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

Seventeen: Petrichor

Keywords: Water rings on a newspaper, a pair of very grubby sneakers, petrichor, this tee, this time.

So you all know, this is not only ON TIME, but it was finished YESTERDAY. You long time watchers should be gasping right now, as I'm pretty sure this has never happened before. Anyhow, today was spent revising and picking apart my very life changing the ending hundreds of times. I wish I were kidding.

For those of you who don't have spectacular around to look up the hard words for you, petrichor is the smell you smell after it rains when it hasn't rained for a long while.

PG-13, because I really love the word "fuck" too fucking much.
About 2,500 words.


A third war was completely absurd.

The first war was expected, even if no one would admit it. All over the place bad guys were turning into Bad Guys and despite the fact that many weren’t aware of the change in capitalization, you had to know that a war was coming. You just had to. You’d be stupid if you didn’t. Or you’d be dead.

The second war was also expected, but this time more consciously. Oh sure, people went around acting like things were fine. They all acted surprised when the pieces began to fall into place and Harry Potter started giving orders. But that was life, acting. No one wanted to admit they were so conditioned to the terror that a titanic-sized war merited little less than an “Oh, is it time now?” The relief, however, at the end of a triumphant victory for the side of Good (also known as The Sit Back And Let Harry Potter Fulfill His Reason For Living side), that was genuine. No one ever stopped to think that Voldemort’s surviving followers would put up a fight once he was gone.

Therefore, a third war was completely absurd.


Zacharias thinks he looks like a piece of bread in his uniform, camouflaged to blend in with the sand that blows into his eyes every day and every night without fail. Harry points out that it doesn’t really matter what he looks like as the point of the ugly, chaffing clothing is not to be seen. Zacharias thinks Harry doesn’t look any better than he—like a moldy piece of bread at best. If they’re both going to be bread, Zacharias can find comfort in knowing that at least he’s fresh.

The two pieces of bread hide in the bush, at least one of them keeping a watchful eye on the crater directly in front of them. That’s where the war is going on, or will be going on once the right moment presents itself. Harry and Zacharias spend their days perched on the lip of the immense dip, watching the Death Eater Rebellion swarm and slither about, completely oblivious to their enemy so high above them. The rest of the Auror camp waits for a signal about a mile away.

The work is boring enough to drive Harry and Zacharias crazy. They can’t stand up, sit up, or really move much at all for fear of attracting attention. They eat on their stomachs and drink on their backs. They try not to talk during the day. During the night they whisper at each other to fight off any notions of insanity.

They are not allowed to go back to their camp for more supplies, as theirs is a two man job (one to keep an eye on the crater, the other to keep an eye on their partner and—any day now, really—to fire the signal for attack). Three times a month a poor runt is forced to scurry along on his stomach and deliver water, “food”, and two newspapers (one for reading and one for… well… you know.).

Per their leader’s suggestion, they’re handling the pre-attack motions the Muggle way.

“The Muggles have only had two world wars. We’ve had three. Clearly they’re doing something right,” he’d said.

“What a load of crock,” Zacharias says, nightly. Harry never has to ask what he means.


It never rains. It’s always windy, always overcast, but it never rains. Zacharias wonders if the lucky ones living in tents and washing their clothing and cooking their food and masturbating alone are sympathetic towards them at all.

“Probably not,” Harry whispers.

“Was I speaking?” Zacharias whispers back. “God. I don’t even realize it anymore. My mouth is so full of sand.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Why?” Zacharias turns his neck to look at Harry, who’s lying on his back and flipping through a paper both of them had long since memorized. Harry leans his head back and shrugs.

“Seemed like the right thing to say. Or whisper, I guess.”

Zacharias hates when Harry does that. He’s always so precise about things, always saying what he means and meaning what he says. Why can’t he just fucking make shit up like the rest of the world?

“S’pose I’ve never really been like the rest of the world, if that answers your question.”

“Shit. Did it again, didn’t I?” Zacharias would blush if his body could build up the strength.

“I’d be mad at you,” Harry sighs, “if I could find the energy to be. But I can’t. So… er…” he rolls up the paper and thwacks Zacharias on the head, although it’s not so much of a thwack as it is a piddle of a plop.

Zacharias smiles. It hurts his face.

“Where do you think they are?” Zacharias whispers, affording himself a glance back towards the camp they cannot see. “They should’ve come with the water at least.”

