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.

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