Days of Wine and Wizards
AN: This story was originally posted at the LJ comm: lm_hgficxchange, for the 2012 exchange. It is complete in seven chapters. Many thanks go to my wonderful beta: clairvoyant12 and to my alpha reader and Brit Picker: talesofsnape. Please note: any mistakes are my own, I do admit to 'tweaking' things a bit even after the beta work was done. And special thanks to blueartemis07 for the lovely prompt.
Also in light of the recent activity on this archive of purges of M rated fics, please note that I do have my stories saved at other archives. Check my bio for the names of these sites.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, I make no money here.
Hermione felt a strange sense of déjà vu as she slowly approached the Potions classroom and prepared to knock. It reminded her of so many other times when she had stood outside this door waiting to be granted entrance by the surly Potions master. Although it had been several years since she'd walked the halls of Hogwarts and stood outside this very door, it seemed like only yesterday. As she knocked, even knowing it was impossible, she still half expected to hear Professor Snape's voice bark from within. But he'd been dead for seven years, and she knew that for a fact, as she'd seen him die.
A voice from within called out, curtly, "Enter."
Obviously, not Snape's voice, but not Slughorn's either. That was odd. When Minerva had sent her to talk to the Potions master, Hermione had assumed it would be Slughorn. Pushing the door open, she poked her head inside. When she didn't see anyone in the classroom she called out, tentatively, "Hello."
In answer, a voice came from the storeroom. "Have a seat, please. I'll be there in just a second; let me finish this."
Hermione frowned briefly, that voice sounded so familiar, but she couldn't quite place it. Taking the chair in front of the teacher's desk, Hermione sat and took the time to examine the classroom more carefully. Not much had changed since the last time she sat there. A few of the strange, disgusting things floating in jars had been discarded. Other than that there was very little difference from when she had returned to complete her final year after the war.
Seeing someone stepping out of the storeroom, she turned, and her mouth promptly fell open in shock. "Malfoy?"
"Granger? What on earth are you doing here?" he asked, his face breaking into a smile. "I thought you'd fallen off the face of the earth, love. Although, I do seem to recall Luna telling me that you'd settled in Australia."
She stood as he approached, unsure how to greet him after so many years, but he solved her dilemma by brushing her hand aside as he swept her up into a friendly hug. "I know it's been years, Granger, and we haven't exactly kept in touch with each other, but I do seem to recall we managed to become friends during our last year here."
She smiled and hugged him back. Only a few from their year had returned to complete or re-do that final year after the war. Harry and Ron hadn't bothered, but had taken up the offer to go directly into Auror training. Although she had planned to join them eventually, she'd really wanted to finish her schooling and take her NEWTs. Neville had come back along with the Patil sisters, Susan Bones, and a few others including Draco. Somehow, after the war, house loyalty had seemed the least of their worries. The group of eighth years, as they'd become known, had managed to form the bonds of friendship.
In fact, just before the Christmas hols of that year, when Ron's betrayal had come to light, it had been Draco and Neville who had rallied around her. When Harry tried to justify his reasoning for not telling her of Ron's perfidy, Neville told him off and sent him on his way as she'd cried on Draco's shoulder. In one fell swoop, she'd lost her fiancé, her best friend, and her dream of entering the Auror program. Instead, at the end of the year, she'd changed her plans, recruited Professor Flitwick's help, and gone to Australia to try to restore her parent's memories. Ultimately, she'd ended up staying there and lost track of old friends and schoolmates, other than an occasional note from Luna.
"You may regret reminding me of that, Draco, when you find out why I've come here," she said with a laugh.
"Come to collect that life debt I owe, have you?" he asked with a smirk, as he popped open a hidden panel behind the blackboard to lead her from the classroom to his private office.
"Life debt? What are you on about now?" asked Hermione, perplexed. "You don't owe me a life debt."
She sat down in the chair that he indicated in front of the fireplace. Draco called a house-elf and requested tea before seating himself opposite her.
