This was written for TASHAx in The DG Forum Fic Exchange - Summer 2017 by a member of our forum. For more details, please visit our page.

Chapter I

A Toast for Empathy

She walks through the crowded alleys with determined steps. Passes by colourful shop windows, happy couples buying candies, children running around with toy wands in their hands and old wizards with disapproving scowls murmuring how better everything was in their young days.

Some people seem to stop in their tracks to place a scrutinizing look at her, probably to corroborate who she, in fact, is, but then shake their heads and continue their way.

Maybe it is her petite physique, her excessively freckled face and her worn clothes. Or maybe it is her hair, red as blood, being set on fire with the last sun rays. At this point, she is getting used to the unwanted attention. The Daily Prophet has already featured her in too many articles, always next to the Saviour of the Wizarding World, of course, but such short time of fame had been more than enough.

The breaking point was after the six pages long article in Witch Weekly—after all, it was not every day you found yourself on the front page with a title that read: "Ginny Weasley, former darling of our nation, shows her vixen traits by breaking Harry Potter's heart." Funny, though, they missed the little detail that it all had happened the other way around.

Not that she is becoming pathetically resentful towards The Boy Who Broke Up with Her, Twice.

Not at all.

That's not why she is doing this.

She turns around a corner and searches for the Apparition point, following the exact directions from a small piece of parchment in her trembling hand. A last glance to her surroundings and a flourish of her wand, and the known vertigo sensation from her stomach before she gets trapped in a turbulent tunnel of shapeless colours.

When she lands, he is already there, against a wall, with his impeccable clothes and his chin pointing up.

Arrogant prat.

"You are late."

He states the obvious, but without a snide remark in his obscured tone. She sighs and starts walking towards him, already noticing he's had a particularly bad day.

"Well, hello, Weasley, how have you been?" She tries to mock his pedantic tone, but without any success.

An amused smirk unexpectedly emerges from the corner of his mouth. "Do I really need to ask you that?" He raises an eyebrow.

She shakes her head and stands next to him."So, where exactly are we?" she asks, more worried than curious.

She can't recognize the landscape around them and he certainly didn't warn her about the cold weather. The deserted streets are shaped by the yellow light of the lamp posts and the moonlight falling over the roofs of Muggle houses. Far away, some of them have their lights on, and she can hear distant voices.

"Can you guess?" he teases, offering an elbow for her to place her arm around.

She can't, really. The night is dark and when they start walking, she finds it especially difficult to adjust her eyes to their surroundings. He walks confidently, his neutral expression letting her know his eyes are cold silver for a reason and he has the advantage here. But he is also trying to hide something from her, because she can feel the tightness of his muscles under his heavy cloak.

Ginny giggles nervously, suddenly realizing why he seems too upset. He watches her cheeks flush from the corner of his eye.

"Do you give up?" he asks.

"No," her stubborn self answers.

He chuckles and starts to speed up.

"Aren't you cold?" she asks.

He glares at her, but keeps walking.

Ginny punches him lightly in the arm. "How come you didn't tell me? There's this little thing called magic, you know?"

"Don't push it, Weasley."

Maybe she has stepped out of the line. He doesn't say anything else, but she knows she has just unnecessarily hurt his pride, and he certainly doesn't need that right now. He is being nice enough to join her in this unusual but gratifying journey. Nice enough to take her to a special place only for the sake of enjoying the company.

She makes an attempt to stop him, but his hand is already so cold it makes her gasp. "You're freezing!" she exclaims, utterly upset at his lack of self-care, but he remains impassive. She performs a simple warming spell and, although his features relax, he starts sniffing quite loudly. "Wonderful. Now you'll catch a cold. Well done, Malfoy."

"I'm fine," he replies with clenched teeth.

She scowls at him but then relaxes her face, realizing maybe she's being too harsh on him tonight.

It's not as usual to come across a wizard who has been deprived from using his wand, and it saddens her to watch him live his everyday life as if his hands have been cut off. She can't help it, though. Her mind is merciless and remembers every opportunity he had been awful with everyone she knew, each one of his mistakes and shameful acts.

"I'm sorry," she finally mutters, breaking the awkward silence.

"What did I tell you when we started doing this?" he asks in a quiet tone.

It doesn't sound like a reprimand, but it hits her hard anyway. She only takes a short breath in response, bracing herself.

"I neither want nor deserve your apologies." His voice comes trembling out of furious stubbornness, a sparkle cracking the ice glaciers inside his eyes. "I'll take whatever comes from you, knowing I'll be paying for everything I've ever done to you for the rest of my miserable life."

