In Vino Veritas by Embellished
Past Featured StorySummary: Draco Malfoy fancies himself a connoisseur of fine wine and fine women, but a string of encounters with Ginny Weasley teaches him that he still has something to learn about both.
Categories: Long and Completed Characters: Draco Malfoy, Ginny Weasley, Narcissa Malfoy, Pansy Parkinson
Compliant with: HBP and below
Era: Post-Hogwarts
Genres: Humor, Romance
Warnings: None
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 8 Completed: Yes Word count: 18347 Read: 62672 Published: Apr 18, 2006 Updated: Jun 16, 2006

1. I. Variety by Embellished

2. II. Yeast by Embellished

3. III. First Crush by Embellished

4. IV. Fermentation by Embellished

5. V. Fortification by Embellished

6. VI. Clarification by Embellished

7. VII. The Finish by Embellished

8. Epilogue by Embellished

I. Variety by Embellished

Summary: Draco Malfoy fancies himself a connoisseur of fine wine and fine women, but a string of encounters with Ginny Weasley teaches him that he still has something to learn about both.

Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns all things Harry Potter.

A/N: “In Vino Veritas” translates roughly as “Truth In Wine”. This story is pure fluff, and is more or less an excuse for me to combine two of my hobbies—D/G and wine. I will use some wine terms in the story (and in each chapter title!), but I don’t think you’ll need to know anything about wine to enjoy the story. Just in case, I will include explanatory notes at the end of each chapter (in the tradition of twiddlekinks’s story “PhD”). That said, although I am enthusiastic about wine, I am no expert. Thus I apologize in advance in case there are any errors in the information I include. I hope you enjoy the story. Please let me know what you think!

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In Vino Veritas

I. Variety

Draco Malfoy woke slowly to the feeling of small hands tracing patterns on his bare chest. He stretched languidly and turned toward the black-haired beauty beside him. She looked at him through hooded eyes, and said seductively, “Good morning.”

Draco smiled at her. “Good morning, yourself.” He turned to look at the clock and groaned. He would need to hurry.

As Draco extracted himself from the tangled bed covers, the woman asked, “Would you spend the day with me, Draco? I’ll make sure it is a very good day…”

Draco reached for his pants, answering, “Sorry, love. My mother is expecting me for breakfast. Some old school friend of hers is visiting.”

“Oh,” Simone said with disappointment. At least Draco thought her name was Simone. “Then could I entice you to come back tonight?” She eyed him hopefully.

Draco laughed. “Come, now, love. You know me better than that!”

“Yes, I suppose I do. It was worth a try anyway.” Draco fastened his robe. “Will I see you again soon?”

“Probably,” Draco answered with a grin, as he checked his hair in the mirror. “It isn’t personal, you do know that, don’t you?” Simone nodded. “It’s just that variety is the spice of life!”

As Draco Apparated home, he smiled inwardly at his little pun. Draco’s two principal hobbies were wine and women. He played Quidditch too, but that was only once a week. The other two were essential parts of a complete day.

Not only was Draco a connoisseur of both wine and women, he saw many similarities between the two. Every woman he had ever met resembled some kind of wine. For example, Simone was a New World Shiraz—warm and spicy, with an underlying earthy sensuality. Draco had trouble remembering women’s names, but he always remembered which variety of grape they corresponded to.

And just as Draco would not want to drink the same wine night after night, neither would he want to bed the same woman. Oh, he knew that he would need to marry someday in order to produce an heir. When he did, his wife would be of the utmost quality, a Lafite-Rothschild or a Montrachet. But he would postpone that day as long as he reasonably could, and he would undoubtedly have other women on the side. After all, variety in both wine and women was what made life interesting.

***

Draco strolled into the Manor’s dining room, which was still empty. He sighed with relief. He was looking forward to a chance to read the Prophet before he had to play host to his mother’s friend. He helped himself from a dish of kippers on the sideboard, and took his customary seat at the head of the table. He had just unfolded the paper when his mother and another woman entered the room.

Draco stood respectfully and moved to greet the two women. “Good morning, Mother,” he said, kissing Narcissa’s cheek, then turned his attention to her friend.

The woman was much too old for Draco’s tastes. She was his mother’s age, after all. Just the idea of his mother being in any way a sexual being made Draco shudder. He would never be able to compare her to a wine. She would always be as innocent as milk in his eyes, even if his own existence proved otherwise. Despite this, Draco could not help but notice that her friend was quite attractive with her generous figure and flowing honey-blonde hair. She was a rich, full-bodied red Bordeaux, he decided, that had been kept in the cellar just a little too long.

“Good morning, Draco,” Narcissa was saying. She turned to her companion and said, “Elizabeth, may I present my son, Draco. Draco, this is my friend, Madame Dupré. We were at Hogwarts together before she got married and moved away.”

Draco took Madame Dupré’s hand and kissed the back of it. “I am delighted to meet you, Madame. Mother has told me so much about you.”

“You’re even more charming than you were as a three-year-old,” she said, laughing. Draco noticed that her wrinkles disappeared as she smiled. He revised his assessment of her slightly. Certainly a Bordeaux, but perhaps not as far past her prime as he had originally thought. This was confirmed when she took his arm, and said, “But do please call me Elizabeth. ‘Madame’ makes me feel so old!”

Draco and Narcissa spent the afternoon showing Elizabeth the Malfoy estate. Much to Draco’s chagrin, Elizabeth flirted with him shamelessly all day. In the face of her considerable assets, it was all he could do to make himself remember that she was old enough to be his mother. As soon as he could gracefully do so, he made his excuses, and left the two friends to themselves.

When he had left Simone’s flat earlier in the day, Draco had thought he would be in the mood to see Pansy Parkinson that night (cool and crisp with a bit of a bite like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc). Her snide comments about everyone they encountered usually made for interesting dinner conversation. But after fending off Elizabeth’s advances all day, Draco wasn’t sure he could make it through dinner without relieving some of the tension he had built up. Instead of Pansy, he decided to visit Evangeline Avery.

Evangeline, who was a few years younger than Draco, had been openly smitten with him since her first year at Hogwarts. Draco generally tried to avoid her. (He also tried to avoid Liebfraumilch, which he found sweetly insipid.) He felt that the obvious way Evangeline mooned after him was unbefitting a member of Slytherin House. But he had to admit that it could have its advantages—he was sure that she would drop everything for the opportunity to see him.

Draco Apparated to Diagon Alley, and made his way to the block of flats where Evangeline lived. Much like Vincent Crabbe, Evangeline had no great talent with magic, so Draco thought it was rather fortunate for the girl that her father had died in the war. Her inheritance allowed her to purchase a flat in the exclusive Edgerton Arms, which even provided house-elf service to its tenants.

Draco smirked at Evangeline’s enthusiasm when she greeted him through the Door-side Floo. He would usually find it distasteful, but not today. No doubt she would change her clothes and tidy her flat before deactivating the door wards, so Draco leaned against the wall to wait.

Suddenly, Draco was startled as a figure Apparated in front of him. They stared at each other briefly, which gave Draco time to take in her appearance. Her robes were frayed and baggy, with green stains near her knees. Her skin was slightly sunburned, which made her plethora of freckles stand out starkly. And her vivid red hair was escaping from her ponytail, flying every which way around her face. It could only be Ginny Weasley. Seeing her for the first time since he left Hogwarts was slightly startling, and she seemed to react the same way.

“Malfoy,” she said, her voice slightly strained. “What are you doing here?”

“I am visiting a friend, Weasley,” Draco said frostily. “What are you doing here?”

“Maybe I live here,” she said evasively.

Draco scoffed. There was no way someone as poor as Ginny Weasley could have legitimate business in this block of flats. “Oh, yes,” he said, sarcasm dripping from his voice. “You live here. Next thing you know, Crups and Kneazles will be living in harmony.” Draco saw Ginny’s eyes flash in response, and went in for the kill. “Did you come here to beg for money to buy a proper set of robes?”

Ginny stood completely still for a moment, then did something Draco never expected. She burst into laughter. “Oh, Malfoy, you’re still using the same old insults? And I expected that in nine years, you might have grown up!”

Draco scowled at the still giggling woman. He didn’t know how to respond. He always knew how to respond. The fact that he suddenly found himself without a witty comeback made him cranky. But Ginny kept talking.

“You don’t seem the type to appreciate the benefits of a day of manual labor in the sunshine, so I will forgive you for not understanding that I wouldn’t wear my best robes for that,” she said, amused.

Ginny reached up to secure her hair more firmly in her ponytail, which pulled her robes tight across her body. Draco couldn’t help but notice her impressive figure. Then he realized he was thinking about a Weasley. That was even worse than thinking about Elizabeth. He blamed it on the sexual tension he had built up all afternoon. But he still found himself trying to decide what kind of wine Ginny reminded him of. It hadn’t come to him as quickly as usual, which annoyed him. But she was a Weasley. It shouldn’t matter. She was probably the cheap plonk sold directly from the barrel in restaurants on the continent, the wine that wasn’t good enough to bottle. Yes, that was it.

“What are you looking at, Malfoy?” Ginny asked, blushing.

Draco hadn’t realized he had been staring. At a Weasley. He was saved from answering as the door wards were released. He abruptly turned his back on Ginny, his own face flaming as it had not done in years, and entered the building in search of Evangeline and escape.

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Tasting Notes:

* All fine wine, both red and white, is made from the same species of grape, Vitis vinifera. There are, however, different varieties of grapes (sometimes referred to as varietals), which account for the vast differences in kinds of wine. Draco’s pun and the chapter title of course both refer to his taste for variety in his varietals.

* Wine that is made outside of Europe is sometimes referred to as “New World”. In Australia and parts of California and South Africa, the wine made from the Syrah grape is done in a spicier style than is traditional in France’s Rhône Valley, so it is called Shiraz to distinguish it.

* Draco’s ideas of what kind of wine his future wife should resemble are both examples of French wines of impeccable quality. Lafite-Rothschild is a producer of a red wine from the Bordeaux region. It is one of the five “Premiers Crus”, the finest wines according the classification made in 1855, which is still in use today. Montrachet is a vineyard in Burgundy that produces exceptional white wines made from the Chardonnay grape.

* How long a wine can be kept varies depending on the grapes used and the quality of the wine. Some fine wines, such as red Bordeaux, can improve for decades. Eventually, however, the wine will begin to deteriorate. This is Draco’s take on Elizabeth.

* Sauvignon Blanc is traditionally blended with Semillon and Muscadelle to make the white wines from the Bordeaux region. In the New World, however, (particularly in New Zealand and California) it tends to be bottled on its own without aging in oak. This produces a wine that tends to be highly acidic. It is sometimes referred to as “pissy”, which seems quite apt for Pansy.

* Liebfraumilch is a sweet white German wine made primarily for export. It tends to be fairly weak and of low quality.

* In many small restaurants in Europe, the “house wine” is quite inexpensive and of variable quality. It is often served in carafes that are filled directly from a barrel rather than from a bottle.

II. Yeast by Embellished

Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns all things Harry Potter.