"In the Room of Requirement, the Golden Trio saved my arse. I'd say that warrants a life debt, if anything does," Draco replied seriously.
Hermione shook her head. "That was Harry's doing, Malfoy. If anything, he's the one who saved your life, not me."
"You three were the ones with the brooms that day," protested Draco. "You could have just as easily flown out of there and left me and Greg behind, but you didn't. I've half expected one of you to claim the debt long before now."
"Whatever, Draco," said Hermione with another shake of her head. "I'm not holding you or Goyle to that. But I did come here to ask a favor. I didn't know it would be you whom I'd be asking, though. I just assumed that Slughorn was still the Potions master here. I had no idea you'd taken over."
"It took me a few years to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I really have no desire to run the family businesses. I tried it—I hated it," explained Draco, shrugging. "But then, I realized that I have always loved potions; so, it just seemed like a logical choice. I've just finished my apprenticeship, and luckily for me the timing was right, as Minerva was looking for a new Potions master."
"Well, I've been working on a dual mastery in Arithmancy and Potions. I've just completed my Arithmancy apprenticeship; it would have been impossible to do both simultaneously, even for an over-achiever like me," Hermione said with a laugh as Draco rolled his eyes. "I was all set to start my Potions apprenticeship with Mistress Winifred Wooster in Perth. Unfortunately, Winnie passed away a few weeks ago, and there are no other openings available right now. There are only two other Potion masters offering apprenticeships in Australia, and I really don't want to wait another year or two for something to open up there.
"I considered trying somewhere else, but I have no other contacts in the states, Asia or anywhere else. And you yourself must know how difficult it is to get a toehold in this field. It's not what you know, it's who you know," complained Hermione as Draco nodded in agreement. "So, I came here hoping that Minerva might be able to provide me with some leads. She sent me down to talk to the resident Potions master. However, she neglected to tell me that Professor Slughorn had retired."
Hermione perked up suddenly, sitting up she asked, "Say, Draco, do you suppose he'd be willing to offer me an apprenticeship? He'd certainly have the time since he's no longer teaching."
"Even if he were willing, you wouldn't want to apprentice with Sluggy, Granger. I couldn't even consider it myself. I had to look elsewhere. The old boy's gone a bit barmy in the last few years."
"Wasn't he always?" she asked with a grimace. In all honesty, she had never cared for the professor's penchant for cultivating a circle of celebrities around him.
"This is worse—much worse. He's forgetful, almost delusional at times. Poor Minerva had to force him into retirement, as she was afraid he might have blown up the school, or poisoned one of the students. She'd had several temporary fill-ins for the last couple of years, so the timing was perfect for me to come back now."
"Well, damnation," said Hermione, tossing her hands up in the air as she threw herself back into the chair. She sat in silence for a moment, considering, before she asked, "Draco, I don't suppose you'd consider...?"
"Sorry, Granger, can't do it. I would if I could; you must know how much I'd love the chance to have you under my thumb after all these years, " Draco explained with an evil smirk and a waggle of his eyebrows. "But according to the Potion Guild's rules, a Potions master must work in his chosen field of research, teaching or practical potioneering for a minimum of ten years before he or she is allowed to take on an apprentice."
"Double damn!" exclaimed Hermione. "I'd forgotten about that."
She sat in silence for a few seconds until a new idea popped into her head. "Wait... whom did you apprentice with, Draco? Could you give me a reference?"
Draco suddenly seemed nervous, his eyes looking everywhere but at Hermione. He seemed happy for the distraction when the house-elf popped in with a heavily laden tea tray.
But Hermione was like a dog with a bone and refused to be side-tracked. "A reference, Draco. Would you be willing?"
"I just don't think it's possible, Granger. The master I apprenticed with is very reclusive. He wouldn't even have consented to take me on if it hadn't been as a personal favor to my father."
"Your father? I don't understand. How is your father involved in potions?" asked Hermione, narrowing her eyes, clearly puzzled as to what sort of influence Lucius Malfoy would have in the potions field..
