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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

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