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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

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