a/n: for Aly (TamariChan) on Day 3 of my advent calendar, who requested a Lucy Weasley/Zacharias Smith fic and wow well obviously cross-gen I am 900% delighted about this.
Also sorry it took a different direction to what I was expecting. Warning for swearing, implications of sex, conflict between Christianity and atheism.
He finds her fast asleep on the back pew of the local church, her face hidden against her arms and her hair fanned out around her, Madonna in auro.
"Jesus, Lucy," he says loudly, placing a hand down on the wood so forcefully that she leaps instantly into wakefulness, blinking rapidly as her eyes struggle to adjust to the light. Her hand flies to her throat the moment she realises who has woken her, fingers scrabbling for the cross that rests there.
"Don't use His name like that," she admonishes softly, and he just rolls his eyes and takes her forcefully by the wrist, dragging her out from the row and into the aisle.
"Lucy," he says firmly as he steers her out of the building, ignoring the looks and mutters from the faithful nearby, "You've got to quit this. It's ridiculous. You're wasting your life. This is fantasy, this is—"
"Faith, Zacharias," she interrupts gently, making no move to resist as he wraps an arm around her to apparate them away. "It's faith."
Back at his apartment, she makes an incongruous picture. Small and pale and dressed plainly, the only bit of her that looks like it belongs is the long golden sheet of her hair. Zacharias is greed, is all the material world in human form; the antithesis of protestant little Lucy in her meek little dress.
She takes a seat delicately on the edge of his sofa, looking like she doesn't quite dare to touch anything for fear of what it could do to her soul.
"You need to stop this, Zacharias," she tells him with no real urgency, her hands folded into her lap, "It's not right."
"I don't give two fucks about what's right," Zacharias says as he loosens his tie and pours himself two fingers of whiskey, the amber liquid sloshing angrily into the glass. If he stopped to think about it, he'd find it faintly absurd that the girl is lecturing the grown man on proper behaviour.
"My mother—" she begins, but Zacharias cuts her off before she can even begin to form the thought on her tongue.
"Your mother is responsible for this," he informs her in a low growl, picking the tumbler of whiskey off the side in one controlled, angry movement. He prowls towards her, tigris ad prædum, and her lips begin to move rapidly, Ave Maria, gratia plena, like he is going to hurt her and this is all she has to ward him off.
"Christ, Lucy," he groans, collapsing onto the sofa beside her, "What is the matter with you?"
He goes to her house at ten, face crumpled now, whiskey decanter empty. He opens the door with a simple bit of magic, appalled how exposed she leaves herself. He finds her in her bedroom. She is on her knees in her old-fashioned white nightdress, hands clasped together in front of her, eyes closed, blonde lashes fanning onto pale cheeks. He thinks he'd tear down the entire kingdom of God to see colour in her skin again.
When he speaks it seems far too loud in the otherwise still building, and her prayers form a running undercurrent to his words, oddly harmonic.
"Lucy, look, I know I promised your Dad," Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, "And we were friends so long, back since we started working together," ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, "But I can't take this anymore. I can't watch you do this, just… throw your life away on an imaginary god." et in hora mortis nostrae, "I think… I just—Lucy, look. I don't… I'm terrified for you."
He wouldn't say it if reality didn't feel a million miles away, if it didn't seem like this small room in a small corner of the world had been removed from time entirely so there was just him and her and millennia around them.
Her voice breaks on the Amen, and she turns so slowly that it's almost hypnotising. He watches her, a world away, take four deep breaths before she answers.
"Fear," she says, and her voice wavers on the vowel, "Don't be afraid, Zacharias. God is good."
He doesn't move closer. He doesn't even shake his head. He just smiles, quickly and quietly, and thinks that he's been sadder than this before, but not much.
"No, Lucy," he replies, and then he turns and walks away.
He reads twelve books on teenage girls but not one tells him what to do when the child of a dearly departed friend delves so deep into religion you feel you'll lose her any day. So he steels his pride (he promised Percy eight years ago; no matter what happens, I promise she'll be okay) and he goes to see a priest.
"It's consuming her," he tells the man, unable to call him father, "I can't do anything except watch her slip away."
"She is going to her God," the priest replies, and Zacharias damns himself for eternity by punching a cleric on the nose in a church. The last man who said that, see, said it so condescendingly, so matter-of-factly, and all Zacharias remembers is Lucy screaming so sharply he thought the world was breaking apart as the last breath left her mother's body.
He tries a psychiatrist too, but the woman just tells him that Lucy is grieving, and that faith is not a disease.
"But it's stopping her from living," Zacharias protests furiously, and storms out so fast the psychiatrist can't find time to answer.
