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


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.


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.

Leave a Review
You must login (register) to review.