Title: Loyalty
by magique
: Harry Potter
Pairing(s): None.
Genre/Rating: Angst, Friendship/M
Word Count: 940
Summary: It's been a year since Cedric died and Zacharias is still struggling to get over it.
Warnings: Coarse language, self-harm (sort of), character death (canon), darkish themes.
Notes: From Zacharias' awful attitude in OotP I basically got the impression that he might have known Cedric really well, which lead to the idea that Cedric took Zach's year under his wing a bit. And that lead to this. Eventually.

Cedric Diggory had been perfect long before anyone really noticed him. He was the pride and joy of Hufflepuff; their shining star. Kind, loyal, fair, hardworking, brave, intelligent, handsome; a skilled seeker, a good tutor, a role model and a wonderful friend.

Zacharias had seen that from his first day at Hogwarts, when he'd nervously walked towards the table of yellow and black and Cedric had moved to give him a seat, and then proceeded to cheerfully keep him company through dinner.

He'd been the first Ernie had gone to when his grandma got sick, he'd visited Justin in the hospital wing after the Basilisk attack, and he'd stayed up all night with Hannah whenever she felt homesick through the first term; soothing her sobs until she fell asleep. He'd helped each of them with homework more times than any could count, remembered their timetables and congratulated them on every well-done test.

Cedric had been Zacharias' inspiration and his friend and the closest thing to an older brother he'd ever had. And Zacharias had been ecstatic when Cedric's name had come out of the Goblet of Fire, and so excited for him when it looked like he would win.

And now he was dead.

Zacharias pressed his head against the brick wall beside him and let out a rush of cold, angry air. It had been a year since Cedric's death. A whole year. And everyone was moving on.

Right after his death Zacharias' year group had notably tightened. They'd started sitting closer together, always touching; searching out the warmth of familiar human contact to ensure they were not alone. Susan would often curl up against Zacharias on the couch to do her homework, and Hannah would reach for his hand under the table at meals. Sometimes the three boys of the group would find excuses to talk together on a bed late into the night, until they were too exhausted to move, just so they didn't have to sleep alone. But the others had slowly stopped and Zacharias found himself reaching out and finding nothing, because their grief had dissipated and his hadn't.

And the only comfort he wanted was Cedric, but Cedric was gone.

Maybe he could accept that if he just knew how. If he knew what had happened so he could mourn properly, but stupid, selfish, fucking Potter had refused to talk. God, Cedric deserved better than to have died with only that pillock beside him. He should have been surrounded by loved ones.

He should have lived so much longer.

He'd wanted a family, Zacharias suddenly remembered, his hands curling into fists and his eyes stinging.

("I'd like that," he'd said, soft and smiling. "The full deal; kids, a pretty wife. What about you, Zach?")

(Zacharias' face twisted into grumpy twelve-year-old defiance. "Ugh, not me—girls are crazy. You'd be a great dad though.")

Zacharias still believed that. Cedric would have been a great dad. And he'd fucking deserved to be one. The white picket fence and the dog and the kids and the wife and the happily ever after. If anyone ever deserved those things, Cedric did.

And now he'd never have that chance and that wasn't fair. Nothing was fair. Nothing in this goddamn world was fair and that wasn't fucking fair either.

That was why he'd joined Potter's dumb club. To make it right, to find out who killed Cedric Diggory and make them pay. But Potter wouldn't say shit, and he'd stayed anyway because, God, if he couldn't get justice directly, he'd at least get the closest thing to it.

And once that was done he'd stop shoving back the little voice that kept telling him that Cedric wouldn't want that, wouldn't want anyone else to die or suffer or for Zacharias to risk his life and maybe join him wherever he was way too soon. Zacharias was loyal, damnit; and loyal to a fucking fault when he found someone deserving of it. He couldn't feel satisfied until he'd wiped out the closest people he could get to the murderer. Or die trying.

He was scared of death, fucking terrified. He'd started having nightmares about it and sometimes he was himself, sometimes he was Cedric, sometimes he was Potter. Sometimes he was a killer and sometimes he was killed and sometimes he just watched; watched and did nothing because he could do nothing. That was the worst. Just watching. Seeing Cedric or Susan or Justin or Ernie or Hannah or one of his other friends fall. Seeing them die and just—being frozen. Trying to run forward to stop it and failing.

He squeezed his eyes shut and lashed out, slamming a fist sideways against the wall and then gasping. Oh, God, he thought and did it again. Fu—fucking shit. Pain lanced through his hand again and he brought it to his face.

Scrapes from the rough wall and blood and stinging pain. And it left him wanting fucking more, because it was so different to the tight heaviness in his chest and it relieved it, just a little; just enough to distract him from it. Distract him from that and from Cedric enough to let him keep going. Enough so he'd last until he could fix it and fix it for Cedric.

Zacharias was no Gryffindor, but his own brand of bravery came from loyalty. Cedric needed justice, needed to be avenged, even if he wouldn't want it, so Zacharias would do whatever it took. Maybe then he could move on like everyone else had. Maybe then the dreams would stop.

And maybe then he could feel light again.