “Sure,” she said. She glanced at Georgina, who shrugged. She followed Narcissa out of the sun room and down the hall, trying to emulate the older woman’s graceful stride, but finding that she couldn’t. 

Once they were in the kitchens, Narcissa watched the house-elves for awhile and tasted some of the soup they were making for brunch, but Hermione figured that she just needed an excuse to talk to her alone. 

“Hermione,” said Narcissa, hesitating slightly, “I know it does no good to bring up the past, but—since you are a welcome guest in my house—I feel that I need to apologize for what my sister did to you ten years ago.” 

Hermione didn’t have to ask her what she was talking about. She tried to speak, but her throat was stuck. 

“I am not going to lie and say that I never believed in that pureblood rubbish, because I did. But not anymore . . . after the war . . . everything changed. I like to believe that I have changed. And I hope you know that Draco has changed too.” 

Hermione finally found her voice again. “I know,” she said quietly. “You know, I wandered around the manor once, even when Monsieur Beaumont told us not to, and I found the drawing room. Everything from that night just came rushing back . . . but then Draco found me. He saved me.” She smiled briefly as she flashed back to the morning after, and how she had woken up to find herself lying in his bed. She quickly brushed that thought away though, knowing that it probably wasn’t quite appropriate to think about that sort of thing when she was having a heart-to-heart talk with his mother. 

“And it was your sister’s doing,” Hermione continued. “You couldn’t do anything. And I don’t hold grudges—so please don’t feel guilty about things that happened such a long time ago.” 

“I just wanted to tell you that I’m sorry for what happened in the past,” said Narcissa, “in case you have qualms about joining the Malfoy family.” 

If Hermione was shocked from hearing an apology from Narcissa Malfoy, she was even more shocked now. “Whatever do you mean, Narcissa?” she stammered. 

Narcissa smiled, almost mischievously, like she knew something Hermione didn't. “Oh, I think you know what I mean. Now, let’s go back to the sun room. Those other girls will probably be wondering where we’ve gone.” And with that, she led a stunned Hermione back to the sun room. 


“Well, Mum,” said Draco, taking a seat on a leather chaise and loosening his tie.  “What do you think of them?” He had just come back from attending to some business at the Ministry and the last thing he wanted to do was go through another rose ceremony. But he had no choice in the matter. 

Narcissa leaned back in her armchair. The brunch had ended hours ago, and the rose ceremony was about to begin. “Some of them are quite lovely,” she said, “and some of them are . . . not.” 

Draco frowned. “They were all on their best behavior, weren’t they?” 

“Oh, of course,” said Narcissa. “But I could see right through some of them.” 

“I knew you would be able to,” said her son absentmindedly. “So tell me, Mum. Let’s start with Georgina. What do you make out of her?” 

“She’s a beautiful one,” said Narcissa. “And frankly, that’s all I can say about her. Her personality wasn’t very striking to me.” 

Draco nodded. Georgina was gorgeous; there was no doubt about that. He felt like he could learn to love her, but there was a certain spark that was missing. “What about Karina?” 

“The Russian one. Another beautiful girl. But I think she’s trying too hard to win you over.” 

“I think you’re onto something, Mum. Now what about Maddi?” 

“The tall, blonde one if I’m not mistaken . . . well, I don’t like her. Simple as that.” 

“Glad to see we’re on the same page,” said Draco, the corner of his mouth twitching.
“If you don’t like her, dear, then why is she still here?” 

“She can be quite . . . persistent. And she was better than the others I had to choose from. Now, Mum, what do you think of Caitlin?” 

“She’s the American girl, isn’t she?” said Narcissa. 

Draco nodded again. 

“She’s a bit dim-witted at times, but otherwise a very nice girl. And she’s quite pretty.”
Draco bit back a laugh, because his mother’s first statement was so very true. “And Hermione?” he said, deliberately saving her for last. 

“Oh, she’s wonderful. Intelligent, forgiving, compassionate . . . I never thought I’d see the day where I would actually enjoy the company of a Muggle-born. I’m so proud of you, dear.” 

“For what?” said Draco. 

“For being able to see past the old pureblood prejudices. You’ve kept her around for this long. That must mean something, right?” Narcissa was smiling at him, teasing him, trying to get him to admit something. 

Draco looked down at his feet. Narcissa thought she could detect a faint blush on his cheeks. “I don’t know, Mum, and I wouldn’t tell you if I did. But for tonight, I’ve made my decision. Thanks for your help.” 

“You’re very welcome, dear,” said Narcissa with a smile. 

“I’m off to break some hearts.” He smirked at the thought. Inside, he truly disliked this part of the competition the most, the part where he had to send someone home, but he knew that with each rose ceremony, he was getting closer to finding the love of his life, the one who would ultimately win the Game of Love. 

Narcissa sighed as her son left. “My son, always the gentleman,” she murmured. 


Hermione changed into a black strapless dress for tonight’s rose ceremony, her stomach full of butterflies. She wasn’t sure what to expect. She felt like the brunch with Draco’s mother had gone quite well, and she was touched by the apology and the private conversation, but who knew what Narcissa really thought of her? 

“I think you’ll be fine,” said Georgina when the two of them met at the top of the staircase that would lead them to the foyer. The French girl could sense the nerves in Hermione’s eyes. 

Hermione managed a smile. “And I bet you’ll survive the night, Georgina.” 

“Really?” said the French girl, straightening her red dress. 

“Better you than Maddi,” Hermione mumbled under her breath. 

Georgina let out a short laugh. “Oui, I really hope she’s going.” 

“Who?” said Caitlin, coming to join them at that very moment. She was wearing a pink cocktail dress with ruffles. 

“Not you,” Hermione assured her. The three of them descended the staircase together. 

The bachelor hadn’t yet arrived, but Maddi and Karina were already there. Karina was pacing. Maddi was leaning against the banister, looking like she might throw up. 

“I don’t know why I’m so nervous,” the tall blonde kept muttering. 

Monsieur Beaumont strode into the foyer just then, with a silver tray containing exactly three roses. “Good evening ladies,” he said crisply. 

No one bothered to return his greeting. This rose ceremony seemed different from all the previous ones, for some reason. Perhaps it was because the stakes were higher. Each of them had come so far, and each of them was so close to the end . . . but two of the girls had to go. Whatever the reason, the tension in the air was more palpable than ever. 

“The bachelor shall be arriving shortly. I presume that he is still speaking with—” 

“No I am not, Monsieur Beaumont. I’m here.” Draco strode into the foyer, wearing a black tuxedo. His hair was combed but not gelled. Hermione knew that she had seen him many times before, but his appearance tonight just took her breath away. Little did she know that she was having the same affect on him. 

“Very well, Monsieur Malfoy,” said Monsieur Beaumont, looking peeved from being interrupted yet again. He turned to the girls, who had lined up expectantly. “Then the rose ceremony shall commence. Good luck to all of you.” He stepped back behind the camera crew. 

Draco spotted the silver tray hovering in midair and went to stand by it. He took a breath before making a short speech. 

“This week has been quite tumultuous, with the group date and yesterday’s events. Nevertheless, with the help of my mother, my heart and my mind are clearer than ever. To the three who will remain, I look forward to next week’s proceedings. And to the two who must leave, I wish you all the luck in finding love somewhere else.” 

With that, Monsieur Beaumont waved his wand and the three roses flew into the air, hovering in place for a second before flying over to Georgina, Caitlin, and Hermione. 

Hermione gazed at the rose in her hands and let out a breath she didn’t know she had been holding. She glanced over at Draco, who was watching her. He winked at her and smirked. She rolled her eyes but smiled. 

Tears had started to stream from Karina’s eyes. “I—I don’t understand,” she sobbed. “I thought everything was going so well!” 

Draco took a step toward her, looking highly uncomfortable, and she threw herself into his arms. “Why?” she cried, looking up at him with watery eyes. 

Before he could even think of a proper answer to that question, the Russian girl shook her head and fled from the scene. 

Maddi, on the other hand, strode up to the bachelor and slapped him across the face. Georgina and Caitlin gasped. Hermione stifled a giggle. Draco didn’t even flinch.
“That was for wasting my time and playing with my heart,” she snapped. “And, just for the record, I think you’re making a huge mistake.” 

“Good-bye, Maddi,” said Draco calmly, ignoring the stinging sensation on the right side of his face. 

Maddi glared at him, stomped her foot, let out a frustrated scream, and then made her dramatic exit. One of the cameramen started to clap. Someone joined him, and soon the whole room was applauding for Maddi’s departure. 

Monsieur Beaumont stepped forward, clearing his throat loudly. “Congratulations to all three of you,” he said. “But before you celebrate, I have an announcement to make.” He paused for a brief moment. 

Hermione, Georgina, and Caitlin gazed at him attentively, waiting for him to continue. 

“It is time for the bachelor to meet your families. This is how it is going to work. All three of you will return home to prepare for Mr. Malfoy’s arrival. He will stay at your home for one night only, and during that time he can get to know your parents and siblings and vice versa. A camera crew, of course, will be there with you to record everything. Any questions?” 

Georgina and Caitlin shook their heads, but Hermione could only stare at him in shock. 

Merlin’s pants, she thought, feeling like someone had numbed her brain. Draco Malfoy is going to meet my parents. 

