Title: Seen a Good Man Sin
Pairing: Cedric Diggory/Zacharias Smith
Warning: Hufflepuffs. Character death.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 4700 words
Summary: If you claim you've never seen a good man sin, Zacharias Smith thinks you're full of shit.
Dedication: To nqdonne. Happy birthday. ♥ I hope you like it. >.>
Beta: None really, but pikacharma channelled Peeves for me, and she, pixies, evilsource, and imadra_blue all generously put up with my flailing.
Note: Um. This is weird. And conclusive proof that I can't write PWP to save my life.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Seen a Good Man Sin
It wasn't about sex.
Not at first, anyway. At first, there was just a gloomy lake and an unsteady boat Zacharias was sure would tip over if he moved even a little finger. The boy from Madam Malkin's -- the one who'd been talking to Harry Potter -- was a few boats away, his pale face tilted towards the castle looming ahead. He, too, sat very still.
"Imagine being in Hufflepuff. I think I'd leave. Wouldn't you?"
Zach knew he'd be in Hufflepuff. His entire family had been Hufflepuffs -- they were distantly descended from Helga herself, after all. It had always been a point of pride with him. He could think of no better qualities than loyalty, steadfastness, perseverance, and industry. Those were the things that moved mountains, his father always told him -- the Slytherins hatched plots, the Ravenclaws thought things through, the Gryffindors fought battles, but it was the Hufflepuffs of this world who made the fruits of everyone's labour endure, who made the world as it was.
There was, of course, the other interpretation of Helga's ultimate justice -- taking everyone who wasn't wanted by the other houses, but Darius Smith had refused to discuss such idiocy with his son or anyone else.
You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffs are true
And unafraid of toil--
As he pulled the Sorting Hat low over his eyes, Zach heard it murmur, "How like your father." There was a pause, and then the hat shouted, "HUFFLEPUFF!"
Relieved, yet oddly apprehensive, Zach made his way to the Hufflepuff table, where everyone was shouting and clapping as he occupied the first bit of available bench space, next to an older boy who smiled at him.
"I'm Cedric," said the boy, extending his hand. "Cedric Diggory." His voice, which had started out deep, was high-pitched as Zach's when he finished speaking. A flush crept across his cheeks and Zach grinned back. "Zacharias Smith," he said, shaking Cedric's hand. "Zach, really."
As Zach whiled away the days of his first summer away from Hogwarts, he wondered at how much he wanted to go back. He had friends at Hogwarts: Hannah and Ernie and Justin and Alfred. Even Cedric, though usually busy with the kids from his own year, often stopped to chat with Zach, just as Becky Jensen took an interest in Hannah and Elphias Winchester adopted Ernie. Mentors, they were called -- an unofficial Hufflepuff house tradition for hundreds of years. No other house had them, because no other house really understood what it meant to work together.
The Smith family home was filled with watchful portraits and five hundred years of history, but it no longer felt as much like home as the Hufflepuff common room with its cheerful yellow hangings and armchairs soft enough to drown in.
"I want to go back to Hogwarts, Father. I think I might like it better than home. Is that disloyal?" Zach asked his father one evening over pound cake.
Darius allowed a rare smile. "Not at all," he said. "You do not betray your family by making friends, Zacharias."
Zach's mother smiled at the two of them without a word. They had been Zach's life before Hogwarts, but now there were also Hannah and Justin and Cedric, as if his life were stretching to let them in.
"Congratulations," said Cedric, walking alongside Zach as they made their way back to the common room after the Quidditch tryouts.
"Thanks," said Zach, still feeling like he floated, borne by only his elation at making the team. A Chaser, making the team in third year just like his father had done. He looked up at Cedric, who seemed so much taller than in first year; Zach wondered if he was ever going to catch up to him. Cedric glanced down at the same time, and the look in his eyes warmed Zach in a way he'd never felt before. He looked away hastily, colouring a bit. It was almost the same as, well, fancying a girl, but Cedric wasn't a girl.