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In Vino Veritas

II. Yeast

The Harvest Moon Gala to benefit the St. Jerome Emiliani Orphanage for Young Witches and Wizards was the premier event in the British wizarding world. The most influential witches and wizards all attended. Helping the Orphanage was just a side benefit; they really came in order to see and be seen. And, of course, to prove that they could afford the shockingly expensive tickets.

Draco swept across the dance floor, his carefully chosen date in his arms. He had met Claudia at Blaise Zabini’s party the week before. She had moved to London from Hamburg to market the magical devices her father’s company invented and manufactured. She was like a fine white Burgundy—sleek and sophisticated, with occasional hints of flinty strength. She perfectly fit the image Draco wanted to present tonight. Many of his business associates would be in attendance, and she would reflect well on him. But beyond that, the slightly exotic way Claudia looked up at him through those dark lashes promised good things when they left the party later in the evening.

As the song finished, Draco steered Claudia off the dance floor and towards what he had most looked forward to tonight—the wine tasting.

As he and Claudia were about to step through the archway separating the ballroom from the wine tasting room, Draco caught a flash of orange out of the corner of his eye. He paused briefly in shock as he recognized Ginny Weasley. Again? She was decked out in brilliant sapphire robes that Draco recognized as Alethia Greengrass originals. They emphasized her startling hair and what Draco could now see was a spectacular figure. Remembering his speechlessness after their last encounter, he burned to put her in her place once and for all. He stepped deliberately into her path.

Ginny registered no surprise at Draco’s maneuver. That made him even more determined to make her squirm. “Weasley?” he asked snidely. “Who did you have to blackmail to invite you to this?”

“Blackmail?” she asked, surprised. Somehow she didn’t seem angry. Draco decided he needed to do something to remedy that.

“Of course,” he said in his most condescending voice. “Why else would anyone invite you?”

“Oh, I’m not here with anyone,” she said airily. “I’m here entirely under my own steam.” His jaw dropped. The gala tickets cost hundreds of Galleons each. How could a Weasley afford one?

“How…?” Draco began to ask, but he was cut off as a young man approached and asked Ginny to dance. She didn’t even give Draco a second glance as they left for the dance floor. Draco seethed with anger. She had walked away from him! She would pay. He just had to figure out how.

Draco scowled as he watched the pair dance. Ginny laughed at something the mere snip of a boy said and Draco became even angrier.

Draco was distracted by Claudia pulling on his sleeve. He had forgotten all about her after his conversation with Ginny. Forgetting the wine tasting, Draco irritably pulled Claudia onto the dance floor, leading her so he could watch Ginny over her shoulder.

Draco watched Ginny all night, looking for an opportunity to get his revenge. Unfortunately, she was continually surrounded by people, mostly men. She danced with some of them, but seemed to spend most of her time in the wine tasting room.

Draco was amazed by Ginny’s intense approach to the tasting. She examined each glass of wine carefully, then swirled it vigorously before smelling it. She took several sniffs before her first taste, then rolled the wine throughout her whole mouth. Her technique was impeccable, nearly the same as Draco’s own. The only difference was that he swallowed the wine, while she spat it out into the buckets that were provided for that purpose. As far as Draco could tell, she was the only one using them as intended. Though he had seen a few men douse cigarettes in them as their wives approached.

After a while, Draco left Claudia with Blaise Zabini so he would be free to talk to Patrice, a witch who worked for Wandgate Construction. He had been negotiating a deal with her for the past several months. He hoped to charm her into agreeing to his conditions, and perhaps to seeing him again once the deal was finalized. She was, after all, quite attractive—solid but velvety smooth like a Rioja. But Draco couldn’t focus on their conversation, especially when he saw Ginny heading for the powder room. He nearly left Patrice in the middle of a sentence to go after Ginny, but reined himself in at the last moment. Once Ginny had left the room, Draco did manage to turn his attention back to Patrice. He noticed her frown at his inattention and threw himself into salvaging the situation. By the time they parted ways, Ginny was once again surrounded by a group of people.

When Claudia visited the powder room later, Draco saw his chance to get to Ginny. She had broken free of the crowd surrounding her, and was sitting on an upholstered bench in an alcove. He would corner her there, and insult her until he managed to upset her.

Draco paused for a moment as he approached Ginny. She sat with her head resting back against the wall. It occurred to Draco that she might well need to rest after entertaining so many people all evening. He ignored the momentary pang of regret and moved forward anyway. But a portly man with a walrus moustache cut in front of him and got to Ginny first.

“Aha!” the man exclaimed in a deep voice. “There you are! I have been looking all over for you, Miss Weasley. Roderick and I are having a bit of a disagreement about the California Petite Sirah. He says it is too tannic and needs a couple more years in the bottle, but I think it is perfect now.”

“I haven’t tasted that yet this evening, Mr. Marchbanks,” Ginny said with a tired smile.

“But I would be happy to come taste it and give you my opinion.” She stood and took Marchbanks’s arm and led him back towards the tasting area, away from Draco.

Draco, confused by the exchange and frustrated that his prey was about to escape him yet again, began to follow. But he was stopped by Claudia’s hand on his arm.

“Come, Draco,” she said coquettishly, “I am tired of the wine. I wish to try my hand at roulette. After all, I am feeling rather lucky tonight.”

Draco smiled distractedly at Claudia, barely even registering the innuendo. He had no choice but to follow her, and when he looked back over his shoulder for a last glimpse of Ginny, she had already gone.

Later, after Claudia had lost fifty of his Galleons at roulette, Draco excused himself. On his way to the loo, he passed once more through the wine tasting room. Yet again, he stopped to watch Ginny Weasley. She was standing, wine glass in hand, talking to half a dozen middle aged wizards.

As Draco watched, a witch emerged from the ballroom and approached the group surrounding Ginny. She took one of the wizards by the arm, dragging him onto the dance floor. Draco chuckled at sight and what it implied about Ginny. But his smile faded as he continued to watch her. He couldn’t hear what she was saying, but her face was so animated, so alive, that Draco had to fight the urge to join the gaggle surrounding her.

When one of the wizards listening to Ginny stepped a little too close to her, a wholly unfamiliar wave of protectiveness welled up within Draco. Even though he didn’t know what he planned to do when he got there, he started to move toward the group. He had just caught Ginny’s eye when he felt a pull on his sleeve.

Draco turned to find Claudia glaring intently at him. Her grip tightened painfully around his arm as she pulled him into a nearby alcove. “I thought you were going to the men’s room,” she hissed.

“I was!” Draco responded, not used to being on the defensive. “I just got distracted by Weasley’s hair!”

“Somehow I don’t think it was her hair that distracted you!” Claudia’s exasperation was clear. Draco refused to answer. “Look, Draco,” Claudia said somewhat more calmly, “I am your date. That means you should spend your time with me. Not watching some other woman.”

“Of course,” Draco responded with resignation. Part of him recognized that Claudia was in the right, even as he clung to his assertion that it really was just Ginny’s hair—and her dismissal of him—that had distracted him. “Would you care to dance?” he asked, extending a hand in invitation.

Claudia smiled at him, relief evident on her features. “I would love to.”

As he steered Claudia into the ballroom, Draco couldn’t help but look back at Ginny one last time. She was still surrounded by the group of wizards, but she was watching him. Just before he turned back to Claudia, Ginny raised her eyebrow and gave him a small amused smile that left him unsettled for the rest of the night.

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Tasting Notes:

* The process of fermentation, which converts the sugar from wine grapes into alcohol, is caused by the presence of yeast. The events of this chapter will hopefully serve to facilitate fermentation of an entirely different sort.

* The white wines made in France’s Burgundy region are made from the Chardonnay grape. The style of a white Burgundy tends to emphasize tropical fruit flavors and a metallic character. This differs somewhat from what most Americans think of Chardonnay, as the style preferred by many California wine makers emphasizes the smooth buttery flavors that come from aging the wine in oak.

* Ginny’s wine-tasting technique is truly impeccable. She looks at the wine, noting its color and viscosity. Before smelling the wine, she swirls it in the glass to release its aromas. She then rolls the wine around in her mouth so it touches all parts of her tongue. She probably also breathes in and out over the wine, to bring the aromas into her nose, as scent makes up a large part of how we taste things. Once she has done this, she spits the wine out so she doesn’t get too drunk to taste future wines properly. This is something that wine professionals do on a regular basis, but neither Draco nor I bother with!

* Rioja is a region in Spain. The red wines there are aged for a long time in oak, which gives them a soft, vanilla-like character.

* Petite Sirah is a variety of grape grown primarily in California. It contains a high level of tannin, the chemical that wine experts claim gives wine “structure” and also makes your mouth pucker when you drink tea. The tannins in a wine tend to crystallize and settle over time, so choosing the right time to drink a tannin-heavy wine is important. Many wines that age well have high tannin levels, but if you drink them too soon, they can taste harsh.

III. First Crush by Embellished

Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns all things Harry Potter.

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In Vino Veritas

III. First Crush

Draco scowled as he Apparated to Theo Nott’s flat a few nights after the gala. He didn’t normally accept blind dates; he thought they detracted from his image. But Theo had been called into the Ministry unexpectedly that afternoon to sort out an incident involving three Muggles, a condom-shaped Portkey, and a Fwooper without its silencing spell. He was desperate to find someone to entertain his cousin Amber, who was visiting from California. He had unwisely promised Draco a favor to be named later in exchange for showing Amber about Diagon Alley and taking her to dinner. Draco, who had never before managed to get Theo into his debt, quickly agreed despite the possible detrimental effects on his reputation should the word get out. There was one added benefit to the arrangement—his mother’s friend Elizabeth was still staying at the Manor, and Draco was tired of dodging her attempts to corner him at every opportunity. A date would be an excellent excuse to stay away from home that evening.

Draco’s scowl turned into a smile when Amber greeted him. She was lean and lithe, and her robes showed much more of her well-tanned skin than was really decent. Draco’s smile turned to a smirk as he wondered whether or not she had any tan lines. Perhaps, he thought, he could find out for himself.

Amber giggled as Draco kissed the back of her hand. “You’re not at all what I expected!” she gushed. Draco raised an enquiring eyebrow in response. “I thought Theo’s friends would be as stuffy as he is!”

Draco quickly classified Amber as a sparkling wine from California—bubbly, a little sweet, and not nearly as refined as champagne. But the evening looked more promising by the moment.

“Alas,” Draco said with his most charming grin. “Some of us can only aspire to be so stuffy.”

Draco’s comment provoked the expected laughter, and Amber seemed to relax slightly. He offered his arm, saying, “Shall we?” This inspired yet another round of giggles. Confused and a little annoyed by her reaction to his good manners, Draco made a mental note that he need not try to be funny in order to make Amber laugh—she seemed to do it often enough on her own. But as they side-along Apparated to Diagon Alley, Amber pressed her body against Draco’s, and his momentary fit of pique was forgotten.

The pair meandered through the wizarding shopping district. Draco commented on the sights, while Amber cooed endlessly about how quaint everything was. Finally, they arrived at Chez Henri, a small bistro tucked into a side alley near Madame Malkin’s.