Alrighty, so this was somewhat of a filler chapter, but I had to tie up some loose ends and I had to get rid of two more girls, which I'm sure most of you won't object to. :P I feel like Draco has been missing in action for far too many chapters, so he'll be back for the next couple of chapters! I've been looking forward to writing the "Meet the Parents" scene. Lol. Anyway, thank you all for reviewing and please continue to do so! They keep me going! 
Yours till the Nargles infest your brain,
Queen Luna

Chapter 27: Chapter 27: Meet the Parents: Part One
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Alrighty, here is Chapter 27 of The Game of Love! I feel like this chapter could use a bit more editing so it flows a little better, but I thought I'd post it anyway. :P Enjoy!

Chapter 27: Meet the Parents: Part One

“I really should have seen this coming,” Hermione muttered to herself as she threw open the doors of her wardrobe and began pulling out every article of clothing within her reach. “I mean, it was bound to happen, right? I should’ve known that one day Draco will have to meet my parents. Honestly. Why didn’t I see this coming?” When her arms were full of clothes, she backed away from the wardrobe and tossed everything into an open, empty suitcase. 

Ginny Weasley listened to Hermione’s monologue with great amusement. She couldn’t help but grin as she observed her friend’s nervous energy. It was endearing, really, to see how agitated and stressed Hermione was about a simple overnight date involving Draco Malfoy and dear old Mr. and Mrs. Granger. 

“And did I mention that it’s an overnight date?” Hermione continued, speaking directly to Ginny now. She slammed the wardrobe doors shut and then turned to the overflowing suitcase. 

“Yeah, I think you did,” said Ginny, humoring her. “What do your parents think of that?” 

“I haven’t told them yet,” Hermione admitted, stopping for a second to rub her eyes tiredly. She hadn’t slept very well the night before. “I don’t want to even think about telling them. My dad is so overprotective that I bet he’ll force Draco to sleep in the basement and put a lock on my bedroom door.” 

“It’s not like you two would try anything while staying at your parents’ house, right?” said Ginny slyly. 

Quite predictably, Hermione blushed. “Of course not!” she exclaimed, flustered. “I was just saying that—” 

“Calm down, Hermione,” said Ginny, grinning. “I know what you were saying.” 

Hermione glared at her redheaded friend for a moment. “You don’t understand, Ginny,” she snapped. “Harry already knew your parents long before you two started dating, so you didn’t have go through this nightmarish scenario!” 

Ginny couldn’t help but roll her eyes. “Nightmarish? Really, Hermione? I think you’re overreacting to this whole thing, to be honest. I mean, Draco really likes you. He’s going to be on his best behavior when he meets your parents. And your parents will love him, probably, if he turns on the charm…which he most definitely will.” 

Hermione took a deep, calming breath. “Maybe you’re right,” she said. 

Ginny smirked. “Of course I am. And besides, what could possibly go wrong?” 


Draco Malfoy inspected his appearance in the mirror as he knotted his cobalt-blue tie. He had been told that this particular tie brought out the color of his eyes, which was why he had chosen to wear this one rather than his usual green one. 

He was wearing a black suit, Muggle-style. It was tailored to fit and freshly ironed. His hair was neatly combed but not gelled back, which was just the way Hermione liked it, he knew. 

When he was satisfied with his appearance, he turned away from the mirror and strode over to his bed, where a small overnight bag was sitting. He checked its contents to make sure he had everything he needed and then zipped it up. He was ready to go, but couldn’t leave just yet. 

He reread the note Hermione had given to him earlier that day. Since Hermione’s name had been drawn out of the hat first, she didn’t have as much time as the other girls to warn her parents about the imminent rendezvous. That was why she had suggested that she go over to her parents’ house first to explain everything to them. Draco would find his way over there on his own, when they were ready for him. 

Hermione had given him a strange Muggle device, something called a cell phone. It was sleek and shiny and black and very small. She told him that she would call him to tell him when he could come over. She tried to explain how it worked, but she only confused him. In the end, she told him that when it rang, he should answer it, and they would be able to talk. 

Now he was waiting for her call. He paced around his room, trying to hide his nerves. He sat down and tried to read a few pages of a novel but found that he was unable to concentrate. He tried to imagine what Hermione’s parents would be like. The only things she had told him about them were that they were dentists—whatever the heck dentists were—and that Mrs. Granger’s favorite flowers were chrysanthemums. 

Suddenly, he heard a loud ringing noise and jumped in shock. The noise seemed to be coming from his pocket, oddly enough. He reached in and pulled out the cell phone. Sure enough, it was ringing. 

Well, now what should he do? He brought the phone to his ear, as Hermione had instructed him, but it still rang, rattling his sensitive eardrums. He frowned and inspected the phone a little more closely. Nothing stood out to him. He pressed random buttons and eventually the ringing stopped, replaced by Hermione’s voice. He put the phone next to his ear again. 

“Hello?” he tried. 

“Draco?” said Hermione. 

“Hi Hermione,” he said, somewhat gleefully. He now knew how to work a cell phone, a Muggle invention! She would be so proud of him. 

“Well, I’m glad to see you got it to work,” she said, amused. “Anyway, you can come over now. You have my address, right?” 

“Yes, it’s right here,” he said, taking out the note again. “I’ll be right there.” 

“Okay,” she said. Draco could almost feel her smiling through the phone. “I’ll see you soon.” 

“Love you,” he said before hanging up, smirking. He wondered what she would think of that. 

Draco put the cell phone back into his pocket, picked up his bag, and headed out the door. A limousine was waiting for him outside the manor. He gave the chauffeur the address and then leaned back in his seat. In just under an hour he would be meeting Hermione’s parents. He was nervous as hell, but like a true Malfoy, he appeared as calm and composed as ever. 


Hermione hung up the phone, suddenly feeling as light and as giddy as a girl with her first crush. But the feeling quickly vanished as she heard the voices of her parents in the next room. They were arguing…again. 

“What do you mean her boyfriend is coming over to stay with us?” Mr. Granger shouted. 

“I mean exactly what I said!” Mrs. Granger shouted back, very impatiently. “It’s only for one night, Robert. You said you wanted to meet the boy, didn’t you? Now stop making it such a big deal!” 

“Yeah, I wanted to meet him,” said Mr. Granger grumpily. “But I didn’t want him to spend the night here…with our darling daughter.” 

“Oh, Robert, it’ll be fine. Hermione said that he’s the perfect gentleman.” 

Hermione sighed. She had come home this morning to find her mum baking cookies and her dad out golfing. Her mum had taken the news quite well, but since her dad was out golfing she wasn’t able to tell him yet. Apparently he had come home while she was on the phone with Draco, and her dear mum had taken the liberty of telling him first. At any rate, she decided it was time to enter the scene. She strode into the kitchen and gave her dad, who was wearing a bizarre pair of green-and-purple plaid pants, a hug. “Hi Daddy,” she said cheerfully. 

“Hermione dear,” said Mr. Granger, softening immediately. 

“How was golf?” she inquired. 

“Excellent,” he said. “I caught two birdies.” He beamed. 

“Fantastic!” said Hermione, holding up a hand for a high-five. 

“Thank you, dear,” he said. “Now, what’s this that your mother’s telling me about? Something about a boy coming over tonight to visit?” 

“Oh yes,” said Hermione. “Remember Draco? I told you about him on the phone a week ago. It’s time for the meet-the-parents part of the show, so he’s coming over today. I’m sorry it’s such short notice….” 

“That’s fine, dear,” said Mr. Granger. “But does he really have to stay the entire night?” 

“Yes, it’s part of the rules,” said Hermione, knowing that her dad was a stickler for rules. “And there will be a small camera crew too, to record everything for the show.” 

“Ah,” said Mr. Granger. 

“In other words,” his wife cut in, “you need to be on your best behavior.” 

“Yes, dear,” said Mr. Granger, sighing. 

“You can start by changing out of those ridiculous pants,” said Hermione, trying to make it sound like a joke even though she was quite serious. 

“Why, what’s wrong with them?” he said innocently. 

“They’re a bit too…loud for the occasion,” Hermione explained. She began steering him toward the staircase. “He’ll be here any minute now. Please go change, Daddy.” 

Mr. Granger turned to his wife for support. “Do you think these pants are too loud?” he asked. 

Mrs. Granger rolled her eyes. “I think they’re positively ridiculous. Come on dear, let’s go find something that won’t make her boyfriend’s eyes bleed.” She led her husband up the stairs and out of sight. 

Still too nervous to sit still, Hermione paced around the house, straightening everything as she went. Any minute now, and Draco would be knocking on her front door to meet her parents. 


Draco peered out the tinted window of the limousine as the chauffeur pulled up to a row of modest blue-and-white houses. “Are you sure this is it?” he asked. 

The chauffeur nodded in reply. 

Shrugging, Draco got out of the limousine with his bag in tow. Without bothering to check the house number, he strode up to the nearest house, assuming that it’d be Hermione’s. He looked around quickly to make sure that no one was watching, pulled out his wand, and conjured a bouquet of chrysanthemums. He rang the doorbell and waited. 

After what seemed like a very long time, the door opened, revealing a little old lady with white hair, thick glasses, and wrinkly skin. She was so short that she barely came up to Draco’s waist. 

Draco frowned. Hermione hadn’t informed him that her grandmother would be there too…. 

“What does a handsome young chap like you want?” the old lady shouted at him. 

Draco blinked. “Uh—” 

“Speak up, I can’t hear you!” the old lady shouted. 

