a trick question (erb_) wrote in zhficrelay,
a trick question

Twenty-nine: Boys Soldier On

Keywords: the many moods of Hedwig, tea cosies, in-laws of some sort, the phrase "painfully muggle", and crackers in bed.

Watch with a complete lack of surprise as I admit to completely forgetting one of the keywords (in-laws). I'll include it in the next fic I do here, just to be fair.

This was originally supposed to be a sequel of sorts to "Sudsy", but ended up an unstructered character piece on dealing with redundancy and parents.

1,444 words.
PG-13, but only just.

Boys Soldier On

Zacharias likes to think of himself as painfully Muggle, and it’s not that he hates being a wizard or is fond of Muggles and their pungent, sweaty meatish smell, but it’s also not like he’s a particularly competent wizard. That’s the truth, even though he’ll never admit it. He’s okay, sometimes even good or faring quite well, but he’s no wiz at wizardry, and he’d like to inform you that you will excuse the pun since this is his story and he can be just as cheesy as he pleases.

Basically, he’s mediocre.

He’s a Hufflepuff.

He’s faring quite well.

He’s painful.

He’s less than good at wordplay.

He’s mediocre.


Zacharias starts looking at Harry by not looking at him at all. He looks at Harry’s owl instead; he thinks, That bird is something special. That bird is not average. And then Zacharias starts to wonder on the statistics of people who are so low in self-esteem that they’re actually jealous of birds. Birds who live only to take Particle 1 from Point A to Point B and know the precise spot on a human hand where poking for scraps of food will be the most efficient, even. These are creatures who, in the Muggle world, have the useful equivalence of an envelope.

But then he stops because statistics are for the paranoid—which he’s not! Why would you say that about him? Why? You have no right! No reason! Did someone tell you to say that? Are people telling you he’s paranoid behind his back? Wait just one—and the Daily Prophet.

“Hey, listen here,” Justin says, flapping the pages of his paper. Zacharias sees bits of dried ink and paper particles come to rest on top of an untouched kipper, shinier than Ernie’s forehead. “The Prophet says that a squillion Muggles were killed this summer alone.”

Correction: statistics are for the paranoid. Not the Daily Prophet. Never the Daily Prophet.

“A squillion? That’s a lot, right?” Ernie asks with his cup still poised for drinking. Zacharias thinks it would be sort of funny to see him choke, only for a second and only if he knew Ernie wasn’t going to die. Vengeance, Zacharias loves to mutter under his tongue, is the sweetest when its aim is off and innocent bystanders are harmed. But only for a second and only if no one dies.

“What do you think, Hedwig?” Zacharias hears Harry ask. He wonders if he’s not selectively super, being able to hear over all the voices and clinkings in the Great Hall all of the sudden.

Hedwig, to no one’s surprise, thinks absolutely nothing. She’s a bloody bird, and if she is thinking anything she’s going to have a bit of a time communicating unless she pulls a Lassie; Zacharias is smirking into his shirt collar at a reference no one else, except maybe Justin (who also has a loony Muggle mum and a standard television), would get. He doesn’t like sharing his jokes with Justin, though. He never laughs except for when he does, and that’s like watching a cat try to de-bowel itself through its mouth. Creeps Zacharias out.

A lot of things creep Zacharias out, but he’s still not paranoid, no matter what they say. Whoever they are, and he bets they’re really ugly and have long underarm hair. Ew.

Zacharias pushes his plate away and into the bowl of jam with a grimace.

Long underarm hair is just unnecessary.


Zacharias spends the Christmas holiday at home eating crackers in bed while Old Blue Eyes sings him a lullaby. His mum braids his hair while he sleeps. It takes two hours to undo, and while he’s doing that she sits with him on the bay window and points out stars and constellations and kisses his temple when they spot a falling star.

They begin walking to the train station well before dawn. Snow crunches pleasantly, sounding like thousands of bitty skulls beneath their fuzzy boots. Zacharias pulls his grey knit cap off his sweating head with his grey knit mittens.