There were a few restaurants in wizarding London that had better food, but none of them could rival Chez Henri’s wine list. Despite this, Draco had not been to his favorite restaurant in months. His dates tended to prefer trendy establishments where they could flaunt the fact that they were with Draco Malfoy. Draco had been quick to take advantage of Amber’s unfamiliarity with the London scene when making their reservation for the evening.

Draco glanced up from the wine list to find Amber frowning at the menu. “Is something wrong?” he asked.

“Everything is so heavy. It will interfere with my chi. Isn’t there a dinner salad?” Amber asked.

Draco resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Were women all overly picky? He took a deep breath. “No. That is not common in Britain. Try the sole. It is a little lighter than some of the other dishes, and they do it with fresh vegetables.”

“I guess that will do,” Amber said dubiously. Her smile returned as the waiter approached.

Draco ordered for both of them, earning still more giggles from Amber. Now that she was no longer pressed up beside him and most of her figure was hidden beneath the table, Amber’s constant chatter and childish laughter were beginning to annoy Draco. He needed a distraction.

“And could you please ask the sommelier to stop by when he has a chance?” Draco asked the waiter.

“Of course. Is there anything else I can do for you now, sir?”

“No, thank you.” Draco nodded and the waiter left him alone with Amber, who took the opportunity to comment on how stiff he had been, his accent, British accents in general, and presumably on other topics as well. Draco couldn’t be sure, because he had stopped paying attention to her. He was thinking about the wine.

There were some new selections on the wine list that he was considering, but he would need to know more before making a decision. He enjoyed discussing wine almost as much as he enjoyed drinking it. And Walter Weatherwax, Chez Henri’s sommelier, was more knowledgeable about wine than anyone else Draco had met.

Draco was so engrossed by the wine list that he almost didn’t notice when a decidedly un-masculine voice said, “Good evening, Mr. Malfoy. How can I help you?” He looked up to find Ginny Weasley standing beside their table, dressed in subdued black robes, her brilliant hair in an elegant up-do. It was all he could do to keep his jaw from dropping.

“Weasley, what are you doing here?” Draco asked more harshly than he had intended.

Ginny raised her eyebrows slightly, but kept her composure. She answered, “I was told you asked to speak with me.”

“With you?” Draco’s surprise had left him incapable of intelligent speech.

“You did request the sommelier?” she asked calmly.

Draco was confused. “Yes! But you’re not the sommelier. You’re not Walter!”

“No,” Ginny said, her expression amused. “I most certainly am not Walter. But I am the sommelier.”

Draco was astounded. Weasley? An expert on wine? And at his favorite restaurant, no less? That was unacceptable.

“What…? What happened to Walter?” was all Draco managed to sputter out, though things were starting to fall into place in his mind. Maybe Ginny had been hired as a wine consultant for the gala. That would explain why she had spent so much time talking to people in the tasting room. And she had tasted the wine like a professional.

“Well…” Ginny paused a moment, as if trying to find the right words. “Two months ago, he… er… that is to say, he and his… er… partner… ran… er… moved to Bermuda. He made a rather spectacular exit, from what I’ve heard. Probably spurred on a bit by a few of the better bottles in the cellar.” She seemed to realize from Draco and Amber’s astonished expressions that she had probably said too much. “In any event,” she said, “Walter is gone, and I am the new sommelier. Is there something I can help you with?”

“No, I don’t think so,” Draco said haughtily. “I can’t imagine there is anything a Weasley can tell me about wine.”

Ginny looked as if her patience was wearing thin. “Do you really think that Henri would hire a sommelier that was ignorant about wine? Although I doubt you would believe me, I am highly qualified. More qualified than Walter ever was!”

Ginny’s vehemence surprised Draco. She was flushed with anger, and Draco grudgingly acknowledged to himself that it flattered her. She didn’t get blotchy like her brother Ron did, or ruddy like the twins. The color almost made her face light up. Draco wondered if he could provoke her further.

“I somehow doubt that,” he said snootily.

Rather than explode, as Draco had hoped, Ginny pulled herself together. And then she smirked at him. “Go ahead, Malfoy,” she said. “Try me.”

Recognizing the challenge for what it was, Draco thought for a moment about what questions to pose.

“What is Cannonau?” Draco asked.

“It is the Sardinian term for the Grenache grape,” Ginny answered, rolling her eyes.“True enough,” Draco answered pleasantly. The question had been relatively easy, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise that she had answered correctly. “What is the minimum sugar content required in the grapes for a wine to be classified as Trockenbeerenauslese?”

“The requirements vary a bit based on varietal and region, but for Riesling they are all around 150 oechsle,” Ginny answered casually. Draco nodded, somewhat disappointed that she had known the answer. But the true test was yet to come. Any true expert on wine knew the 1855 classification of Bordeaux wines.

“How is Château La Tour-du-Pin-Figeac classified?” he asked.

“It is a Grand Cru in St. …million,” Ginny said simply.

Draco smirked. He had caught her. “I’m afraid not,” he said triumphantly. “It is a Quatrième Cru in the Médoc.”

Ginny’s forehead creased in confusion. She asked, “Are you sure you aren’t confusing it with Château La Tour-Carnet Saint Laurent?”

Draco’s face fell. He had confused the two. He couldn’t believe it. She had managed to make him look like an idiot instead of the other way around as it should have been. The only way out was to scrape together what dignity he still had left. “Very well,” he said with resignation. “I suppose you might know a little bit about wine.”

Ginny smiled at him. “I’m glad that you have seen sense, Malfoy,” she said. “So, what was the reason you asked to speak with me in the first place?”

“I noticed these two new Burgundies on the list,” Draco said, indicating them with his hand, “and I wanted to know more about them.”

“Well, the first is a traditional red Burgundy, with lots of earth and tobacco flavors, and forward fruit. I added the other to the list as a contrast. It is much darker, with accents of blackberry and licorice. You’d hardly think it was made from Pinot Noir grapes. It’s excellent, but scarcely appropriate if you are looking for a typical Burgundy.”

“I think the more traditional wine would be best, especially since Amber is having the sole.” As Draco said this, he realized he hadn’t thought of Amber once since Ginny had arrived at their table. He looked up at her now, and noticed her eyes darting back and forth apprehensively between Ginny and him. In order to atone for ignoring her, Draco asked, “What do you think, Amber?”

Draco had started to turn back to Ginny in anticipation of Amber’s agreement. After all, his dates always agreed with his opinions on wine. So Draco was quite surprised when Amber did not actually agree with him.

“Well,” she said conversationally, “I like White Zinfandel.”

Draco abruptly turned back to Amber, his jaw slack. White Zinfandel? What kind of Philistine was she? He stole a glance at Ginny and saw that her mask of horror reflected his own. But Ginny quickly regained her composure.

“I’m afraid that we don’t have any… er… White Zinfandel in our cellar, ma’am,” she said, with only a hint of contempt creeping into her voice. Draco was reluctantly impressed by her control. After all, he still hadn’t managed to close his mouth. “The most similar wine we have,” Ginny continued, “is a rosé from the Languedoc. It is dry, but redolent of strawberries. Would that be acceptable?”

Amber nodded, and Ginny turned back to Draco. He was surprised by the look she gave him. Her eyes were alight with amusement and camaraderie—they silently agreed that Amber lacked any sort of taste in wine. He also saw sympathy in her eyes. She knew there was nothing he could do but accept the rosé, and she understood just how painful that would be for him. After a moment, Draco said stiffly, “Yes, of course. That would be lovely.”

Ginny nodded and Draco watched as she moved towards the cellar. Then he turned back to Amber, resigned to endure her chatter for the rest of the evening.

Before long, Ginny returned with the wine. She seemed to put more flourish than necessary into the ritual of presenting and opening the wine, and Draco appreciated the sarcasm of it. When she showed Draco the label, turning the bottle with a flourish, he nodded sagely and said, “Ah, yes,” in an exaggeration of the British old-boy stereotype. Amber didn’t seem to notice that he was pretending, which appeared to spur Ginny on. After she presented the cork to Draco, she raised and lowered the neck of the bottle flamboyantly as she poured. Draco smirked inwardly to see that Amber seemed impressed. When Draco tasted the sample, he said, “Oh, that’s excellent!” in his fake accent.

But what surprised Draco more than anything was that the wine was excellent in a way. It was by no means a fine wine. But it was fruity enough to keep even Amber happy, tasting almost exactly like strawberries. On the other hand, it wasn’t at all sweet, so he could stomach it with food. There were also some small hints of other tastes and smells to keep him interested. He was grudgingly impressed by Ginny’s choice. But later, when he received the bill, he was even more grateful—the wine was one of the least expensive bottles of wine he had ever bought, even from a shop. He figured that if he was going to be forced to drink something he didn’t want, it might well be cheap. Now if he could only say the same thing about Amber…

********************************

Tasting Notes:

* In order to extract the juice from wine grapes, they are crushed. In modern times, this is done with sterile equipment, but I think the phrase “first crush” evokes the old methods of using one’s feet. The double entendre of the term might be a stretch for what Draco experiences in this chapter, but I couldn’t resist using it anyway.

* Many sparkling wines are produced in California using the same methods that are used in Champagne, with more or less success, depending on your point of view. Ironically, the word “dry”, which usually means “not sweet” when applied to still wines, means “slightly sweet” when applied to sparking wines. If you want a sparkling wine that is not sweet, look for one labeled “brut”.

* A sommelier manages a restaurant’s wine collection. He or she decides what wines should appear on the wine list, buys and maintains the wine, and is usually on hand to consult with the restaurant’s patrons.

* Draco’s question about Cannonau is slightly obscure. When my husband and I were in Italy a couple of years ago, we got plenty of attention from a wine shop owner when we asked if he had any Cannonau—our question showed that we weren’t typically clueless American tourists. At least not entirely.

* Trockenbeerenauslese is the highest quality sweet wine made in Germany. The grapes are allowed to sit on the vines until they are shriveled and nearly dry. This serves to concentrate the sugars in what juice remains, yielding a sweet wine even after fermentation. The grapes used in these wines are often infected by Botrytis, also called “Noble Rot”, a mold which helps the grapes shrivel. Oechsle is a scale by which the sugar content of a grape is measured; it is used predominantly in Germany.

* In 1855, the producers of wine in France’s Bordeaux region were classified according to price, which was at the time a good measure of the quality of the wine. The classification, which is still used today, is still considered to be a good measure; it has only been modified once in the last 150 years. “Grand cru” is the third level in the St. …million appellation (subregion), while “Quatrième Cru” is the fourth level in the Médoc appellation.

* Most of the red wines made in France’s Burgundy region are made from Pinot Noir grapes. Their characteristics can vary substantially. (The only exception is the Beaujolais subregion which uses Gamay grapes. However, despite the fact that Beaujolais is technically part of Burgundy, if a red wine from France is labeled as “Burgundy”, it is likely made from Pinot Noir. Wines made in California that are labeled as “Burgundy” might be made from any variety of grape at all.)

