aroceu: (pair off)
exclamation points! ([personal profile] aroceu) wrote2017-07-24 11:34 pm

You Know What I Mean

Summary: The only reason Zacharias was going back to Hogwarts was because Anthony Goldstein had Owled him that he would, that McGonagall had told him that they were going to have Quidditch for the next year, and that Ravenclaw was going to beat Hufflepuff for the Quidditch Cup.

Char/Pair: Anthony/Zacharias

Genre: romance/slash

Rating: PG-13

A/N: For [personal profile] memorde for the advent calendar, and also for her bday (to be posted on 9/10). Don't know how this ended up so long.



The only reason Zacharias was going back to Hogwarts was because Anthony Goldstein had Owled him that he would, that McGonagall had told him that they were going to have Quidditch for the next year, and that Ravenclaw was going to beat Hufflepuff for the Quidditch Cup.

It was truly the only reason, because Anthony had never Owled him before, which meant that it must be serious which meant that Anthony was coming back, too. They'd started owling after his fifth year during Potter's first Dumbledore's Army meeting, when Anthony had apparently decided on whim to partner up with him, and then while they had been practising Expelliarmus, had struck up a conversation about Quidditch that, by the end of the meeting, had Zacharias declaring, "Hufflepuff will beat Ravenclaw into the ground, if that's what it takes!"

Of course, that year bloody Gryffindor had won the Quidditch Cup. Zacharias had seen Anthony after that match, and they'd agreed on a temporary truce in favour of bitching about Gryffindors. They'd done the same in their sixth year; it was like some deity had favoured Gryffindors so much that they'd won the Cup two fucking years in a row, leaving Zacharias and Anthony with nothing.

Zacharias didn't believe in such things, but he'd rather chew his own foot off before admitting anything about Harry Potter's or Ginny Weasley's talent had anything to do with two consecutive Gryffindor victories.

Anyway, it was the eighth year that really mattered, because even though Zacharias wouldn't mind Potter being back for the sake of Quidditch, and Zacharias defeating him once and for all, he was glad that Potter wasn't coming back overall, prancing around with his self-righteous Gryffindorishness with every bloody student and teacher in the school fawning over him, the Boy Who Lived and all that bullshit. In fact, Anthony had written Zacharias that the only of the Insufferable Gryffindors who was coming back was Hermione Granger, which was a relief--though Zacharias wouldn't have favoured any of them over the other, Granger was far more tolerable on her own than she was with Potter and Weasley.

Anthony had seemed rather fond of her too, in his letter. Zacharias frowned as he read it again, smoothing down the parchment. In talking about Granger, Anthony had written, Hermione Granger will be back too, I'm looking forward to seeing her in Arithmancy again.

Zacharias folded the letter up again and scowled. What was there to look forward to about Arithmancy? Zacharias didn't take the stupid class - it was no surprise that Anthony did, but with Granger it sounded even worse.

Huffing, Zacharias grabbed a quill and began penning a letter back. He decided to leave out any mention of Granger, or returning Gryffindors - he and Anthony only talked about Quidditch, and nothing more. It was playing a different game in talking about anything else, and Zacharias wasn't rising to the bait. Their game was Quidditch.

He began the letter with, Of course I've been practising. If I haven't I wouldn't bother showing my face next year...

 

*

Zacharias was cornered in the train compartment, and he had no place to go.

Well, he could rightly get up and leave, but then he'd have to find another compartment, which would likely be full of lower years, which would be far less terrible company than his current. Besides, he had Corner next to him and Justin across, so company could be worse despite that it was Justin. He could be sitting on the other side of the compartment, next to Granger and Ernie.

Recalling how he got into this situation, Zacharias kicked a foot under him and huffed as Corner and Justin continued talking, something about the Muggle queen or something or other. Zacharias had only been here because Susan was here, and Zacharias got quite along with her - but of course, where Susan was, others like Ernie and Justin swarmed, so they'd come into their compartment too. Since Zacharias had shared a dormitory with them for over seven years, he could manage it - and then that was when Corner and Boot came, and then Granger had come because she'd thought it was some sort of D.A. compartment, when it bloody wasn't. Zacharias was here first, he should kick them all out, or at least Granger.

The Weasley girl and her strange Ravenclaw hadn't joined them though, thank Merlin. Weasley had scowled at Zacharias when they'd made eye contact, and Zacharias had scowled back. It was good to know that some things in order.

Zacharias was about to open his mouth and tell Granger to go somewhere else, join girl Weasley or something, when the compartment door opened. Anthony Goldstein stood there, eyes flitting around the room, nodding - and possibly brightening up? - when he saw Zacharias.

"Hermione, Ernie," Anthony said. "We're looking for you up in the prefects' carriage."

"Oh! Right," Granger said, looking embarrassed. "Nearly forgot - sorry - " She made her way through the compartment, and Zacharias had never been more grateful.

Anthony turned to Zacharias, and said, "Did you have a good summer, Smith?"

"Better than yours," Zacharias replied. "The Wanderers crushed the Falcons - "

"Oh, be quiet," Anthony said, rolling his eyes but smiling. "We'll get you next season."

"We'll see about that," Zacharias said. "The Wanderers are on a winning streak, and the Falcons already lost to the Tornados, didn't they? I'd pay to see them lose against the Canons - "

"They'd do no such thing." Anthony was laughing, and Zacharias couldn't help it when his mouth twitched upward. "The Falcons will beat the Cannons, you'll see - "

"Because that's such a feat," Zacharias said sarcastically.

Anthony continued grinning, and waved a hand, beginning to move out of the compartment. "I've got to - " he said, and jerked his head. "Prefects' compartment."

"Alright, go then," Zacharias said, leaning back in his seat. His mouth wanted to slant into a sideways smile again, so it did. Anthony's grin seemed to grow brighter as he made his way out.