“Why’d you leave dad?”

“No talking.”

“I want to know,” Zacharias insists. He won’t have the courage to ask again when it’s light, when expressions can be properly read and looked into and over-analyzed.

“Maybe when you’re older,” his mum says.

“I was sixteen and a half yesterday.”

“You’ve still quite a ways to go, little man.”


Spring can really hang you up the most, the old tune goes. Every day is the same to Zacharias Smith, who’s tired of yellow and black and words starting with ‘h’ and wearing robes. And not tired in the sick of it way, tired in the exhausted way. It’s a chore to get out of bed. He needn’t do it anymore, really. The day would progress as planned, regardless of whether or not he participated in it.

And so began the Greatly Disputed Spring Lie In of 1996, sometimes referred to as Sleepstock.


Harry had just wanted to see if Zacharias was really still at Hogwarts, that’s all. Rumours said he’d died and this was the school’s way of covering up, and when you’re sixteen and you have an invisibility cloak and a complete disregard for structure in general, well, the answer is fairly obvious.

Harry’d meant to sneak in, have a peek inside the dormitory, and then leave. He’d expected it to be easy because he’s a complete moron.

He’d made a mental list of things not expected:
1. creaky door hinges.
2. Hufflepuff first years inventing games called Run Up The Stairs Really Fast and What’s This Invisible Solid Thing? Let’s Hit It and Dandy Fine, Harry Potter Never Really Wanted Children Anyway.
3. most other boys his age were not ashamed of masturbation.
4. chubbies. plural.
5. nails jutting out of floorboards.
6. total mortification.

And so ended the Greatly Disputed Spring Lie In of 1996, sometimes referred to as Sleepstock.


Harry’s around when Zacharias sends the Owl to his mum once again asking about his father. Harry’s not there for any reason Zacharias can figure, but he’s content nonetheless. He doesn’t really like Harry, but it’s nice to have someone around.

He does like that. Zacharias likes it when people are around.

“If it makes you feel any better,” Harry offers both his voice and an orange smelling biscuit. “I never knew my father, either.”

Zacharias leans back on his left arm and raises his hips to adjust his pajama bottoms. He catches Harry studiously not looking, something Zacharias has not been doing all night.

“Why’re you here?” he asks, probably fucking it up. Harry burps and scratches his crotch. “Good answer,” Zacharias smiles, blows hair out of his eyes.

“Do you ever think about him? Your father, I mean. Do you think what he’s like, just to, you know, to have something in that, that spot you know?”

“I guess, yeah.” Zacharias isn’t sure he likes where this conversation is going. He’s never really conversed with Harry before, not really. Interactions, yes. Signals, yes. Words, a few. But they’re silent mates—and ‘mates’ is rather generous—leaving the words to the girls.

Harry raises his eyebrows and nudges the air forward with his nose. It’s not words; Zacharias is tricked into feeling comfortable enough to say a little more.

“I’d always thought him sort of miserable, to be honest. And I can’t see him with mum and me, because whenever I try and picture him I see him alone, possibly with a cat, and walking to work—he’s a Muggle, you know—walking home from work alone, too.”

“That’s pathetic,” Harry says.

Zacharias snorts.

“That’s my pops.”


Zacharias is being predictable. He’s sitting and he’s thinking of when it was, exactly, that Harry Potter became a life necessity. Not in the ‘my big red heart can’t beat without you’ way—that’s a laugh! Oh stop, his sides hurt. No, he means it in the other way. The way that can’t be described with words, but not in the same way that soul mates and unconditional love can’t be described with words. Zacharias is just bad at describing things, is all.

“What’re you doing?” Harry asks.

“Staring at this tea cozy.”

“That it?”


“Because this is usually the part where you wax rubbish and then I snog you to shut you up and you act all offended and straight, but always end up sucking me off in the tub.”

“I know.”



“… is that really all you’re doing?”




spectacular's next five keywords: "The Triumph of Bullshit" by T.S. Eliot, lamentations, pianos playing a fairly major part, lacy underthings, and a broken nose.

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