Hannah, who had missed tryouts because she had promised to help her first-year with homework, bounded towards Zach as he climbed through the common room door. "Well?" she asked, her expression eager.
"You're looking at Hufflepuff's newest Chaser," said Cedric, clapping an arm round Zach's shoulders.
"Brilliant!" called Ernie from his perch by the fireplace.
Zach only grinned. The warmth of Cedric's arm round his shoulders didn't seem to want to dissipate long after he'd changed into his pyjamas and went to bed.
He was different from the other boys.
Zach knew it now, in fourth year, because for all that Justin's and Ernie's eyes strayed to Hannah's no-longer-flat chest, he only had eyes for Cedric Diggory. His heart beat differently when Cedric was in the room, his voice got louder and cracked more often, and his embarrassing erections became far less random and far more likely to happen when Cedric was close to him. As September departed, Zach was painfully aware that he no longer hero-worshipped Cedric the way he had as a little boy. It was something more physical and infinitely terrifying.
When Dumbledore pulled Cedric's name out of the Goblet of Fire, and every Hufflepuffs screamed and stamped and applauded, Zach watched Cedric make his way up to the teachers' table and though he, too, was cheering and clapping with the others, he wanted to be there when Cedric arrived in the Champions' chamber, to kiss him. He wanted it so badly his jaw ached from it, and then came cold dread that had nothing to do with Harry Potter's name emerging from the Goblet of Fire.
Zach became withdrawn as the Triwizard Tournament progressed. He wore a Support Cedric Diggory badge and made all the right noises at that interfering git Potter, but inside he was numb with what he felt, with what he wanted from Cedric. And it had to be Cedric. Nobody else. Hannah seemed to suspect something was off about him, because she took up a habit of lingering in the common room long after everyone else went to bed.
"Zach?" she asked one night, her voice small and tentative.
Zach didn't look up from his Potions essay. "Hmm?"
"Is something the matter?"
Zach stared at the page. He'd written Diggory instead of dittany. "Nothing," he said. "What makes you think something's the matter?"
"You've been awfully quiet lately," she said. There was no accusation in her voice, no implication that he ought not to have been quiet. That was probably what kept Zach from telling her everything -- knowing that even if he did, she would still accept him, because they were Hufflepuffs. They knew how to face anything. He didn't want anyone to accept him, however, because he didn't want to accept himself. Not like this.
"Loads of homework, that's all," he said, attempting a grin. "And the Triwizard Tournament--"
Hannah nodded. "It's awful, what they make them do, isn't it? Dragons and hostile Merpeople…"
Zach didn't want to think about Cedric and the dragon. He had come so close to death, and that had made Zach realise that Cedric might die without ever knowing… without ever guessing… The idea was at the same time repulsive and welcome. A part of him wanted Cedric to know. Another part of him was terrified of what Cedric would do if he knew. He would probably be kind about it, that much was certain. But Zach knew Cedric would never feel the same way about him -- Cho Chang had seen to that. Cho and Cedric were rarely seen apart from each other lately, except in the common room. Even there, Cedric often wore the dreamy expression of a Stunned troll.
On the evening of the third task, Zach was making his way down to the Great Hall for the feast when Cho rushed past. "Where's Cedric?" called Zach without thinking, even though he knew the answer perfectly well.
Cho looked round at him. "I don't know," she said, catching her breath. "I thought he was in the Great Hall already."
"Thanks anyway," said Zach, and watched her disappear around the corner.
Peeves drifted past him. Spotting Zacharias, he cackled. "Hufflepuff!" and declaimed with gusto:
It stinks to be a Hufflepuff,
Because they all die virgins!
A chewed-up wad of paper sailed past Zach's head as he hurried away.
Cedric had been in the common room, hiding from his parents. If Zach hurried, he might still catch him. He wasn't going to do anything stupid, but he wanted to wish him good luck, without the rest of the house staring, without Cho hanging off Cedric's arm.
Halfway to the common room, he collided with Cedric, who wore a harried look. "Hey," he said, breathing a sigh of relief as Zach lifted his head.