* Red wines get their color from the grape skins. Rosé wines can be made by removing the skins from the grape juice early in the winemaking process. White Zinfandel is made in this way. It tends to be sweet and simple and has large appeal, especially among people who are new to wine. (It was my favorite at one time!) However, for people who are serious about wine, it tends to be somewhat boring at best and distasteful at worst. Draco and Ginny both obviously fall into the latter category.

* I modeled the rosé Ginny suggests for Draco and Amber after one I actually drank many years ago, which was made from Grenache grapes but was not at all sweet. The Languedoc region is in the south of France.

* The ritual of opening the wine tableside in a restaurant, which may seem overly pompous to some, actually has very practical origins. The custom of showing the bottle to the customer before it is opened and then opening it at the table began because some unscrupulous restaurateurs would pour cheap wine into an empty bottle to pass it off as something fancier. The ritual ensures that the customer gets what he or she pays for. In addition, it is relatively easy for the quality of a wine to be compromised while it is in the bottle. The most common problem occurs when the cork shrinks, allowing air into the bottle which can cause the wine to take on an unpleasant smell of mildew (in this case, the wine is called “corky”). The cork is presented to the customer for inspection, and a little wine is poured for the customer to sample, in order to ensure that this hasn’t happened. If you order wine in a restaurant and it smells like mildew, be sure to tell the server; the restaurant ought to open a new bottle in place of the faulty one.

IV. Fermentation by Embellished

Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns all things Harry Potter.

*******************************

In Vino Veritas

IV. Fermentation

Draco could finally rest peacefully in his own bed. Elizabeth Dupré had gone home to France. In order to avoid her advances, he had stayed away from the Manor as much as he could over the past three weeks, but that had taken a toll on him. Even worse, his mother was miffed that he was avoiding her. Narcissa had noticed Elizabeth’s interest in Draco, but the poor woman hadn’t recognized Elizabeth’s pursuit for what it was. After all, Draco was young enough to be Elizabeth’s son.

As an apologetic gesture, Draco invited his mother out for dinner that evening at Chez Henri. His last visit there, with Amber Nott, had been a disaster, though that had been Amber’s fault. She had ordered White Zinfandel, for Merlin’s sake. The restaurant wouldn’t be the same now that Ginny Weasley had replaced Walter Weatherwax as sommelier, but Draco was curious about the changes she would make and wanted to try it one more time.

Narcissa smiled at Draco across the table. “Draco, I’ve hardly seen you recently. How have you been?” she asked.

“I’ve been fine, Mother,” he said placatingly. “Busy, though. I’m sorry to have neglected you, but you know how business comes in waves.”

“Yes,” Narcissa said sadly. “The same used to happen for your father.”

As a rule, Draco tried to avoid talking about Lucius at all costs. Luckily the waiter arrived at just the right time. Draco ordered their meals, as well as a red Bordeaux that would complement the food nicely.

When the waiter left, Draco seized the chance to turn the conversation to safer ground. Before long, however, Ginny Weasley approached their table. Draco’s breath caught slightly when he saw her; he told himself that it had happened only because he had been surprised by the interruption.

“I’m sorry to intrude, Mrs. Malfoy, Mr. Malfoy,” Ginny said deferentially. She turned to Draco. “I saw the wine you ordered,” she began. “It is certainly a quality wine, and we do have it in stock if you want it, but I think I can recommend a more appropriate wine that would be a better value.”

Draco was intrigued. Sommeliers rarely gave an opinion unless asked for it. “Oh, really? And what would that be?”

Ginny hesitated before speaking. “I would rather not say at this time,” she eventually said. “Instead, I will make this proposition. I will open the wine in the kitchen and bring you and your mother each a glass. If you taste it and decide that it is appropriate, I will tell you what it is. If you don’t like it, I will assume expense for the bottle, and bring you a bottle of the Bordeaux you ordered.”

Draco gave Ginny a long look. She seemed a little bit nervous, but mostly confident. He then turned to Narcissa. “What do you say, Mother?”

Narcissa had been looking at Ginny, but turned to Draco then, amusement in her eyes. “I appreciate value,” she said. “And we can always drink something else if we don’t like it. I say we take Miss Weasley up on her offer. It will be an adventure of sorts.”

It did appear that they had nothing to lose, which made Draco’s inner Slytherin suspicious. But he wanted to keep his mother happy tonight, so he deferred to her opinion.

“Very well,” Draco said, turning back to Ginny, who looked overly smug in his opinion. He frowned at her. “But if I don’t like it, it will be your problem.”

“Of course,” Ginny responded with a smile. “That is the deal, after all. I’ll bring that wine right away, then.” She disappeared in the direction of the cellars.

When Draco turned back to Narcissa, she was looking at him appraisingly. “I had no idea that the Weasley girl worked here,” she said.

“I only discovered it the last time I was here,” Draco said, as casually as he could manage. Ginny’s proposition had thrown him off-balance. “Apparently, Walter ran off with a boyfriend and Henri hired her.”

“She certainly is a change from Walter,” Narcissa said, her voice suspiciously uninflected. Draco was sure she was hiding something.

“Indeed,” he said. “We’ll have to wait to find out if the restaurant will deteriorate now.”

Narcissa only smiled. Just then Ginny returned with two glasses of wine, distracting both of them from the conversation. She placed one glass in front of each of them and said, “Here you are. I’ll be back in a little while to hear your decision.” She turned away without waiting for a response.

Narcissa reached for her glass first. Draco waited to watch her reaction before trying the wine himself. She sniffed it delicately, smiled a little, then tasted. Her face was entirely blank for a moment or two, then she gave Draco the sweetest smile he had seen from her in years. “Try it,” she encouraged.

Draco swirled the wine in the glass and smelled it. There was fruit, of course, but it was more fresh and lively than he had expected. He also smelled some lavender, and perhaps a bit of butterscotch. He swirled it again, then tasted the wine. He tasted plum and dark cherries, with a little licorice and vanilla. He looked up at his mother to find her smiling at him still.

“I think Miss Weasley won this one,” Narcissa said. Draco nodded, too stunned for words, and took another sip.

Ginny didn’t return until the wine had dwindled nearly to the bottom of both Draco’s and Narcissa’s glasses. “What do you think?” she asked, her voice fully innocent.

“It’s excellent,” Draco snapped, “as you very well know. You win. Now bring us some more.”

“I’m so glad you appreciated my suggestion, Mr. Malfoy,” Ginny said sweetly, ignoring his tone of voice. “I’ll retrieve the bottle right away.”

“Here you are,” Ginny said as she returned. “Stag’s Leap Fay Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2002.”

Draco looked at the label. Napa Valley. She had brought him a California wine in place of one from France? Draco had tasted his fair share of New World wines, but he preferred more traditional vintages, and would never choose an American wine himself. The reason for Ginny’s earlier hesitation was now all too clear. He should have followed his instinct to drink the Bordeaux instead.

“This is from California?” Draco asked stiltedly.

“Yes,” Ginny said. “That’s why I didn’t want to tell you what it was right away.” She darted a glance at Narcissa, then seemed to choose her words more carefully. “I suspected that you might have a… predilection towards French wines. But some of the California wines are just as good as the French, but with much lower prices. For example, this wine cost two thirds of what you were prepared to pay for the Margaux you ordered.”

Draco glared at Ginny. She had tricked him! It was almost as bad as someone setting him up on a blind date with a Mud… er… Muggleborn without telling him about her blood status in advance. Well, maybe it wasn’t that bad. But he still wasn’t happy about it. He was about to tell Weasley what he thought, but his mother spoke first.

“Thank you very much,” Narcissa said enthusiastically. “This is one of the best wines I have tasted in quite some time. I had no idea they were producing wine like this in America.”

“Oh, yes!” Ginny said. “The Napa Valley is excellent for Cabernet Sauvignon, and there are some wonderful Pinot Noirs coming out of Oregon and Santa Barbara County. And the Americans are making strides with some other varietals as well.”

Draco glared alternately at Ginny and Narcissa throughout their conversation. Ginny had outmaneuvered him and his mother seemed to be taking her side against him. He eventually interrupted petulantly and not entirely truthfully, “I won’t drink this… plonk!”

“Plonk?” Ginny asked, her eyes dancing. “I seem to recall you saying it was excellent just a few minutes ago. But perhaps my memory is faulty. What do you remember, Mrs. Malfoy?”

“If your memory is faulty, Miss Weasley, then so is mine,” Narcissa said, smirking with amusement. “Draco is just upset that you managed to throw his preconceptions out of balance.” Draco snorted. That wasn’t it at all—he was upset by her trickery, that was all. “Don’t you worry, though,” Narcissa continued. “Just leave us the bottle. I’ll enjoy it even if he does not.”

Draco recognized defeat. “Fine,” he spat out. “It’s not bad. We’ll drink it.”

“Excellent,” Ginny said, with a smile that was nearly a smirk. As Draco continued to glare, her expression turned pensive. “You know, Malfoy,” she said, then hesitated slightly. “It isn’t always a good idea to judge a wine by what’s on its label. Sometimes… sometimes you need to taste it first.” With an enigmatic smile and a nod to Narcissa, Ginny left the table. Draco watched her go, not sure what to make of her parting comment.

Narcissa looked at Draco thoughtfully. “She’s right, you know, Draco,” she said. “About the wine and… and other things as well.” Draco looked up at his mother with new eyes. She’d never tried to tell him anything important before. And he was sure that was what she was trying to do. “I like her,” Narcissa said abruptly. “She’d make a good Malfoy.”

Draco had no idea what his mother meant by that, and wasn’t sure he really wanted to know. So he took another sip of the admittedly excellent wine, and turned the conversation in a different direction entirely.

**************************************

Tasting Notes:

* Fermentation is the process which converts the sugars in wine grapes into alcohol, turning grape juice into wine. Unfortunately, Draco is too stubborn to notice that fermentation of an entirely different kind is starting to occur.

* The red wines made in France’s Bordeaux region are made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot, and Malbec grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon is the predominant grape in the wines made near the village of Margaux.

* Prejudice in favor of French wines is widespread in the wine world, especially in Europe. However, some California wines are of as high quality as some of the top French wines. This was displayed in a famous tasting in 1976, which is sometimes called the “Judgment of Paris”. A jury consisting of the top wine experts working in France at the time participated in a blind tasting (that is, they did not know which wines they were drinking). The tasting pitted white Burgundy against California Chardonnay and red Bordeaux against California Cabernet Sauvignon. Much to the horror of the French experts, the winners in both categories were from California.

* In the Judgment of Paris, the winner among the red wines was a Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon. Ginny’s recommendation is my nod to this historic event. The term “Fay Vineyard” in its name indicated that the grapes were grown in a single vineyard rather than blended from grapes grown in several different places. Often, small “appellations” are considered more prestigious than wider regions. Thus a “Fay Vineyard” wine would be considered better than one labeled “Napa Valley”, which would in turn be considered better than one labeled “California.” This ranking doesn’t always correspond to quality, but can often be good as a rough guideline.