Draco raised his voice. “You must be Hermione’s grandmother!” he nearly shouted. 

“Who on earth is Hermione?” 

So this old grandma was deaf and senile. “She’s my girlfriend and she’s expecting me, so—” 

“Expecting you? No one’s expecting you! You young people get ruder and ruder every time I meet one of you,” the old lady grumbled. “Say, what’s your name?” 

“Draco Malfoy,” said Draco, at the end of his patience. 

“Drake? Oh, Drake! Why didn’t you tell me it was you?” the old lady’s voice changed completely and she was now giving him a frightening, toothless smile rather than a ferocious glare. He preferred the glare. “Come inside and give your great-grandma a hug.” 

Draco’s eyes widened. “Um, I’m not your great-grandson,” he said hastily, backing away. 

“But you said your name was Drake!” said the old lady. 

“Not Drake,” Draco shouted at her. “Draco! With an ‘o’ at the end of Drake!” 

“So you are Drake!” she exclaimed. “Don’t be shy, come on in. I have some pudding you can eat if you’re hungry, dear.” 

Draco nearly tore his hair out in frustration. “I’m sorry, but this is all a big mistake. I’m looking for Hermione—” 

The next thing he knew, the old lady had grabbed a heavy vase and had chucked it at him with surprising force. He instinctively ducked. The vase crashed into the driveway instead of his head, shattering into a thousand pieces. The old lady glared at him as she reached for a china plate this time. 

That was it. With a strangled yell, Draco ran from the door and didn’t dare look back. 



Hermione looked up from the windowsill she was currently dusting, startled. She looked around for the source of the noise. It didn’t seem to come from inside the house…. 

Someone was yelling. She peered out the window at her neighbor’s house, trying to figure out what was going on. At that moment, a tall man with blond hair ran past her house like he was running for his life. Her mouth dropped open. The duster fell out of her hand and clattered to the floor. That couldn’t be…. 

She ran out the front door. “Draco?” she called out, uncertainly. 

“Oh, so you’re Hermione!” 

Hermione winced and turned on the spot to see her old neighbor waving a china plate at her. “He was looking for you, you know!” the old woman shouted. 

“Oh,” said Hermione meekly. “Thanks, Mrs. Harrison.” 

“Just tell him not to bother me again!” Mrs. Harrison grumbled before slamming the door shut. 

Hermione waved half-heartedly and then ran out onto the street. “Draco?” she shouted. 

She spotted him just then, taking cover under a large oak tree. At the sound of her voice, he looked up, clearly relieved. 

She walked over to him. “Draco, what happened?” She pressed a hand to her mouth, willing herself not to laugh. He looked shaken. His tie was coming undone, and his hair was a mess. 

He was trying to catch his breath. “That mad old woman,” he gasped, “tried to kill me!” 

“Did you knock on the wrong door?” said Hermione. 

He looked ashamed. “Yeah, I did.” 

Hermione couldn’t help it. She burst out laughing. 

He glared at her. “It’s not funny!” 

“Oh, it is,” she said, but she stopped laughing. She ran her fingers through his hair, straightening it, and then redid his tie. “Come on. You have to meet my parents now.” 

“Please tell me they didn’t catch that on camera,” said Draco. 

“Oh, we did,” said the cameraman, dropping out of the tree. 

Draco merely glared at him and the cameraman quickly said, “But we can cut that segment out if you’d like, sir.” 

“Come on Draco,” said Hermione, leading him away from the tree. “It’s time to meet my parents.” 

Draco sighed, straightened his jacket, and then followed Hermione to the correct house this time. She pushed open the door and led him into the house where her parents were waiting. He swallowed his nerves. 

Mrs. Granger was smiling at him, while Mr. Granger looked rather disgruntled. Hermione stepped forward and cleared her throat unnecessarily. 

“Draco, meet my mum, Jane, and my dad, Robert. Mum and Dad, this is my—er, this is Draco. Draco Malfoy.” Hermione tried to smile, but she was too nervous. 

“It’s so nice to finally meet you, Mrs. Granger,” said Draco, holding his hand out to Hermione’s mum first, seeing as she appeared to be more welcoming. 

“Oh, it’s lovely to meet you too, Draco,” said Mrs. Granger warmly as she shook his hand. “And please call me Jane.” 

“Mr. Granger,” said Draco, turning to Hermione’s dad. “Thank you so much for welcoming me into your home, sir.” 

Well, at least he has manners, thought Mr. Granger grudgingly. “It’s our pleasure to have you here, son,” he said, making an effort to be nice. 

“So, Mum, where will Draco be sleeping?” said Hermione, a bit nervously. 

“Oh,” said Mrs. Granger, as though just realizing that her daughter’s boyfriend would be sleeping over. “Well, Draco dear, I’d put you in the guest room, but it’s full of junk at the moment…I’ve been cleaning out the attic, you see. And we can’t possibly have you sleep on the couch…it’s not nearly long enough.” 

“He could stay in the basement,” Mr. Granger suggested hopefully. 

Mrs. Granger shushed her husband. “Don’t be silly, dear. Now, Hermione, your bed is big enough for two people. Draco can stay in your room!” 

Hermione’s mouth dropped open the same time her dad’s did. She quickly closed her mouth, while her dad continued to look dumbstruck. Draco was smirking…of course. 

“Now, are you sure about that, honey?” Mr. Granger stammered. “Hermione’s only—” 

“She’s twenty-seven, dear, and a very responsible adult, as is Draco, I’m sure,” Mrs. Granger interrupted her husband. 

“Yes I am, sir,” said Draco, speaking directly to Mr. Granger. “I won’t do anything to harm your daughter or make her feel uncomfortable.” 

Mrs. Granger beamed at him and elbowed Mr. Granger in the ribs repeatedly until he decided to stop arguing with his wife. “Well, that’s fine with me, then,” he grumbled.
“Fantastic,” said Mrs. Granger. “Hermione, go show him where to put his things.” 

“Erm…right this way,” Hermione mumbled, leading him to the stairs. 

“You know,” said Draco once they were out of earshot. “I like your mum.” 

Hermione turned her head to give him a half-annoyed, half-amused look as they made their way down the hallway. “Of course you do,” she said snappishly. She pushed her bedroom door open. “Well, here we are.” She was nervous again. 

Draco set his bag down by the door and surveyed the room with great interest. The walls were painted a calming shade of lavender, the same color as the sheets on her white four-poster bed. A painting of the English countryside was hanging above her dresser, which was littered with picture frames and other objects. On the other side of the room, there was a large bookcase that was literally stuffed with books of every kind along with a large glass window and a very inviting window seat. Draco had no trouble at all imagining Hermione sitting by the window, reading the afternoon away. 

His silence was beginning to unnerve her. “What do you think?” she said. “I mean, I know it’s a far cry from the Malfoy Manor, and it’s rather small, but it’s only one night, and—” 

“Hermione,” said Draco, causing her to fall silent. “It’s perfect.” He put a comforting arm around her shoulder. 

Hermione smiled and relaxed at last, leaning into his embrace. With him at her side, she just might be able to make through the night. 

And there you have it. Part Two is coming up next, of course. For those of you who have been wondering, I have about six more chapters to go...but that could easily change :P
Please don't forget to review! And thank you for reading ^_^
Yours till the Erumpent horn explodes,
Queen Luna

Chapter 28: Chapter 28: Meet the Parents: Part Two
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I'm sure you all would much rather read this chapter than listen to my lame excuse for not updating quickly enough. So without further ado, I present to you Chapter 28!

Chapter 28: Meet the Parents: Part Two 

Hermione leaned against Draco, drinking in his presence. Outside her window, the sun was just beginning to set, casting a warm glow over everything in her room. Smiling, she tilted her face upwards to meet his, and just as he was bending down for a kiss…her mother came barging into her room. 

Hermione jumped away from Draco like she had received an electric shock. “Mum!” she said in an overly loud voice. “What’re you doing in here?” 

“I was just going to tell you two that dinner will be ready in about an hour,” Mrs. Granger responded. She glanced at the two of them with a sly, knowing expression on her face. “Was I interrupting something?” she inquired innocently. 

“Oh no, of course not,” said Hermione very quickly. Her face was turning red, she knew it, and she wished she didn’t blush so easily. 

“Actually,” said Draco, deciding that he might as well take advantage of the situation, “I was just telling Hermione that I would love to help out in the kitchen, if you would like me to.” 

Hermione stared at him like she couldn’t believe her ears. “You can cook?” she said incredulously. Immediately, an image of Draco wearing a crisp white apron and a tall chef’s hat popped into her head. It was more than disconcerting. 

Draco smirked at her. “Why, yes, Granger. I can cook. Didn’t you know?” 

“When you say you can cook, you mean that you can cook with magic, right?” Hermione tried to clarify. 

“No,” said Draco, still smirking away. “I mean I can cook the Muggle way, of course. The Muggle way really is the only way, you know.” 

“But where did you learn?” Hermione still didn’t believe it. Draco Malfoy did not and could not cook! 

“I learned a few things after the—after I came back from Hogwarts,” said Draco. 

Hermione could only gape at him, while Mrs. Granger beamed. “Well then, come along, Draco dear!” said Mrs. Granger cheerfully. “I can use all the help I can get.” With that, she led him into the kitchen with a still-stunned Hermione trailing behind. 