Draco scrubbed his hand over his face and through his normally immaculate hair. "Father is his patron, I guess you'd say. He's a former associate of Father's who prefers to live in seclusion. So, my father pays his support and allows him to live at the chateau while he does potions research for Malfoy Industries. In return, he has free rein to work on his own pet projects."
At these comments, she recalled that Draco's parents had gone through a very bitter, messy, public divorce following the war. It had been in all the papers for weeks. Afterward, his father had retreated to some family estates in France. Apparently, he remained there still, running his family's business ventures, including the potions division, long distance.
Hermione's brow wrinkled. "And does this mysterious man have a name?"
"You'll not have heard of him; like I've tried to explain, he's a real recluse. He lives in self-imposed seclusion and never appears in public or attends conferences. His name is Julius Sebastian."
Hermione shook her head. "Well, you're absolutely right: the name means nothing to me."
Draco then added with a knowing smile. "You may, however, have read some of his articles; he publishes under the pseudonym Sebastian Septimius."
Hermione gasped, her mouth falling open in shock. "Septimius? Great Merlin, Draco, the man is brilliant! His treatise on the intrinsic properties of aconite and how to neutralize its alkalinity without affecting the potency was ground breaking!" She jumped to her feet, visibly excited, and she began to pace back and forth.
"Septimius! Dear lord, I can't believe it, and you apprenticed with him? Perhaps I could convince him... Draco, could you get me an appointment with him. Could you... would you provide me with a reference, please?"
Draco grimaced, shaking his head sadly. "Hermione, he'd never take you on."
She sat hard in her chair and slapped her hands on the table, rattling the tea service as she faced him. "You don't know that. He might consider me. I've maintained top marks throughout my academic career."
"It has nothing to do with your grades. He doesn't take apprentices, ever. I was the first, and he only took me on because he owed my father such a huge favor."
"Oh, your father..." Hermione sank into the chair, her enthusiasm leaking away like the air let out of a balloon. "Oh, of course, Mr. Sebastian would never take me as his apprentice. I should have realized; it's quite obvious."
Draco frowned, "What is it exactly you think you've realized?"
Hermione ticked off the reasons on her fingers. "He is a past associate of your father's. He lives in seclusion because he doesn't want anyone to know about his former life. He must have been a Death Eater, although probably a low level one, as I don't recognize the name. Obviously, he'd never want anything to do with someone like me, a lowly Mu... Muggle-born. He'd never even consider it."
"It's not because of your blood status, Granger. Honestly, I know the man well. That's not an issue at all for him and never has been."
"Then what is the harm in asking him?" cried Hermione. "I don't understand."
"He's been a Potions master for twenty-five years, and in all that time he's never taken an apprentice. Ever. He never would have agreed to take me on either if my father hadn't practically blackmailed him into it."
"Well, that's that, then." She sat dejectedly, staring at the floor, her fingers twisting painfully as she clenched her hands together in frustration. She tried to blink back tears of disappointment.
Draco stared at her in silence, for what seemed like an eternity, before he spoke. Clearing his throat gruffly, he said, "Well... there is one possibility..."
Taking a deep breath, Hermione raised her gaze to his. "What's that?"
"It won't come cheap, though. You probably wouldn't be willing to pay the price I want."
"Don't tease me with it, Malfoy. Just spit it out," snarled Hermione.
"Well, it so happens that Julius owes ime/i a favor. A rather big one, as a matter of fact. I might be willing to call it in. If he makes you his apprentice, then he's off the hook with me. He might go for it."
"And you'd be willing to use this favor for me in return for... what?" asked Hermione.
Her eyes suddenly grew huge, then her nose crinkled in disgust. "I am not sleeping with you, Malfoy!" she exclaimed as her shook her finger in his face. "I will not trade sex for an apprenticeship, no matter how much I want it. Errr... the apprenticeship that is, not the sex."
