From France With Love

From France With Love

An old country farmhouse near Beaune

A droplet of sweat appeared out of nowhere on the patrician brow and increased in size, by tiny increments, until it started to feel the pull of gravity and inched downwards, one agonising minute after the other. It followed the elegant curve of the forehead, along the still plentiful hairline, and edged sideward, towards the pointed nose, along the high cheekbone. He dared not blink for fear of the salty liquid making its way into his eye and stinging. He was positively itching to wipe it away but his position – hands and legs outstretched against the heavy wooden beams to support himself in a horizontal position, as close to the ceiling as possible – made any movement impossible without massive collapse onto the vigil keeping guard down below.

Such was the life of an international spy.

Sitting on his low wooden stool, the lowlife that was supposed to guard the object of Draco's attentions uncorked his unlabelled bottle of red wine in a much-practised gesture and took a swipe, rubbing his unshaven chin with the back of his hand.

Despite the seasonable heat, the exertion of supporting oneself on the ceiling like some giant male spider, and the fashionable Armani 100 cashmere suit that moulded his thighs with mouth-watering precision, Draco shivered. Having to prey on the enemy, to spike their beverage and to steal their trophies was bad enough; witnessing their patent show of despicable table manners was just too much, even for him.

At long last, the other man's eyelids began to droop and his head to slump sideways.

Draco slid down from his perch without letting the unsuspecting fangirl guess the angonising pain it caused him to release the muscle tension at long last. He only paused to make sure the crease in his trousers coincided perfectly with his hip-knee-ankle line and headed straight for the heavy wooden door that stood between him and his end goal.

"Alohomora," he whispered, confident in the Muggles' inability to master the simplest of locking spells. His expectations were not disappointed, and he soon entered the holy of holies. The place where the two best bottles of this year's production were stored. He only had to seize one of them, conceal it under his vest, and head for a swift exit…

A bristling noise snatched him away from his mute contemplations. A black-clad female protagonist (that you shouldn't confuse with a Mary Sue, nor with an OC, since she doesn't sparkle) had entered the room. She undid her black hood, releasing a smallish sea of perfect golden ringlets.

"Je vois que tu m'as déjà ouvert la porte," she said. "Quelle galanterie! Ou plutôt, quelle stupidité!"

Mesmerised by her perfect looks and crystalline laugh, Draco didn't pause to reflect on how fishy her French accent sounded, nor indeed did he object to her taking one of the stacked bottles and hiding it under her shirt, where it was bound to be nestled cosily between her two perfect…

She opened the window, swung her feet over the ledge, and jumped.

He winced. The author wasn't usually one to commit such acts of unwarranted barbary as to have alcoholic beverages shaken on purpose, but one never knew with fanfic writers. He hastened to the window and looked down.

She had cast a cushioning charm, and a stabilisation charm – the spell residue was thick in the air – before heading off. Now that was a witch, Draco thought. One steaming hell of a witch, if the reader will be so kind as to pardon him the expression. The air was almost thrumming with magic, he shivered to think of the sheer strength it must've taken her to achieve that.

The guard outside slumped off his stool with a dull thud, snatching Draco away from his reverie. He took the other bottle, contemplated jumping out the window too, but thought better of it. His charms weren't reliable enough, he was too likely to shake his precious burden in the process. Instead, he opted for the safer exit route, and made his way to the door.

He hadn't reckoned with the prone form of the vigil, who had fallen down onto the threshold. Draco stumbled, tried steadying himself on the wall with his right hand before realising that it also was the hand that held his precious bottle. A semi-pirouette dramatically shifted his centre of gravity to the left and, with a jeté-battu that would not have disgraced a prima ballerina, he recovered a precarious balance right above the motionless sleeper.

"Fuck," he said, expressing the gist of the situation with remarkable conciseness as the aforementioned guard woke up and seized his ankle.

"Halte là!"

There are two types of international spies. Those who can think, not only on their feet, but on tiptoe, with one leg in the clutches of the evil foe, and those who can't.

The latter tended to become dead international spies.

Draco was no Norwegian Blue. He had no intention of becoming an ex-Draco in the course of his professional activities. He was thus able to think fast and act quicker.

In this virile vein, he kicked the miserable Frenchman right into his wrist-wiped chin, freeing himself, and broke into a swift run to the nearest Apparation point, the stolen sample harboured close to his manly, muscled chest. (Not that one could see said chest underneath the impeccably-pressed suit, but it doesn't hurt to exert one's imagination).

A stately country house somewhere in the countryside, south of Dijon

"Double-oh-one, you have failed in your mission," Lucius declared with nary a twitch of the lips. Anyone else than a dedicated shipper would've failed to notice his amusement. "We won't have any of this year's wine, and it is all your fault."

"That's not true," Draco replied, chasing a non-existent speck of dust from his lapel. "I did get the wine, it's not my fault you haven't been able to magically replicate it. And I do wish you'd quit calling me that."

"Your father would have managed if you hadn't shaken it so," Narcissa intervened, looking up from her desk. "Are you sure you didn't recognise the girl? If she could be persuaded to give us a glassful…"

"She jumped! She shook it even more than I did!" Draco replied, outraged by his mother's assumption.