And his voice, low and breathless, his eyes, guilty as a little boy's, the warmth of his body, so wonderfully solid, all pulled at Zach until he realised he had his arms round Cedric's neck and was kissing him, not even knowing what he was doing because he'd never kissed anyone before, but he knew the theory, didn't he, he knew what to do because this was Cedric, and finally, and oh, but Cedric definitely wasn't supposed to be kissing him back. The shock of what he was doing went through Zach like a lightning bolt, and he sprang backwards, terrified, panting, his pants uncomfortably tight.
Cedric looked as though seeing Zach for the first time in his life, a look of wonder on his face as he raised his fingers to his mouth.
"I'm sorry," said Zach quickly, "I-- I wasn't thinking. I just wanted to say good luck--"
A veil seemed to lift away from Cedric's eyes as alertness bled back into them. "Um," he said, blinking. "That was--"
"Nothing," said Zach. "Good luck." He ran back towards the Great Hall, more embarrassed than he'd ever been in his life.
A few hours later, he was staring across a lawn as Mr Diggory crouched, sobbing, over his son's dead body. All thought, all awareness had been stripped from Zach, roiling black and dire behind a wall that he could never penetrate.
Over the summer, Zach's world constricted around him. He did not want to go back to Hogwarts. He did not want to see his friends; their presence was linked inextricably with memories of Cedric, who was dead, buried somewhere Zach could never visit. His parents' voices seemed to echo whenever they spoke to him, as though calling from the bottom of a deep well. When it was time to go back to Hogwarts, Zach put on his most dutiful face and went, but he ignored his friends at Platform Nine and Three Quarters, and he shared a compartment with a couple of first-years who chattered excitedly as they pointed at the passing countryside. Zach wanted to rage at them but he kept silent, closing his eyes and not waking up until it was time to board the carriages outside Hogsmeade station.
He continued to ignore his friends -- former friends, really; they all simpered and tsked over Cho Chang's grief, completely unaware that their own friend and housemate was grieving just as much, if not worse. They wouldn't care, he guessed, even if they did know. What was it to them that Zach Smith was a poofter, a shirt-lifting fairy who wanted to cry over Cedric Diggory but couldn't because he had no right to grieve as Cho Chang did.
Tears stood in Hannah's eyes. "What's happened to you? It's like you're a different person!"
"Maybe I am," Zach told her, and walked away, leaving her standing there with her Potions notes still open.
She had asked to borrow Zach's notes because she'd missed Snape's explanation, and Zach had just told her that if she was too stupid to pay attention in class, maybe she should give up on Potions altogether.
Maybe he was a different person. What was the point of being loyal when everyone else betrayed you and left you in the cold? What was the point of working hard when someone else would come along and smash everything you've worked for, then go on without a glance back? What was the value of justice when Cedric lay buried whilst his murderer walked free?
If it hadn't been for Harry Potter, Cedric would have lived. Whether You-Know-Who was back or not didn't interest Zach in the slightest. Harry Potter had dragged Cedric to danger, knowing full well that Cedric did not have any special protection, that Cedric could not survive the Killing Curse. As far as Zach was concerned, that made him a murderer.
Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy.
"I reckon we can learn Defence from Harry," said Hermione Granger to Hannah, in an undertone. Ernie leaned closer, and so did Zach. Granger dropped her voice, but he could tell she knew it was too late.
"I'll come too," he said loudly. "I want to hear his side of the story."
But of course Potter had refused to talk about what had happened. Of course he did. Wouldn't want to muck up his agenda by admitting that he was responsible for Cedric's death. Zach continued attending the DA meetings and kept the secret, hoping for Potter to slip, to mention something, to expose himself for what he was. Over time, Zach realised that perhaps he'd been wrong about Potter -- maybe he wasn't a murderer. But he had let Cedric die for him, and Zach would never forget that.
When the DA members were caught and punished, Darius Smith made it clear that he did not want Zach associating with their ilk.
"Dumbledore's favouring of Potter puts the whole school in danger," he bellowed. "You will stay away from the boy and his friends, and that's that."
