The sun beat down on the lush green Hogwarts grounds. It’d been a warm spring so far, and the students were taking advantage of the nice weather. The boys swam in the lake while many of the girls lay on the shore, basking in the bright sun. The grounds were constantly filled with laughing students. Today was one such day.
Draco Malfoy sat with his back against an oak tree, eyes closed as he tried to drown out the noise of his class mates. He’d had a horrible headache all morning and had hoped a little fresh air would bring relief. Unfortunately for him, the rest of the student body seemed intent on making as much noise as possible. Giving up on rest, Draco opened his eyes, squinting against the bright sun. He watched as several third year girls stretched themselves seductively at the edge of the water, batting their eyes and waving to the boys in the water who began to perform daring dives off of the lower cliffs to impress the temptresses below. Draco rolled his eyes.
The breeze picked up, ruffling his blonde hair. There were dark clouds rolling in from the horizon. It was going to storm. Crows screeched their angry calls as they darted across the sky from the forest, one or two dive-bombing an unsuspecting first year. A bright flash of lightning lit the sky over the castle, a deep roll of thunder following just after. The first few raindrops began to fall, beating out a steady rhythm against the surface of the lake.
The grounds emptied quickly as everyone ran for shelter within the stone walls. Draco shook his head and stood, sauntering lazily towards the doors. A flash of white caught his attention out of the corner of his eyes. There, at the top of the high cliff near the edge of the lake, stood Potter. He was drenched, his robes nowhere in sight as he stood staring into the churning black water, his shirt sticking heavily to his chest. Draco paused, not entirely sure why Potter’s stupidity was keeping his attention like this. If that idiot wanted to stand in the rain, let him have at it. What business was it of Draco’s? And yet, there was something inside him that wouldn’t let him turn away.
Potter stepped closer to the cliff’s edge, and Draco thought how amusing it might be to see the idiot fall. One glance at the tumultuous water took all humour from his mind. There would be no chance of Potter surviving, and that wasn’t at all humourous. Draco watched as Potter turned and started to walk away from the edge. He sighed and turned toward the school, ready to get himself out of the rain, when something made him look back. He sucked in a breath, his eyes widening in horror as he watched Potter turn again and run to the edge of the cliff, leaping out into the air. Draco didn’t even wait for the splash.
He dropped his robes to the ground as he ran, tossing his wand down with them before making his way up the cliff and leaping into the water himself. Ice, pain—stabbing pain. The water was much colder than he had expected. The waves tossed him around. Taking a deep breath he sank beneath the surface, opening his eyes and blinking against the sting of the salt. He looked below him, scanning the shadows for Potter.
The Gryffindor was a few feet to his right, sinking deeper and deeper into the dark, murky water. Draco swam downward, reaching for Potter’s hand. He gripped the boy’s wrist, pulling up hard and wrapping an arm around his waist for better grip. Kicking hard, he began to rise to the surface. Draco gasped for air as he broke free of the crushing water. He headed for the shore, pulling an unconscious Potter along with him. Dragging the idiot Gryffindor onto land, Draco accioed his wand and cast a hurried anapneo. Nothing. He cast the spell again. Potter began to cough up water. Draco rolled him onto his side, very much aware that his hand was resting on Potter’s back. He didn’t move it.
“Are you fucking insane, Potter?” Draco exclaimed, nearly shouting over the roar of the thunder.
“Why did you save me?” Potter whispered. Draco had to strain his ears to hear him.
“You would have been killed—”
“I wanted to die!” The wind roared around them, rain beating hard against their skin. Draco didn’t flinch at the biting air or the sting of water against this cheek. How could anyone want to die? Potter shoved Draco’s hand away, standing and turning towards the school.
“Fuck off, Malfoy.” Draco stood, following the stubborn Gryffindor across the grounds. He gripped the brunette’s arm, spinning him roughly around to face him. “Get your fucking hands off me!” Draco shoved Potter against the nearest tree, looking him straight in the eye.
“You’re not going anywhere, Potter. Not until you explain to me what gave you the bright idea to fucking drown yourself.”
“I don’t have to explain anything to you, ferret!” Thunder rolled through the sky just as Draco’s hand connected with Potter’s cheek. Potter glared up at him, the side of his face a burning pink. “You fucking—”
“Enough with the hissy fit, Potter. Start talking. I’m cold, wet, and in a very bad mood. Do not try my patience.” He released Potter and stepped back. “Now spill.” Potter glared at him for several long moments and then shook his head, looking down at the ground.
“I want to die,” he muttered. “There’s nothing left for me here. I’m just a waste of space. I hurt everyone I get close to. The world would be better off without me.” Draco stared at him, both confused and awed by Potter’s words. Was he really that thick?
“You’re the fucking Boy Who Lived!” he shouted. “You saved the whole fucking world from Voldemort. You’re a hero. Everyone loves you! What more could you want?”
“I never wanted to be a hero!” Potter screamed. “Don’t you get it, Malfoy? I never wanted any of this! All I’ve ever wanted was a family. When I finally got my chance at it, Voldemort took it away from me again.” Draco could only guess Potter was referring to the incident in the Department of Mysteries two years earlier when Sirius Black had been murdered. Black had been Potter’s godfather, or so they said.
“It wasn’t your fault Black died.”
“Yes it was. If I hadn’t gone to the Ministry that night then he wouldn’t have either. I’m to blame. I’m to blame for Dumbledore, as well. For Remus and Tonks. And for Fred. I know Ron says he doesn’t blame me, but I can see the pain, Malfoy. I can see it in his eyes and in the eyes of his family. They can’t look at me without thinking about that night.”
Potter choked, his face scrunching up as he slid to sit at the base of the tree. His shoulders shook with heavy sobs. Draco gasped and took a step back. He’d never seen Potter like this before. He kneeled before him, placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“You’re not alone in this world, Potter,” he said quietly. “Don’t ever think there isn’t someone who cares.” He pulled the Gryffindor towards him and, moving on instinct rather than rational thought, he hugged him. Potter began to sob harder, wrapping his arms around Draco. His hands grasped the blonde’s shoulders, clinging to him as though he were afraid he’d disappear. Draco vowed at that moment to be whatever Potter needed, whenever. Whether it was a shoulder to cry on or a target to rant at, Draco would be there. He only hoped it would be enough.