V. Fortification by Embellished

Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns all things Harry Potter.

*******************************

In Vino Veritas

V. Fortification

Draco had had an inordinately difficult week. He had been forced to work night and day, breaking only for meals and a few hours of sleep each night, in order to salvage a deal with Wandgate construction. Draco had spent months negotiating, only to find out at the last minute that he might lose the whole thing—Marcus Flint had tried to steal the contract away from Draco by sleeping with Wandgate’s representative, Patrice. Draco was outraged, and not only for business reasons. It might not be readily apparent, but he did have a sense of sexual ethics. He wouldn’t sleep with women who were under age, or who were old enough to be his mother. And he wouldn’t combine business with pleasure, at least not until after the deal was finalized. So Draco, more angry than he had been in years, had worked hard not only to secure the contract, but also to obtain evidence of Flint’s infidelity. Luckily, all the work had paid off. Draco’s company had won the contract, and Flint had left the meeting sporting a tail, a pair of horns, and a forked tongue, all compliments of Patrice.

Now, all Draco wanted was to spend the evening in front of the fire with a good book and an excellent bottle of wine. He stopped off at the wine shop in Diagon Alley. He could just take a bottle from his wine cellar, but he was in the mood for something a little different.

Nothing in the shop caught Draco’s eye until he saw a single bottle reclining on a velvet-lined shelf. Considering how crowded with wine the small shop was, Draco thought it odd that a whole shelf would be devoted to a single bottle. Screaming Eagle Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. He didn’t know much about California wines; indeed, he had often sneered at them. But the wine Ginny Weasley had recommended the week before had been superb. And considering its price, this one was likely to be good as well. Draco considered for a moment, then quickly grabbed the bottle and made his way towards the counter at the back of the store.

As he waited for the witch in front of him to count out the Knuts for her bottle of Thunderbird, Draco heard a yelp behind him. Ginny Weasley was staring indignantly at the empty shelf.

“It’s gone!” Ginny said to nobody in particular. “I finally have a reason to celebrate that would justify the cost, and someone else beat me to it! It figures.” She turned away and looked at the bottles nearby with a distinct lack of enthusiasm.

Draco felt an unfamiliar pang at Ginny’s disappointment. This, coupled with his exhaustion, must have caused him to act uncharacteristically; without thinking, he called out, “Weasley!” When she turned to look at him, he held up the bottle of Screaming Eagle. “Why don’t we share it?”

Ginny’s jaw dropped. She moved closer, eyeing him narrowly. “What?” she asked suspiciously.

“I suggested that we share it. This is the bottle you were talking about?”

“Yes,” she said. “But why would you offer to share with me?”

“Merlin knows!” Draco said, exasperated with her and himself. “Look, forget it. Good luck finding something else.” He turned back to the counter, scowling. After a moment he felt her hand on his arm. He looked down at her and noticed for the first time just how big her brown eyes were.

“I’m sorry, Malfoy,” she said penitently. “I apologize for questioning your motives when you were clearly only trying to help. I… I’ve had my eye on that bottle for weeks. If you are still willing to share, I’d appreciate it.”

Something in Draco’s chest lurched at Ginny’s smile when he nodded. “Thank you! So where are we going to go to drink it?” she asked. Then she added, “It’s only fair that you get to choose, as you’re the one doing me the favor.”

Draco looked at her blankly for a moment. He clearly had not thought about the logistics of this arrangement. The options were limited, so he quickly came to a decision. “Why, we will go to Malfoy Manor, of course,” he said, trying to inject some coldness into his tone to counteract the strange emotions she had caused. He paused for a moment, then said snidely, “At least I have Riedel wine glasses.”

Ginny’s eyes flashed momentarily at Draco’s implication, but then she closed them and took a deep breath. When she opened her eyes again, she appeared to be more composed. “Look, Malfoy,” she said patiently. “If we are going to do that wine the justice it deserves, it is going to take some time. Could we dispense with the petty insults for the evening and at least try to be civil to one another?”

Draco cocked his head to the side and looked appraisingly at Ginny. “We can try,” he said with a small smile.

Over dinner, Draco and Ginny’s conversation revolved around wine. They agreed that the Screaming Eagle was well worth the 113 Galleons they had paid for it. They then argued about New World wines in general. Draco slowly realized that they had similar tastes, but that Ginny was much more adventurous about what she was willing to try. When they had finished eating, Draco suggested that they bring what was left of the wine into the study.

They were now watching the fire, sipping the wine occasionally, each absorbed by their own thoughts. Their silence was very comfortable, relaxing even. That thought disturbed Draco, so he sought a distraction.

“What are you celebrating?”

Ginny jumped at his sudden question. “Pardon?”

“In the wine shop, you said you had a reason to celebrate. What is it?”

“Oh! I passed the theory portion of the Master of Wine examination.”

Draco was impressed. He had heard of the examination, and knew that if she had passed, she must really know her stuff. “Congratulations,” he said sincerely.

“Thank you,” Ginny said, blushing slightly. “But I still have yet to pass the practical portion.”

“Good luck with that.” Draco paused. He wondered if he could ask a question he had been curious about since he first saw Ginny at Chez Henri. He ultimately decided to take the plunge. He kept his tone deliberately light as he asked, “How did you get interested in wine? I never would have expected it of a Weasley.”

Ginny glared at him, but more playfully than hatefully. Then she smiled. “I’ll choose to take that as a compliment rather than an insult,” she said, and Draco smiled in return.

“When Hogwarts closed during the war,” Ginny began, “my parents sent me to Beauxbatons to keep me safe and in school. I hated them for it at the time, because I wanted to help with the war and I missed my friends.”

Draco nodded. Many Hogwarts students had been sent to Beauxbatons or Durmstrang at the time. He hadn’t been so lucky. After Snape had killed Dumbledore, he had placed Draco and Narcissa under the Fidelius charm. Narcissa had helped Draco prepare for his N.E.W.T.s, which he took once his name had been cleared after the war. As much as he had complained about Hogwarts when he had been a student there, Draco had missed it when he was gone.

“But while I was there,” Ginny continued, “I tasted wine for the first time, and was quickly seduced by it. My friend Michelle grew up on a vineyard and she taught me how to appreciate it properly.”

“Ah,” Draco said. “I always wished Hogwarts would serve wine like Beauxbatons does. But I still don’t see how drinking wine at school led to your career, even if your friend did know a lot.”

“Well, by the time I left school, the war had ended, so I could have gone home. But I was still angry with my family, so I went to stay with Michelle’s family in Beaune instead. I helped out in the vineyards in exchange for their hospitality. Her father Pierre taught me all about growing grapes and making wine, and when I showed promise, he helped me break into the French wine business.”

“What did you do?” Draco asked.

“I started out slowly, working in a shop. But then Pierre talked one of his friends into hiring me as sommelier. I eventually got a job in Paris.”

“You were sommelier at a Parisian restaurant? That must have been exciting. Why would you ever come back?”

“It was wonderful working in France. Most of the customers were quite knowledgeable, and I would get into some lively discussions with them. That rarely seems to happen here, unless I provoke it.” Draco smiled, remembering how she had challenged him. “But I eventually began to miss my family. So when Walter left Chez Henri, I decided it was time to come home.”

Ginny paused and smiled wistfully down into her nearly empty glass. Draco reached for the decanter. He poured a little wine into each of their glasses, finishing the bottle.

“That’s the end, I’m afraid,” he said.

“That’s too bad. It has been remarkably enjoyable,” Ginny said with a smile.

Draco silently agreed. To his surprise, he was reluctant to have the evening to end.

“We could open a bottle of something else,” he said slowly. “There’s plenty in the cellar.”

Ginny looked at him appraisingly before she agreed. “That would be great. And I’d love to see what you have.”

They traipsed down into the wine cellar. Draco stood back and watched Ginny wander about, wine glass in hand. “Wow,” she said. “This is quite a collection. I guess there is no need for me to ask how you got interested in wine, is there?”

Draco smiled. “My grandfather was nearly as obsessed as I am, and he taught me a lot before he died. My father knew as much as I do, but he didn’t really enjoy it. He mostly used his knowledge to impress people.”

“Sounds like my brother Percy.” Ginny crinkled up her nose at the thought. Draco thought she looked almost cute that way. And as she bent over to examine some bottles on a lower shelf, Draco noticed that her bum really was very nicely shaped. He had to shake his head to clear it of such distractions when she spoke again.

“Most of this is quite old. Did your grandfather lay it down?”

“Most of it. I don’t have the patience for collecting. I like to drink my wine right away, rather than wait years for it to mature. And I never buy wine in quantity because I get bored too easily.”

“I only have a small collection,” Ginny said. “But I don’t have the space for much.”

Draco nearly offered to let her keep her wine in his cellar, but managed to stop himself in time. What was it about Ginny Weasley that made him want to do so many inappropriate things? Wasn’t it bad enough that they were even holding a civil conversation?

“Oh!” Ginny’s exclamation distracted Draco from his thoughts. “You have a 1967 Château d’Yquem!”

It was one of the most expensive bottles in the cellar, but there was something about the way Ginny’s excitement made her face light up. Draco blurted out, “Why don’t we open it?”

The dessert wine was marvelous, smooth and honeyed, sweet without being cloying, and without the bitter edge that some younger Sauternes could display.

Draco felt extremely content by the time the wine was gone. It had been a long time since he had enjoyed an evening so much. Probably because of the quality of the wine, he thought. And he didn’t feel as if he needed to impress Ginny Weasley. He didn’t let himself contemplate the idea that he actually enjoyed her company. She was a Weasley after all, so that was impossible. Wasn’t it?

When Ginny rose to leave, Draco felt almost disappointed. She stood for a moment, looking up at him intensely. “Thank you for the lovely evening, Draco. I truly enjoyed it.”

“So did I,” Draco said, a little thrill running through him at her use of his given name. “Was it a fitting celebration for your accomplishments?”

Ginny smiled softly. “Much better than I expected. Good night.” She quickly stood on her toes, brushing his cheek with her lips, and then she was gone.

“Good night,” Draco said to the empty space before him, touching his face. Thoughts of Ginny’s kiss followed him to bed.

********************************

Tasting Notes:

* Fortified wine, such as brandy, port, and sherry, is made by adding additional alcohol before the process of fermentation is complete. This stops fermentation before all the sugar has been converted to alcohol, allowing the wine to retain some sweetness but still have a significant proportion of alcohol.

* Screaming Eagle is a small winery in California’s Napa Valley. It produces a small quantity of very high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon each year. The wine is supposedly so good that it has developed a cult following. Although the winery charges much lower prices to the few lucky people it sells to directly, a single bottle of Screaming Eagle runs about $1000 to $1200 on the open market. At 113 Galleons, Draco and Ginny got quite a deal. Needless to say, I have never tried it.

* Thunderbird is an extremely inexpensive fortified wine that is a favorite among bums and others who like to drink cheaply. I suspect that it is not available in the U.K., but I don’t know what their equivalent is. I have never actually tried Thunderbird, but I was rather fond of Boone’s Strawberry Hill in college.

