Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to J. K. Rowling.
It was the hero's job to sacrifice.
The hero's job to save the world.
And save it he did, hoping against hope that with the end of the enemy, he would be able to stop making sacrifices.
But he was wrong.
It started in their Fourth Year.
The moment he saw her gliding down the stairs, he knew exactly whom his heart lay with.
Cho was forgotten and his unfortunate date became no more than an irritating gnat that he could not free himself from.
Nevertheless, he did not care about her presence, for at least he could spend the night looking from afar and contemplating how he could make her his.
For the first time in his life, he had a selfish desire...
Perhaps that was why he could never fulfil it.
The night ended disastrously. His best mate had made a mess out of everything as he was want to do. He was torn between them – understanding his mate's jealously, yet angry at him for upsetting her.
More than that, he could not help but think that there was a deeper note to his jealously.
How right that idle thought proved to be.
He was patient, extremely patient. He had his prize to claim, and it was not some silly title. He just needed the right time, the right moment, and he would make his admission.
But the right time never came.
The enemy came, and through his unwilling assistance, was brought back entirely into being. Her desperate hug upon his return, the worry and pain on her face as she saw his dreadful state calmed him, and suddenly the pain and hurt didn't seem so great. Indeed, he would draw upon in the challenging months ahead that beautiful face.
Whenever he needed inspiration...she was there.
Time passed, and slowly, he realised that he had been wrong to wait. For he was holding her in his arms – just as he always wanted, except she was weeping at her painful state.
She, like him, was enamoured. She, like him, had not professed her love. However, unlike him, the person she was pinning over was not the one currently in her arms.
His heart lanced painfully, but like a true hero, he set aside his own desires. He loved her, she was unhappy. He would do anything to change that state, and so, he did.
Time passed, and he watched her, safe and content in the love of another. He was happy – not completely happy, but happy nonetheless.
For the one he loved was happy, and he derived pleasure from her contented state. For her, he turned his attentions to the one he was now married too. For his love had whispered in his ear one day about the affections he had not realised his now wife was bestowing on him.
He hesitated, one, two, three days. He was in love. Could he transfer those affections on to another? He was not sure, but he owed it to his love to try.
Time passed, and the girl grew to love him.
And he did her, but not in the same way.
She was a beloved little sister – a perverse notion considering the things they did were in no way appropriate for 'siblings'. But there was nothing he could do. His love was happy, his love was content. And she wanted him happy – why else would she have prodded them into a relationship. More than that, his girlfriend loved him – terribly so. Hero's didn't fail the ones they loved, and so, he endured, forcing himself to change his love for her into something not platonic...
He never succeeded.
It was a selfish thought, but leaving her behind was a complete relief. Not only because he would no longer have to exaggerate his feelings for her, but because his love was with him. Yes, her boyfriend – his best friend - was with them. However, his grumpy company was easily endured. She and him were in closer contact now than they had been in months.
His best friend's departure days later was to him, a blessing in disguise. Their relationship was over, perhaps now their own could begin. However, it was a lost thought, for she did nothing but pin over him in their private moments. And as faith would have it, he returned eventually, and their relationship grew stronger than ever.
Time passed and he continued to sacrifice. Friends and family alike were lost. Laws were broken and torture endured, all as he sought to make the world a safer place for the wizarding world, and more importantly, for the one that he loved. The final battle came, and finally was hard won. But with all the praises bestowed on him, he couldn't help but feel the loss.
For even as his now wife flung her arms around his neck, and automatically he returned the embrace, he could see his love with her lips locked with the man she would eventually marry. For a moment, he felt an impulsive desire to stalk over there and pull her free from him. Reveal his feelings, and hope beyond hope that a part of her felt the same way and that she could come to love him.
But he could not do that to her, to them, not even to the girl now worming her way up to kiss him in relief and congratulations. Hero's sacrificed things, and he would sacrifice his chance for love.
Time passed and they were married. He was best man at their wedding; his love's husband returned the favour a few months later. Everyone said they were the perfect couple, and indeed, she was the best wife a person could ever hope for. To bad in actuality, for he was certain that there was a person out there who could love her in a way he could never hope to.
He saw his love almost daily.
After all, the ministry was not so large a place. Besides, they, through marriage, were a literal family now, and so, were always over at each other's place. Of course, there was the fact that his love's husband was still his best mate, and now, his partner at work. It was inevitable that their paths crossed, and he was grateful for the sight of her.
His acting skills were great.
