Zach had been fifteen for almost a week and still the thought of what he'd done made him ill. It wasn't even that he'd done something wrong – well, maybe he had; he couldn't be too sure… but confessing undying love for an older, straight boy, who had a girlfriend he really seemed to love… well, it was probably up there with, "taking Susan to the Yule Ball so she wouldn't be alone, and then having a miserable time anyway" on the list of Horrible Things He'd Done. And sending Cedric a letter, even at Susan's advice… well, that probably beat everything else out by a fairly large margin. He'd been going mad about it all week. Somehow or other, he knew that Cedric had gotten it… but it had been a week already and Cedric hadn't said or done anything differently than normal, aside from avoiding Zach. At least it seemed like he was avoiding him.
And he had all good reason to, really. Zach wasn't going to blame him, at least. Maybe Susan would, if he told her that he thought Cedric was avoiding him, but, then again, she was just as likely to be reasonable and tell him that Cedric was probably just confused – which was wholly understandable. After all, it wasn't every day in the life of Cedric Diggory that you got told by another bloke that he fancied you, even though you had a girlfriend. And, even if there weren't the important factor of Cho Bloody Chang, Cedric was still a Triwizard Champion, and he still had bigger, more important things to think about than a stupid boy with a stupid crush.
With a sigh, Zach looked up at Susan from the dinner he was mostly just poking at; she gave him one of her worried little half-smiles, as if to say, "Come on. We'll get through this. And it's probably not as bad as you think." Of course she was worried, even though he wished that she wouldn't be.
"Zach," she started.
But, before she could get too far, she was cut off. Suddenly, Zach felt a presence behind him and a large, calm hand on his shoulder. A couple feet above his head, the calm, soothing voice of Cedric Diggory said:
"I'm sorry for interrupting, Susan, but… this is
rather important." He leaned down, closer to Zach's ear. "Zach,
could I have a word?"
Petrified, Zach looked to Susan for any sort of guidance; she just nodded in the, "Don't pass this up!" way. "Er… sure?" he said warily.
"Good," Cedric said. "Come on… I think we need a little more privacy."
Zach gave one last look to Susan, then got up and followed Cedric to a deserted corridor. …Oh god, Cedric was going to kill him. Okay, he didn't seem mad, but… did Cedric ever seem mad? Zach swallowed hard on… something and felt his face turning bright red. Here this was, the last thing he needed to be worried about, and he was still being forced to deal with it, and it was coming from the last person who deserved to be with him, and… and he was hugging Zach. Somehow, while Zach had been thinking, Cedric had decided to hug him… it was nice, but he didn't have to… but he was… and then he separated, and pulled Zach's letter out of his pocket.
my god…" Zach whimpered before Cedric could say anything.
"Okay, so you did send it," Cedric sighed.
"Uh huh…" was all Zach could manage.
"Well… I … I'm probably going to be the bad guy on this one…"
"Well… I know I really didn't handle this that well the first time…"
"No, no, I sprung it on you, and you didn't know, and-"
"No, Zach, I really didn't handle it well. I was caught off-guard, and I wasn't thinking about how you felt, and I'm really sorry."
…How could anyone not love him? Zach didn't need to look at Cedric to see that he was honest.
"And I… I'm sorry… but… I
don't really fancy blokes-"
"And you love Chang-"
"Well… she's the one you'd miss most, right? Second Task…"
"Well… yeah, I love Cho… but, even if I didn't… I mean, I'd still have to let you down, and you're a friend, and I care about you so I really don't want to upset you-"
"No, no, really, it's fine-"
"Zach, please don't be flippant about this. I know you'd like me to think that it's not a big deal, but… you're feeling it, and I care about you, so it's a big deal to me. Okay? I just… wanted to apologize for the first time, and then for having to let you down, and I… is there anything I can do to make it up to you?"
Dumbfounded, Zach stared up at Cedric for what seemed like hours. Finally, he managed, "Could… could I kiss you again?"
Cedric blushed a bit, but nodded. "Sure."
"You probably just want me to get it over with, and I totally understand, and-"
Cedric tucked a bit of hair behind Zach's ear and whispered, "Take your time."
The kiss… was a total blur of sensation. Cedric pushed Zach's hair back, their lips met, Zach felt light-headed… and then it was over. And Cedric had his hand on Zach's shoulder, and…
"You'll make someone really happy someday, Zach," Cedric whispered.