Zacharias sat on one of the desks, suddenly feeling very, very short. Here he was, thirteen, and he could still sit on a desk without his feet touching the ground. Anxiously, he let his gaze flit around the empty classroom. It felt like he'd already been there half an hour, where the Hell was Cedric? Zach checked his watch impatiently; it was 7:45 – he'd told Cedric 7:30, hadn't he? Yeah, yeah… he definitely had. Sure, he'd been there early, so he'd been waiting longer than he needed to, but Cedric was usually on time! Yeah, he had Triwizard stuff to attend to this year, but still! Zach had specifically told him that it was important!
And it was. And Cedric was a friend – their parents knew through the Ministry (it was Zach's "humble" opinion that Cedric's father more than needed a shave), Cedric had watched over him at large parties before (but always, somehow or other, made it fun) – and he was a Prefect; he was double obligated to show up. Especially for something important. …Okay, maybe it wasn't as important as preparing for whatever the Second Task was going to be, or studying for NEWTs (if he still had to take them), or Cho Chang…
Zach swallowed hard. Cho. Chang. That was it. That had to be why Cedric was fifteen minutes late (the clock ticked grimly; sixteen minutes late). He was seeing her again. He had to be. They were quite the item, the two of them – and, admittedly, they were a very pretty couple. He, a perfect Triwizard champion, a Quidditch captain, a Seeker, top student, and easily the most beautiful person Zach knew; she, apparently rather bright (she was a Ravenclaw, after all; she almost had to be), popular, and undoubtedly pretty for a girl – they looked nice together. Nicer than Zach and Cedric would've looked together, at any rate… but he had to get this out somewhere.
The door creaked open; Zach's head perked up instantly. Gray eyes and a smile entered the room – Cedric. Clearly remembering that what Zach needed to tell him was important, he shut the door behind him. For the first time Zach could remember, Cedric's smile looked rather strange – sad, strained, and not entirely right. But he meant it, and, for once, it was meant only for Zach. Not that Cedric said so explicitly, but Zach could tell. That smile was his.
Cedric strolled over to Zach's
desktop perch, reached out, and ruffled the younger boy's hair.
"Sorry I'm late," he said calmly. He explained, "I was going
over the clue about the Second Task with Cho and… er… well, we
sort of lost track of time until, strangest thing, Ernie came down
and said he had to take Cho to see McGonagall."
"Uh huh," Zach agreed blankly, staring at his shoes. So he was with her after all. "Real weird."
"So… what did you want to talk about?"
Zach gulped and looked up into those gray eyes; instantly, he was struck with realization: Cedric really, honestly, didn't know. How could someone so smart miss something like this? Granted, Zach had thought he was being covert in his infatuation, but there was always the chance that he hadn't been. Susan had noticed, after all, and told him to do something about it before he went completely mad with whatever it was that was eating him alive. …And Cedric, the object in the gigantic mess of a sentence, didn't even know that he was being acted upon.
Before he could think to stop himself, Zach closed his eyes and lurched forward. For one brief, shining second, he felt his lips collide with Cedric Diggory's; a charge of happiness ran through him, but it only made him more desperate, his need more pressing. The silence as he pulled away from Cedric was unbearable, the look in the gray eyes unreadable. …Oh god. He was in for it now. What had been so wrong with this, though? …But Cedric was going to kill him – he could feel it in the way the silence imposed on him, the way it made it hard for him to breathe. The space between them was small, which should've been nice, but, now, it was all too cramped and painful.
Cedric whispered; Zach wanted it to be soothing, but it only grated
against his raw, exposed nerves. "I-"
"Cedric!" Zach interjected desperately, wretchedly. "I love you!"
Cedric pulled back and stood up straight; calmly, he looked Zach up and down. Zach wrapped his fingers around the edge of the desk and felt his knuckles turn white. He only looked up when he felt Cedric's hand ruffling his hair. Surprisingly, he was met with a smile.
"You're a good kid, Zach," Cedric said with an honest smile, ruffling Zach's hair again. "Get some sleep tonight, okay?"
Zach nodded slowly and sighed to himself as Cedric left.