* Riedel is an Austrian glassmaking company which produces what many consider to be the best wine glasses in the world. They make glasses designed to bring out the best qualities of each specific variety of wine.

* With some wines, it is advantageous to decant them, that is, pour them into another container, before drinking them. The process introduces more oxygen to the wine, which can make the flavors and aromas more noticeable (this is the same idea behind letting a wine “breathe”, but is much more effective), which can be particularly helpful for young wines. For older wines that might have accumulated sediment (chemicals that precipitate out of the wine), decanting can help separate the solids from the liquid.

* The examination offered by the Institute of Masters of Wine is quite rigorous. Two years of study are required before attempting the exam which includes both written and practical portions. (The practical portions include answering questions about wines that are tasted blindly.) There are currently only 251 Masters of Wine worldwide. It is possible that Ginny would be more likely to take the Master Sommelier exam, which tests skills in managing a wine collection and serving and selling it in addition to general knowledge of wine, but I thought Draco would be more likely to know more about the Masters of Wine.

* Beaune is a town in France’s Burgundy region. The wines grown there are made of either Pinot Noir or Chardonnay grapes.

* Château d’Yquem is the premier producer of the dessert wines made in France’s Sauternes region. The wine is sweet but with high acidity that keeps it from being cloying. It matures well in the bottle and can age for decades, with layers of complexity appearing over time. Apparently 1967 was a particularly good year. I recently had the opportunity to taste a 40-year-old Sauternes (from a different producer), but it was past its prime and somewhat bitter.

VI. Clarification by Embellished

Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns all things Harry Potter.

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In Vino Veritas

VI. Clarification

Over the next few weeks, Draco slipped back into his usual routine. Business had returned to normal after he had secured the deal with Wandgate Construction. He had also continued his nightly dates and the sexual activities that inevitably followed. He found, however, that he was beginning to grow restless.

Much to his surprise, Draco was beginning to tire of seeing all those different women. He had trouble distinguishing one from another—the experience was like palate fatigue from tasting too many different wines in the same evening. They all wore the same clothing, the same perfume (that invariably interfered with the bouquet of his wine), and wanted to go to the same restaurants. They all kept up a constant stream of inane chatter which grated on his nerves. Draco found himself desperate for intelligent conversation. He had even tried to discuss the evening’s wine with some of them, but only received blank looks in return.

Even more disturbingly, Draco’s boredom and irritation followed him into the bedroom. Indeed, many of the women he dated were quite talented; one of them had perhaps been the most beautiful witch he had ever seen, with legs that went on forever (much like the Barolo she reminded him of). But even she couldn’t hold his attention for long. Draco had no idea what was causing the whole intolerable situation. He hoped it was merely a passing phase.

One night, hoping for a change of pace, Draco invited Pansy Parkinson to dine at Chez Henri. The evening was much more pleasant and relaxed than the last several. Because of their long history, Draco and Pansy were comfortable together, and they did not feel the need to fill every silence. And when Pansy did speak, she was intelligent and insightful, or at least funny. If Draco felt a pang of disappointment when the assistant sommelier was on duty that evening rather than Ginny Weasley, it was surely because he was looking forward to seeing how she and Pansy would interact, and not because he was looking forward to seeing Ginny. Draco felt as if things were getting back to normal. It was later, when he and Pansy went dancing, that everything fell apart.

They went to Hex, the trendiest wizarding nightclub of the moment. Exhausted after dancing for an hour, Draco and Pansy settled themselves at a corner table. They sipped Dragon’s Breath Martinis and watched the crowds, making occasional comments such as, “It looks as if that man in green took dancing lessons from the Whomping Willow,” or, “I despair that poor Millicent will never end her love affair with horizontal stripes.” Draco was just considering getting another round of drinks when Pansy said consideringly, “My, my, my. The little Weasley is all grown up.”

Draco turned around so fast he wrenched his neck. Sure enough, there was Ginny, dancing with a burly man who looked vaguely familiar. Draco clenched his fists. “Who is that she’s with?” he bit out.

Pansy looked at him interestedly. “Oliver Wood,” she said slowly. Draco turned back to her, confused. “You know, Oliver Wood,” she said patiently, as if spelling it out to a child. “He’s in the papers weekly. Plays Keeper for England. Single-handedly keeps Puddlemere at the top of the League. Former captain of the Gryffindor team.” That finally triggered Draco’s memory. He turned back to look at Ginny and Oliver. She doesn’t have to look so happy to be with the ponce, he thought.

“You didn’t seem too surprised to see Weasley again,” Pansy said conversationally, watching Draco carefully. “Have you run into her recently?”

“She’s the new sommelier at Chez Henri,” Draco answered mechanically, his eyes on Ginny. He stiffened as the music changed and Oliver pulled Ginny closer.

“I can’t believe it!” Pansy exclaimed, her eyes wide and focused on Draco.

“What are you on about now, Pansy?” Draco asked irritably, still not looking at her.

“I knew you couldn’t go on forever the way you have been,” Pansy said with amusement. “But I never would have guessed it would be a Weasley to put an end to it.”

At that moment, Oliver’s hand found its way to Ginny’s arse. Draco stood up, fists balled, and turned to Pansy. “Let’s go!” he barked out angrily.

Pansy stayed put. “Go where?” she asked warily.

“To your flat.” Draco was exasperated. Did he really have to state the obvious? Of course they would end the evening there—they always did.

“No,” Pansy said slowly, “I don’t think so.” Draco gaped at her incredulously. “Look, Draco,” she continued. “We’ve had a good run. But I don’t sleep with men who are attached to other women, and now that you appear to be…”

“I’m not attached!” Draco interrupted forcefully. “We’ve talked about wine. That’s it! Plus,” he added in his most condescending tone of voice, “she’s a Weasley.”

“Whatever you say, Draco,” Pansy said wearily, knocking back what was left of her drink.

“Even if you are in denial, I won’t sleep with you tonight. Go home and take a nice bath and think about what I’ve said.”

Draco glared at Pansy, then turned his back on her. Unfortunately, he now had a clear view of Ginny and Oliver, who were now pressed up against each other. He scowled at them and Apparated away.

***

Draco was groggy and irritable the next morning. He had not slept well. Nobody had turned Draco down before. And Pansy had insinuated… Well, that didn’t even bear contemplating. His world really was turning upside down. He settled down with a scowl to eat his breakfast and read the Prophet.

Narcissa came in soon after, chatting merrily as she ate her grapefruit. Draco tried to focus on the Quidditch results, pointedly ignoring those of Puddlemere United, but his mother seemed intent on holding a conversation. Reluctantly, Draco set his newspaper aside.

“I’m sorry, Mother,” Draco said politely. “What were you saying?”

“I saw Lucille Warrington yesterday. She has the most amazing pair of shoes!” Narcissa gushed.

“What is so special about them?” Draco asked, holding back his irritation. His mother rarely subjected him to such talk. It didn’t help that she had chosen to do so at a moment when he was already in a rotten mood.

“They are custom-made by a French warlock. They’re designed to fit her personality as well as her feet.”

“So order a pair.” Draco struggled to keep his voice level.

“But that’s the problem,” Narcissa said, her face falling. “I can’t just order them by owl. He needs to see each customer in person in order to design the perfect shoe. I would need to go to his village to be fit.”

“Why don’t you go?”

Narcissa looked up at Draco with deceptively innocent wide blue eyes. “Oh, Draco,” she said. “You know how I hate to travel by myself.”

Draco knew what she was doing—they were both Slytherins after all. But she was his mother, and he couldn’t help but feel a little guilty. Plus, there was no reason both of them needed to mope about. Draco resigned himself to the trip.

“Would you like me to accompany you, Mother?” he asked wearily.

***

It took the better part of the morning for Draco and Narcissa to make their way to the cobbler’s home. They first had to Apparate to the Ministry in London to get permission to Apparate to France. Once they made it to Paris, they had been forced to endure the questions of an overly zealous customs agent. Finally, they were allowed to Apparate to Lyon. There they hired a carriage to bring them to the shoemaker’s village. Having been invaded by Dark wizards in the Middle Ages, it had wards against Apparition. Draco was exhausted by the time they arrived.

Narcissa declared the village “quaint”. Draco thought it old and shabby, but kept his thoughts to himself for his mother’s sake. They left their belongings at the inn, which smelled vaguely of cabbage, and which Draco was certain was held up solely by magic. It was, however, the only place to stay, so they would occupy two of its three bedrooms that evening.

The innkeeper gave Draco directions for how to find the cobbler’s home in the village’s crooked streets. When they arrived, the old wizard gallantly praised Narcissa’s beauty before settling in to chat with her. Draco was bored and uncomfortable, and couldn’t keep his mind off of the insinuations Pansy had made the night before. When he stared pointedly at his watch after they had been there for an hour, however, the old man chastised him. “How do you expect me to design a proper pair of shoes for you mother if I know nothing about her?” he asked. Draco sighed and settled in for what he imagined would be a very long day.

The sun was just beginning to set when the cobbler declared himself satisfied. He buried his nose in his sketchbook and sent Draco and Narcissa away without even one last glance, saying that the shoes would be ready by noon the next day.

Draco’s mood did not improve when he learned that they would have to eat dinner at the inn, as it boasted the only restaurant in town. He was only mildly encouraged when he saw that they would be served by a buxom young woman with pink cheeks (a Beaujolais Nouveau, he thought). He smiled up at her and asked hopefully for a wine list. She looked at him with confusion.

“We have house wine,” the serving girl said, gesturing to two barrels behind the bar. Draco’s heart plummeted. Plonk. Just what he needed.

“Don’t you have anything that comes in a bottle?” he asked desperately, ignoring the disapproving look on his mother’s face. The girl shrugged, then disappeared into the kitchen. She returned with the innkeeper, who was carrying two bottles of wine. Draco cheered up immediately.

“Babette said that you asked for wine in a bottle?” The innkeeper was polite, but it was clear that he was as confused as Babette had been. Draco nodded. “I found these in the basement,” he continued. “You are welcome to buy them if you’d like.”

Draco inspected the two bottles. One was a vin de table, and would be no better than whatever was in the barrels. The other, a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, had promise. At Draco’s indication, the innkeeper opened the bottle and poured a little bit of the wine for Draco to taste. He grimaced at the smell of mildew; the cork had deteriorated, allowing oxygen into the bottle and ruining the wine.

“No,” Draco said, pushing the offending glass away from him. “This is corky. It won’t do. I guess we’ll just have to settle for the house wine.” The innkeeper nodded and left the room, as Babette moved behind the bar and poured a carafe of white wine from one of the barrels. It was only then that Draco realized that they hadn’t asked if he wanted red or white wine. He would have preferred red, but he wasn’t in the mood to argue anymore, so for once in his life, he kept his mouth shut.

The wine arrived, and Draco looked at it with distaste. Narcissa glared at him from across the table. “Oh, just try it already,” she said irritably. “It might be better than you think.” She then took a sip and then smiled widely. “Oh, yes, it is definitely better than you think.”