The rest of Zacharias's compartment-mates had barely paid attention to them; Boot was talking to Corner now, while Susan and Justin had gotten into an argument about their classes this year. Zacharias joined Susan and Justin's conversation, complaining about Potions - though it wasn't a terrible class, since they had it with the Ravenclaws.

 

*

 

Ravenclaw had the pitch for their practice first of the semester. Zacharias had heard from Wayne, who was friends with Mandy Brocklehurst, who was Captain of the Ravenclaw Quidditch Team. Zacharias wouldn't consider it unfair, as they would all have their turn eventually - but his curiosity was piqued. Anthony claimed to have practised over the summer, and Zacharias wanted to see for himself.

It was technically against the rules to go to another team's Quidditch practise, but Zacharias cast a Disillusionment Charm on himself and snuck down to the pitch. He had gotten quite good at the spell after some of Potter's Dumbledore club meetings, loathe as it was for Zacharias to admit so, but at least it came in handy with Quidditch, or at least spying on Anthony's Quidditch practise.

He wasn't even spying for strategies; he'd seen some of the Ravenclaw signals during games, elaborate hand gestures and sometimes a lot of face tapping. Zacharias had never bothered trying to comprehend them, and wasn't going to start now. As he lurked in the Gryffindor stands (because if he got caught, he'd rather someone think that he was an idiot Gryffindor), he watched as Brocklehurst and Anthony did some sort of forehead-nose-shoulder tapping thing, laughing when they finished. Anthony extended his neck when he laughed; they were both in the air, and Zacharias could see them both quite clearly from here. A sheen line of sweat was on Anthony's forehead as he pushed his glasses up his nose. Something odd happened in Zacharias's stomach.

It was no matter. Zacharias watched as Anthony flew - he was a Chaser as well, diving down and catching an impressive pass from another Chaser who Zacharias thought might be a fifth year and didn't know the name of. Zacharias had always known that Anthony was a decent Chaser - the last game they played, nearly two years ago during their sixth year, Anthony had impressively intercepted a pass from Wayne to Zacharias. Zacharias had bellowed at him in offense, but remembered the weird flip in his stomach at getting bypassed by Anthony so closely.

Now, Anthony was diving up and down, big swoops, along with Michael Corner. Zacharias glowered from under his Disillusionment Charm. Corner always had a girl on his arm; Zacharias didn't know why Anthony was friends with him, let alone laughing along with him.

They were flying towards the Gryffindor stands, but Zacharias was undeterred as Anthony nearly bumped into the edge several metres away and Corner called, "Nice going, Goldstein!" Anthony laughed again - he used his full throat, chin coming up - and said, "I'm a better flier than you, Corner," to which Corner scoffed lightly at.

Anthony started flying back around - but then his gaze ran over the space where Zacharias was crouching by the edge, and Zacharias watched as he paused. There was no way that Anthony could see him; Zacharias knew how good his Disillusionment Charm was. Still, Anthony's lips pressed together and for a moment Zacharias thought Anthony could see him.

Then Anthony was flying away, and Zacharias exhaled through his nose. There was nothing to bother with Anthony. He flew toward Brocklehurst, wind whipping in his short brown hair, and he was leaning over and saying something to her. Zacharias couldn't see her face, though her head shifted slightly. All he could see was Anthony's back, a stretch of his blue Quidditch robes over his narrow shoulders; and then Anthony was flying to the Gryffindor stands again.

Zacharias crouched further down and frowned. Maybe Anthony thought there was something defunct with the Gryffindor stands. It was like him to try to fix it. He waited as Anthony parked his broom right above the stands, before his feet rested on the ground. He looked left and right, and then called:

"I know someone's here. Show yourself."

Zacharias froze and did nothing. There was nothing he could do - what would he say to Anthony? That he was spying on the Ravenclaw team? The truth? That he had come here on a dare? Actually, that would be rather believable, as Justin would certainly dare him to do such a thing. Though Zacharias wasn't stupid enough to actually take any of Justin's dares.

Anthony walked around, waving his hands about. HIs wand slipped out from the sleeve of his robes, and he said, "Homenum Revelio. Look, I'm a prefect, so you really ought to listen to me. I won't get you in trouble, but you really shouldn't be here."

Zacharias sighed. Anthony was pulling his prefect card - he'd tried that once, when Zacharias was sneaking into the prefect's bathroom in fifth year because Ernie had let the password slip. Zacharias had just splashed a bubble at Anthony and asked if Anthony wanted to see him naked. Anthony had turned bright red and disappeared and didn't partner up with Zacharias at the next D.A. meeting, which was all well and good if not a little bit disappointing. It had only lasted that week, though, until the Falcons beat the Wanderers and Anthony had come to Zacharias to gloat and they never spoke of the prefect's bathroom incident again.

Still, Anthony taking his prefect's duties seriously - Zacharias snorted and said, "Can't believe you're actually trying that again." Anthony jumped and spun around to the source of Zacharias's voice, squinting in his direction.

"Zacharias?" he said with surprise. "What are you doing in the Gryffindor stands?"

"Seeing how you - " Well, no, that wouldn't do. "Spying," Zacharias lied.

Anthony's eyebrows flew up, though he was still squinting. "Spying on our practise?"

"Clearly," Zacharias said. He rolled his eyes even though Anthony wouldn't be able to see. "You've got insane signals, by the way. I've only been able to decode one of them." That, too, was an obvious lie.

Anthony asked, "Which one? And take off that Charm, I don't know where to talk to."

"I do hope that means you miss my pretty face." Zacharias stood up, since it would make no difference, as he remained invisible. "And I'm not telling. Then you'd know which one to change."