“How so?” Harry asks. He leans up slightly on his elbows. This is a risk, but fuck it if they aren’t dead tired of being cautious. July was a month chock full of cautious. Today is August and this year August will be for taking risks.

Zacharias pushes back a dense piece of the bush—a huge risk—and counts the tiny rocks he’s hid underneath, one for each day of the previous month. There are thirty rocks. They’re supposed to get a visitor each interval of ten.

“This isn’t right,” Harry says it for him. Both of them wonder if their camp is still alive, but neither has to say it. Zacharias, staying true to what’s expected of him, says it anyway.

“We’re pretty much alone then, aren’t we?”


They do not sleep. They can’t afford real sleep, choosing instead to take five to ten minute naps throughout the day. They hardly move, so as long as they have food and proper water they’re not terribly off.

What they do instead of sleeping is whisper. They talk about anything and everything and they tell each other their secrets. They feel like two girls having a very bad slumber party. Half of the time they don’t understand what the other is saying because they have to talk very softly and they can’t open their mouths too wide for fear of choking on a gust of sand. So Zacharias is pretty sure he’s heard wrong when Harry confesses he fancies boys, but asking him to repeat himself would be up to par with asking him to cut off his prick. Zacharias pretends Harry was talking about dancing toys and proceeds to tune him out, choosing a nap, instead.


Another thing Harry does that’s really annoying is that he doesn’t follow the rules completely. Example: their uniforms. Harry, before leaving on this suicide mission, had put on a black Muggle t-shirt underneath the khakhi-coloured jumpsuit. The nights are warm and even though they’re under strict orders to stay in uniform 24/7, Harry strips down to the tee—and only the tee—every night. He always leaves his toes buried in his Auror-standard shoes (so beaten by the weather that they look like nothing more than a pair of very grubby trainers), so technically he is still in it.

It drives Zacharias absolutely nutty. Mostly because he’s upset he can’t do the same. And because Harry looks so smug when he does it, like he’s found a bit of treasure and is too greedy to share. Of course, the shirt also smells like rancid sweat, and that bugs the fuck out of Zacharias as well.

“I think there’s a woman on my shirt,” Harry points out three days after they’ve run out of food and water.

Zacharias watches the Death Eaters—or at least he thinks they’re Death Eaters. Black blobs of evil, at least—scurry around below. He’s surprised at their stupidity and egotism, assuming since they’re in a crater no one would be watching them. Say, from behind a bush? It must be manic chaos down there. This is this the first time they’ve been without a leader in decades.

“Er, what?” Zacharias asks.

“I can’t remember what was on this tee, but I think I just did for a second. I think it’s a woman.”

“Why don’t you just look at it then, genius?” Zacharias quips. He doesn’t want to think of Harry stroking his chest, caressing himself in the dark. He doesn’t want the dancing toys to pirouette into dancing boys to whirl into fancying boys to reel into jumping Harry Potter. Well, okay he does, but that’s exactly why he doesn’t.

“Can’t see for shit,” Harry says, his voice sand-coated and grainy. “I’m taking a nap, Zacharias. Here,” he gives Zacharias his glasses. “Put these on. They’ll keep the sand out of your eyes.”

How giving of you, Harry, Zacharias thinks snidely as he feels around in the dark for Harry’s hand. When he finds it and reaches in to grab the glasses Harry squeezes his fingers, assuring him. Of what? He doesn’t know. He doesn’t even know what he doesn’t know, these days, but he does know the warmth familiar in another body. A living, breathing, human soul placed so close.

How giving of you, Harry.


If Zacharias makes it out of here alive, he’s not sure he’ll be able to tell any stories. He’s always wanted a war story of his very own, something he could dangle in front of people to get their attention, like a juicy piece of meat. But now that he has one, he’s not sure he can repeat it.

This is because most of it is not true. Zacharias, not able to fully live his life for the time being, passes the days living vicariously through the question, “What if?”

What if he hadn’t taken this mission? What if he hadn’t been paired with Harry, and had instead been cooped up with a Goyle-sized brute with horrible breath and a steady supply of bad jokes? What if they hadn’t run out of food and water? What if their camp was still around? What if there was no war to begin with? What if the sky were made of sand and the ground of air molecules? What if he could fly? What if he were born a duck? What if he were born a smelly milk cow? What if he came back in his next life as a Muggle? What if there was no such thing as an afterlife? What if he just gave up and died? What if he were born a girl? What if his hair was straight? What if he was straight? What if he told Harry? What if he heard Harry right and Harry really does fancy boys, not dancing toys? What if Harry fancied him?