“My specialty is steak and potatoes,” Draco was saying as he threw on the red-and-white striped apron that Mrs. Granger had handed to him. 

Hermione leaned against the doorframe as she watched Draco and her mum chatting amiably as they prepared dinner. There was a content and somewhat bemused smile on her face. Never in a million years could she ever have imagined such a scene…. 

“Something smells absolutely delicious,” said her dad, suddenly appearing at her shoulder. He peered into the kitchen. “Jane, dear, where did you learn how to cook a steak like that?” He was delighted. Steak was one of his favorite dishes, but to his dismay, it was the one thing that his wife couldn’t cook. Every time she tried, it would come out hopelessly burned. 

“Sorry dear, but I still can’t cook a steak to save my life. This is all Draco’s doing! Isn’t he marvelous?” Mrs. Granger gushed. 

“Oh?” was all Mr. Granger could say in response. 

“I hope you like steak, sir,” said Draco with utmost politeness and sincerity. 

“Er…it’s alright,” said Mr. Granger nonchalantly. 

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Daddy,” she said, “I thought steak was your favorite! You order it every time we go to that one restaurant.” 

“Really?” he said, trying to look surprised at this interesting revelation. “I…I thought I always ordered the salad.” 

This time Mrs. Granger rolled her eyes. “Robert, you despise anything that’s green and leafy.” 

“Do I?” he said sheepishly. “Well, I suppose you’re right about that, dear.” And that was the end of that conversation.

A little while later, dinner was served. Hermione and Draco sat across from each other, as did Mr. and Mrs. Granger. They each had a glass of red wine and before long everyone was feeling a bit more relaxed—even Mr. Granger. 

“As a dentist,” said Mr. Granger to Draco at one point, “I must say that you have such nice, healthy, white teeth.” 

Draco was surprised by this unexpected and somewhat unconventional compliment, but he replied smoothly, “Do you think so, Mr. Granger? I’ve always made it a point to take good care of them.” 

Hermione gave him an encouraging smile from across the table and he knew he had given the appropriate response. 

“Son, call me Robert. And yes, I think so. Don’t you agree, Jane?” said Mr. Granger amiably. 

“Oh yes,” said Mrs. Granger, nodding vigorously. “Have you ever had braces, Draco?” 

It should have been a simple yes or no answer, but Draco was stuck on this one. He looked to Hermione for help. She shook her head almost imperceptibly. 

“No, I’ve never had braces,” said Draco, hoping that was the right answer. He wondered what in Merlin’s name braces were. They sounded painful to him. 

“You were blessed with perfect teeth, then,” Mr. Granger affirmed. “Unlike our darling Hermione here. Her teeth might look nice now, but before they looked like—” 

“Yes, Daddy, we all know what my teeth used to look like,” said Hermione, interrupting before her well-intentioned father accidentally embarrassed her—which incidentally happened quite often. 

Draco smiled at her faintly. She knew what he was thinking of—an incident that happened in fourth year. He had shot a curse at Harry, but it had hit Hermione instead, causing her two front teeth to grow frighteningly large. Ironically, after a hasty visit to Madame Pomfrey, that incident had actually led her to straighter teeth for the future. 

“Well, dear, they’re straight now, and that’s all that matters,” said Mrs. Granger, sensing that they had touched upon a sensitive subject, for Hermione at least. 

“Right,” said Hermione, taking another sip of wine. 

“By the way, Draco, this steak is delicious,” Mr. Granger added. “It’s good to know that Hermione will be in good hands.” 

“What do you mean?” said Hermione and Draco at the exact same time. They glanced at each other, and then at Mr. Granger for the explanation that was sure to come. 

“Hermione, darling, you know you can’t cook at all. You’re lucky to have Draco here—it means you won’t go hungry,” said Mr. Granger as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. 

“Oh,” said Hermione, slightly insulted that her dad was under the impression that she was unable to feed herself. Grudgingly, she had to admit that it was somewhat true though—her mother had unfortunately failed to pass on the cooking gene. 

“Hermione, I thought you were good at everything—other than flying, of course,” said Draco, a hint of a smirk on his face. “You can’t cook?” 

“I can make cereal!” said Hermione defensively. Then she added, in a defeated tone. “And…that’s about the extent of my cooking capabilities, sadly.” 

Draco laughed, as did Mr. and Mrs. Granger. After a short pause, Hermione joined in too. When the laughter died down, they ate in silence for a few moments, but it was a comfortable silence. 

“I’ll go get the dessert,” said Mrs. Granger, rising from the table. “I baked some lemon meringue pie this afternoon.” She headed into the kitchen. 

“That’s my favorite dessert!” Mr. Granger declared. 

“And mine,” said Hermione, grinning. 

Draco smiled, but he remained silent. He happened to hate lemons. 

Mrs. Granger waltzed back into the dining room, pie in hand. “I hope you like lemon meringue pie, dear,” she said as she cut a slice for Draco. 

“Oh,” said Draco, somewhat dismayed as he noted how especially huge his slice was. “Well, I’ve only had it once before, when my mum decided to use me as a test subject for her recipes.” 

“Oh, your mother likes to cook too?” said Mrs. Granger with great interest. 

“She likes to bake,” said Draco, nodding. 

“Maybe she and I could exchange recipes one day!” said Mrs. Granger. 

Draco hesitated, and then smiled. “You know, Jane, I think she’ll like that.” He glanced around the table, waiting until everyone had been served a slice of pie before picking up his fork. 

Mrs. Granger looked at him expectantly. He hastily took a tiny bite, chewed, and swallowed. “It’s delicious,” he said, throwing in a charming smile to make it seem even more convincing. To his relief, Mr. and Mrs. Granger bought his answer, although Hermione was looking at him suspiciously. He pretended to eat for the next ten minutes, and then when no one was looking, he used his wand—held under the table, of course—to Vanish it. 

“I’m absolutely stuffed,” Mr. Granger announced when he finished his pie, setting down his fork. “Thank you for the wonderful meal, Jane…and Draco.” 

“I’m glad you liked it,” said Draco, inclining his head in a polite gesture. He looked around the table, noting the numerous dirty dishes that were just waiting to be washed. “I’ll wash the dishes,” he offered right away. 

“Oh, that won’t be necessary, dear,” said Mrs. Granger quickly, making a feeble attempt to stop him. 

“I’m happy to help,” Draco insisted, stacking a few dishes in his hands and making his way toward the kitchen. 

“I’ll help you, Draco,” said Hermione, following him quickly. 

As they both entered the kitchen, they heard Mr. Granger remark, “I like this boy. He’s very nice and polite. He even offered to do the dishes—now that’s something.” 

“I perfectly agree,” said Mrs. Granger. 

“Well,” said Draco in a low murmur, “I’d say that went pretty well, don’t you think?” They were both leaning against the counter in the dark kitchen. Neither of them had bothered to turn on the lights. 

Hermione set the dishes she had been carrying into the sink and then turned around to hug him. “Thank you,” she whispered, reaching up to give him a chaste kiss. 

“For what?” he asked, reluctantly pulling away but knowing they would pick up where they left off if things went his way. 

“For being so charming,” Hermione responded, moving to the sink to turn on the tap. “You were perfect. My parents love you.” 

Draco shrugged nonchalantly. “I was just being my usual self,” he said, smirking. 

Hermione rolled her eyes and reached for the dish soap. Draco sighed impatiently, pulled out his wand, and waved it around. The dishes jumped to life and began washing themselves. 

“Must we do everything by magic?” said Hermione, sighing. 

“Now that’s how I do the dishes,” said Draco in a satisfied manner. “And to answer your question, no, but it does come in handy at times.” 

“But what should we do now, if we can’t do the dishes?” said Hermione innocently, looking up at him. 

“Oh, I think I have a few ideas,” said Draco with a smirk on his face. In one swift motion, he reached out and pulled her close to him. Hermione yelped in surprise, her hands landing on his toned chest. It took her less than a second to relax and melt into his embrace. 

“Hmm,” said Hermione, trailing a path over his chest with her fingertips. She heard the breath hitch in his throat and she knew she had gotten the effect she had been hoping for. “I don’t know. Your ideas aren’t always as brilliant as you might think they are.” 

“Oh really?” said Draco. “Is that a challenge?” 

“A challenge?” Hermione repeated, as though she had no clue what he was going on about. 

“Yes,” breathed Draco, leaning in to kiss her earlobe. “I’ll prove to you just how brilliant this particular idea of mine is.” He pulled back so his face was only mere centimeters away from hers. Hermione’s eyelids fluttered closed and she tilted her head slightly to the side. That was when he knew he had won. 

Without hesitating for another moment, he closed the small gap between her mouth and his, and he kissed her, softly at first, and then hungrily. Hermione kissed back eagerly, parting her lips to allow him more access. Her hands had found their way up his chest and around his neck. She clung to him as he kissed her deeply and passionately. She felt like she was drowning in the all the new sensations she felt whenever she was with him like this, but she didn’t mind at all, not when he was holding her and kissing her in a way that made her feel like they were the only two people in the world. 

The sudden sound of water hitting the tiled floor beneath their feet caused Hermione to reluctantly break free, gasping for air. Trying to hide her flustered, blushing face, she quickly turned around only to see the sink overflowing with soapy water. "Oh no!" she said, and moved forward to turn off the tap, but she slipped on the wet floor, colliding backwards into Draco, who had rushed forward to catch her in case she fell. The two of them ended up crashing to the floor, laughing out loud. 

"I never knew doing the dishes could be so fun," Hermione commented when the laughter finally died down. They were still sitting on the floor and leaning against the kitchen cabinets, having not bothered to get up, resting comfortably in each other's arms. 

"Hmm," said Draco absentmindedly. He gently turned her around so she was facing him. "Now, where were we?" he said in a low voice. 

"Remind me," said Hermione with a smile, and without a moment's hesitation, he proceeded to do so. 


The rest of the night flew by, much to Hermione's surprise and relief. After dinner, Mr. Granger warmed up to Draco considerably and the two of them held a long conversation that wasn’t forced at all. Mr. Granger even introduced Draco to Muggle sports (namely football) when the latter showed the slightest hint of interest in a newspaper article that was lying on the coffee table about a recent match between two fierce rivals. In return, Draco went over the basics of Quidditch with Mr. Granger, as Hermione (who couldn't play the sport and only watched it when forced or when her friends played) had failed to explain it properly in her Hogwarts days. Mr. Granger seemed fascinated by the idea of throwing balls into hoops fifty feet in the air while flying on broomsticks, and Draco promised to demonstrate in the future if they ever got the chance to do so. 

Mrs. Granger, meanwhile, doted on Draco like she was his own son (she positively adored his perfect teeth). At one point that evening, when she had managed to drag Hermione off to the side, she attempted to have a deep, heart-to-heart conversation with her daughter. Hermione had been hoping to avoid such a conversation, but now here she was. 

"So," began Mrs. Granger in a very significant voice as she scrutinized her daughter with wide eyes, "is he the one?" 

Hermione, whose Gryffindor spirit had fled, avoided her mother's gaze and responded with the classic, "What do you mean?" even though she knew perfectly well what her mum meant. And then she announced loudly that she needed to use the bathroom, even though she didn't, and hurried out of the room, leaving her mother to speculate on her own. But all in all, things were going better than Hermione had expected, and she could even relax for a moment or two. 

Later that night, however, when it was time for bed, Hermione's nerves returned with full force. "Good night," said Mrs. Granger sweetly as she and Mr. Granger left the living room where they had all been sitting and chatting. At the foot of the stairs, Mr. Granger turned around and opened his mouth like he was going to say something, but then he decided against it and allowed his wife to drag him up the stairs and "leave the two lovebirds alone." 

"Well," said Draco, clearing his throat. "It's been a long day. Shall we go to bed?" 

"Oh," said Hermione, suddenly remembering who exactly would be sleeping with her in her bed that night. "Right." Draco, who was trying not to laugh at her discomfort (he secretly found it endearing in a way), quirked an eyebrow at her. She took the cue and led the way up the stairs while trying to hide her nerves. It's not like anything's going to happen, she told herself. 

"The bathroom is right here," said Hermione, pointing. "My mum already put fresh towels on the rack. We have soap and shampoo and conditioner and toothpaste, plus an extra toothbrush if you need one. Oh, and dental floss. My parents are dentists after all. If you need anything--" 

Draco was suddenly very near her, and her nervous babbling came to a halt. She slowly backed into the wall. 

"Hermione," he said quietly, his face very close to hers, "relax." 

She closed her eyes and took a deep, calming breath, and then he kissed her. It was sweet and lingering, and while it did make her heart race as usual, she felt more relaxed than she had been just a moment ago. 

"You can use the bathroom first," she offered when she opened her eyes again. She was startled to see him looking at her with such unreadable, burning intensity, but then he looked away. "Okay," he said, walking over to her bedroom. 

Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, Hermione followed him and then, while he showered and brushed his teeth, occupied her time by tidying up her room even though it was already impossibly neat. After ten minutes or so, he came back into the room with nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist. 

Hermione immediately averted her eyes. "Would it kill you to put on some clothes?" she said, even though inside she knew, if she was being truly honest with herself, that she had no problem with his current state of dress. 

Draco was full on smirking at her now. "Actually, yes," he said. 

At this, Hermione reached blindly for her pajamas and then ran from the room, slamming the bathroom door shut behind her. She showered (remembering to shave, just in case), quickly dried her hair with her wand, brushed and flossed, and slathered on some lotion. She spent a bit of time in front of the mirror, trying to make her hair look presentable, when she remembered with a huff that it hardly mattered when she was going to bed to sleep. 

Smoothing down her pajamas—the most modest set of pajamas she owned—she tentatively opened the bathroom door, tiptoed across the hall, and then entered her bedroom. Draco was already lying in bed under the covers, his hands behind his head. He was gazing at the ceiling, but looked to her when she came in. 

"Is it winter already?" he said, indicating her choice of night clothes. 

"Shut up," she told him, and then lifted the covers to climb into bed. She balked when she saw that he had swapped the towel for a pair of silk boxers and nothing else. His perfectly smooth, toned, chiseled chest—stop it! she told her brain—was completely bare.

"Something wrong?" he said casually with a slight tone of amusement in his voice, when she carefully lay down stiffly at his side with her eyes squeezed resolutely shut. 

"No, not at all," she said faintly. She reached over to switch off the lamp. "Good night, Draco." 

"Good night," he responded. After a silent moment or two, he rolled over and wrapped an arm securely around her waist, and she immediately felt her tensed up muscles relaxing at his touch. She snuggled in a little closer to him, and soon she was fast asleep and dreaming. 


The next day flew by as well, without any major mishaps. Though Hermione and Draco couldn't spend too much time alone together in her parents' house, they seized every dishwashing opportunity there was and took full advantage of them. After every meal, they would gather up the dirty plates while trying not to show too much enthusiasm for the chore (so they didn't appear suspicious). Then they would retreat into the kitchen, shut the door, and then proceed to "wash" the dishes—although they found plenty of time to do other things too. 

Before they knew it, the visit was nearly over and it was time for them to return to Malfoy Manor to continue the Game of Love. They had just finished eating another dinner courtesy of Mrs. Granger and Draco. Hermione was in her bedroom alone, packing her suitcase and triple-checking that she did indeed have everything she needed. Using her wand, she levitated her suitcase down the stairs and set it down in the foyer by the front door. Wondering where Draco had gone off to, she wandered down the short hall, stopping short when she heard voices coming from the living room. Unable to contain her curiosity, she peered into the room to see her dad and Draco sitting on two armchairs, in deep conversation. So deep, in fact, that neither of them noticed that there was an eavesdropper lurking right outside. 

"Thank you, sir," Draco was saying sincerely. 

There was the sound of both men getting up from their seats, and Hermione saw the two of them embrace like father and son. Wondering what had just occurred, and wishing she had been able to hear more, she was about to retreat up the stairs before either of them could leave the room and spot her when Draco suddenly appeared at her side. He looked surprised to see her. 

"Hermione!" he said. The surprised expression on his face was quickly replaced by a knowing smirk. "Eavesdropping, weren't you?" 

"No, I was not," she said with a glare. "I heard nothing." It was true. She had no idea what her dad and Draco had discussed, although she had the feeling it hadn't been about football or Quidditch. 

"Hermione, darling!" said her father just then, exiting the living room as well. "I think that fancy limousine of yours just pulled up to the front." 

"Oh," said Hermione. She glanced at Draco. "Well, then, I suppose it's time for us to leave." She stepped forward to give her dad a hug. He seemed very reluctant to let her go. 

"I love you," Mr. Granger whispered into his daughter's ear so only she could hear. "I hope he makes you happy." 

"I love you too," said Hermione. She looked at her dad strangely. Something was up. Was that a tear in his eye? 

"Leaving already?" Mrs. Granger exclaimed, joining the farewell party at that moment. 

"Unfortunately," said Draco. "I thoroughly enjoyed my stay here, Jane. Thank you for letting me into your home." He obliged when Mrs. Granger held open her arms for a hug. 

"It's only been less than two days and it's like you're already part of the family," said Mrs. Granger, throwing Hermione a furtive glance as she said this. Hermione couldn't help but feel like her mother had purposefully chosen her words with extreme care. 

"It was wonderful to finally meet you both," said Draco to both Mr. and Mrs. Granger as the latter hugged her daughter. Outside, the chauffeur honked the horn impatiently. Evidently he was on a tight schedule. 

"Oh dear, you had better get going!" said Mrs. Granger, finally letting Hermione go. 

Hermione opened the front door, and she and Draco stepped outside, carrying the small amount of luggage they had brought. They paused on the steps and turned around once more to wave goodbye. 

"Take care of our daughter, Draco!" Mrs. Granger called out. 

Draco raised his hand in a salute-like wave. "I will," he said. And then he took Hermione's free hand and the two of them walked away from the house.

And there you have it! Once again, I apologize for the delay. I blame my computer this time.
I have started my senior year of high school, so unfortunately things will be getting busy for me as I start the college application process (*gulp*). I won't forget about this story though!
Please review! I always love hearing what you think. ^_^
Yours till the Wrackspurt steals your thoughts,
Queen Luna

Chapter 29: Chapter 29: Rendezvous
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HAPPY HALLOWEEN! I hope you all are going trick-or-treating in wizard robes. Speaking of treats, I FINALLY UPDATED!!! Enjoy this chapter! :)

Chapter 29: Rendezvous

Hermione and Draco barely had time to discuss how his visit had gone (although it was clear that it had been highly successful) because as soon as the limousine pulled up to Malfoy Manor, Monsieur Beaumont unceremoniously pulled Hermione out of the limo and had Georgina take her place.

