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!
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”.
* 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.