"Well - " Anthony huffed and folded his arms. "I'll have to report you, you know - "

"If you want the truth, I'm not spying for my team," Zacharias told him. He felt bad, since now Anthony thought he was a sneak - and admittedly for good reason, but really, he had gotten better over the summer and Zacharias was going to have to up his game at their next practise. "Wayne doesn't know, I'm only spying for myself."

"You don't suppose I think that's any better, do you?"

"Isn't it?" Zacharias said. "Wayne would have my arse if I told him, 'yeah, ear ear forehead shoulder shoulder is an underhand pass in a z-pattern for the Ravenclaws.' He bloody hates cheaters."

"We haven't got a - " Anthony frowned, and then his expression cleared up. "Wayne's a good bloke," he said to Zacharias, but there was amusement in his eyes. "Unlike some people."

"There's no pride in goodness," Zacharias pointed out.

Anthony shrugged, and he glanced out into the field, where his teammates were. "There's a pride in friendship," he said, turning back to Zacharias. "Which, speaking of, I'll let you off with a warning - "

"I suppose I should thank you," Zacharias said dryly.

" - if you leave now." Anthony cast a stern look in the direction of Zacharias's shoulder. "You're clearly a terrible spy; I'll just tell my teammates you were a Gryffindor first year who accidentally wandered out here."

"That offends me," Zacharias said, but without any heat and Anthony just smiled in response. "You'll compare me to no such Gryffindor, and then I'll leave."

"How about a second year, then?" Anthony said, and Zacharias un-Disillusioned himself to throw a two-finger gesture at Anthony before leaving. His stomach was doing that odd thing again as he trekked from the field, still thinking of Anthony and Quidditch.

 

*

The only people in the Potions classroom so far were Anthony, Lovegood who was the weird Ravenclaw girl who was always with girl Weasley, Granger, and Justin. Classes for seventh- and eighth-years had been combined so it wasn't a surprise to see Lovegood, but as Zacharias remembered she was weird, he did try to avoid her on a regular basis.

Zacharias usually partnered up with Susan, who was also taking N.E.W.T. level Potions, while Anthony (and Zacharias knew this because sometimes their tables were parallel to each other so Zacharias could tell Anthony about the last match where he missed a Quaffle pass or Anthony would make Zacharias relive throwing it right at a Keeper instead of through a hoop) was often partners with Boot, or Corner, if Corner hadn't found himself a girl to latch onto.

So it was strange to see Anthony by himself, nose buried in a book. Zacharias capitalised on it immediately, heaving his bag down next to Anthony and watching with some amusement as Anthony startled.

"Oh," Anthony said, putting his book down. "Zacharias. Are we partners today?"

Zacharias shuffled down next to him and pulled out Advanced Potion Making, trying to look nonchalant. He shrugged and glanced around the room, pretending to just notice Justin. "Oh, Justin's here. Well, I'm sitting here already."

"You can move, if you want," Anthony offered.

Zacharias narrowed his eyes at Anthony. "Is that a suggestion?"

"Semantically," Anthony said. "You do seem rather good at Potions, though, so I would prefer if you stayed here."

Zacharias had never thought himself one way or another. But the compliment did feel good, so he puffed his chest a little and said, "Well, I do hope to get an O on my N.E.W.T.s - "

"Not that good," Anthony said, and laughed at the deflated expression on Zacharias's face. "I'm joking, I - I hope to get an O, too."

"And I was joking too," Zacharias said. "I'm not some swot like you - an E will do for me."

"I do hope you get that E," Anthony said, as more students began to file in.

Zacharias watched as Boot and Corner came in, looked at Anthony and Zacharias funnily, and then sat with each other. Anthony glanced at them, but seemed unbothered to see them sitting together and not minding Anthony. Then he asked Zacharias, "What do you hope to do after Hogwarts, anyway?"

"Oh," Zacharias blurted. His mind immediately went, so we're having this conversation. Zacharias had had it numerous times before, with his father, who wanted him to work in the Ministry - bloody everyone did - but Zacharias was only going to do that if he was going to be an Unspeakable or something, which he didn't quite fancy.

So he told Anthony honestly, "Curse-Breaker or something. I've been thinking about working for Gringotts." That was the truth. "Or I can head off and do more Quidditch."

"I can see you doing that," Anthony said. His brown eyes were bright despite the low yellow light. Zacharias blinked. "If you go professional - well, if you join the Falcons, I'll definitely support you."

"No way in hell," Zacharias said, laughing. "I'd go for the Wanderers - but Curse-Breaking would be much more realistic, don't you think? Or perhaps the Daily Prophet."

"I'm sure you need an E Potions N.E.W.T. to get on the Daily Prophet," Anthony said, blinking seriously behind his glasses, and Zacharias coughed so he wouldn't laugh again.

"I'd publish terrible things about the Falcons," he told Anthony, "all sorts of magical cheating they use, how Walfoot is actually an awful Seeker - "

"She is not!" Anthony said indignantly. "And if it's anything like your Hogwarts commentary now, I highly discourage you from pursuing this career - "

"My commentary is excellent."

Anthony scoffed, though there was definitely a smile hidden in the corner of his mouth. "We'll see at the match next week," he said, and then class was starting and Zacharias's eyes kept being drawn to that corner of Anthony's mouth and he didn't think to wonder why.

 

*

As usual, it was the Gryffindor-Slytherin match that was the first of the season, the one that Zacharias looked forward to the most (or, second to the Ravenclaw-Hufflepuff match) because neither would he be playing, and he was certain that the Slytherins played loads better when he was insulting the Gryffindors.

He took his place up in the stands, overlooking the pitch next to the staff. Though McGonagall was eyeing him warily, Zacharias did earn this spot. Through Professor Sprout and doing his best announcing voice, really, and there had never been a commentator who wasn't biased, so Zacharias knew he wouldn't be sacked just for being himself. Plus, Lovegood, who did the commentary when Zacharias was playing, was loads more incompetent - Zacharias got himself comfortable with the scoreboard, unbothered.