Draco laughed as he assured her, "Don't worry, you won't have to sleep with me, Granger. My girlfriend would definitely not approve of that scenario. But when I tell you what it is I want in return, you might wish it something as simple as sex."
So it was that barely a week later, Hermione stood outside the gates of a rustic country estate in the Auvergne region of France near Murol. Shaking her head, she couldn't help but wonder how in hell she had let herself be talked into this ridiculous scheme. Draco was right. Sex would have been an easier price to pay.
Taking a deep breath, she reminded herself it would all be worth it in the long run if she could secure herself a Potions apprenticeship with Julius Sebastian/Septimius. Still, at this point, she had absolutely no idea how she was going to accomplish the deed; it seemed like an impossible task.
Draco's father had retired from the wizarding world, and even now, years later, he showed no interest in returning. Even in France, he kept to himself, living in isolation on his family estate. He continued to handle the Malfoy investments through lawyers and minions, but rarely bothered to appear in public himself. Draco's greatest wish was for his father to return to wizarding society in general and specifically come back to England. He had been unable to convince Lucius to even consider such an outcome, but Draco somehow expected Hermione to accomplish the deed.
Draco had informed her that the mysterious Mr. Sebastian would be away from the chateau, as he took an annual sabbatical to travel and search for rare potions ingredients. His proposal was that, by the end of the summer, nearly three months away, Hermione must somehow convince his father to come back to his life in England. In return, Draco would call in the favor owed and thus ensure her apprenticeship position.
To assist her in her quest, Draco came up with a somewhat plausible scenario to convince Lucius to allow her to stay at the chateau. They would claim that Hermione actually was calling in a life debt. In payment, she required Draco to help her secure her Potions apprenticeship, as well as provide her somewhere to stay over the summer while she completed a research project. Draco claimed it just made sense for her to get settled in at the chateau if she were to end up working there anyway for her apprenticeship.
The Chateau de Malfoy stood near the top of a hill, overlooking a scenic valley. There were acres and acres of vineyards lining the hillside. The house itself wasn't nearly as large or as elegant as Malfoy Manor, but in Hermione's eyes, it was much more appealing. It was like something from a fairy tale. On each corner of the main house stood a round tower at least four stories high with a cone-shaped roof; Hermione smiled as she envisioned dragons and princesses and handsome princes. At first glance, the house itself looked old, worn, and rather weather beaten. But as she gazed upon it, the sun broke through the clouds, and suddenly, everything was awash in glow of rich gold. It took her breath away.
Hermione stood waiting nervously, and just as she was about to ring the bell again, she saw someone walking down the path towards the gate. Anticipating a house-elf, she was surprised to see the Lord of the Manor himself approaching.
His appearance was a shock to Hermione. For some reason she had expected him to appear much as he had when the snatchers had brought her to Malfoy Manor: rough and rumpled, unshaven and projecting the aura of a broken man. Instead he looked marvelous. His platinum locks were shining and tied back neatly with a ribbon, his skin had a healthy tanned glow, and he carried himself with a natural grace and strength. He was dressed in a manner more casual than she had ever seen or imagined Lucius Malfoy, his cream-colored linen shirt unbuttoned at the throat and the cuffs rolled up to reveal his forearms. Most surprising of all, he wore a pair of Muggle jeans, the worn material nicely faded and soft and clinging to his well-muscled thighs. She found herself wondering if they hugged his bum just as well and she wished he would turn around so she could see.
"Miss Granger, I made sure the elves left the gate unlocked, as we were expecting your arrival," Lucius said, illustrating his point by pushing it open. "Why did you not come up to house?"
"I wasn't sure that would be a wise action, Mr. Malfoy, to enter and walk across your grounds unescorted. Not entirely safe, perhaps, for a Muggle-born like myself," Hermione replied somewhat bluntly. Might as well call a spade a spade and a former Death Eater a former Death Eater, she thought.
