Disclaimer: (Spoiler) I am not J.K. Rowling. I own nothing.
Decapitated Chocolate Frogs
Ginny sat at her desk in the cubicle she had shared with Draco Malfoy for the past five years, frowning at the stack of papers in front of her.
It was after official business hours and the office had long emptied, the paper pushers having already retired for the day and the Aurors working the night shift already out patrolling. She knew she should be quick about her business in case any of the senior Aurors working late left their offices for the evening and caught her lurking, but she was too frustrated to bother at this point.
She let out a sigh as she lifted the speckled quill Malfoy had gifted her last Christmas, signing off her leave application before dropping it in her out tray, where it promptly folded itself into a paper plane and flew off to her manager's office. Her brother Charlie was visiting for the week, and at Malfoy's encouragement she had already spoken to her boss about taking some long-overdue leave. It had gone over well, considering how tight the staffing had been of late, and despite how adamantly Draco had insisted she deserved this time off, he had still managed to spend the last few days bemoaning the desk duty he'd be stuck with in the meantime.
Of course, her leave wasn't really the underlying issue, here. Draco Malfoy was.
"You're supposed to leave the office when you take time off, Weasley," said a voice from the shadows, and she leapt about a foot in the air.
"Malfoy!" she yelped, hastily pushing aside her second set of paperwork – the bastard had an uncanny knack for appearing out of thin air at the slightest mention. Ginny scowled and thumped him hard on the arm as he sauntered past. "Don't do that."
Brushing off her attack he gave her one of his stock smirks and leant against his desk, which sat opposite to hers. "You know, you're not too observant for an Auror."
"Yeah, well, that would be my mentor's fault, wouldn't it?" she shot back at him as she crossed her arms, tilting back in her chair to get a look at him.
Draco Malfoy had changed a lot since school, and she supposed that she was lucky he had or she wouldn't have lasted a day with him as her mentor. Gone was the snooty little brat that ran to his father the moment things went against him. Here was a confident man enjoying the prime of his life independent of his family – as he reminded her constantly, Malfoys simply didn't do public service. But Draco did.
These days Draco Malfoy was strong and capable, with an air of confidence to match. He'd grown up well, now that life as an Auror had roughed him up around the edges and he'd lost a little of his sense of entitlement. Character, Ginny thought her mother might have called it, had she been able to exchange more than a few civil words with him on any single occasion.
It had taken a long time for Ginny to figure that out, of course. After she'd completed her Auror training five years ago and been assigned Draco Malfoy as her field mentor, she'd been just the same as her mother; curt and aloof to the point of rudeness. But you could only have that kind of attitude toward your partner for so long before it got you killed...
They'd been on the trail of a suspected dark wizard, tracing his Apparition trail across Wales when they were met by an ambush.
She'd been too confident, then; overly eager to prove her worth, if only to be reassigned to anyone but Draco bleeding Malfoy. Ginny still remembered him calling after her to stay close to him before that near-fatal, final Apparition.
She'd landed heavily, missing her mark, and immediately had to dodge a number of offensive spells. She'd panicked, able to do nothing more than feebly shield herself from the attack before Draco came in from the side, taking down the wizard they'd tracked and his two companions as she served as a pathetic distraction.
"You're going to get yourself killed," he had hissed at her later, after he'd given his report to the head of the Auror department.
Ginny had been sitting outside the office miserably, waiting to be called in and given her suspension – and that was being optimistic. She'd messed up, she knew she had, but she didn't need Malfoy to tell her off either. "Don't talk to me," she had snapped, angrily. "I'm already in trouble and I do not need a lecture from you."
She would never forget how he'd look at her then, as though she was entirely transparent beneath his gaze, and she'd sworn then and there that she'd never give him reason to look at her that way again. "You're not in trouble," he'd told her, leaning against the wall next to where she sat.
"I'm not?" she had replied, confused. "But I disobeyed–"
"Ginevra Weasley, Mr Carroway will see you now."
Ginny had looked back at Draco, unwilling to finish her sentence, as though she might somehow jinx herself. Draco had given her a short nod, striding back toward their offices.
Before her now, Draco's smirk widened. "You have a spectacular mentor," he told her matter-of-factly as he eyed the Certificate of Commendation she'd received from the Minister of Magic that fateful day, hanging behind her desk. "Some other adjectives you may prefer to use are: handsome, charming –"
"Modest?" she cut him off, rolling her eyes. "What are you still doing here, anyway?"
He reached across the desk behind him and revealed a small, flat wrapped box, giving it a shake. Something inside tinkered delicately.
Ginny tried to hide her scowl. "Ah, and who are you doting on tonight? Astoria? Corrine?" She snapped her fingers, as though she'd just had an epiphany. "Oh, I know; it's that witch from up in International Cooperation, isn't it?"
He raised a brow at her. "If you must know, I'm taking Mother to dinner. And you know I can't stand those political types." The smirk he gave her then made her stomach twist. "Don't be too jealous, you know you're still my number one witch."
"Whatever you say, Malfoy. Just try not to take advantage of your server when she catches on to what a sentimental mummy's boy you are. I know you just can't help yourself sometimes."
Ignoring her dig, he slipped the gift in his pocket and strode toward the aisle, pausing before he vanished behind the partition. "Don't forget dinner on Tuesday."
Ginny stifled a groan. How is it he manages to 'forget' about our weekly dinners every time except this one? "I'll have to see how busy I am with Charlie," she replied instead. "You wearing your Death Eater robes on Friday?"