Zach didn't mind. His barely suppressed hostility towards Potter eventually made his former friends give him up as a bad job, but Zach didn't care. His world had collapsed with Cedric's death, and there was no more room in it for anyone but himself.
"Just as I always suspected," said Darius Smith as he escorted Zach out of Hogwarts on the day after Dumbledore's death, "He put you all in terrible danger. Good riddance to bad rubbish."
Zach didn't care about Dumbledore. He didn't care about much of anything, anymore. His daily life was a series of meaningless tasks he carried out just because he didn't know what else to do, and he lacked the courage to end it all. He was a Hufflepuff, not a Gryffindor. He was supposed to keep going. And he would.
Remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave, because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort.
Zach remembered all too well what happened last time Potter faced You-Know-Who. Now that the whole school -- except the Slytherins -- were so intent on taking Cedric's place as human shields, Zach wasn't going to be a part of it. Stay and fight? What a laugh. Potter was the only one who could fight You-Know-Who, and it didn't look like he was going to even try. He would let everyone die first, because Gryffindor or not, Potter was not an idiot.
He threw people out of his way as he hurried towards the exit. He would not stay and watch anyone else die for Harry Potter. He felt sure that Potter would send them out one by one to duel You-Know-Who. A crazy, jabbering voice in the back of his head told him that the DA really were just human shields Potter had been training up to take his place in the final battle.
And as Zach sat, numb, in the Smith sitting room, safely away from the thrice-cursed school, another voice suddenly spoke up inside his head, clear and steady. "Are you mental?"
It was Cedric's voice, and for a wild-eyed second, Zach looked round, half-expecting Cedric to be sitting in his father's chair, dressed in his Quidditch robes. The sitting room was empty, however; his parents were sound asleep in their bedroom upstairs, unaware that their son had returned from school.
"I haven't got much time," the voice continued, "he might drop the Stone at any moment, but if you think you're doing the right thing by acting like a snivelling coward, you'd better think again."
"What stone?" asked Zach stupidly. "Who's he? Are you really you?"
"Shut up and listen to me. You're not yourself. You haven't been since I died--"
"Of course I haven't been!" Zach burst out, his voice jarring in the silence. He had finally gone crazy and was having conversations with dead people inside his head. Well, it was better than the loneliness. "You-- he killed you!"
"He didn't kill you!" said Cedric, and there was real anger there now, of a sort Zach didn't think Cedric was capable of. "Did you think you were honouring my memory by being a tit to everyone?"
Zach remembered the veil lifting from Cedric's eyes that night before the third task, after Zach had kissed him, and it felt as though his own eyes cleared.
He saw Hannah's tears after he'd called her stupid, and Ernie's confusion after he'd called him a useless lump, and Justin's hurt at 'Mudblood'. He had wanted to hurt them all, had felt like they'd deserved it. Cedric's presence in his head laid bare his reasons -- guilt and shame and grief writhing together in a grotesque shape that drove all compassion, all fairness, all kindness from him, leaving him bitter, resentful, and angry without a real source for any of it, without any outlet but those who surrounded him. He had been horrible to them all, so horrible -- worse than a Slytherin. How had they not murdered him?
"Because they're Hufflepuffs," said Cedric, and vanished from Zach's head.
"Wait!" called Zach, but there was only silence.
An eerie calm settled over Zach's mind as he made his way upstairs. Somewhere in the back of his mind, guilt took up permanent residence as he catalogued all the things he'd done, all the people he'd wronged since Cedric's death had sent him off course. But he was barely aware of it; he knew that the remorse would come, later, and so would the tears he'd never shed. He roused his parents and told them to dress, to come with him, because Hogwarts was being attacked.
"I thought I told you to stay out of Dumbledore's Army!" his father bellowed.
"Dumbledore is dead!" Zach yelled back. "And Mother will die, too, if You-Know-- if Voldemort wins! You can't keep her hidden forever!"