"Sorry," he had said to Draco, not sounding sorry at all, "but we must get these visits done within the week." And then he slammed the car door shut and Draco and Georgina drove away.

To Hermione, he had no apology but a scolding: "The bachelor should have returned after lunch!" It was like he was a library book that she had failed to return on time.

To which Hermione responded, "My mother insisted on us staying for dinner. Perhaps you'd like to take it up with her? I have a cell phone you could use to call her."

At this, Monsieur Beaumont merely glared (possibly because he had no idea what in Merlin's name a "cell phone" was) and then turned on his heel and disappeared back into the manor. After a moment, Hermione headed inside as well, and slipped up the stairs into her room before Caitlin could find her and ask for a detailed account of Draco's overnight stay.

As Hermione unpacked her suitcase and reorganized her wardrobe, she tried not to think about Draco spending the night at Georgina's house (she imagined it to be some sort of large, opulent chateau in France, which didn't make her feel all that better). To get her mind off of him, she burrowed herself in her room and curled up in her bed with a stack of her favorite books, hoping they would sufficiently distract her for an hour or two, until it was time to go to sleep. They didn't.

After rereading the same line over and over again, Hermione sighed and tossed the book to the other end of bed and lay down, staring at the ceiling. Visions of her and Draco danced in her mind's eye. She was reliving a particularly happy moment that had taken place in the kitchen when she buried her face into a nearby pillow with a muffled groan, wondering if she had gone insane or if this was love. She evidently couldn't stop thinking about him.

In the process of looking for a better distraction, she got out of bed, fished around for a bit of Floo powder, and somehow wound up at Harry and Ginny’s place. Ginny was sitting by the fireplace, as if she had known that Hermione was coming.

“Hermione!” said Ginny gleefully.

“I don’t want to talk about the Game of you-know-what,” Hermione announced as she tracked soot all over the rug and gave Ginny a hug.

Ginny ignored her completely. “How’d it go?” she asked eagerly.

Hermione sighed. “Wonderful,” she said quickly, hoping that maybe she could get through this quickly and painlessly. “Couldn’t have gone better. My parents adored him. He charmed my dad and they talked Quidditch. He cooked for my mom, who now thinks that there’s a marriage in the works.” As soon as the words left her mouth Hermione knew she had said too much.

A smug grin spread slowly across Ginny’s face. “I told you there was nothing to worry about. So, anyway, is there?” Ginny asked casually.

“Is there what?” said Hermione, feigning ignorance.

“Are you two getting hitched or what?” Ginny almost shouted.

“Ginny!” Hermione hissed, scandalized. She was blushing madly. How could Ginny just shout something like that?

Ginny’s outburst alerted Harry, who wandered into the room. His eyes lit up when he saw Hermione. “Hermione!” he said.

“Hi Harry,” said Hermione as she hugged him, feeling a bit guilty. It had been quite some time since she had seen him, one of her best friends.

“Who’s getting hitched?” said Harry, positively clueless.

Ginny rolled her eyes. “Hermione and Draco, you daft man. Who else has Hermione been seeing for the past month or so?”

Harry laughed out loud. “That’s a good one Ginny. So, who’s the lucky guy?”

Ginny sighed. Hermione deliberately avoided Harry’s curious gaze.

“Harry,” said Hermione at last, “you’re the one—well, you and Ron, I suppose—who set us up in the first place.”

Harry looked confused for a moment, and then everything clicked into place. His eyebrows shot up and disappeared under his messy hair. “You can’t be talking about the Game of Love? You mean you’re still in it?”

“Yes, Harry,” said Hermione, sighing. Her expression suddenly became stern. “And frankly, it’s completely your fault that I’m in it in the first place, so don’t go telling me that I can’t see him.”

Ginny was grinning, but Harry took no notice of her. “You’re seriously still in the Game?” he said to Hermione, who nodded impatiently. “So, how many girls are left?”

“Three,” Ginny answered promptly. “And she’s going to go all the way, if you catch my drift. That much is obvious.” 

"Ginny!" Hermione groaned, completely embarrassed. 

Harry’s eyes widened, but he didn't catch Ginny's inappropriate insinuation. “You made it to the top three?” he said incredulously. “This is Draco Malfoy we’re talking about, right?”

It took another ten minutes to convince Harry that yes, Hermione was still in the Game of Love and that yes, it was because Draco genuinely liked her. Finally Ginny, at the end of her patience, kicked her husband out of the room so that she could get more of the juicy details (as she so put it) out of Hermione, but Hermione quickly jumped to her feet, saying that she was late for dinner (even though she had eaten hours ago) and left through the fireplace before Ginny could protest. 

Once in her room, she collapsed on her bed, suddenly drained. Curling up under the covers, she decided it was high time for bed. Hopefully then her mind would calm down and she would stop thinking about him.


Hermione did manage to fall asleep, and to her surprise her dreams were for the most part blissfully blank. (She did, however, recall a bizarre and seemingly unconnected dream about flying rice, something blue, and a little boy with a pillow, but it couldn’t possibly mean anything.)

She woke up feeling refreshed and ready—for what, she didn’t really know—but little did she know that for the next three days, she would suffer from insomnia. It was a strange experience, as she had always been someone who slept very well . . . until now, that is.

On the third night, Hermione lay in her bed, wide awake despite not having slept for more than an hour over the past two days. Moonlight streamed through her open windows. A late summer breeze flowed into the room, bringing with it the sweet scent of flowers from the garden below. She thought she heard a noise coming from outside her window, but after listening closely for a moment, she decided she had imagined it. She had been imagining a lot of things lately.

Sighing, Hermione turned over in her bed and wondered why she couldn’t sleep. The answer came immediately. It was obvious. She missed him, and it was driving her crazy.

It had been three days since she had last seen him—three long days. She recalled how she had spent the next two days, after her customary talk with Ginny. It wasn’t difficult at all to remember the restlessness, the agitation, the attempt to find a distraction. She went down to the grand library, but even books failed to take her mind off of him. She wondered if that had ever happened before. Definitely not with Viktor . . . and not with Ron either. This was something new.

She heard the noise again. It was louder this time. In fact, it sounded like someone had knocked on her windowpane. She sat up in bed, alert.

“Hermione,” she heard a familiar voice call out softly.

Quickly shoving the duvet aside, Hermione left the bed and walked over to the window, not quite believing her eyes. Hovering on a broomstick outside her bedroom window was none other than the bachelor himself, his face illuminated by the light of the moon. He was wearing a black silk shirt and black pants, and if it weren’t for his pale hair and the moonlight, he would have disappeared into the darkness perfectly.

“Draco,” she said. Her mind was suddenly clear. All her worries had vanished the moment she caught sight of him. Standing there in her camisole and pajama bottoms, with her hair in disarray, she felt no anxiety at all. Never before had she felt so comfortable in her own skin, with his calmly penetrating gaze directed straight at her.

“I missed you,” she said simply. This admission broke the spell, and it was like Draco had suddenly remembered why he was there.

“I couldn’t stop thinking about you,” he said, his voice ragged.

It was like something straight out of a cheesy romance novel, Hermione would later recall with fondness. But for now she could only drink in his words and take a step closer to the window.

“Come on,” said Draco, holding out a hand.

Hermione eyed the broom warily, but she took his hand. And just like that, her fears disappeared. She climbed out her window and onto the broom, holding onto him tightly as he took off into the night.

The night air rushed around them. The stars shone above. It was a picture-perfect moment, and she would remember it forever. They flew higher into the sky, and for once, Hermione felt exhilaration instead of fear.

They circled the manor grounds, once, twice, three times. Hermione tried to observe the English countryside, but it was too dark to see anything that wasn’t right in front of her, despite the fact that the moon seemed particularly bright that night. So she took to looking straight ahead, and at the starry sky all around them, letting the beauty of the night wash over her. She rested her chin on Draco’s shoulder, unconsciously admiring the way the moonlight brushed against his face. She realized she could spend hours like this, flying with him, and maybe even the rest of her life.

Later, she would recall that based on what he did next, it was as if Draco had read her mind. He turned his head slightly to the side so he could see her face, opened his mouth, and said something, but she couldn’t hear a word because of the wind rushing around her ears.

“What?” she said.

He repeated what he had said, but she still couldn’t discern what he was saying. Her heart though, was suddenly beating very fast as though it had a mind of its own.

“What?” she shouted.

“Will you marry me?” he shouted back. The broomstick took a sudden dangerous dip in the air and Hermione screamed, clutching onto Draco, who quickly turned around to face the front again and steadied the broom.

At that point, Hermione started laughing, and then she started crying, and so she was laughing and crying without really knowing why she was laughing and crying or whether she was laughing because she was crying or the other way around.

“Well?” she heard Draco say, a bit nervously.

“YES!” she shouted, and then leaned forward to kiss him on the cheek. Feeling her lips brush against his cheek, he twisted around once more and he kissed her, deeply. Her tears dripped down her face and onto his.

“Why are you crying?” he asked when they finally broke apart. He removed one hand from the broom to gently brush away her teardrops with his thumb.

At that moment, she realized why she was simultaneously laughing and crying. “Because I’ve never been so happy in my entire life,” she answered, giving him a watery smile.

He too was smiling, smiling like he had never smiled before. “I love you,” he said.

“I love you too.”