This year, as Harry Potter was off the Gryffindor team - whether this was fortunate or unfortunate for Zacharias's commentary, he couldn't quite decide - so Ginny Weasley was the Seeker, tossing scowls over her shoulder at everything Zacharias said. She had also been made Captain, which -

"Dunno how someone who can't keep their eyes on the Snitch became the Captain," Zacharias was saying into the speaker. "She keeps glaring at me, you'd think she'd be actually playing Seeker instead..."

"Smith!" Professor McGonagall snapped, because Professor Sprout was far too many people away that Zacharias couldn't hear her if she tried.

Zacharias shrugged and looked at Professor McGonagall. "What? It's true," he said, before into the speaker, "Or perhaps it's because she's Harry Potter's girlfriend, there's ought to be some favouring there."

"Smith." Professor McGonagall looked furious.

Zacharias would admit on occasion being terrified of Professor McGonagall - even though he was ace at Transfigurations, the fact that she could turn into a cat had him mixed up with her and Mrs. Norris on more than one occasion - so he cleared his throat and turned back to the speaker.

"Onto the game, where Vaisey has the Quaffle. Robins tries to intercept - that was a very poor attempt, really, who recruits for the Gryffindor team? - oh right, Weasley - anyway, Zabini has the Quaffle now, they're going for the goal, manned by Hubwurst, who's a far better Keeper than their old one, Ron Weasley - shooting - ah, yes, Slytherin scores, so Hubwurst is not that much better - "

When they were done, Ginny Weasley flew over to where Zacharias was sitting in the stands, gathering his things up. Slytherin had won, to the tune of Zacharias going, "And Weasley's trying to get the - of course, Harper's gotten the Snitch, because he hasn't got a whole load of hair in his face." Weasley was glowering, and Zacharias may have flinched a little - he did recall a couple of years ago, when she had flown into him in the stands and had nearly made him break his legs.

"You better not make comments like that at our next match, Smith," she warned, hovering in midair.

Zacharias brushed himself off and pretended that he wasn't getting vivid recollections of the time she'd Bat-Bogey Hexed him on the train. "Or else what?" he said innocently, up at her.

The teachers were still milling about around him. Weasley glanced at them; Zacharias supposed she wanted to say, "Or else I'll hex you," but couldn't with so much of their teachers around.

"Or else," Weasley said, sticking her nose up in the air. "You'll regret it."

Zacharias rolled his eyes. "Oh, I'm so terrified," he said. There wasn't much either of them could do, and Weasley had received a penalty for the time she'd nearly broken Zacharias's leg - Zacharias will just have to make sure not to be caught unawares when wandering the castle alone or something, which was unlikely as Zacharias wasn't stupid enough to do such a thing.

He made his way down, joining his House in walking off the pitch. They were marching back to the castle when Zacharias felt a tap at his shoulder, and turned around to see Vaisey, one of the Slytherin Chasers.

"Hey," Vaisey said. "Smith, right? Hilarious commentary, really, loved it."

"Thanks," Zacharias said dryly. "I get that often."

"I'll bet," Vasey said, laughing. "So, we've got a celebration party at the Slytherin Common Room tonight. No Gryffindors allowed, but everyone else can come. We're monitoring everyone who comes, of course," he added. "It's not like we trust you Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws or anything."

"I wouldn't expect you to," Zacharias said honestly. He thought for a moment. "Who else is coming?"

"Well, we're going around and asking mostly seventh- and eighth-years. You know, people can hold their tongue," Vaisey said. "Ravenclaws too, even though I can hardly say that I trust them." He scowled.

Zacharias bit his lip, thinking. It occurred to him that Anthony might go, and there was something like hope in Zacharias's chest - not looking forward, precisely, but at least having someone to talk to, especially if Susan went or not. Zacharias didn't like the Slytherins per se, though Tracey Davis had always been a fun Herbology partner, but there was no use going to a party if he didn't have someone to talk to.

He wouldn't be able to see until dinner, and Vaisey was waiting for a response from him now, presumably for all his Slytherin reasons. Zacharias would have to take his chances.

"Sure, I'll come," he said to Vaisey.

Vaisey clapped him on the shoulder and said, "Brilliant! I'll put you on the roster." He ran back to the Slytherins, and Zacharias hoped that some part of partying with them was going to be interesting, especially if Anthony came or not.

 

*

Being in the Slytherin common room was strange. It was awash in green light, save for the fireplace that didn't radiate much heat, and the specks of yellow light emitting from two lamps by the stiff armchairs. Zacharias didn't bother sitting; for one, both chairs were already occupied by Zabini and Bulstrode, who were carrying Harper, their Seeker, on their shoulders. For another, Zacharias had already tried them at the first opportunity he'd noticed they'd been empty, and they'd been stiff and awful on his arse. The cushions in the Hufflepuff common room were much better.

The room was in full swing, bottles of firewhiskey littering the small end tables and the floors, so you couldn't tell if one you picked up would be empty, already drunken out of, or unopened. Zacharias had luckily gotten his hands on two unopened bottles early on, and was making his way through his first, saving the other.

Tracey Davis came up to him and bumped her hip against his. "Smith," she said. "Didn't realise I'd be seeing you here."

"Vaisey invited me," Zacharias replied, "and any opportunity where Gryffindors aren't around, I'll take it."

"A shared sentiment," Davis said, and took a sip of her drink. "Do you think they're holding a losing party?"

"Only Gryffindors would do such a thing," Zacharias said, and Davis laughed before going to chat with Su Li from Ravenclaw, which meant that Zacharias was alone again.