Deadened by the whole thing, Zacharias gives up. He goes to work, picks up women in bars to take his mind off the pale pink curve of Lucy's lips, checks up on her as often as possible and sings Ave Maria to himself in his flat when he gets drunk.
She finds him thus one evening. He is thundering through the third line when he becomes aware of a breeze against his bare back, and he whirls with "ventris tui" dying on his lips.
She just stands there in the doorway, spare key between delicate fingers, cerva in venatoria obtutum. Unsure quite what to do, Zacharias just stands there, hoping in a distracted kind of way that his being shirtless doesn't scare her or something. Her eyes flicker downwards, and she is not quick enough to hide the flash of longing that darkens them. Sancta Lucia, yes, but his job requires the height of physical fitness and his body reflects that. Even Vestal Virgins were allowed to admire physique, he supposes.
"Can I help you?" he asks, in a tone that is harsher than he tends to use with her, even when deploring her faith.
"You should be in a choir," is the response that comes after a long silence, her weight shifting from foot to foot, "You have a wonderful voice."
"Yeah, okay," he exhales, lacking even the energy to be sarcastic. Flinging himself down onto his sofa, he doesn't look at her. He still knows when she enters properly, though, closing the door behind her and coming to stand close to him, closer than is customary.
"I need your help," she breathes, and her fingers whisper across his collarbone, dart down to the white scar above his breast, "I'm—I'm lost, Zacharias. I feel like I might just float away and nobody would notice until it was too late."
His voice is too low when he replies, "I'd notice."
Before he can quite work out how, her face is too close and her mouth is pressing against his, hot and desperate. He breaks away in utter shock, staring up at her, hoping his expression of horror is enough to distract her from the unmistakeable pleasure his body is treacherously displaying.
His mind is screaming, Sancta Lucia, intemerata Lucia, Percy's daughter, but all his body can consider is the porcelain pale beauty of her face, of the smoothness of the shoulder revealed by the fall of her dress, of the curve of her hips beneath his traitorous hands.
"I can't help it," she sobs, and he's been too distracted to notice that she's crying, "I can't help it, I know you're Dad's friend, and I'm sinning, and you're old but I love you, I can't help it, I love you, I love you, I love you. I've prayed every night for three years that God helps me stop but He didn't, He wouldn't, He couldn't and I love you."
His hands are still hard on her hips, and he must be bruising her there but she's peppering kisses across his face, her hair like silk against his bare chest, and between the alcohol and all the sensations he doesn't have time to react the right way.
"This is a horrible idea," he tells her as he pulls her down into his lap, her thighs squeezing on either side of his as she gasps, and he wants to stop right now but, oh God, her cheeks are flushing red and the colour is so pretty, back after being absent so long, that all he can do is attach his lips to hers with a groan that is halfway between despair and desire.
He carries her into the bath afterwards, running the water so hot the bathroom steams up and her skin goes bright pink. It becomes her so alarmingly that he threatens to lock her up in here forever. They wash together, his hands gentle over the ache between her thighs, and his regret is so palpable as the water turns lightly pink to match her skin that she twists awkwardly to fasten her mouth to his, kissing away his guilt.
"Please, Zacharias," she murmurs, resting her brow against his and gazing steadily into his eyes, "I didn't want it to be anybody else for my first time. Not my first or my last or any number in between."
He can barely hold her gaze for any time at all. All he can think about is how disappointed Percy would be, how he promised to take care of Lucy and all he has done is ruin her, spoil her, defile her.
"I need you," she whispers to the outside of his eyelids, "Don't run away from me, please, please, not now. I can't lose you, Zacharias. You're the only one who understands."
Zacharias sighs and pulls her back around gently to rest against him, her spine warm against the front of his body, her long hair damp and clinging to them both. His arms go around her and he thinks that the problem will not be leaving her—it will be trying to do the right thing and let her go.
The next morning he wakes up next to her, her head soft on his chest, and thinks that it's almost embarrassing how much he likes it there, likes the supine curve of her body against the side of his.
"It's not terrifying," she tells him later that day when he confesses to being horrified by how little time it took to realise that he's lost his heart to her (or lost it, rather, lost it long enough ago to be shameful), "It's perfect. It's God's will, His choice, meum corculum."
"It's not God's fucking choice," Zacharias says with such exasperation that Lucy actually laughs, "It's mine. My own."
"Okay, okay," she gentles, caressing his cheek fondly, smiling so widely that Zacharias feels his heart might be light enough to break out from his ribs. He's still caught somewhere between guilt and ecstasy, but the look on her face is enough to make him think that maybe, maybe, for perhaps the first time in his life, he's made the right choice.