Draco sniffed the wine experimentally, and certainly was surprised. It smelled of peaches, honey, and violets. He looked up to see Narcissa looking at him expectantly. He took a sip and nearly fell from his chair. The wine was wonderful! It had all of the same flavors as he had smelled in the bouquet, but the wine was bone dry with a flinty character that balanced the sweet quality of the other flavors. He could hardly believe it.

Draco called for the innkeeper. When he came, Draco asked, “Where did you get this wine? It is fantastic!”

The innkeeper shrugged. My brother, who lives down in Condrieu, makes it. He sells me some, then bottles the rest and sells it to the Muggles for forty euros a bottle.”

“You sell Condrieu from the barrel?” Draco asked incredulously. He was stunned. Very little wine was made each year in Condrieu, and it was of uniformly high quality. This meant it was very expensive and hard to find. The innkeeper just shrugged again, and returned to his work.

Draco stared at the glass of wine. He never would have expected to find such a fine wine sold from a barrel in some out-of-the-way inn, when the wine in the bottles was bad. That’s not how the world worked. Fine wine should come in bottles, and be properly labeled.

At that thought, Ginny’s words came back to Draco. “It isn’t always a good idea to judge a wine by what’s on its label.” He could picture her beautiful face, animated by her enthusiasm about the wine she was discussing. He thought of how she was never intimidated by him, how she continued to get the best of him. He remembered how a chaste kiss on his cheek from her had affected him in a way that no other witch had ever done. Suddenly everything fell into place. Draco had fallen for Ginny, but he had nearly missed it because she was a Weasley.

“Draco?” Narcissa asked gently, bringing him out of his reverie.

Draco looked up at his mother with wide eyes. “She was right!” he said, stunned. “I shouldn’t judge a wine by its label.”

“Are you all right, dear?” Narcissa asked with concern.

“No, Mother,” Draco said, standing up. “I’m not all right.” Draco thought of Ginny in Oliver Wood’s arms and threw some Galleons down on the table. “I may have missed my chance, but I need to know. I’ll come back for you tomorrow, but I need to go now.”

As he rushed out of the inn in search of a carriage, Draco missed the smile that lit up Narcissa’s face.

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Tasting Notes:

* During fermentation and aging, most wines give off sediment—chemicals that precipitate out of the liquid. In order to remove this as well as any stray pieces of skin or stem that might have remained in the grape juice, many wines are subjected to the process of clarification before bottling. There are two main methods used. The first is filtration, where the wine is passed through a filter that removes any particles above a certain size. The second method is fining. In this case, a substance high in protein (traditionally egg whites) is allowed to drop from the top of the barrel to the bottom. Along the way, the sediment and other particles cling to the proteins, removing them from the wine. Some wines are left unfined and unfiltered, usually to enhance the flavors; they are often somewhat cloudy in appearance and a little more acidic than wine that has been clarified.

* Palate fatigue occurs when you taste too many wines in a row. It is similar to what happens if you smell too many perfumes in a row—after a while they all start to smell the same.

* If you swirl a wine in the glass, the tracks that the drops leave as they slide down the glass are called its legs. Traditionally, the rate at which they fell was considered to be an indication of quality. This has been a subject of recent debate. Now many oenologists believe that the differences in the legs are really due to how differences in alcohol content affect the surface tension of the wine. Of course some people still believe in the tradition. Barolo is a region in Italy that produces red wines with high alcohol content, and therefore longer legs.

* Beaujolais, although technically part of the Burgundy region in France, produces wines made from the Gamay grape rather than Pinot Noir. These wines tend to be light and fruity. Each year, a certain quantity of Beaujolais Nouveau is produced. It is bottled in November from the grapes picked just that fall. Bottling the wine so young tends to result in a wine that is very fruity and not at all complex. It should be drunk within a month or two of bottling, usually by the end of the year in which it is grown. (I once tasted some Beaujolais Nouveau that was a year old and nearly undrinkable.)

* Vin de table, also called vin ordinaire, is wine sold for everyday use in France. It is rarely exported.

* Châteauneuf-du-Pape is one of my favorite kinds of wine. It is produced in the southern end of Frace’s Rhône Valley.

* When wine is exposed to oxygen due to a faulty cork, it can take on a smell and flavor of mildew. In such cases, it is said to be corky. There is more detail about this in the tasting notes in Chapter III.

* Condrieu is a small region at the north end of the Rhône Valley. The wine made there is produced from the Viognier grape. What Draco smelled and tasted is typical. I have never tasted a Condrieu, though I would love to. However, I have had several California Viogniers that were quite wonderful. It really is unlikely that Condrieu, or any wine of the same quality, would ever be served from a barrel in an inn, but I claim artistic license.

VII. The Finish by Embellished

Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns all things Harry Potter.

A/N: My husband and I are in the throes of moving into the house we just bought. Despite this, he took the time last night to beta read this chapter. I am very thankful that he did, otherwise I have no idea when I would have gotten this out. As the chapter title indicates, this is indeed the last full chapter. There will be a brief epilogue, which I will post once all the moving chaos clears up a little. Thanks to everyone who has read this story so far, and especially to everyone who has reviewed!

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In Vino Veritas

VII. The Finish

It was nearly midnight before Draco made it back to London, having come tearing back from France to talk to Ginny. He immediately Apparated to Chez Henri, only to find it closed for the night. It was only then that Draco realized that he had no idea where else to look for her. He growled. He could try her parents’ house, the Shack, or whatever it was called. But Ginny was a very independent woman, so it was unlikely that she would live there. And he didn’t want to think about what her brothers would do to him if he showed up in the middle of the night asking for her.

Deflated, Draco sat down on the pavement outside the restaurant. He would never find Ginny tonight. She was probably with Oliver Wood, anyway, and wouldn’t give him the time of day. He clenched his fists as he thought of how close she had danced with the other man that night at Hex.

How could he have been so stupid? Even Pansy had understood. But Draco had been blinded by Ginny’s last name. Looking back, he realized that over the last few weeks, he had compared every woman he dated to Ginny. He had expected them to comment on the evening’s wine and make intelligent conversation. He had expected to feel the tiny thrill down his spine he experienced in her presence. No wonder he had been bored. For the first time in his life, Draco Malfoy was besotted. But he had been stupid about the whole affair, and had let her slip away.

Draco thought back to the first time he had seen Ginny this year. She had been dressed in the worst robes he had ever seen, and yet she had looked beautiful. Draco had just been too stubborn to see it. He jumped. It had just occurred to him where he had seen her—outside Evangeline Avery’s exclusive block of flats. He had taunted her about why she was there. “Maybe I live here,” she had said. He had dismissed the idea out of hand, assuming she was too poor. But he knew better now. Maybe she did live there. Draco Apparated before he even finished the thought.

Draco checked the list of names by the door of the Edgerton Arms. Sure enough, there it was. “G. Weasley, No. 13”. He took a deep breath and activated the Door-side Floo.

There was a long pause as Draco waited for Ginny to answer. Finally, he heard a sleepy voice say, “Hello?”

“It’s Draco Malfoy,” he said urgently. “I really need to talk to you.”

“Malfoy?” Ginny asked, confusion evident in her voice. “Do you know what time it is?”

“I know it’s late, but this is important. Can I please talk to you?”

There was a very long pause and Draco was sure that Ginny must have gone back to bed. Probably with Oliver Wood. But then she said, “All right, then. Take the lift to the fourth floor.”

“Thank you,” Draco sighed as the door wards were released.

Ginny met Draco at her door. She was wearing a pale blue terrycloth dressing gown. Her hair fell in unruly curls around her face. She had never looked as lovely. She walked into the sitting room, and sat on a sofa, her feet curled beneath her. Draco couldn’t move; he only followed her with his eyes.

“Malfoy?” Ginny asked petulantly. “Why are you here in the middle of the night?”

Draco sat in an armchair facing Ginny. He just stared at her for a few minutes. He had wanted so desperately to reach her, but now that he was here, he didn’t know how to begin. Ginny shifted awkwardly under his gaze, which caused Draco to look away.

“I was in France today,” Draco began, “with my mother. She wanted to buy a pair of shoes.” Ginny looked blankly at him. He was rambling, he knew, but he had never said anything before like what he planned to say tonight. Ginny would just have to wait for him to get to the point. It would happen. Eventually.

“We stayed at the inn nearby,” Draco continued. “Or at least my mother is staying there. I guess I’m not. But that’s not the point.” Draco saw the corner of Ginny’s lips twitch, as if she were trying to suppress a smile. He frowned at her. “The point is that we were forced to drink the house wine.”

At this, Ginny burst into laughter. “Oh, you poor dear,” she said, her voice laced with sarcasm and laughter. “That must have been awful for you.”

“It was,” Draco said carefully, “until I tasted the wine.”

“Oh?” Ginny asked.

Draco nodded solemnly. “It was a Condrieu. That they were selling directly from the barrel.”

Ginny’s reaction was far from the shock and amazement that Draco had expected. Instead, her face lit up in a smile. “Oh!” she said excitedly. “You stayed at Jean Dumas’s inn? He is such a dear! How is he doing?”

Draco looked blankly at Ginny for a moment. “You know the place?”

“Of course!” she answered. “I stay there whenever I visit the northern Rhône. I know Jean’s brother Paul reasonably well. He’s the winemaker. And Jean’s inn really is the nicest one in the area. Where else could you get Condrieu at such a price?” Ginny was staring into space with a reminiscent smile on her face.

Draco, trying to recapture Ginny’s attention, began again. “Anyway,” he said forcefully. “I expected plonk, but instead got Condrieu. It… It made me realize some things I had been avoiding.”

Draco paused, and Ginny looked at him with curiosity. He continued solemnly, “I realized that I tend to judge a wine by its label.”

Ginny snorted. “I told you that weeks ago. And you’ve only just realized it?”

Draco was indignant. “Yes, well I was being particularly stupid.”

Ginny’s jaw opened in surprise. “You admit that you are stupid?”

“No, of course not! I’m not stupid in general, just in one particular way.”

“Okay,” Ginny said, grinning. But her face quickly creased in confusion. “I acknowledge that you admitting to any kind of stupidity is newsworthy, but is it really worth waking me up to tell me?”

“I didn’t…” Draco sputtered. “I haven’t told you the particulars of my stupidity yet.”

“Oh, really?” Ginny asked sardonically. “Well, feel free.”

“I…” Draco was flustered. “I realized… I… It isn’t just about wine.”

“So you’re not just stupid about wine?” Ginny asked helpfully.

“No,” Draco said. Then he took a deep breath and looked Ginny in the eye. “I’ve also been stupid about you.”

Ginny froze at his words. She looked at him with wide eyes. “About me?”

Draco nodded, then looked down at his hands. “I realized that you are beautiful and intelligent and you know all about wine, but that I couldn’t see that because you are a Weasley.”

Ginny was silent for several minutes, so Draco finally looked up. He found her staring intently at him. “What are you trying to say, Draco?” she asked quietly. He took comfort in her use of his given name.