"I assure you, my dear, there are no remaining charms, hexes, or curses here at the chateau that might harm a Muggle-born such as yourself; I've made sure of that. There is nothing here more threatening than a Muggle-Repelling Spell to keep the locals at bay. I wouldn't want to get in trouble with the Ministry, after all. Here in France, they are even stricter regarding discrimination against blood status and birthright than back at home. It is a practice that actually began here shortly after the Muggle French revolution."
As she levitated her trunk, Hermione smiled at the thought of the French wizarding world's reaction to the Muggle revolution. "I guess I didn't realize that, sir. Vive la révolution!"
He chuckled at her response. He walked beside her and pointed out several different paths and landmarks to help her find her way about the estate. After the third time she thanked him and called him Mr. Malfoy, he said, "Please, call me Lucius, Miss Granger. Having you call me Mr. Malfoy or sir makes me feel ever so ancient."
Hermione stole a glance out of the corner of her eye. She had thought that Draco's father would object to her presence here and had not expected him to treat her so cordially. Perhaps he was trying to lull her into a false sense of security. Time would tell, she decided, as she answered him, "Then you must call me Hermione, Lucius. And you—ancient? Please. The very idea is unthinkable. I honestly don't believe you have aged a day since the first time I ever saw you."
"You are too kind, my dear," he replied as he opened the front door of the chateau for her. "Welcome to my home. Come in. The house-elves have prepared a luncheon in your honor. They are very excited to have someone new to fuss over. We rarely have company aside from Draco's visits. They have been horribly bored with just me here since Se... bastian... errr... that is Julius left on his annual adventure."
A petite house-elf, dressed in a spotless tea towel, stood just inside the door and smiled shyly at Hermione. "Fifi, take Miss Hermione's bags up to her room and unpack them for her, please."
Hermione was surprised at the polite tone Lucius used toward the house-elf. In fact, so far, nothing was going as she had envisioned at all. What the hell had she got herself into, she wondered? She suddenly realized that he had been talking to her and blushed at her inattention. "Oh, I'm so sorry," she replied, "my mind wandered off for a moment. What were you saying?"
"I was just asking if you preferred to go up with Fifi to freshen up and rest for a bit, or if you would like to go directly to the dining room for lunch?"
"I'm famished," she admitted. "I didn't eat much before I left, so food sounds wonderful."
"Perfect. Afterward, I'll show you around the chateau, and then you can get settled in," said Lucius as he led her down the hallway to the dining room.
Hermione couldn't help but smile as she finally got the chance to ogle the way those jeans caressed that gorgeous bum.
Hermione was ready to scream in frustration. Two weeks had passed, and she was no closer now to finding a way to get Lucius to return to his old life in England than she had been on the day of her arrival. She had, in fact, seen very little of him. She wondered if he was avoiding her, or if he was perhaps actually angry at the thought that she was using his son by way of the supposed life debt. And yet, if that were the case, he gave no outward sign of it, as he continued to treat her with unerring politeness during the few brief encounters they had shared.
Hermione now realized that she must be housed in the guest wing, as she never passed Lucius in the halls or heard him on his way to his rooms at night. He didn't stay around the house much during the day, so she decided her best chance to establish a rapport with him was at meals. However, it seemed that she was thwarted in this, as well, because he was rarely at breakfast. Hermione figured he must rise at the crack of dawn to be off about his business of managing the estates. He was never there for luncheon, and he had joined her for dinner less than a handful of times. During those evenings when he was present, he had been extremely quiet and appeared nearly exhausted.
How on earth was she to enact her nonexistent plan if she never got to see him or talk to him? She had to find a way somehow to get closer to him if she was to have any chance at all.
