by Victoria P.

You stare at him in class. You can't help it. He moves with an effortless, almost predatory grace. It would be frightening if it weren't so attractive. Or maybe it is frightening, and that's part of the attraction.

You hear the whispered slurs -- weak, poor, pathetic -- but you know the truth. You figured it out months ago. You are the cleverest witch in your year, after all, and you didn't need to do an essay on werewolves to piece it together -- the moon-shaped boggart, the monthly absences. Even his name points to his nature, and you wonder if his parents knew, or if they were just tempting fate. You are suddenly grateful for your own old-fashioned, meaningless name. Nothing about it predicts your future or your fate.

You find yourself keeping his secret, wishing you could tell him you know, wishing you could share. Wishing you were older, prettier, smarter, something. Something other than a frizzy-haired thirteen-year-old witch with an embarrassing infatuation (you hope no one notices). Something that would make him pay attention. You want to tell him it doesn't matter, you don't care, you're Muggle-born and you know about the prejudice he faces; you've faced it yourself.

Instead, you hug his secret to you and watch the way he grins when he's teaching something interesting, the way he takes the time to help Neville, the way his eyes light up when he looks at Harry, as if Harry is the most precious thing he's ever seen.

You envy Harry for the first time ever, because Harry meets with him privately, is learning things that even you haven't attempted yet. And you're glad you have no need, but still, it chafes, that he knows something you don't know. Or maybe it's just that he becomes the focus of that intensity. You can feel it in class, tightly leashed, hidden behind the absent-minded professor facade.

All the professors at Hogwarts radiate controlled power, though some wear it less blatantly than others, but it's never been so fascinating as it is on him. When he takes you outdoors for lessons, the sun gilding his pale skin and shaggy brown hair, your mouth goes dry and your heart speeds up and you want nothing more than to please him, though you don't know quite what that entails. So you answer questions with your usual alacrity, you study harder than ever, in order to feel the warmth of his smile, the power of his approval.

You wish you were the object of that hidden intensity, though you will never tell. Not after the Lockhart fiasco. But Lockhart was stupid and weak. Lupin -- no, Remus (in the solitude of your own head you call him Remus and he breathes your name and kisses you) -- is strong and bright. Lockhart was a preening poodle and Remus is a sleek, powerful wolf. If anyone else had said it, you'd have groaned at the banality of the metaphor (that isn't even a metaphor in his case), but you feel the truth of it all the way down to your toes.

You can't breathe when you think about it, and at night in bed, your hands move under your nightgown, over skin that is suddenly hot and sensitive. You should be ashamed, thinking of a teacher while you... but you picture his face, fierce and intent, imagine your small hands are his, large and strong and sure. You bury your face in your pillow so your roommates won't hear the way you whimper and pant as those feelings explode inside you, leaving you weak and sleepy.

You've never believed that hearts actually break -- couldn't imagine what it must feel like -- until that night in the Shrieking Shack. He's coming to rescue you, to help you, and then, and then -- it's Lockhart all over again, except ten thousand times worse, because you believed. You kept his secret because he wasn't really a dark creature. He couldn't be. He radiated kindness and goodness and a strange mixture of danger and safety, but now he's embracing a murderer.

You can't believe you've been duped again. You can't breathe and there's a strange pain in your chest and your eyes are stinging and it's not because you're scared.

You find yourself yelling at him, all your shame and feelings of betrayal released in a shrill scream that makes them all cringe. You can't help it. You protected him, loved him, and he's been helping Voldemort.

You attack Snape. You attack a teacher. And you do it for him. Not for Harry and Ron, though you're worried about them, but even with your heart shattered into a million pieces, you have to protect him. As if he needs the protection of a half-trained thirteen-year-old witch. You're old enough to know that when you're older you'll laugh at yourself, but you cling to the hope that he never will.

You're stunned at the truths exposed in the minutes that follow; even you have a hard time keeping up with all the secrets revealed. You will never forget the tense white faces of your friends -- Ron's pain and disgust, Harry's anger and bewilderment, replaced by happiness -- and of the men who are the last remnants of Harry's true family. Sirius is blank and skeletal, only the indescribable emotions burning in his eyes tell you he's not a walking corpse. Remus is pale and joyful, disbelieving and relieved and the most beautiful man you've ever seen.

Everything after that is a blur, except the moon. You never thought of the moon as your enemy before, but suddenly you hate the cold, silvery light that's ruined everything, that turns this man you've dreamed of into a beast, and not the kind who sings Disney songs and becomes a prince with love's first kiss.

When it's all over, you wake to the news that he's leaving, and your heart breaks all over again.

Harry goes to see him, and you wish you could, too, that you had some of that fabled Gryffindor courage left after last night, but you can't, and you don't.

You watch from the window as he walks away, and you tell yourself that someday, you'll see him again. You won't be a silly, thirteen-year-old witch anymore, but a woman to be reckoned with. And you shiver in delight at the thought of that reckoning.


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