The Smiths mingled with the parents of the other Hogwarts defenders, with the residents of Hogsmeade rushing up the steps to the school amidst the chaos of stampeding centaurs and roaring giants. Zach didn't think any of his friends saw him; he Disarmed a Death Eater charging at Hannah, but she was too busy fighting off another one to notice who had saved her. And it didn't matter if they saw him or not, he realised, and stopped, quite suddenly, as though a battle weren't raging around him. What mattered that he knew he was here, and that he'd found himself again after years of being locked inside his own head and pretending like nothing else existed.
Remember Cedric Diggory.
There was a flash of green, and a distant scream.
Everything was made of glass. High columns of it rose all around Zach, and he leaned up on this elbows, squinting at the pale light inside the nearest column. As he watched, the glass melted, flowed over itself and reformed into a gnarled tree with sprawling branches heavy with spring leaves. Cedric stared at him from one of the branches.
"Took you long enough to get here," he said. "I was beginning to think you'd end up at that other place."
"What other place?" asked Zach, sitting up. Cedric.
"Never mind." Cedric jumped down from the tree and landed on his feet next to Zach, onto glass-turned-sward.
He was Cedric, and he wasn't. "You look different," Zach said. "Older."
"I've always been older than you, haven't I?"
"Yeah, but... you died when you were seventeen. How can you look older?"
"Time is different here," said Cedric, gesturing at the grassy plain around them.
The trees had vanished whilst Zach was looking at Cedric. Talking to him. "Cedric?"
"We're both dead, aren't we?"
"Well, yeah, that's the idea. Though I'm glad you waited to die until after you stopped being a complete wanker."
"I didn't want to die," said Zach, trying to remember how it had happened. Hannah had been there, Hannah Abbott. His friend.
"Neither did I," said Cedric. "I don't think anyone does."
"Potter might," said Zach, glancing over his shoulder, half expecting to see the battle at Hogwarts. To his amazement, he did see it. Potter and You-Know-Who were circling each other in the Great Hall. The image blurred a bit, like Great-Aunt Hepzibah's photograph after Mother accidentally spilled eggnog on it. He snapped his head back to look at Cedric. "Can you--"
"See what you just did? Not unless you tell me what you were looking at."
"Hogwarts," said Zach. "Potter is fighting You-Know-Who."
Cedric's eyes focussed on a point beyond Zach's shoulder, and Zach looked again. Potter was talking, but his words were faint, like whispers of a northern wind. The two boys watched the duel, saw Potter cry out, the muted flashes of light, saw You-Know-Who slumped to the ground, defeated.
"He did it," whispered Zach.
"I knew he would," said Cedric with unmistakable pride. "You should've seen all the stuff he's been up to this year."
"Too bad I didn't know how much fun it was here," muttered Zach. "Would've died ages ago."
Cedric gave him a sceptical look. "That wasn't funny."
"Sorry." Zach hid his hands behind his back and glanced around. Clouds were beginning to drift across the pale blue sky. "What is this place, anyway? Where are we? Is this the afterlife, then?"
"Sort of," said Cedric with the vague, irritating expression of someone who knew a lot but wasn't going to tell you any of it. "It's hard to explain unless you've been here for a while."
"What were the glass columns?" asked Zach. He thought he could see something tall glinting in the distance, but he couldn't be sure.
Cedric turned to him. "What glass columns?"
"The ones that were here before you showed up."
"I didn't see any columns," said Cedric with a shrug. "This world is a reflection of yours. You know, through the looking glass? Sort of." He furrowed his brow. "But not really."
"All right, fine," muttered Zach. "If all you can say is "almost" and "sort of" and can't even explain how you managed to age, then don't bother. I suppose I'll work it out for myself eventually."
"Things never change in general but they change in particular," said Cedric. Zach realised, with a sudden rush of anguish, that they were almost of a height. Cedric continued, not looking at him. "I was older than you when we were alive, and I'm older than you when we're dead. When my parents die, they'll see me as they saw me last."
"So... you aren't real?" asked Zach, uncomprehending.