If his exaggerated eye roll was any indication, Draco was clearly still unamused by her ambition to have him attend the Annual Ministry function dressed as a Death Eater; ironically, of course. "You know I never go to that ridiculous Halloween party. Bring your brother to dinner," he told her with a wave of his hand; a generous offer considering how much her family disliked Draco. "If he can stand handling dragons and the rest of your family, then he'll be just fine at my place for a few hours."
"We'll see," Ginny said cryptically, fully aware that Draco had never gone to the Halloween party after the first year she'd forced him to attend.
With a nod, Draco took off for the evening. As the echo of his footsteps drifted away she dropped her head to the desk. Why did everything have to be so hard? And why did he have to be so damn charming?
"Stupid feelings," Ginny grumbled to herself as she tried to gather her thoughts, the ones that were screaming at her to go after him. But of course that was the last thing she should do; she'd seen enough of his brief affairs pan out to understand how he operated. As soon as the thrill of the chase was over he lost interest, and she couldn't even give him that.
Falling in love with Draco Malfoy had never been her intention, and nothing could have surprised her more – bar Ron having a somewhat civil word for the man. But really, the two of them had been nearly inseparable over the last few years, and since she'd realised how strongly she felt for him a few months ago their relationship had begun to feel like torture more than anything else.
My hands are tied, she thought to herself, and was instantly distracted by a very vivid image of Draco fixing her bound hands to her headboard before lifting her legs – No, no, no!
She hastily signed off her second application and tossed it in her out tray before she could think better of it, then watched it zip off glumly.
The only way she was getting out of this was with a transfer; her heart would be torn to shreds either way, but the quickest route was usually the easiest one.
Draco knew something was up. Ginny had been acting stranger and stranger over the last few weeks, and while at first he'd chalked it up to 'women's issues', he knew that it had gone on too long for that to be the case.
She'd left a few hints here and there; subject to mood swings, little or no sense of humour, introverted. Stress was the only other explanation, so Draco had selflessly convinced his partner to take some time off before she finally cracked; he'd seen her hit rock bottom exactly once before, and he had no desire to deal with her in that state again. Draco made a mental note that Halloween was in a week, and to lock himself in his flat with a bottle of Firewhiskey until the festivities had concluded.
He flipped the collar of his coat up as he made his way through the crowded streets. It was a chilly evening, but the restaurant where he was meeting his mother was only a short distance and he'd opted to walk instead of Apparate directly.
He wished he'd worn his hair loose to add a second layer against the cold wind, but Narcissa chastised him for his "dishevelled" appearance every time she saw him. Eventually it had become easier to pre-empt her rather than deal with her disapproving gaze for hours, not to mention the unsubtle hints in every preceding owl until she deemed his indiscretion acceptable once more.
"Draco!" someone called to him, and he saw a tall blonde wave as she emerged from a nearby store.
It took a moment for him to place her name, causing him to internally groan at Ginny's earlier quip. Outwardly, he donned his most charming smile. "Saskia Olsen. What a pleasant surprise."
And a pleasant surprise it was. He'd seen the witch briefly months ago, and he recalled it was one of his more memorable affairs. Looking at the leggy, beautifully made up witch before him, he absently wondered why the liaison hadn't lasted.
"Where are you off to, all alone?" she asked him after she kissed him on the cheek, a seductive glint in her eyes.
"Dinner with Mother," he replied, pausing as he looked her over, contemplatively. "I don't suppose you'd be free for a drink later?"
Saskia's smile widened as she gazed up at him, subtly moving closer. "I might be."
He couldn't help but smirk. "I'll take that as a yes," Draco said cockily. "Meet me at Buon Cibo, say around ten?"
She stepped back from him, her gaze hooded. "We'll see," Saskia said, before turning and strutting away.
Draco momentarily considered how lovely her behind looked beneath her jacket before he considered her final words; exactly as Ginny had said earlier this evening, though he hadn't given it much consideration at the time. Draco was a master of decoding women, and he hadn't met one he couldn't crack yet. "We'll see" was the universal phrase for playing hard to get.
Saskia would meet him at ten this evening, though she hadn't technically agreed to anything. He'd made a gamble but he knew it would pay off, because it always did.
Ginny was a different story. As a rule, Ginny didn't play anything – after all, she didn't need to...
"If he can stand handling dragons all day, he'll be fine at my place for a few hours."
So why say it at all?
AN: This story was written for Ann's prompt for the DG Forum Fic Exchange, 2013.
If you've already read this over on the DG Forum's profile, I hope you enjoyed it. If you've already reviewed, then thank you very much! I'm sad that I had so many (sixty-one, at last count!) lovely reviews over the publishing period, and I didn't get to reply to a single one of them.
Thank you to Samurai-Kagome and my sister who both had a hand in making this fic so wonderful, and thank you to Hannah Askance for doing the "official" beta work so efficiently after the exchange closed.
Ann's Prompt (#1)
Basic premise: Draco and Ginny are separating after five years together. They could be married, engaged, boyfriend/girlfriend, lovers, gardening partners . . . it's your choice. And they don't have to separate at the end, they could remain together. The ending is your choice.
Must haves: A memorable Halloween moment from their early days. Humor.
No-no's: Avoid too much nostalgia and sappy characters. I don't really need to know the fine details of their relationship every step of the way.
Rating range: T or M
Bonus points: Draco being a Halloween aficionado.