Disclaimer: I'm dining on macaroni and cheese for dinner tonight because I definitely do not have a chef. However, if I owned Harry Potter, that would be the first useless thing I got. Figure it out.

This is my first fic. Be kind.

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She never knew.

I'm not sure how it had happened. I think it may have been a series of events. There are moments that stood out in my mind, three of them. A mystical number. It terrifies me to know that I let my guard down like that, that I still do not understand it, my own mind's betrayal.

She'd always been my most prized pupil, deep down, but the first moment I loved her was during her sixth year. Voldemort was attempting a siege of Hogwarts, as he did often in those days, and we were forced to fight to protect the school and its denizens. We, the other teachers and I, had positioned ourselves at the front lines of the battle. She, being a prefect, had been told in an event like this to take the other students to the basements and stay with them to keep them safe. Potter and Weasley were with us, Dumbledore having allowed the older students to fight. Potter, as always, felt the need to be a hero. The Weasley boy had tagged along.

I was glad she had her duties to attend to. She was out of harm's way for the time being. Nothing prepared me, then, for her appearance on the field. She came out a side door and made her way to the front of the fray, I assume. The fact that she made her way up there at all showed surprising dexterity. I watched her when she was about halfway to the front lines, tried to, anyway. She showed large amounts of skill in defending herself.

She would only defend. So noble.

She reached the front. McGonagall, Dumbledore, Potter, Weasley and I were together at the very forefront. Oh, how it pained me to fight beside him, The-Boy-I-Spent-Years-Almost-Dying-For. And here I was again, trying to save his worthless skin. And she arrived with the same goal in mind.

I hated him. She was a brilliant student, she showed great promise in everything, and he had been gaining fame and fortune through others for years. She was at his side, assisting him, she was one of the ones that he kept around to springboard him past obstacles. And here she was again, ready to die for him, having given up her own safe place.

But I didn't have time to dwell on it. I continued to fight, deflecting curses and casting quite a few myself. I didn't think of her again until I heard a voice next to me. It was murmuring words confidently, almost in a lilting voice. My first thought, at that moment, was that she must be a very powerful witch to cast the curses she was using in such an effortless manner. My second was that Potter and Weasley were twenty feet down the line.

Had she come to me? I'm not sure. Was it simply the easiest way to get to the front lines? I doubt it. Since I had been identified on the same side as Voldemort's sworn enemies, the fighting was particularly fierce surrounding me. To be honest, I had begun feeling fatigued when she arrived.

Had I the time to linger on it then, I would have thought about it, perhaps even relished the moment. I didn't, though, and when it was all over and the forces of evil had retreated, I turned away to go to the others. A professor was down.

She was between me and my fallen colleague, looking at me. Her wand had fallen from boneless fingers and she had aged ten years in the last two hours. She looked almost ready to collapse, but she couldn't. None of us could. She murmured something about the students. I wanted to stop her, I did. It took all of my restraint not to reach out to her, not to offer some comfort.

I didn't, though. She went towards Potter, wounded but awake, and Weasley, who looked like he'd be in the hospital ward for a few days. She spoke with them for a few minutes to make sure they were okay and then left the field to reassure the younger students. She always listened to her sense of duty. What else could she do? I watched her for a moment, then turned back towards the others, remarkably unharmed considering what we had just gone through.

Later that year, there was another moment that made her beautiful. I was on rounds near the library. School was almost out for the summer and I was feeling a desperate need to get away from that place. I hurried through the halls, pausing here and there to take points away when a student was unfortunate enough to cross my path. I was just turning a corner when I heard a sound, so soft I wouldn't have heard it had I not been standing completely still.

Eager to catch more students doing whatever it was after hours in the library, I entered the room in my best spy fashion. There was no point in having the experience if I did not use it, after all.

I stopped short upon the sight that greeted me. She had fallen asleep over a stack of books and a single candle. The noise had been Potter's Invisibility cloak sliding off of the table, exposing her from the waist up. Candlelight treated her kindly. Her hair had a sheen to it that it lacked in daylight and the soft glow slid down her pale cheeks. She'd been spending far too much time indoors, studying for exams she would easily pass. I, too, had needed to prove what everyone knew about me.

I wanted to take off points but didn't. I didn't want to wake her, but didn't think she should be sleeping on the hard surface of the worktable. I didn't stop to ask myself why, I just acted. I faded into the shadows, making sure I made enough noise to wake her up. Her head came up slowly and she looked disoriented. She looked around and saw where she was and quickly gathered her things. I'm sure she realized how perilous her position was. In fact, she was probably in such a hurry to avoid me.