He looked around, because the party had already been going for an hour or so and it wasn't like Anthony was terribly boring, but did he really have anything better to do on a Saturday night? Zacharias wondered if there was a way to spell the D.A. Galleon - he still kept the thing in his pocket, despite everything, just in case - but just for Anthony, and just for it to say please come to this arsed Slytherin party so I'm not talking to strangers like a loser.A few Slytherins had already given Zacharias kudos on his commentary, but Zacharias had heard it all already, and was starting to get bored.

Bored at a bloody party. Zacharias was right on thinking about leaving when the wall that the Slytherins were using to monitor who was coming in and out - they didn't give anyone else the password of course, they were just letting other people in the common room and had barred the dormitories - slid open, and Anthony stepped in, looking curious.

Immediately Zacharias made his way across the common room and said, "Oh, thank god you're here, I was about to leave."

"About to leave a Slytherin party?" Anthony smiled from behind his ridiculously thick glasses. Zacharias had always thought about asking exactly how thick they were, but never really wanted to bother. "I heard they were supposed to be good."

"You heard wrong," Zacharias said. "All they're doing is gossiping and drinking."

"That could be fun," Anthony said. He made a grab for a firewhiskey bottle on a nearby table, but frowned when he realised that the bottle cap was off, and after peering inside, Anthony said, "It's empty."

"That happens," Zacharias said. He held his one opened bottle, adjusted his one unopened bottle in his other hand, and ducked down under the table where a few more bottles of firewhiskey were hiding. Two were already opened, but one seemed to be sealed. "Here's one," he said, handing it to Anthony.

"Thanks." Anthony opened the bottle and took a sip. He scrunched his nose as he twisted the cap back on. "I always forget how much it burns."

"It's not that bad," Zacharias said, and took a swig of his own drink to prove it.

Anthony rolled his eyes, but he was smiling. He looked around the common room and said, "I can't believe I'm here. I've always wanted to see the inside of the Slytherin dungeons."

"It's not much to look at," Zacharias said pointedly, glancing at the walls with the moving green shimmers from the lake light glowing through the main window. "You ought to see the Hufflepuff common room, it's much more impressive."

"You should show me," Anthony said. "I've read all about the different common rooms in Hogwarts, A History. It's a shame they don't let us see all of them, even if we're not allowed to go in. I'm pretty sure we're breaking about three school rules by doing this, actually."

Zacharias rolled his eyes. "These are Slytherins, do you think they care?"

"No," Anthony said, and smiled at him. Then he said, "I suppose I feel rather guilty for being here. Not for breaking the rules - Hermione probably wouldn't like that I'm joining in celebrating her House's loss - "

Zacharias grimaced. "Why are you talking about Granger? I doubt she knows anything about Quidditch, anyway."

Anthony shrugged. "She's my friend. And no, I suppose not - funny thing, that, considering her friends - "

"Yeah, her friends." Zacharias scoffed and pulled down the rest of his first firewhiskey bottle, wiping his mouth when he was done. Anthony's eyes followed the motion. "Whatever," Zacharias said. "I'll have to be really drunk if I've got to listen to you talk about being friends with Granger and company."

"We don't have to talk about them," Anthony said, frowning. He eyed the second drink in Zacharias's hand, and then downed the rest of his firewhiskey in one impressive swig. "But I'd like to get drunk with you, if you don't mind. I don't think I have before."

"Really?" Zacharias said, surprised. He popped open his second bottle and handed it to Anthony, who at least this time took it slower while drinking. "If you get me hammered enough, I can show you the Hufflepuff common room."

Anthony raised Zacharias's bottle, before handing it back. "Cheers," he said, and Zacharias took the bottle from him.

 

*

 

Zacharias woke up with a fuzzy mouth and a pounding headache. He was also half-naked, in his dressing gown with no underpants on, which was a mild surprise, until he looked to his side and then all of the previous night's fumbling rushed back to him.

Anthony was near-naked except for his underwear, though as Zacharias thought about it the pair might be his. He wasn't sure. The night before had consisted of a very drunk Zacharias and Anthony, stumbling out of the Slytherin common room and Zacharias leading them through the basement until they got to the Hufflepuff barrels, Zacharias making Anthony turn around and cover his ears so he wouldn't know the beat, crawling through the small space until they got to the common room. Anthony had looked around in wonder, then at Zacharias, and the next thing he knew they were in his dormitory, one of Zacharias's hands up Anthony's robes.

The thought shocked Zacharias as he looked at Anthony's sleeping body. He had never... Well, he didn't consider... And it was just...

But last night had happened. Somehow. Zacharias blamed the alcohol, even though a part of him felt like it wasn't right. He remembered what Anthony had looked like last night, bleary-eyed and grinning and in the orange light of the common room. He remembered that there was some feeling that wanted to kiss Anthony desperately -

- and looking at Anthony's body now, Zacharias wasn't sure if he - Anthony was lithe and pale and sound asleep, glasses on Zacharias's bedside. It was all too confusing to think about, and Zacharias certainly couldn't clear his head if Anthony was going to be in his bed like that, so he shook Anthony's body, rousing him from his sleep.

"Wake up," Zacharias demanded. "Anthony, get your arse out of my bed."

"Huh?" Anthony jerked awake, blinking. Zacharias scowled at him, because there was something - weirdly appealing about Anthony just waking up, and Zacharias didn't want to think about it.

"I need you to get out of here," Zacharias said. He found Anthony's robe on the ground and threw it at him, trying not to let his gaze linger on Anthony's body.

Anthony paused from Zacharias's bed, then began dressing. "Because we didn't talk to your housemates before I'd come over?" he asked.

"No, because I don't know what the hell I did last night," Zacharias grumbled, throwing Anthony's socks at him as well. "Bloody firewhiskey - "

"I don't think it was that bad." Anthony had his head in his robes and was trying to wriggle them on. Zacharias stared and thought how stupidly - stupidly - stupid Anthony was, and didn't let himself think any other words further.