Hope that wasn't too cheesy! Okay, maybe it was cheesy, but hopefully you liked it anyhow. I apologize profusely for the super long wait. Senior year is not as easy as I thought it'd be. I have just as much homework as ever, plus college apps. Also, I had trouble with this chapter because I wasn't sure which direction to take it in. I felt like this story was getting really I decided to, uh, cut to the chase, as you can see. This means that the next chapter will be the's the epilogue! I can't believe I'm this close to finishing!
As always, please review!
Yours till the Snorkack's horn crumples,
Queen Luna

Chapter 30: Epilogue
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Well, this is it…the final chapter of The Game of Love. Take your time, read, and enjoy! 


Hermione Granger walked into her office holding a large stack of files and collapsed into her desk chair. Her feet ached from walking around in heels all day and her eyes were burning from staying up the previous night looking up background information for the case she was currently working on. She had been working nonstop for the past few months, trying to make up for her lengthy hiatus. She spent most days running on a large supply of coffee. She barely had time to relax and read. And yet, she couldn’t have been happier.

Leaning back in her chair and rubbing her eyes, she heard brisk footsteps coming towards her office and quickly tried to appear as though she had been alert and diligently working the whole time. It was only her secretary though, a chipper young woman named Elise. Elise was humming and holding a large bouquet of red roses.

Hermione slumped in her seat again, since it was no use putting up a façade for her secretary, and raised an eyebrow. “Secret admirer?” she asked nonchalantly.

Elise rolled her eyes and set the flowers in an already-overflowing vase on Hermione’s desk. “Of course not, Hermione. The only one who gets flowers around here is you.” Elise arranged the flowers artfully and then sighed wistfully. “You’re so lucky. I wish I had a fiancé who’d buy me flowers.”

Hermione tried suppressing her smile, but she just couldn’t help it. She noticed a tag tied to one of the roses and quickly read the words. It was a simple message—simple, but very sweet.

I can’t wait for tomorrow, nor can I stop thinking about you. Love, Draco.
Smiling, Hermione untied the tag and added it to the growing collection in her desk drawer. Elise was watching her, a huge grin on her face.

“So tomorrow’s the big day, huh?” said Elise. “Getting married and all?”

Hermione glanced over at a framed photograph sitting on her desk. It was a picture of her and Draco on a beach in France, which was where they had gone on a recent weekend trip, one of the few weekends where she hadn’t been bogged down by work. He was standing on the shore, carrying her bridal style and pretending to throw her into the waves. Both of them were laughing, expressions of pure joy on their faces.

“Yes,” she said finally. “It’s all happening tomorrow.”

Hermione walked home from work that night, deciding that Apparition was making her lazy and that she could use the exercise. Upon reaching her flat, she fished around in her purse for her keys, and just as she was about to unlock the door, she realized that she heard music coming from the inside. She smiled and let herself in.

“Don’t polite people normally refrain from sneaking into another person’s flat without said person’s knowledge or approval?” she called out as she set her purse and jacket down.

“If you didn’t want me to sneak into your apartment, you wouldn’t have told me where you kept the spare key,” said Draco, smirking slightly as he emerged from the kitchen wearing an apron and a tall chef’s hat.

Damn it, thought Hermione, as she realized that this wasn’t the first time he had beaten her in a game of logic. “Good point,” she said, relenting a little.

“If I told you I cooked dinner for you, would you forgive me?” he asked, turning on the charm.

“Perhaps,” said Hermione, trying to remain serious but failing as she was overcome with giggles at the sight of him.

“Come on,” he said, gesturing towards the small dining table. “I made pasta.”

Hermione’s mouth began watering immediately. “You are forgiven,” she told him as she sat down at the table.

Draco responded with his signature smirk and then poured two glasses of wine. He raised his into the air, and she followed suit. “To us,” he said.

“To us,” agreed Hermione, bringing the glass to her lips for a sip.

After dinner, they settled down on the couch together to watch a romantic comedy that Hermione had rented. Draco was still fascinated by the technology, even though this wasn’t the first time he had seen a movie with Hermione.

As the couple onscreen continued their witty banter, Hermione’s thoughts drifted away to reflect on the happenings of the past few months . . . .

After proposing to her on an impromptu moonlit broomstick ride, Draco had wanted to fly straightaway to the Ministry of Magic to get their marriage license, but Hermione would have none of that. Since she was only getting married once, she reasoned, she wanted to do it the right way.

And so they touched back down in her room and spent the night together, only to be discovered lying in each other’s arms the following morning by an apoplectic Monsieur Beaumont, who had somehow found out about last night’s shenanigans. After disentangling himself, Draco had explained, as calmly as possible, that the Game of Love was over, at least for him and Hermione. Monsieur Beaumont was shocked speechless for a moment, only to start sputtering about how they had to finish the Game so that they could air it on WizardVision for the whole world to see. At that point Draco cut in smoothly that there was no way that was going to happen, and that he’d be willing to pay a large sum of money for those tapes to simply disappear. Monsieur Beaumont, in turn, shouted that he would not resort to bribery, but quickly shut up when Draco pulled a checkbook out of nowhere and handed him a carte blanche.

What happened after that seemed like a blur to Hermione. There were explanations and apologies to be said to Georgina and Caitlin (Georgina remained silent, and then admitted that she had seen this coming all along before leaving quietly, while Caitlin burst into tears before flouncing out of the room shouting something about how American boys were much better than the British ones). There was a meeting with Narcissa, who became teary-eyed at seeing her son so in love with Hermione, who had been her favorite all along. And then there was another visit to Mr. and Mrs. Granger, where more tears and congratulations abounded.

Later Hermione decided that it was high time Narcissa met her parents, so she hosted a small party where Narcissa and her mum got along beautifully and began planning her wedding despite her protests.

Eventually, though, they had to tell their friends, and so Hermione invited Harry, Ginny, and Ron to dinner at their favorite restaurant without telling them that Draco would also be there, with a couple of his friends. Draco did the same, bringing with him Blaise Zabini and Pansy, who was happily engaged to another man and turned out to be quite agreeable when she wasn’t busy sabotaging other people’s relationships. But needless to say, it was an awkward meeting and an unpleasant surprise for most to see their former enemies walk into the same restaurant and then sit down at the same table. Hermione would be forever grateful to Ginny for keeping Harry and Ron in check and breaking some of the tension.

At the end of dessert, Draco put his arm around Hermione’s shoulders and they announced their engagement. Harry, though he had been warned by his wife, was still shocked speechless. Ron spit out the wine he had been in the process of swallowing and sprayed everyone in the vicinity. Ginny let out a shriek that sounded a lot like “YOUOWEMETWENTYGALLEONS!” and threw her arms around Hermione’s neck, which was rather difficult as Draco wasn’t planning on letting her go. Blaise kept his cool demeanor, while Pansy, to everyone’s surprise, offered very genuine congratulations. At the end of the night, Hermione was immensely relieved to know that there weren’t any objections—not that that would have changed anything about the way she felt about Draco.

So for the next few months, Hermione went back to her job in the International Magical Office of Law at the Ministry. Draco, to everyone’s surprise, took a desk job in the Auror Department, working under none other than Harry Potter. (Draco told Hermione he could use some extra money, because Monsieur Beaumont had taken complete advantage of the blank check, but she had the sneaking suspicion that he just wanted to get closer to her—a tactic that worked.) Harry, possibly due to Ginny’s influence, made it a point to be civil to Draco, and after a few office parties and lunch breaks together, the two of them had become good friends. Draco never thought he’d say it, but he told Hermione that the Boy-Who-Lived wasn’t so bad after all. And Harry never thought he’d say it, but he told Hermione that he heartily approved of her fiancé. Ron, on the other hand, was still wary of Draco, but at least the two of them managed to be civil.

Draco ended up renting a flat in London out of convenience, but he did express to Hermione a wish to sell Malfoy Manor and dispose of all the bad memories once and for all. Hermione was secretly glad of this, because although she had enjoyed the weeks she had spent there during the Game, its dark past and hidden chambers still gave her the chills. For now, she lived in her own neglected flat, splitting her time between her flat and Draco’s. They lived like that for several months, almost like a normal couple. They weren’t sure what they would do after they got married. Hermione assumed they would buy a house together somewhere near London. Draco had other plans, but he didn’t tell her—it was his secret project, a wedding gift of sorts.

Speaking of weddings, there were many that year. Ron finally settled down with Lavender. Pansy wed her beloved fiancé, a man she had met while abroad in southern Europe (which was where she had gone to forget about the Polyjuice Potion Fiasco, as they now referred to it). Isabelle married her childhood sweetheart, Guillaume, in Paris. And now . . . it was their turn.

“What are you smiling about?” said Draco, interrupting her thoughts.

“We’re getting married tomorrow,” she answered, lacing her fingers with his.

He squeezed her hand in return. “We’re getting married tomorrow.”

“Hermione, let’s go!” said Ginny impatiently, waiting by the door. She was wearing a pretty periwinkle blue dress and she was holding Hermione’s bouquet of flowers. Ginny, to no one’s surprise, had been named the Maid of Honor.

“I’m coming!” said Hermione, finally emerging from the bathroom, where her mum had been fussing over her hair and makeup.

“You, my dear Hermione, look absolutely stunningly beautiful,” Ginny announced upon seeing her friend in her simple but elegant white gown and swept up hair.

“I agree,” sighed Mrs. Granger, dabbing at the corner of her eye with a handkerchief. “Now, do we have everything?”

“Yes, Mrs. Granger,” said Ginny as patiently and politely as possible. “I just got off the phone with the groom. He’s waiting at the church. Everything’s set and everyone’s there, except for the bride.”

“I need to call Robert and make sure he’s there,” said Mrs. Granger, and began fishing around for a phone.

“I doubt he’d forget that his daughter’s getting married today,” Ginny muttered under her breath. “Hermione, are you ready?”

Hermione gave herself one last inspection in the mirror. The delicate necklace she was wearing had been given to her by her mother a long time ago, her dress was new and Ginny-approved, she had borrowed a pair of shoes from Ginny, and there was a pale blue flower in her hair. “Yes,” she said, and a shiver of excitement ran up her spine. This was it. It was finally happening.

Once Mrs. Granger confirmed that Mr. Granger was indeed waiting for them in front of the church, Ginny herded everyone into the waiting limousine and then they were whisked away. It was a small, old church near the house she had grown up in, and she had always dreamed of getting married there. She had wanted a small ceremony, simple but elegant, and Draco of course wanted whatever she wanted. In the car, she fidgeted in her seat, full of nervous excitement.

Her dad was waiting for them as promised, looking just as if not more nervous than his daughter. “You look beautiful, dear,” he said when Hermione emerged from the limousine, and enfolded her in a hug.

“Careful, Robert!” Mrs. Granger scolded. “You’ll wrinkle her dress.”

Mr. Granger ignored his wife and held onto his daughter for a moment longer before stepping back. Blinking rapidly, he offered his arm to Hermione. “Shall we?”

Hermione beamed at him and took his arm. Mrs. Granger hurried into the church to her seat, and a moment later the music began playing. The flower girl and the ring boy went down the aisle, two distant cousins of Hermione’s that Mrs. Granger had been able to snag from somewhere, and then Ginny followed, gracefully and confidently. Then, quite suddenly, it was her turn.

Hermione was grateful for the guiding arm of her father, because she had eyes for Draco and Draco only. He was wearing a black tuxedo and he looked as handsome as ever. Harry and Blaise stood behind him as his best men. She felt like she was dreaming as she walked down the aisle, the music playing in her ears, his gaze fixed on her.

They reached the end of the aisle in what seemed like no time at all. Hermione’s dad kissed her on the cheek and handed her to Draco, who wasted no time in sliding her hand into his and whispering, “You look beautiful.”

She smiled at him, her heart full to bursting. The priest began the ceremony, but Hermione could barely hear him. When the little introduction was over with, though, his words came through loud and clear.

“Do you, Draco Malfoy, take Hermione Granger to be your lawfully wedded wife? Do you promise to honor and to treasure her, to be at her side in sorrow and in joy, in the good times and in the bad, and to love and cherish her for all the days of your life?”

“I do,” said Draco solemnly. He slipped the ring onto her finger, where it fit perfectly.

“Do you, Hermione Granger, take Draco Malfoy to be your lawfully wedded husband? Do you promise to honor and to treasure him, to be at his side in sorrow and in joy, in the good times and in the bad, and to love and cherish him for all the days of your life?”

“I do,” she said, and slipped the ring onto his finger, where it shone in the light coming through a nearby stained glass window. He took her hand in his once more.

“I now pronounce you husband and wife,” said the priest, smiling benevolently. He turned to Draco and added, “You may kiss the bride.”

At that, Hermione threw her arms around Draco; he wrapped his arms around her waist, and they kissed, oblivious to the cheers coming from the small crowd.

And then there was the reception, with much congratulating, picture-taking, present-opening, drinking, talking, and laughing. As they danced their first dance as husband and wife together, Draco whispered in her ear, “I can’t wait until we can get away.”

“Well,” said Hermione with a mischievous smile. “This is our wedding reception. We can leave right now if we want to.”

Draco smirked. “You’re right. Why didn’t I think of that?” And with that, he picked up Hermione (she let out a little shriek), bridal style, and announced to everyone, “Well, this has been loads of fun, but Hermione and I will be going now. We thank you all for coming, and for the presents too of course. Goodbye now!”

Hermione laughed out loud as Draco carried her out amid thunderous clapping and cheering. “So where are we going?” she asked, as she realized she still didn’t know.

“You’ll see,” he said mysteriously. Once outside, he set her down and took her hand. “Close your eyes,” he said.

“You’re not Apparating, are you? We’re in the middle of a Muggle neighborhood!” said Hermione half-sternly, half-jokingly.

“Oh, they’ll excuse us. It is our wedding day after all,” he responded nonchalantly. “Now, close your eyes, darling.”

Hermione snorted. “Darling? Is that your new name for me?”

“Well, we are married now, aren’t we?”

“Yes, sweetheart,” said Hermione, choking back a laugh as she said the word sweetheart. “Yes, we are.”

“Now do you want to get there or not?”

“Where is there, anyway?”

“You’d find out if you close your eyes!”

“Okay, okay. My eyes are closed.” Hermione squeezed her eyes shut and waited for the familiar sensation of being squeezed into a rubber tube. It seemed to last a lot longer than usual and when she could finally breathe again, she was gasping for air.

“Sorry about that, but it was the quickest route,” said Draco apologetically. “You can open your eyes now.”

Hermione opened her eyes and her mouth dropped open. “Are we in France?” she said joyfully.

They were standing on a familiar sandy beach. The rolling ocean waves were to her right and when she turned to her left, she saw a beautiful chateau, a small cottage that looked like a model of a fairytale castle. She gasped. “Is that . . . ?”

Draco nodded. “Remember the chateau by the sea I told you about? Well, I asked my mother about it and she said it was all mine. She was planning on relocating to a flat in Paris anyhow. Malfoy Manor is on the market as of now and if you like it, this could be our new home. What do you say, Hermione?”

“I . . .” Hermione gaped at the chateau, not believing her eyes. “I love it!” she said. “Is it really ours?”

Draco nodded again. “Shall we go inside and take a look?” Hermione nodded in return, still staring at the chateau with wide eyes, and he led her inside. She took in the charming décor, the huge windows, and the quiet rush of the sea just outside and knew that this was home.

“But what about work?” she said, turning to him. “We’re in France, and work’s in London . . . .” Her voice trailed off as she started thinking about the logistics.

“Hermione, are you a witch or not?” said Draco with a wry smile. He gestured towards the fireplace in the parlor. “I have that hooked up to the International Floo Network. You can get from here to London and back like that.” He snapped his fingers to indicate the speediness.

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Oh, how could I forget?”

“You are continually dazed by my presence, darling. It’s quite understandable.” He smirked at her.

“Why oh why did I marry such an smarmy, arrogant man?” said Hermione dramatically.

“Oh, I think I know why,” said Draco in a low voice.

“Really?” said Hermione innocently. “Pray tell.”

“I think I can show you better than I can tell you,” said Draco, lifting her into his arms once again, as if she were as light as a feather. He looked at her with smoldering gray eyes and began leading her up the stairwell.

“I suddenly remember why I love you,” said Hermione, a little breathless from the way he was looking at her.

“Good,” said Draco as they arrived at the threshold of the master bedroom. “And if I haven’t said this before, I love you too.”

“I don’t think I’ve heard it enough times,” Hermione commented as he gently placed her on the bed.

“I love you, I love you, I love you, I love—”

“Okay,” Hermione laughed. “I love you too. But we do have the rest of our lives to spend together. We ought to pace ourselves.”

“Very true,” Draco agreed. He leaned down and kissed her on the lips, softly and sweetly. “But Hermione, I’m going to love you like this forever.”

Smiling, Hermione closed her eyes and kissed him back, loving the way his skin felt against hers. She thought back a few months, back when she was single and lonely and about to enter the Game of Love, back when she still despised the man before her, back when she hadn’t discovered all there was to love about him. They had come a long way, she realized, down a path that she was grateful her friends had put her on. And now here she was, with the love of her life, in a chateau by the sea. She knew she had won this game of love, and that she had gotten her fairytale ending, and that she would have it no other way, with no man other than the one who with her right here, right now.


Oh my goodness! We have reached the end! Part of me is happy that I finally finished this story, another part is sad that it's over, and yet another part of me can't believe this is the end. This is the longest story I have ever completed, with over 70,000 words. I started it in January of 2008, so it’s been one year and eleven months…that’s a long time! 

I want to thank EVERYONE for all the amazing reviews I’ve received. I never thought I’d get so many for this story, and I’m just happy that there were people out there who wanted to read my work. Your reviews were what got me through writer’s block, every time, and encouraged me to keep posting. So thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! 

So, what’s next? I have no more WIPs…this is something new. I don’t have any stories planned, either. Well, I have a few vague plot ideas involving more Dramione (of course), but nothing’s for sure at this point. I do plan on going back and editing some of the chapters…maybe putting in some chapter images too. I may do some one-shots or song fics in the future, but for now I want to work on my original fiction. Oh, and in case you were going to ask, there will not be a sequel to this story…there’s nothing more to say about Draco and Hermione other than they lived happily ever after. :) 

Well, I hope you enjoyed the epilogue. Please review, one more time, and let me know what you thought of this chapter and the story as a whole. I know I got behind on responding to reviews for some of the previous chapters, but I promise to respond to every single one that I get for this last chapter. :) 

Yours till the Snorkack’s horn crumples,
Queen Luna