"Define 'real'," countered Cedric. "We're both dead, for example. Strictly speaking, we don't exist."
Zach looked at him. Cedric wore the clothes he had died in, and he looked as solid as the tree that once more loomed behind him. A light wind ruffled his hair, his eyes were bright in the light of the unseen sun, and his cheeks bore a faint flush, palest pink. Zach felt a prickly, cold sensation creep across his own face, completely unlike the heat of blushing. Cedric stepped closer.
"What happened before the third task," he said, voice somewhat unsteady. "Why did you run away?"
"I--" Zach looked at him, unable to find words. Apparently, being dead didn't make expressing things any easier. "It wasn't the time or the place, I suppose. What about you? Why did you--"
"Kiss you back? I wanted to," said Cedric. "Weird, isn't it?"
Zach gave a shaky laugh. "Yeah. Weird."
But there was no confusion when Cedric kissed him, no woozy half-coherence. There was definitely something happening to Zach's cock, which ought to have been impossible. He had no body, yet he could feel Cedric's touch. Every inch of him responded to it, icy shivers across his skin, his cock swelling rapidly as Cedric moved his mouth to Zach's neck, trailing icy wetness that brought more shivers and made his balls ache in an all too familiar way.
"This is mad," Zach gasped, but didn't pull away. He was sure it wasn't supposed to feel cold to be kissed like this, but it was brilliant. And mad. He pulled Cedric to himself, aware for the first time that he'd wanted this for years. And so, it seemed, had Cedric, because as Zach's clothes vanished as soon as he wanted them gone, so did Cedric's as soon as Zach kissed him again.
And it didn't matter that every sensation he'd grown used to was upside down, that he felt a chill instead of heat -- it didn't make a difference outside of him, because Cedric's cock was heavy and solid against his thigh, and Zach knew what to do, though he'd never had the practice. Cedric buried his face in Zach's neck and moaned as Zach's fingers curled round him, bucking forwards and splaying his palm across Zach's arse, his grip firm and sure.
"No," panted Cedric just as Zach began to stroke his cock. "This. Later. 'M going to fuck you."
With the speed of thought, Zach was lifted off his feet and lowered to the ground, and Cedric leaned up over him. Zach knew a moment's pain before experiencing a curious sense of... fullness, but nowhere he could pinpoint on his body, if it was a body -- it made him feel almost... warm. As Cedric moved in him, Zach closed his eyes and rolled his hips upward and lost himself in the rhythm of it, in the insistent throb that built in his lower belly, in the sounds of Cedric's muffled grunts, in the almost-warmth that spread around them like a mist.
Zach opened his eyes. Cedric's mouth was inches from his, and Zach kissed him, arching upwards, his fingers digging into Cedric's arse. Cedric gave a hoarse cry, and there came a series of slow, deep pulses so intense that the world seemed to tilt. Zach moaned as the force of them reverberated through him, and he arched upwards again, wrapping his arms round Cedric and pulling, pulling, forgetting to kiss Cedric as the trickle of pleasure became a flood.
A storm of ice erupted inside Zach, so cold it burned, a roar of flame in blue and white. And he was ice, shattering into millions of tiny slivers over the cheerful meadow, and Cedric's face above him was all that kept his mind from drifting off into the newly cloudless sky, and the afterglow felt like sleeping under the thinnest film of ice above a mountain lake.
A thought came to Zach, quite independent of the foreign, wonderful sensations, and he began to laugh, unable to control himself. He gasped and choked and wheezed, aware that he couldn't actually die laughing, but feeling like he was going to anyway.
Cedric, who was studying him through lowered eyelashes, thick and dark as they'd been in life, smiled uncertainly, watching Zacharias try to bring himself under control. "What's so funny?"
"I-- I--" Zacharias couldn't breathe, not that it mattered. Finally, he steadied himself and looked into Cedric's face, now somewhat concerned. "I d-d-died a virgin," he croaked, and then both of them collapsed into breathless, fey laughter that echoed far across the empty plain.
And even then, it wasn't about sex.