Zacharias gave Anthony his shoes as Anthony got the rest of his clothes on. "It's not about bad," he said. "I don't know what it is, but you oughtn't be here anyway."

Anthony paused and looked up at Zacharias. Zacharias couldn't read his expression, and didn't want to bother to - this wasn't a mistake, it was just something he never - Well, it was no matter to think about, because there were other important things like Quidditch and N.E.W.T.s. Zacharias didn't mind shagging, but as this was Anthony -

Anthony, who was shuffling out of Zacharias's bed and not looking him in the eye and saying, "You're right, I shouldn't." He cast another look at Zacharias, who was standing by his bed, and smiled. "I'll see you at breakfast then?" he asked Zacharias, who shrugged and began getting into bed, suddenly aware that Anthony could see all of him.

"Dunno if I'll be at breakfast, I feel like shite," he said, crawling under his covers.

"Lunch, then."

Still smiling, Anthony padded out of the dormitory. It was early enough that Zacharias doubted that he would run into any of his housemates on his way out, and he tried to fall back asleep, still with that taste of alcohol in his mouth. Senses and images of last night flashed through his mind as Zacharias lay on his back, and he wound a hand under his nightgown, because wanking was hardly the same as the night before. He was allowed to wank, he told himself.

 

*

The next Hufflepuff practise was Tuesday afternoon, right after Transfigurations. They'd managed to secure regular practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays, though Zacharias knew that Wayne was working on Professor Sprout to get the pitch for Friday evenings and Sundays as well.

Mounting his broom, Zacharias flew up in the air as Malone went, "Zach!" He flung the Quaffle at Zacharias, who easily caught it, whizzing past Branstone and Madley who'd begun tossing about the Bludgers, and over to the hoops. Leanne wasn't fast enough, and Zacharias shot the Quaffle through the middle hoop, flinging his arms up as it soared through.

"Winner!" he said, as Leanne flew down to get the Quaffle.

She called over, "You had a head start!" and Zacharias ignored her, flying a large loop above the pitch as the others got into position to practise.

Zacharias knew he didn't play well with others, but when it came to Quidditch, he was dead set on winning - so he had to sacrifice his hatred for teamwork in favour of beating the other team's arse to the ground. It was easier anyway, since they were all on brooms and Zacharias could pretend that he was on his own, the other Chasers just pawns on the field as he made sure Hufflepuff made all the points possible. They would only have so much time before the Snitch was caught, and Zacharias always intended to score as many points as possible before then.

They were doing loops through the hoops as part of practise, passing the ball to one another, near the Gryffindor stands. Zacharias was struck remembering when he had snuck up on Anthony's Quidditch practise, and shook his head. He had Quidditch to focus on, not - not Anthony.

Anthony hadn't seemed the type to go for Quidditch. Zacharias remembered when he'd met Anthony for the first time in third year Arithmancy (which Zacharias later ditched after his O.W.L.s), this needly, knobby boy with glasses. Zacharias had thought him uninteresting until Anthony had noticed the Wanderer's pin on his bag and asked about it, and then gloated about the Falcons beating the Wanderers in their last game, and how he was going to try out for Quidditch that year. Zacharias had told him that the Wanderers were objectively better and good luck because Zacharias was going to try out for his own Quidditch team, too, and that, well.

He never considered what he had with Anthony as a friendship, just a thing where two people who know each other and like to talk to each other but don't particularly like each other. Well, Zacharias didn't dislike Anthony, he thought as Wayne roped them in a Bludger dodging practise while passing the Quaffle around. There was nothing about Anthony to dislike, aside from his shite taste in Quidditch teams...

Zacharias thought to what Anthony looked like when he was flying, free, grinning behind his glasses, which were stuck to his face by some kind of spell Anthony had found on his own. Zacharias's stomach did a knotty thing, and maybe it was the anxiety of thinking of playing Anthony again. But Zacharias wasn't particularly afraid of playing against Anthony - that was actually quite fun, since they targeted each other, which meant they stopped at nothing to have the ball from their other teammates, flying between passes, pretending to knock each other off their brooms. Anthony wasn't terribly competitive, but he always flew just that close to Zacharias, and Zacharias did the same.

There was that feeling in his stomach again, dipping. Zacharias hated that he was having a physical reaction to something, and tried to shake his mind out of it. It wouldn't do to think about Anthony, the widening of his eyes when he smiled, how he ducked down to smile when they argued, how he felt above Zacharias's body last night... And why had they wanked off together last night? Zacharias didn't think himself a particularly randy boy, but he remembered his gaze had been fixated on Anthony's jaw, on Anthony's lips...

Zacharias swerved down so fast that a Bludger hit the side of his broom. "Zach!" Wayne called, as Zacharias inspected the back of his broom, adjusting the bristles. "You alright?"

"Yeah," Zacharias stammered, pretending his heart wasn't pounding his chest. "I'm fine!"

Merlin, did he like Anthony? Had he always wanted to kiss Anthony? Zacharias wasn't sure if he'd thought about it before, but he knew it wasn't the first time Anthony's mouth had looked so fascinating to him - he'd just thought it was something about Anthony, that his lips were particularly big or small or something. Anthony's mouth was quite nice-sized, he recalled, and fuck, thinking that was even worse. He was in the middle of practise; he had a sport to play.

But there were some years of that not-friendship, and last night which Zacharias was so sure meant nothing, and now Zacharias hovering on his broom, barely catching the Quaffle and wondering what the fuck it meant when his palms felt clammy at the thought of merely touching Anthony again.

 

*

It was like realising that he fancied Anthony had ruined his fucking life. Well, it didn't ruin his life, but it made Zacharias jump when the next time he was at Potions, Anthony sat down next to him, smiling a little.

"Partners again?" Anthony asked.