Through some very subtle probing of the house-elves, she had finally been able to learn about the project that was consuming all of his time. It seemed that at some point in the distant past, the Chateau de Malfoy had been home to the most famous wizarding vineyards in France. Lucius' great-great-great grandfather, Louis Malfoy, along with a group of vintner-elves had produced some of the finest elf-made wine in the entire wizarding world. However, something had happened, no one seemed to know exactly what, and the the vintner-elves had left the Chateau de Malfoy. Unlike house-elves, vintner-elves were an independent race whose skills at wine-making were in high demand among wizarding vintnors. Lucius' real dream was to restore the chateau's winery to its former glory.
This at least gave Hermione something to focus on, and she did what she had always done best. She researched. Using the vast Malfoy library she learned as much as she could about wine making, vintner-elves, and even the history of the chateau itself. Hermione hoped that gathering as much information as possible on Lucius' main interest would give her the advantage she needed.
Her room was on the third floor of the west tower where she had a lovely window seat with a stunning view of the vineyards. A movement caught her eye, and Hermione set aside the book she had been reviewing, about the history of vintner-elves, and looked out toward the barns. She suddenly perked up as she saw Lucius stride purposefully toward the out buildings. Although he was obviously sweaty and covered with dirt from the fields, he somehow managed to look sexier than any man had a right to.
Hermione leaned forward, resting her arms on the window sill, and she gazed hungrily at the lord of the manor as he reached one of the small sheds and began methodically removing his clothes. She could hardly believe her eyes. Was he going to strip right there in the open? Pushing back the curtain to make sure it didn't obscure her view, she rested her chin on the heel of her hand as she watched intently, not wanting to miss anything.
Lucius sat on a bench to remove his short dragon hide boots, then his socks, stuffing them inside the boots and carefully setting them underneath the bench. He stood and unrolled his shirtsleeves, unbuttoned his shirt and pealed it off, tossing it too onto the bench. He then stretched, twisting his body from side to side before pulling his arm across the front of his body, as if he were trying to work out a 'catch' in his shoulder muscles. And what very nice muscles they are, she thought as she admired his broad shoulders, narrow waist, and well defined abs. Hermione picked up a notebook, and used it to fan herself madly in an attempt to cool off. When did it get so hot in here? she wondered.
Kneeling up on the bench of the window seat, she leaned even farther forward, her eyes never straying from their target. She licked her lips and nervously gnawed at the bottom one. Lucius, meanwhile, had turned his back toward the house, but it was obvious he was undoing his belt and the front of his jeans. She held her breath as he pulled the belt through the loops and threw it on top of his shirt, and then she groaned in disappointment when he opened a door and stepped into a stall. He slipped his jeans and briefs off and lobbed them over the door to join the rest of his clothes on the bench. One of the house-elves immediately popped in to gather up the soiled clothing and leave a fresh change neatly folded on the bench. He hung a big, fluffy towel on a hook right next to the door, as well.
Hermione realized that Lucius had a shower installed down there to wash away the grime of working in the fields. She could still see his legs, from the knees down, and his head and shoulders, but everything in between was hidden by the walls of the shower stall. She continued to watch anyway as he stood beneath the spray, enjoying the view as he reached for the soap and began to lather himself up. He bent over and disappeared from her view for a moment, and she realized he was soaping his legs, his hands sliding down over his calves to his feet and back up. He stood and lifted his arms as he ran the bar of soap over them and over his chest. His hands moved down, and she knew that he was soaping something else entirely; her face flamed but she couldn't tear her eyes away.
He was rinsing off the soap when he suddenly froze and grabbed something from a shelf inside the stall. She guessed it was his wand when it suddenly appeared in his hand. He slowly turned around in a full circle, his eyes carefully checking out the entire area. It was almost as if he could sense someone watching him and... he raised his eyes toward her room. Hermione dove for the window seat in a flash, hoping to hell that she'd got out of view before he realized that she had been watching his shower like some kind of peep show.
Lucius had never yet come in for lunch, but she decided not to take any chances that today might be the one day that he did. She asked one of the kitchen-elves to fix a picnic basket for her, and she set off across the fields toward a small stream that ran nearby. She was too embarrassed to risk having to face Lucius just yet.