Every morning, Astoria met with her wedding planner to review the day's schedule: appointments with vendors, fittings for dress robes, decisions on the guest list. Wedding planning was traditionally the duty of the groom and his family, but this wedding was supposed to reestablish the Malfoys in Wizarding society, and since Draco had never been adept at politicking, Astoria was doing the job. She sighed; this was all an unbelievable drain on her time.
"At 4 P.M., the representative from Le Château des Bâtons will be here to discuss wine pairings for the reception dinner," said Hongwei. With a slightly pained expression, he continued, "I do wish you would consider a more established winery. If you must go with a Côte de Nuits, Mazis-Chambertin has some excellent grand crus."
"I like Côte de Nuits," Astoria said mildly, "and Draco particularly requested Le Château des Bâtons. It's a favor to an old friend of his who works there."
Hongwei made a slight grimace of disapproval and rolled up his parchment day calendar, then tapped it with his wand to make a copy. "Very well, then. Neville Longbottom will be arriving shortly in the East Parlour to finalize the flower arrangements, and then Mademoiselle Delacour will be presenting her sketches for the groomsmens' dress robes to us. In the meantime, I need to Floo the London Wizarding Orchestra again." He handed Astoria her copy of the schedule, nodded, and left.
By four o'clock, Astoria was hoping that the wine representative would be bringing samples, and she cursed her parents again for arranging this marriage. She liked Draco just fine, and it was an advantageous match for both of them. The Greengrasses were wealthy but relatively new to Britain, while the Malfoys had been in Wiltshire since the 1100s. Her family had no taint of association with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, however, and so the marriage would rehabilitate the Malfoys' image.
Astoria knew all this, but she still resented the planning and the time it was taking up. She'd had to take six months of leave from her family's trading firm, and she wished her parents had found a more competent spouse for her. It would be daft to leave Draco with the planning, however; he'd likely arrange to have the entire wedding done in Slytherin colors and held in the old Malfoy Manor, never mind that it had once been He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's headquarters. He was proud of his family and his house, but there was a point at which discretion was the better part of valor, to say nothing of admittance into polite society.
A knock at the door interrupted Astoria's train of thought, and she smoothed her robes and sat up before calling, "Come in."
The door opened and the servant ushered in a vaguely familiar-looking woman with dark hair cropped in a bob, lilac business robes, and, bless her, a wooden case hovering behind her, stamped with the logo of Le Château des Bâtons on its sides.
"Welcome," said Astoria, rising and holding a hand out to her visitor. "I'm Ms. Greengrass. And you are?"
The woman's lips quirked. "Doesn't Draco tell you anything?" She shook Astoria's hand. "Pansy Parkinson, business manager for Le Château des Bâtons. I was yearmates at Hogwarts with Draco and your sister."
"How lovely," Astoria said. A memory surfaced, and she blurted out, "You were the one who wanted to give up Harry Potter at the Battle of Hogwarts!"
Pansy merely raised an eyebrow and said, "Yes, that was me. Would you still like to discuss wine pairings? Your planner had led me to believe that was the purpose of today's meeting."
Appalled at her breach of manners, Astoria said, "I'm terribly sorry, yes," and they sat down and discussed whites, reds, and vintages, slowly working their way down the dinner menu.
Two hours and many sips of wine later, Astoria and Pansy had decided on pairings for each course, and Pansy had given her recommendations on which wineries to call upon for the toast.
"Like most wineries in Marsannay-la-Côte, we produce reds and whites, which will be sufficient for your wedding dinner. I really do think that for the toast, though, one of the older producers in Champagne would be best--Gosset or Taittinger, of course, or perhaps Moët et Chandon." Pansy idly twirled her wineglass, watching the dregs in it spin in the bowl. "Draco used to love Taittinger, and I sent him a bottle after I moved to France."
"I prefer Roederer, myself," Astoria remarked. She was tired, tired of planning, and tired of thinking about this damned wedding and about how her life would change after it. She looked at Pansy, whose tailored robes skimmed the curve of her breasts, and whose teeth were stained with the 1997 Triomphe.
"I named it myself, in honor of Harry Potter's victory," Pansy had remarked. "It's one of our finest vintages, a Pinot Noir rosé."
"Very politic of you," Astoria had said, smiling at her.
"Quite," Pansy had answered. "The winery sent Potter a case for his wedding, with my compliments."
"So do I," Pansy said. A mischievous grin played about her lips. "A woman of taste--surely you can do better than Draco."
The comment should have annoyed Astoria, but it didn't. Pansy was clever and pretty and exceedingly good at her job; right now, she was more interested in seeing what else Pansy was good at than in defending her fiancé. "Sometimes I think so," she agreed, and leaned forward, placing her hand over Pansy's on the wineglass. "Now, you must allow me to take you to dinner, as a thank you for your work today."
Pansy looked at their hands. "I know an excellent Muggle restaurant in London, whose sommelier used to work at Bâtons. I can Apparate us there, if you like."
"That sounds lovely," Astoria agreed, and squeezed Pansy's hand. "A dinner with just us girls tonight."
The restaurant had indeed been excellent, and Pansy had proved an adept guide in the customs of Muggle dining. The only unpleasant note, for Astoria at least, had been the sommelier, a tall, curvy brunette with a French accent who'd greeted Pansy with what Astoria thought was quite excessive enthusiasm.
"Pansy! How delightful to see you!" Fatima kissed Pansy, who'd stood up to hug her. "It's been too long, ma chérie! And who is your beautiful friend?" She'd winked at Astoria, then dexterously squeezed Pansy's bum while handing them both wine lists. Once they'd placed their orders and been left alone, Astoria had been unable resist questioning Pansy about her.
"So, you and Fatima?"
"Me and Fatima what?" Pansy sipped her wine meditatively. "This vermentino's excellent, what do you think?"
Ignoring her own glass, Astoria said, "She seemed very happy to see you."
"Oh," Pansy smiled. "Yes, we were very close friends, before she moved to London. She was my first friend when I came to France, actually, after the war." She took another sip and ran her tongue over her lips. "We used to go to Paris on the weekends and picnic in the Tuileries and go clubbing in Montmartre at night." Meeting Astoria's eyes, she said, "It was an amiable breakup when she left the winery. I think she's seeing a woman who runs a bakery in Camden now." Underneath the table, Astoria felt Pansy's foot run up her calf.
Reassured, Astoria sat back and said, "I'm glad to hear that."
They stood on the sidewalk outside the restaurant, and Pansy said, "Thank you for dinner, I had a wonderful time."
Astoria looked at her, seeing how the light of the street lamps glinted off of her dark brown hair and shadowed the firm line of her jaw. "My pleasure," she said, and searched for her nerve. It had been ages since she'd had to play this game, and she fumbled for words as the silence lengthened.
Pansy looked at her consideringly. "I've got an early Floo in the morning--"
Astoria's heart sank.
"--so I've booked a hotel off Diagon Alley." Pansy stepped forward and whispered in her ear, "You could walk me there."
Turning her head slightly, Astoria kissed Pansy for the first time and said, "I'd like that," and offered Pansy her arm. They set off together into the night.