Disclaimer: Not mine. Rowling's.

A/N: A joint present for my 'big sister' Kela, and one of my best friend's, Lou, who've really been looking out for me recently. I know you've already seen it, Lou, but I wanted you to get a present from me too. Hope you don't mind, Kela. I love you both so much, thanks for being there and caring enough to worry about me.

He'd seen her crying before, she knew, and it was unsettling and comforting at the same time. To know that someone else in this dreary castle acknowledged her pain and frustration was a cheerful thought for the girl, and she twisted one pig-tail between her fingers idly before sitting up a bit straighter at Professor Tofty's glare. Her glasses slid down her nose, and she heard Olive Hornby giggle obnoxiously to her left. It didn't upset her though, because she knew he would be watching.

It was rather romantic; that a Slytherin like himself would watch a Hufflepuff like her so closely, she thought. A sort of faerie tale she imagined her mother had told her at some point in her childhood. He's the same age -but he acts years older, not judging her by her appearance, like so many others here. The boy was handsome too, in an unconventional way. His brown eyes had bored into her during dinner, class, lunch, breakfast, and in the halls these last few weeks, and she felt lucky that he would notice her. (Tenses again. It's a little confusing.)

She'd written to her older cousin about him, not mentioning anything about magic, and received a short, dismissive reply warning her to stay away from that sort. Her family was always overly-suspicious, and so she ignored it, convinced it would all backfire on them one day and she'd be the one laughing.

Myrtle didn't know what his family background was, and doubted anyone in the school did. She didn't particularly care either. She had been raised to see everyone as equals, just as she supposed he was. It's something she considered important in an ideal person -that ability to see past the inane labels of society. She knew he could -must- for the way he looks at her.

Their eyes lock over the Charms classroom now, his mud-like gaze sucking her in and almost hungrily devouring her…consuming her entirely from within. An odd spark was in his eyes. Something not quite normal, not quite right, and Myrtle thought it love. She'd never had someone look at her that way and she'd certainly never had someone in love with her, so this must be it. He loved her, and that's why he looked as if he'd gobble her up in one toothy bite.

The thought made her feel beautiful and special. Something shot straight down the back of her spine, like a tingle, and she was suddenly very uncomfortable in the hard wooden chair. She crossed her legs, still not breaking her eyes from his, and the world seemed to disappear. All they saw was each other, and Myrtle wished she could only ever see him for eternity.

Unfortunately, the bell rang, and he gathered his books, wavy hair falling perfectly about his head and Slytherin tie loosened around his neck. The eyes were off hers for now, but she knew it wouldn't last long. It never did. She suspected she'd look up during dinner and there he'd be, across the room, eyes fixed on her. She couldn't wait.

Myrtle moved to exit the room after him, and an arm was suddenly thrown out in front of her, preventing her from getting farther than the archway leading out to the hall. Myrtle looked up, frightened, and half hoped he'd doubled back to talk to her. They've never talked before, only looked, and the sane part of her mind knew he wouldn't have chosen to do it in such a public spot. She was only slightly shocked, therefore, when she looked up into the pock-marked faces of Olive Hornby and her side-kicks. The Ravenclaw and Gryffindor girls fanned out around her, and her books were swatted from her hands with one cruelly slammed palm from Belinda Parkinson.

Myrtle's gray eyes widened behind her glasses and her hands shook against her will. A fairly common ritual between the girls, these meetings usually ended with Myrtle left laying in some seldom-used corridor; bruises on parts of her body the professors would never see.

At least he had never come across her when this happened. Or if he had, she'd never noticed and he'd never done anything to stop them. She wanted to believe he'd never seen this.

The first fist came, slammed into her stomach with a sickening crunch, then the second, third (a kick), the fourth, all to her torso and legs. It hurt, but she wouldn't cry. She never cried when they could see his. Crying was for his eyes, only. Straightening her glasses, Myrtle tried to dodge the next kick and failed.

He had come across her in the kitchens in September of this year, sobbing into a cup of hot cocoa. She had just told him everything in one long-winded, one-sided conversation, she was so lonely and desperate. She was sick of her family, was worried about coursework, she was afraid of the increasing attacks on her fellow Muggleborns. He had listened carefully, not asked questions and passed her the jug of cocoa when she needed a refill. He hadn't said anything, just listened, but it felt wonderful to have someone simply listen to her. He had started watching her the day after that.

Olive sneered down at her and addressed her like a house elf. "Why bother with those stupid glasses, Measly Myrtle? They look horribly ugly, and it's not as if the boys ever notice that sort of thing anyway. They like girls," she pointed at herself, Belinda, and their companions, "like us. Not ugly little like you."

He noticed her, she wanted to scream. He sees -he can't stop seeing! None of the boys looked at them the way he looked at her! She didn't say anything however, because that would be betraying their secret. He wouldn't look at her if the others knew, and she didn't think she could live if he wasn't looking at her like he… like he wanted her. She wanted to be wanted, and these schoolgirls wouldn't take that away from her.

Eventually, the girls got sick of her, and their footsteps skipped downstairs towards the Great Hall merrily. They all laughed and joked as if nothing had happened, as if they just hadn't left a girl bloodied and dry, heaving behind them.

It occurred to her that there is a bathroom nearby, just down the hall, and she drug herself up, clutching her bruised ribs carefully. The brown-haired girl managed a limping, sideways walk to the safe-haven, and locked herself in one of the wooden stalls. She could hide here until after dinner, where they can't see her. It wouldn't do to be looked at while sporting newly tear-streaked cheeks and large purple welts up and down one's body.

Yes, Myrtle decided, she would hide here until after dinner. Then she could sneak down to the Hufflepuff dorms and try to manage a few of the easier healing spells they'd read about just last week.

The tears could fall here, so she let them.

It was not long after her sobs subsided that she noticed a faint hiss, like a fire snapping, coming from just inside the bathroom. It -it reminds her of a snake, almost. Of him; and the thought sent chills down her spine. He was brilliant, and she wouldn't doubt it if he had some crazy ability like talking to animals. This sounded like a made-up language, though, and she knew he's more sophisticated than this sounds.

The hissing, or whatever it is, sounded masculine, she noticed. She didn't know how she could tell, because the distinction between the 'sss's and 'iishh's would doubtlessly sound the same coming from any mouth, but she did know this was a boy. This was a boy in her sanctuary, a buy who might see her cry and ruin their secret.

She wouldn't let that happen.

Furiously, she wiped the wetness from her bloodshot eyes and pale face, her hand extended from her robes and latched onto the small iron knob. She mentally went over what she would scream at this intruder, but all she could come up with is a feeble, 'Why are you in the girl's bathroom?' and an enraged, 'Tom Riddle wouldn't like you seeing me like this!'

Neither would work, so she decided just to scream something random, so long as this snake-whisperer went away. Tom wouldn't want anyone to see her -she was for his eyes only. Those deep brown, possessing and burning eyes only, she thought, and whipped the door open fully.

It was his eyes that looked back at her, from where he stood by the sink, his hand stretched out and wildly swung towards her as he continued to speak in his strange, ugly language to… to a…

Yellow eyes met hers, and as the ground rushed up to meet her, her last thought before everything goes black was that she had broken their secret, and that now he would never look at her as if he loved her ever again.