Never a moment did anyone suspect that he saw her as anything but his other best friend. The hugs and pecks he bestowed to her were always appropriate and circumspect. And the times she launched herself at him, seating herself pertly on his knee during some random get together, his true desires from her, he never revealed.
His best mate always came to him for advice, claiming that he knew her better than he did.
Of course that was true.
When you were desperately in love with someone, you tended to know the little details about her. It was he was selected the beautiful bouquet of flowers (with a good few book catalogues shrunken and imbedded inside) that smoothed over her annoyance at her husband for breaking her favourite Arithmacy instrument. It was he who helped select her birthday gift, when his best mate had not a clue, and brushed it off with a friendly pat when he thanked him. He even kept his roughish grin in place when she appeared through the floo after every such occurrence, thanking him for ensuring that her husband didn't bring her something as terrible as a Chudley Canons vest.
Time passed, and somehow, children were born. He really did not know how to feel when he saw little ones with her features calling him Uncle. Those children should have been his; they should be calling him Father, or even better, Dad. Startling enough was the fact that he had some of his own, and similarly, he felt that she should have been Mommy and not Aunty to his last green-eyed little one who was just now managing to talk.
However, heroes sacrificed...and at least, she was happy.
Years passed and soon they were on the platform once again, waving the last of their brood off as they headed to Hogwarts. She was beside him. His arm was loosely wrapped around her waist as they chuckled at their spouses' antics as they chased each other around the train station, caring less about the public space. His best mate would never stop teasing his wife, not even if he lived to be one hundred. And she would never cease chasing him until he was in apt distance for her trademark hex.
Her hand tightened slightly on his waist, and he looked down into the face still as beautiful now as it was all the years before when he had first decided she was the one for him. Impulsively, he bent, pressing a chaste kiss to her cheek, laughing off the slightly confused look in her eye by grabbing her and spinning her twice. She rolled her eyes and rapped him gently on the arm. Really, she mock-scowled, could he not act his age for once? He grinned his roughish grin, and waggled his brows in a way that made her laugh as their spouses returned, a temporary truce decided upon.
They parted ways then, with promises to meet up the next day to celebrate their empty nests. He wrapped an arm around his wife's shoulder, kissing her warmly on the forehead as they headed down the train line. She blushed faintly, and he knew that his actions would be discussed with his love the next day. He was such a gentleman, she would claim. His actions towards her were charmingly old-fashioned. He always showed that he treasured her and treated her with sterling respect, even though so much time had passed since their wedding day. And his love would chuckle, and jokingly comment on the boorish manner of her own spouse. His wife would laugh, and state that that was what she loved about him, and his love would smile and agree.
How was he to know that he was not the only actor, and she, like him, could hide her pain? For as he and his wife disappeared out of sight, his love turned, her brown eyes flashing with disappointment as she took in his retreating back, before masking it quickly, smiling her crocked smile at her husband, and butting him lightly with her head.
It had taken her years to realise her mistake, that the man she was married to was not the one she loved. She had been young and foolish then...had never acted upon that jolt of feeling that hat shocked her at the Yule Ball when she had seen his face.
No, she had not acted upon it, had not reflected upon it. She really thought she had loved her husband, and she did, but not in the way a wife should. She had only realised that a few years ago when an auror mission had gone wrong. Running into the hospital room, with his wife and her side, it was not her own husband she had wanted to go to first, but the messy haired man on his left side. That thought had stunned her – her shock had manifested itself on her face. Luckily, her spouse thought it terror at his sad state. Even as she tended him, scolded him for getting hurt, she could not help but glance across the room and realise now, that it was him that she loved.
But it was far too late to act upon it, for too much time had passed. She had a husband, he a wife, and there were children to be considered. She loved him, but she could not have him...she did not even know if he felt the same way. She cursed herself for the pleasure she had felt at the chaste kiss he had given her earlier.
What if he had seen the truth on her face?
No, it was too late. She had a life, a good life and she could not throw it away. There was no point in ruining two families for her own selfish sake. She loved him, but could never act upon it. That was her sad fate. She, as she had been doing lately, would content herself with her husband, and make the best of things.
And, as her love lay in his bed that night, his wife huddled by his side, he looked towards the ceiling and stifled a sigh, at the weight of his sacrifice.
His wife moved up and pressed her lips to his, murmuring that this was their first night alone in weeks. He responded obediently, and prepared to do his husbandly duty toward her, doing his best not to envision the one he truly wanted as he went about the intimate act.
He would never know that miles away, in a two-storey house, the love of his life was struggling, like him, to do the same thing.
They loved each other, but it would never be. Until the end of their lives, they would be stuck in marriages that would never completely satisfy.