What if this was all just a dream he couldn’t wake up from?

Harry, his nap turning into a full on sleep, buries his head in Zacharias’s hip. It is very much real and Zacharias does not believe he’s dreaming. (But still what if?)

What if Zacharias could get back to the point, which was to say that most of his memories are not true? Even if the ones he thinks are made up are actually real and vice versa, he can’t tell the difference anymore between what happens and what he’d like to happen, what he closes his eyes and imagines happening instead of facing the fact that he still looks like a piece of bread and it hasn’t rained in over a month and if they don’t get water in the next two days they’ll die.


The next afternoon it is very dark. Zacharias knows it’s afternoon because, when his watch still worked, the Death Eaters gathered together at 3:26 pm every day. They continued to, even after his watch exploded and nearly got them caught. That was two and half weeks ago.

This is the sixth and halfth day of the seven days Harry and Zacharias can go without water. But it’s very dark and the clouds are thicker than usual. They’re hopeful. Zacharias is so full of hope that it gushes over. He cries. Harry wonders if he can drink tears before pulling Zacharias close, throwing caution to the sand-littered wind and just not giving a fuck if they get caught because the both of them are finally, finally showing some human fucking emotion.

And then it rains. No, it doesn’t rain—it pours. It fucking monsoons.

They don’t move. The ground beneath them turns into a very thin layer of mud. Harry cries—no, he bawls. They both do, for what feels like hours. Water rings slowly dissolve the newspapers. The rain covers them, washing their fears, pains, angers, skin, bones, away.

Harry looks at Zacharias, blinking the water off his eyelashes. Zacharias looks at Harry, licks his lips. Harry swallows, blinks, and moves to lean in. Zacharias doesn’t move, not until Harry’s eyes have rid of the spark Zacharias could swear on his life he had just a second ago.

He closes his eyes and lies back. He inhales the pungent air, knowing the moment has passed.

Don’t take this one away, Zacharias thinks as he shuts his eyes very, very tight. But he can’t concentrate, he can’t picture the scene how he wants it to happen, how it should’ve happened, because Harry’s lips are hovering over his ear. He’s panting.

Zacharias doesn’t open his eyes, refuses to open his eyes. Harry puts his hands on Zacharias’s face and yells over the pounding water.

“I think this is it!”

This is… it? This is what?

“This is the last time I’m telling you, Zacharias. Fucking get up!”

Zacharias’s eyes burst open. Harry’s looking down on him, dressed in a new, clean khaki coloured uniform.

“God, but you’re a bitch to wake up,” Harry smiles and hands him a towel. Zacharias realizes he’s covered in sweat. As he wipes it off his face, his neck, his arms and his back, he takes in his surroundings: a clean tent, a nice cot. His uniform meticulously folded at the foot of his bed, a tiny loaf of bread placed on top of it. Harry’s cot a few feet away. The sand on the ground.

Zacharias looks at Harry and sees the collar of a black tee peeking through the top of his not-fully-zipped uniform. He vaguely hears Harry talking about a new mission, something for just the two of them, something about espionage or whatever.

“Hey Harry?” Zacharias asks slowly, near whispering. Harry’s lips purse in concern. “You don’t have to be here, do you?”

“Er, no, but—”

“How much do you really want to be here?”

Here here, or here?”

Zacharias rolls his eyes. Harry’s always so particular. Drives him loony. “Here, in general.”

“Not very fucking much, but why?”

“What—what if,” Zacharias swallows, picking up the loaf of bread. He looks Harry straight in the eyes, feels adrenaline being released into his blood, and then he begins to smile. It’s crazy and wild and completely out of place, but he can’t help it. He knows that this time, in this reality, he doesn’t need to close his eyes and pretend he has a second chance. He’s been struck by some sort of lucky, foreshadowing lightning and has lived.

Zacharias is not going to let the moment pass.

spectacular's next five keywords (sorry they're a bit long this time around): Christmas, charts and graphs (must be more than a passing mention), a compare and/or contrast of the difference in the interactions between Gryffindor boys and the interactions between Hufflepuff boys, dirty jokes, and the following lyrics: Would you please get out from under my skin? / For I can’t begin this yet / And I don’t know where my intentions are, they’re speaking in a different tongue / And deep inside I’m not as tough as I seem / But I won’t let you know [under my skin – Rachael Yamagata] (don’t listen to the song, just take what you can from these few lines)

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded