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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

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