Zacharias wanted to tell him to sod off, but that was what he would do if Anthony was Ernie, or anyone else. Instead Zacharias said, "Sure," and gripped the table with his knuckles, willing himself not to get up and leave right away.

Anthony took his things out. Zacharias busied himself with staring at his own copy of Advanced Potion Making so he wouldn't watch Anthony like some sort of freak.

Now that they were sitting together again, Zacharias tried to reason with himself - there was nothing objective attractive about Anthony, just a whole bunch that were interesting. His glasses, for one, which made his eyes marginally bigger, though Zacharias liked him with or without them. Anthony had spindly fingers, which - well, Zacharias shook his mind out of more adult territory and tried to assess Anthony's body from the corner of his eye. Anthony was shorter than Zacharias, and a bit wiry, which was what made him such a flexible Quidditch player.

Anthony glanced at him. Zacharias quickly turned his focus to his Potions book, because he had ended up staring at Anthony like some sort of freak.

Anthony hadn't seemed to notice, though, asking Zacharias, "Something interesting in there?"

"What?" Zacharias said, looking up.

Anthony nodded at Zacharias's book. "Got a potion you want to try?" he asked, with some amusement.

"Oh, I - I was thinking," Zacharias said.

Anthony nodded again, and bit his lip. He looked like he wanted to say something, but when Zacharias turned back to his book, he didn't say anything.

Today they were working on the Vessel of Veracity, a lite version of Veritaserum, and Slughorn said that the first group to finish it could try it on him. Zacharias suspected that Slughorn had built his tolerance to the thing, and would probably wax poetic about Harry Potter again, which Zacharias wasn't particularly keen to listen to. Still, he and Anthony worked diligently, passing about Jobberknoll feathers and slicing up the Adder's Fork in silence.

Zacharias was passing a cut sliver of the adder's tongue to Anthony the same time Anthony lifted up their Vial of Ptolmey above the cauldron. Zacharias startled as their hands bumped, and Anthony dropped the vial. It shattered to the floor, and Zacharias had lost his grip on the tongue and accidentally dumped it into the cauldron.

"Oh, shit! Sorry," Anthony said, looking down and rushing to Reparo the vial back up. He looked down at the spilled contents and bit his lip. Zacharias focused his gaze on Anthony's cheek. "Do you think Professor Slughorn will give us another vial?"

"I don't think it'll do, I've already fucked up our potion." Zacharias pointed to it, where it was bubbling dangerously as a result of the tongue. It had turned a bright orange colour, which it wasn't supposed to do at all - by the time they were supposed to put the tongue in, it was supposed to be dark.

Anthony peered in and went, "Oh, shit," again. The back of his neck was red, and why was Zacharias staring? Well, he knew why, but - doing such a thing such as fancying someone was so much unnecessary work, as Anthony shoved his glasses up and flipped through the book, muttering to himself.

"So I think we've accidentally made a - " He looked into the cauldron again, and compared it to something in his book. "Yes, that looks - do you think you can ask Slughorn for another Vial of Ptolmey, and eight more Jobberknoll feathers?"

"Eight?" Zacharias said incredulously.

Anthony nodded. "I think we can fix this, we've accidentally made a Dealing Draught." He pointed at small print in his book which Zacharias couldn't bother reading. "Potions can be fixed - we just have to reset, I'll add more water - "

"What'll that do?" Zacharias asked.

"Help clear up the tongue. Which we should also slice more of." Anthony was in full potions master mode. There was a bead of sweat at his temple, and Merlin, why could Zacharias not stop staring?

He rushed to ask Slughorn for another Vial of Ptolmey, who asked what'd happened. "There was," Zacharias said, thinking about how he'd so stupidly reacted at merely touching Anthony, "an accident."

"Really? Well I can't say that you'll be getting an O for today," Slughorn said, and Zacharias scowled - he shouldn't tell him that until after they'd finished the potion, which they should be really graded on instead of their mistakes. "But here's another vial, go on."

Zacharias got the Jobberknoll feathers too, and dumped them onto the table. Anthony's glasses were fogged up when Zacharias arrived, and he squinted up at Zacharias before rubbing the mist off, a bright smile on his face.

"It's almost cleared," he told Zacharias. "I had to cast a faster spell to reset it more, since we've only got thirty minutes left of class, but - "

"That's great," Zacharias interrupted, grabbing his small knife and picking up the Adder's Fork. Anthony was happy over something as trivial as a saved potion, and that very irrational part of Zacharias was thinking words like cute while the rest of Zacharias wanted things to go back to the way they were, when he would be obnoxious about the Wanderers while constantly not distracted by the fact that he was distracted by Anthony.

 

*

Zacharias didn't know what to do about the Hufflepuff-Ravenclaw Quidditch match. He and Anthony would be going against each other, as they had in the past - but it was different this time. All these twisting, strange feelings - and Zacharias wasn't even thinking about the night of the Slytherin party when he looked at Anthony anymore, just what Anthony might look like when he opened his eyes after he kissed him, what his jaw might feel like under Zacharias's palm.

Clutching his broom, Zacharias scowled at himself until Wayne said, "Alright there, Zach?" and Zacharias merely grunted in response.

At least it was a cool day out, a light breeze which Zacharias played the best in. Flying was more fun with a little bit of resistance, where he could push his body more, and Zacharias stood tall as Madame Hooch made Wayne and Brocklehurst shake hands. The moment they were called to mount their brooms, Zacharias soared in the air, careful not to make too much eye contact with Anthony - he couldn't have Anthony even suspecting what Zacharias was thinking about him.

Madame Hooch blew her whistle, and the game started. "We're gonna beat you, Smith," Anthony called over to him from the Ravenclaw side, and Zacharias allowed himself to glance over, just this once.

"Not if we beat you first," he said, as Malone tossed him the Quaffle.