“I’m trying to say that you are unlike any woman I have ever met. That I want… That is… If you’re willing to give me a chance…”

“What about all the other women you see?” Ginny’s voice was cold.

“That’s what I’m trying to say, Ginny. The other women can’t compare. I realized tonight that over the last couple of weeks, I have done nothing but compare them to you. And they all come up short. Every single one. And last night I saw you with Oliver Wood and it made my blood boil. You’re the one I want.”

“But how can I know that for sure?” Ginny asked uncertainly.

“I don’t know. But I do know that I have never said anything like this to anyone else before. You’re different, Ginny.” Draco stopped, looking around the room, trying desperately to find a way to convince her.

“I… I tend to compare women to wine,” Draco said, risking a quick glance at Ginny. Her face was stony and unreadable.

“You do what?”

Draco rushed to clarify. “For example, Pansy Parkinson is like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Luna Lovegood is an Alsatian Gewürztraminer.”

Ginny raised an eyebrow at this, and began, “Of all the arrogant…”

Draco cut her off, unwilling to be distracted. “But you… I realized tonight that you are the only woman besides my mother that I could never classify.”

Ginny’s face fell. “I’m like your mother?” she asked.

“No!” Draco shouted, frustrated with his unusual inability to express himself. “I can’t classify my mother because I refuse to think of her that way. With you, I am always too interested in what you are saying to even stop to think about it.” He remembered briefly thinking of her as plonk that first time they met, but knew better than to mention that at this stage. He continued in a soft voice, “And now that I have thought about it, you defy classification. You’re not any one thing. You, by yourself, are enough to keep me enthralled.”

Draco looked at Ginny again. Her face seemed to have softened a little, but he couldn’t quite tell. “I think…” he said, his voice uncertain. “I think that if you give me a chance, I could fall in love with you.”

Ginny didn’t say anything. She just stared at Draco for several minutes. Her lack of response unsettled him. He stood up. “I’m sorry to have bothered you,” he said in a subdued voice, and turned away.

Draco was nearly to the door when Ginny spoke. “Draco, wait.” He turned back around to see her moving towards him. “I… I think I want to give you a chance,” she said timidly.

Draco’s heart leapt. “Do you mean it?” he asked hopefully.

She nodded and looked up at him, her big brown eyes glowing. Then she smiled and said, “Even if you do tend to act like an overblown Zinfandel most of the time.”

Draco laughed, reaching out to pull her closer to him. Leave it to Ginny to turn his wine comparisons against him. He was about to kiss her when he froze, remembering the previous evening. “What about Oliver Wood?” he asked stiffly.

“Oliver? What about him?” Ginny looked genuinely confused.

“Do you need to break things off with him first?”

Ginny smiled slowly. “Draco, Oliver is gay.”

“But last night…” Draco sputtered.

“Oliver agreed to play along,” she said, her eyes dancing with amusement. “After all, you weren’t the only one who was jealous last night.”

Draco laughed. “Mother was right,” he said, smirking. “You really would make a good Malfoy.”

Draco gave Ginny no chance to respond, as his mouth immediately claimed hers. It was a kiss like none other Draco had experienced. He felt as if it satisfied a thirst he hadn’t known he felt. But at the same time, he knew that with Ginny, that thirst would never truly be quenched. And he wasn’t sure he wanted it to be. At long last, he understood what the poets meant by the phrase “kisses sweeter than wine”.

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Tasting Notes:

* When tasting wine, smell it first, to get a sense of the bouquet. Once you take a sip, swirl it around in your mouth to see how it tastes “on the palate”. Finally, swallow the wine. The flavors you taste as you swallow and in the aftertaste are called the “finish”.

* Please see the notes in Chapter VI for information about Condrieu, and in Chapter I for information about New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. The white wines made from Gewürztraminer grapes tend to have floral and spicy flavors. In the United States, these wines are usually made off-dry (that is, slightly sweet). In the Alsace region of France, however, they tend to be made dry.

* Earlier in the story, we encountered the slightly sweet rosé White Zinfandel that Draco and Ginny abhor. Zinfandel grapes are also used to make big, fruity red wines. (When a wine aficionado refers to “Zinfandel”, you can bet this is what he or she means.) Occasionally, these wines can be a bit too fruity, and in such cases they might be referred to as “overblown”—just like Draco at his most pompous. I included this comparison at the suggestion of Kerichi and LadyRhiyana.

Epilogue by Embellished

Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns all things Harry Potter.

A/N: I apologize for the extreme delay in getting this chapter out; life got a bit crazy for a while there. But here is the epilogue, as promised. It is very short and very cheesy. But what is wine without a little cheese? Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read this story, especially to those you who have reviewed!

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In Vino Veritas

Epilogue

Draco ducked behind the oriental screen in the study for the fourth time in ten minutes to check on the bottle of champagne he had on ice. He was uncharacteristically bursting with nerves and excitement. That morning, Ginny had told him that she needed to talk to him. He suspected they would have reason to celebrate. He wasn’t completely oblivious, after all. He had noticed Ginny making a beeline for the bathroom first thing every morning for the past two weeks, and how her moods seemed to shift with the wind. Putting two and two together, he had a very good idea of what her news would be.

As he paced the study, waiting impatiently for his wife to return, Draco reflected on the past four years.

That evening he had stormed her flat, they had stayed up the whole night, drinking wine from her small collection, talking, and snogging. They had watched the sun rise together from Ginny’s balcony before Draco had to return to France to collect his mother. Draco never could remember what wines they had drunk that night; he had been too caught up in Ginny to notice. But he did remember the Meursault they had drunk when Ginny had passed the tasting portion of the Masters of Wine Exam, the Tokaji after Draco survived his first dinner with the entire Weasley clan, and the Côte Rôtie that had marked their first anniversary as a couple.

Some of the wines they had drunk on special occasions had hidden meaning that Draco had not yet dared to tell Ginny about. The night that they first made love, Draco chose a Condrieu to remind himself of the night he had come to his senses about Ginny. Draco proposed over a bottle of his grandfather’s Lafite-Rothschild, remembering that at one time he thought that if he were ever to marry, his wife would resemble that wine. At their wedding, they toasted each other with Veuve Clicquot. The classic champagne had been the first wine Draco had ever been allowed to taste; it made him think of new beginnings, which was why he had another bottle on ice tonight.

Draco was distracted from his memories when Ginny arrived. He kissed her cheek, then fussily ushered her into her favorite corner of the sofa and propped her feet on an ottoman.

“How was your day?” Draco asked, fighting the urge to ask her point blank about her news.

“Long,” Ginny answered, closing her eyes and leaning her head against the back of the chair. “I spent a couple of hours this morning on the Floo, haggling with Paul Dumas over prices. Then my mum dropped by and insisted on talking my ear off over lunch.” Draco smiled at that. He suspected that Ginny had done just as much talking as Molly had, but he knew better than to say so.

“Oh!” Ginny continued. “And I got an owl from Pierre inviting us to help with the harvest again this year. I’d really like to go—Michelle will be there with her new fiancé, and I’m dying to meet him.” Ginny and Draco went every year to Beaune to help Pierre with the harvest. It was her way of thanking him for helping her get started in her career, and a way of keeping in touch with her “second family.”

“Of course we’ll go,” Draco said, his patience wearing thin. When would she get to the news?

Ginny opened her eyes then and looked intently at Draco. “And just now,” she said, “I went to see Healer Prentiss.”

“Oh?” Draco struggled to keep his voice even.

“And she confirmed something for me.” Draco gazed steadily at Ginny as she spoke, but didn’t trust himself to answer. Ginny took a deep breath, then said, “I’m pregnant.”

His hopes finally confirmed, Draco gave a great whoop of joy and crushed Ginny in an embrace, grinning like an idiot through it all. “That’s wonderful!” he managed to say. Ginny squeaked, and Draco pulled away, suddenly worried that he had hurt her or the baby in his exuberance. “Are you feeling all right?” he asked anxiously.

“Yes, I’m fine, now that I can breathe again,” Ginny said playfully. “And Healer Prentiss gave me a potion so I shouldn’t be so ill in the mornings from now on.”

Draco nodded sagely. “That will be a relief. For me too.”

“You knew?” Ginny asked, surprised. Draco just raised an eyebrow, which made Ginny blush.

After a moment, Ginny looked up at Draco seriously. “You don’t mind?” she asked. “About the baby?”

“No,” Draco said, smiling. He reached out and cautiously touched her stomach. “I had hoped this was your news.”

“I love you, Draco,” Ginny said, smiling.

“I love you, too. And I think this is cause for celebration.” Draco rose and stepped behind the screen to retrieve the chilled champagne. When he emerged, he saw Ginny’s face fall.

“What is it?” Draco asked anxiously, rushing to Ginny’s side. “Is something wrong?”

“No, I’m fine,” Ginny said sadly. “It’s just that I can’t drink wine now. Not while I’m pregnant. It’s bad for the baby.” She paused for a long moment. “But you go ahead.”

Draco was shocked. Ginny couldn’t drink wine? How would she survive for nine months without it? How would he survive? For he knew he would never have the heart to drink wine in front of Ginny if she couldn’t try it as well. And how would they celebrate? They always celebrated with wine. Draco felt as if his world had shattered like a wine glass against a marble floor.

Draco slowly made his way behind the screen and replaced the wine in the ice bucket. He stood there for a few moments, trying to compose himself. Just as he was about to return to Ginny, he felt her arms embrace him around his waist from behind.

“What’s wrong, Draco?” Ginny asked quietly, her face buried in his back.

“What will we do now?” Draco asked, his voice sounding plaintive even to his own ears. “How will we survive so much time without wine? And how will we celebrate?”

Ginny was quiet for a moment. “It won’t be easy for either of us, but we’ll manage it together,” she said simply. Then her hands started to slowly insinuate themselves into the waistband of Draco’s trousers. “And I think we could find another way to celebrate,” she said seductively. “Don’t you?”

Draco smirked as Ginny’s hands traced patterns around his navel. Oh, yes, they could manage. And the bottle of Veuve Clicquot could wait; it would be a wonderful way to celebrate the birth of their child. At that thought, Draco turned around to embrace his wife properly. After all, they did have plenty to celebrate.

****************************

Tasting Notes:

* Meursault is a subregion of France’s Burgundy region that produces primarily white wines made from the Chardonnay grape.

* Wines made in Hungary’s Tokaj region are called Tokaji. The best are dessert wines made from grapes allowed to contract botrytis, the “noble rot”, which concentrates the sugars in the grape juice.

* Côte Rôtie, in the Rhône Valley, is one of France’s oldest vineyards, originally planted by the Romans. The red wines produced there are made from a blend of Syrah and Viognier grapes. Syrah tends to have an earthy, leathery quality, while the Viognier that is blended in gives the wine a hint of floral character. (You might recall that Viognier is the grape from which the white wine from Condrieu is produced.)

* See the notes for Chapter VI for information on Condrieu and the notes for Chapter I for information on Lafite-Rothschild.

* Veuve Clicquot is one of the premiere producers of champagne. The company is named for the widow who controlled the company for sixty years during the nineteenth century.

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