He had been sitting there for over an hour.

Indifferent to the storm clouds gathering above his head. Unresponsive as the first drops of rain dampened his hair. Uncaring as the rain soaked his being until his clothes stuck to him like a second skin.

Unflinching as the first crack of thunder reverberated through the grounds.

She had been watching him for over an hour. Behind the safety of a thick volume, she gazed sorrowfully at the boy sitting under the beech tree by the lake. She could've mistaken him for a statue if it wasn't for the harsh wind whipping his hair and cloak about.

He's going to fall awfully sick at this rate, she thought. The combination of icy rain and fierce gales was contributing to the worst storm of the season.

He isn't even trying to help himself.

She attempted for the umpteenth time to muster up the courage to go up to him and say something. Anything. At the very least, get him out of the horrible weather. But the image of his steely, lifeless eyes kept her rooted to her spot in the safety of the castle.

He sat near the water's edge. One knee was propped up and the other leg was lying on the ground in front of him. His stare remained fixed across the restless lake.

She wondered where his friends were. Don't they care about him? Why would they leave him out here? But then she reminded herself that he didn't have loving friends like she did. He made friends out of convenience. Actually, his friends were probably chosen for him since birth.

He never had a choice.

Her heart sank at the sad thought. Even though she had dismissed Harry's theories about him being a Death Eater, she knew that something bad was going down with Draco Malfoy. His face was sunken and gaunt. He looked pale, thin, and absolutely exhausted every time she saw him. And behind that cold, emotionless glare were hidden emotions of terror, guilt and anxiety. He seemed to be tearing himself apart.

No one should have to be alone like this.

With that thought, her mind was set. She got up and closed her book with grim determination. She quickly put it away and got out her dark red umbrella. Taking a breath to steel herself, she opened the umbrella and stepped out into the rain.

She had underestimated the strength of the storm. Her umbrella had almost been yanked out of her grasp by a powerful gust of wind. Tightening her cloak around herself, she marched purposefully towards the lonely Slytherin.

He didn't notice her approach so she sat right beside him and held the umbrella over both of them, somewhat sheltering them from the fearsome storm.

He finally showed signs of life when he realised that he was no longer being pelted with icy water droplets. His grey eyes flicked up quizzically to the umbrella before landing on his longtime nemesis.

"Granger."

"Malfoy."

He eyed her frostily for a while with an eyebrow raised while she just observed the foamy waves rippling across the lake.

"What do you want?" He finally asked harshly but resignedly at the same time.

"Nothing."

He grunted in annoyance and turned away from her pointedly. She pointed her wand at him and murmured a Drying Charm. He stiffened but made no other movement. Her lips quirked up in a small half smile.

"What do you want?" She repeated the question softly, peeking sideways at him.

That stumped him. She saw his jaw tighten and wave of emotion pass over him before he locked it all away.

"What's it to you, mudblood?" He hissed. She rolled her eyes, having easily predicted his defensiveness.

"I've just shown you some kindness by preventing you from catching pneumonia. The least you could do is refrain from calling me a derogatory term."

His eyes flashed dangerously. "Stop bossing people about! I can call you whatever I want! You're just a dirty, little, mudblood."

"If I'm the inferior being, why is that you're the one failing every class?" She snapped, getting to her feet and clutching her umbrella tightly. "Why is it that you're the one moping around like Moaning Myrtle? Why is it –?"

"Open your eyes, Granger!" He shouted furiously, jumping to his feet and glaring down at her. His bottled up emotions were exploding out of him all at once. He knocked her little red umbrella out of her hands and into the lake, breathing heavily. The force of the storm was unleashed upon both of them. A jagged flash of lightning illuminated the sky. "No one bloody cares about school! I thought that you of all people would understand! We're in a damn war!"

The deafening roar of thunder shook the grounds of Hogwarts.

Hermione summoned the umbrella from the lake, closed it and prodded him in the chest with it. "Don't you dare insinuate that I don't know what's going on, Malfoy! I happen to be much more intelligent than you give me credit for and you know it!"

With a heated growl he ripped the umbrella out of her grasp yet again and threw it on the ground beside them. "Well if you're such a know-it-all, why don't you invent a spell to make us switch places. Then you'd know what it's like to have to pay for your father's mistakes!"

He started choking up. She couldn't tell if it was either rain or tears trickling down his face. "Then you'd know what it's like to have the knowledge that if you make one wrong move, you're dead. Your family's dead. Everyone you love is dead." He was shaking violently now. "Then you'd think twice about lecturing me – oof!"

The wind was knocked out of him as Draco Malfoy was given the tightest, warmest, hug he had ever received. From Hermione Granger. In the middle of a storm.

Her arms were wrapped tightly around his waist to steady his trembling sobs. After a second's hesitation, he returned the embrace, head buried in her drenched brown curls to hide his mortifying tears.

She didn't know how long they stood there in that tight embrace. But when his shaking stopped, she started releasing him slowly. The rain had eased into a gentle shower. He watched her with wary but light, silvery eyes.

"They say bottling up your emotions is bad for you."

"What?"

"I said I'm glad you've finally released some of that pent up emotion of yours."

"Are you…are you saying that you worked me up like this on purpose?"

With a coy smile, she opened her little red umbrella and turned to head back to the castle. She looked over her shoulder to see him standing there slack-jawed.

"Maybe."