"Well, her cushioning charms are better than yours, then," she replied, unfazed. "I'll tell you what. There aren't that many wizarding families around here at this time of year, and they are all invited to the ball I'll giving later tonight. All you'll have to do is mingle, recognise her, and seduce her into sharing her bottle with us."

"Hoping he'll be able to carry out that mission," Lucius added.

Narcissa had a half-smile that wouldn't have been out of place for an adder right before a strike. "No need to insist dear. Draco will do all the seducing, we won't need you to stand in his stead. Not if you intend on keeping your wedding band, that is."

Lucius glanced up to her and opened his mouth as if to utter his usual 'But sweetheart, I have a cunning plan-' but suddenly thought better of it.

"Now, Draco," his mother went on, "I have just the right accessory for you." She handed him a strange cylinder. "If you press it that way, see – anti-perspiring charm. This way – lust potion. Careful how you orient it, you wouldn't want to spray yourself with it. And like that – vibrating spell. It comes handy more often than you'd think. And there's more, here's the user's manual-"

Without bothering with the instructions, Draco picked up the elegant cylinder. Why bother with expensive racing cars when one could have this!

So much later that day it was almost the next morning…

It was a radiant, handsome, freshly manicured, and not!perspiring (despite the searing summer heat) version of himself that entered the large ball room.

He spotted her right away. She had changed into a set of dress robes that managed to cover everything whilst leaving only the barest minimum to a wizard's imagination, and for one dramatic moment he wondered whether he was quite ready for his mission. His own evening robes seemed somehow inadequate in comparison. But his fingers closed around the magical little cylinder in his pocket, giving him confidence.

"Did that second flute of champagne magically appear in your hand or were you expecting me?" he said smoothly as he approached her, with what might've passed as a seductive twitch of the eyebrows if he hadn't been so nervous.

"I suppose you might take one. Alcohol seems to bring us together, does it not?"

"Ah," he hopped onto the topic like a demented plot-bunny humping a fangirl's leg, "about that, see, I was kind of hoping you could give me some of the stuff you pinched earlier today…"

"Why should I do that?"

This, Draco would recall fondly in the decades to come, would have been a brilliant moment to whip his little accessory out of his front pocket and spray her with pheromones. It would have made her receptive and pliable to his wishes, and he'd have got the bottle with no trouble at all.

But such is life that even international spies have their momentary failings every now and then. As it so happens, the lovely young lady took it upon herself to seize his tie to bring his face closer to her own; imbalanced by the movement, Draco's hand missed his pocket and somehow fell onto a soft and squishy part of her anatomy that decency forbids me to mention in a refined community like this, ticky box antics notwithstanding.

"I see," she whispered in a low and sultry voice that might've been cause by the champagne or Draco's close proximity, or perhaps both. "This is how things are going to be-"

They half-walked, half-stumbled through the aptly named French doors and found themselves surrounded by nature, or at least by what passed as nature on Malfoy estates.

"So, you are offering yourself to me in exchange for a bottle of wine? Are you ready, right here, right now?" she asked, lifting an eyebrow in that cool and collected manner that could've passed for one of his own expressions.

Recognising that his mission involved great personal sacrifices at times, he nodded mutely.

"It is not any wine you are asking for," she went on, "it is the very best cépage of the greatest wine-growing region in the world…"

"I know," he squeaked. "That's why I was trying to steal it!"

"I see. So you understand it is priceless?"

Again, he had no choice but to acquiesce in silence.

"Much more valuable than a single night with you?"

Draco wanted to protest there, he valued himself somewhat above the usual notch on the bedpost, but something in her demeanour prevented him from voicing his objection.

"Your hand in marriage," she said, "and your collaboration whenever I engage in some action. We didn't do too badly today, did we? I could see many more fruitful joint ventures…"

Draco nodded yet again. It was become a habit, really, and one he couldn't see himself growing out of.

"Fine," she concluded, "now show me your stick – yes, the one you've been hiding. I've had a similar prototype at my disposal, I'd like to compare notes-"

The evening, the author hastens to add, ended well for both of them, and did not consist solely of of test-driving the vibrating charm.

Platform 9 ¾, London, England, ten years and nine months afterwards

"Goodbye!" both parents cried out as the train carrying their cherished offspring started.

Draco turned a very lusty pair of eyes towards his wife. Now that Scorpius was off, they'd have the house to themselves whenever they weren't on some assignment or other… It was almost magical, the way the passion of their first night together hadn't vanished after all this time. Speaking of which…

"Darling, it's been more than ten years now, do you think you could tell me how your first name is spelled now?"

She had one of her super!spy smiles. "That information is delivered on a need-to-know basis only… and you don't really need to know that to sleep with me, do you?"

Draco blushed. There were people around, why wasn't she able to stay undercover when sexy talk was concerned?

"I would like to have a Christian name to shriek when you…"

She lowered her eyelids demurely.

"You can call me Oh. Triple Oh."

Draco blushed even more as he realised what she meant, and then he smiled.

There were perks to being an international spy.