When she got past the doors, I went to find Filch, just to assure her safe passage. She was a prefect, but she didn't need to distraction.

I didn't question my concern. I didn't want answers.

Summer quickly came and went and I made it a duty to set her out of my mind. I ignored the thoughts of her that came through my mind, the impulses to show her kindness, the thoughts of conversations I could have with her. Once or twice, I caught Albus looking at me knowingly after I had, in a fit of pique, taken more points from Gryffindor than usual.

Her, Dumbledore, Gryffindor House, damn them all. I wasn't going to give myself the luxury of being foolish.

I did it, though. I buried my desires, my questions, deep down.

But my last week in her presence was the real test of my strength. I, along with the other teachers, had finished administering the final exams. She, Potter and Weasley had glowing futures, of course. One couldn't help but hear what the three of them had in store for them. Potter, professional Quidditch. Weasley, a career with the Ministry, possibly as an auror. And she would be going to college. Studying Charms and Potions. She was radiant. Voldemort was gone, and the three of them could finally act their age.

I had toyed with the idea of trying to strike up a conversation with her, but she and her guard dogs were inseparable. As they should've been. They were graduating, they had been instrumental in defeating the evil wizard and all three of them were relaxed and completely happy, for the first time. She was finally allowed to act 18. She'd earned it.

Which was fine and well for all other things, but I couldn't bring myself to approach her.

But the fates have a way of playing with us and, once again, I stumbled on to her. This time it was in one of the music rooms. I was roaming around the castle, attempting to clear my head. I was lost in thought, letting myself ease into melancholy for once, when I heard it. Music. I almost turned away, down another corridor, but kept walking towards the sound.

She was in a disused room that held only a piano. The only lighting came from narrow windows three quarters of the way up the stone walls and the room, the lights, the girl looked like something out of one of the castle's many paintings. She was playing a sad melody. I hadn't known she played an instrument.

It suited her. Her level of skill indicated that she'd been playing for a few years, at the very least, probably longer. Gifted children in the other world are often encouraged to learn a musical instrument at an early age, and she was nothing if not gifted. Her well-meaning parents had probably taught her to play and then made sure she practiced during school holidays. Maybe she even slipped away during the year. This was a little used room, one wouldn't find it unless they looked.

I hesitated. Part of me wanted to go to her and part of me, the sensible part, told me to put as much distance as I could between her and I. I took a step towards her, thus far undetected, and felt a stone in the floor shift under my foot. Her head swung towards me and for one moment her hands stumbled.

Her next actions, to this day, surprised me. She did not send me away like I thought she would. She didn't even break the eye contact we had made. The only indication of the moment we were presently experiencing was that the melody suddenly tumbled from a light Beethoven sonata to something darker and far more complex.

How long we were there I couldn't tell you. She played on and on, the notes flowing from underneath her fingers. She was a siren, her song rooting my feet to the floor. Perhaps, I am easily impressed, but it was then that my strange feelings towards her coalesced into something else, something firmer.

The music flowed on and came to a crescendo, then slowly reached the end of the piece. She stopped playing and looked up at me, her hands draped over the keys. Her hands were slender and the piano, which he hadn't been aware of before, was an instrument of obvious quality. I stepped forward and crouched down next to the piano bench, watching her eyes widen slightly. Again, I found myself wanting to reach out and gather her in my arms. Again, I denied myself.

I reached out, though, and touched her cheek. Her hand came up to cover mine and we sat there for a minute, her eyes asking questions of mine.

I didn't have any answers for the girl.

She was too young and I, too brittle. I was hardened from life and she, while forced to mature early, earlier than she would have anyway, had years ahead of her, years to spend in the company of another in the first blooms of youth.

I had never bloomed, not even in my youth.

I slid my hand from beneath hers and stood. She looked up at me with something unreadable in her eyes. Pain. Longing, I like to think. Most likely, it was disgust. I turned and walked away from her.

In that moment I sealed my fate. I thought of turning back but I had come too far along my chosen path. Behind me I heard a muffled sound that could've been the beginnings of a sob, I couldn't bring myself to confirm or deny that that's what it was. It was quickly lost, whatever it was, in a cascade of major chords. She was better off this way. I knew she was and her press clippings do not disagree with me.

I never saw her again.