She doesn't like his self-contempt, but she also understands it comes as a natural impulse, even if it means repeating the venomous words inside his head until he believes them; she's been there too many times.

Loneliness is a torture and the absurd feeling sometimes works as a consolation. Everyone else has their own grief to overcome, everyone has someone to mourn for. But she had spent too much time inside her own head when being only an eleven-year-old girl to learn that, once the labyrinth gets intricate enough, all walls start closing and there's no way out.

She tries to take a deep breath, to feel the coldness calming the raging storms inside her chest.

The air smells different, but they both know it is because something deep inside them is broken, and the change made them desperately needy of something, someone… anyone to fill the void.

"Don't say that," she finally croaks, but then grants him a weak smile that reaches her tender, almond eyes.

He just nods and continues guiding her through the empty streets until they find an old house with brick walls and a small wooden door. Hanging from it is a stone sign with carved short phrases in a language Ginny can't recognize at first sight.

"Do you finally give up?" he asks once more, a cocky grin making his pale features glow.

She inspects the words one by one, determined to find, at least, a close answer."Is this elvish?" she starts, the inflection in her voice begging for more clues, but he only chuckles.

"Go on," he encourages, pretending to be surprised.

She kicks the cold floor in a childish manner and finally, feeling defeated, sighs and lowers her head. The bastard just smirks and doesn't wait to rub this victory on her face.

"I knew you wouldn't guess."

"Oh, just tell me already!" she snaps, losing her patience.

He laughs and the world seems to lighten up again, but he never tells her the answer. He knocks on the door four times, then straightens himself in his very own aristocratic manner and waits with an arm around her shoulders—only because he is still cold, she knows—until a tall, slender woman welcomes them inside.A strong aroma invades her nostrils immediately, and she feels herself floating in an idyllic realm, the intensity of it all taking her higher with each step.

He gallantly helps her to take a seat in front of the biggest table and grants her one of his rare, wide grins. "Butterbeer?" he asks, and she nods in agreement.

She doesn't have time to blink before the drinks, along with large quantities of the most delicious chocolate delicacies, appear before her are so many, containing Merlin knows how many kinds of small pieces of creamy happiness inside them: boxes of all shapes and colours waiting to reveal the treasure made of bonbons and bars, tablets and candies.

Malfoy bows his head with an open palm, inviting her to start with the tasting, and she timidly reaches out a hand. It's impossible to decide at first, but she finally grabs a small purple envelope, too anxious to devour the chocolate inside.

The effect is immediate: once the delicious sweet touches her tongue, a hot wave of intense taste invades her mouth, making her eyes roll with pure pleasure. She needs to know what this amazing feeling is made of, so she inspects the envelope. It reads: Hazelnut cream filled elven chocolate, made in Malmö, Sweden.

She chokes almost immediately and, after a couple of strong coughs, screeches: "YOU BROUGHT US TO SWEDEN?"

Malfoy laughs in delight, his mouth filled with chocolate as well, not caring at all of who's watching them."Believe it or not, I'm quite appreciated outside Wizarding Britain. People here know who I am and what my last name stands for." He takes a small sip of Butterbeer to clean his palate from any remaining flavour before choosing another small piece to try. "It's a nice change when compared to all those common places we've already been to."

Indeed, his presence at the table is the one of a king being served the most expensive treats in the world.

"B-but, we've only been in London and—"

She hates to admit it, but there's nothing to complain about. The place is perfect, the chocolate is orgasmic, and she is visiting another country thanks to none other than Draco Bloody Malfoy, the worst case of sweet tooth in history. Well, maybe after herself.

"Relax, Weasley; it's only chocolate."

Draco asks for an elf to refill his mug, a permanent smirk adorning his face. But hearing him speaking Swedish with his usualaristocratic tone makes Ginny grimace with distaste, so he teases, only for his own amusement:

"The most luxurious, expensive and delicious chocolate you'll ever taste."

"You pompous git," she mutters under her breath before taking a furious bite of the darkest chocolate bar on the table.

"I love you, too," he returns the compliment, raising his Butterbeer for a toast.

Tasha's Prompt #3

Basic premise: the first few months after the war. Everything is up in the air, everyone feeling lost and raw. Celebrations are over and now everyone is working out how to move on. Ginny and Draco find they have a similar coping method.

Must haves: a friendship first.

No-no's: immediate resolution. A needy/desperate Harry.

Rating range: whatever works.

Bonus points: a boozy/self destructive night out.