Anthony scoffed and dove at him, but Zacharias ducked him easily, trying not to make too much physical contact, and passed the Quaffle down to Wayne. "Pathetic," Zacharias called to Anthony, who laughed and circled around to keep up.

Zacharias avoided getting too close to him, as the Potions debacle was too humiliating to think about. He veered in the air and ducked as Anthony valiantly tried to block him, like he usually did - "Might want to rethink your strategy, Goldstein," Zacharias said, as he caught the ball from Megan. He flew around Anthony's body, feeling the intent of Anthony suddenly chasing after him, barely a metre away.

Zacharias made his way to the Ravenclaw goalposts, and tried to chuck the ball through. But before he could - and before the Ravenclaw Keeper could react - Anthony was there, catching the Quaffle in mid-air and grinning at Zacharias.

"What was that about re-thinking my strategy?" he said, before diving to the other end of the pitch.

Hufflepuff was up 80-50, but then Wayne narrowly dodged a Bludger and dropped the Quaffle at the same time, landing in one of the Ravenclaw Chaser's open arms. Ravenclaw scored, half of the stands going up in blue, and Lovegood's voice going, "Oh, and MacDougal's scored... she's quite good at Divination I've heard, even though Professor Trelawney doesn't seem to like her very much..."

Zacharias cursed and looked for the Quaffle. There was no doubt that the Seekers were going to get the Snitch any time soon - Zacharias never bet on anything, mind in the narrow space of being a Chaser and getting as many points as possible, no matter what. He spotted the Quaffle still in Ravenclaw hands, one of the Chasers passing it to Anthony.

Zooming across the pitch, Zacharias tried to think of the best way to get the Quaffle from Anthony. Leanne could hold her own as a Keeper, but that would be on the far side of the pitch, and there was no telling what could happen in between - if a Seeker could catch in between. Zacharias flew towards Anthony, but didn't make for the Quaffle - that would be a foul Zacharias didn't want to risk.

Instead, Zacharias said, "Come here often?"

Anthony burst into laughter that he seemed surprised about himself. "Zach, we're playing a game," he said.

"I know." Zacharias found himself floating closer - fancying Anthony always wanted him to be closer, or acutely aware and away, and Zacharias didn't bother trying to figure out how long he'd felt this way, other than he certainly had before. "Want to give the Quaffle to me?"

"Not on your life." Anthony looked amused, as Zacharias flew in front of him, blocking his path. "I'm not going to hand it to you."

"Come on, Goldstein," Zacharias said.

He reached out for the Quaffle; Anthony jerked his hands away, so Zacharias got in closer. Their faces were so close together, and -

It was only for a second, but Zacharias nearly bridged that gap, could see every millimetre of Anthony's glasses, as Zacharias wrapped his hands around the ball and Anthony hovered, frozen for some reason, not even bothering to pull away. Zacharias didn't know if he knew how to swallow in that second -

- but he felt Anthony's grip slacken, and tore the ball from his hands, immediately flying away to the other end of the pitch. He heard Brocklehurst bellow, "What was that, Anthony?" and Anthony saying something about a collision, and Zacharias chucked the Quaffle at Wayne when the Ravenclaw Keeper flew at him, partly because he was blocked, but partly because he felt like he could still feel the heat of Anthony's hands on the ball after he pried it from his hands.

*

Zacharias was grudgingly congratulating Lisa Turpin when he saw Anthony dismounting his broom, from the corner of his eye. Turpin had a smug grin on her face that didn't deserve to be there, because Ravenclaw had won, but it quickly disappeared when Anthony shoved her aside and then shoved at Zacharias, which was such a surprise that he fell on the ground.

"You prat," Anthony said, cheeks red. "You stole the bloody ball from me - "

"It's Quidditch," Zacharias said indignantly, struggling to get up. "What did you expect - ?"

"You were staring and I thought you were - " Anthony was getting nearer to Zacharias, and was, frankly, frightening as Zacharias backed away. "We were so close - I thought you might've - "

"Might've what?" Zacharias demanded.

"You just - " Anthony grabbed at Zacharias again, and Zacharias thought he might push him again. Instead, Anthony grappled at Zacharias's robes, and drew him close. His mouth was dangerously close to Zacharias's, and Zacharias could feel Anthony exhaling against his lips. Anthony lingered so close, and it was like that moment again. Zacharias didn't know what to think, where to put his eyes.

Anthony shoved him away again, and said, "That." He looked furious, and it took a minute for Zacharias to realise - that Anthony was thinking that Zacharias was going to - that Anthony might've wanted to kiss him.

But Anthony had never insinuated such a thing before. Zacharias furrowed his eyebrows and asked bluntly, "You want to shag again?" and Wayne and Lisa Turpin, who were still standing nearby, both let out yelps of surprise.

Anthony turned bright red and said, "I don't just want to shag you, Zach, I want to," and then he was drawing himself near again, except this time the space between them was getting narrower and narrower, and then Anthony's mouth was on his, nothing sexual about it - just Anthony's lips.

A kiss, a sweet kiss that Zacharias felt himself keening into immediately, tilting his head and trying to get the angle right. That strange sensation in his stomach was burning and fluttery and Zacharias gripped at Anthony's elbows, deepened it.

Anthony pulled away and so much was happening around them, cheers and congratulations and maybe someone saying something about them, Zacharias didn't know. Anthony was saying in between them, cheeks even redder than before, "Merlin, I've been wanting - for bloody forever - "

"Forever?" Zacharias said, raising his eyebrows. And before Anthony could respond, Zacharias kissed him again, and then his jaw, until he heard one wolf whistle, and then several others. He turned around to see his entire Quidditch team hooting at them, and the Ravenclaws looking quite amused as well, despite having lost and that Zacharias was accosting one of their Chasers with his mouth.

Not that Zacharias cared - he turned around again to see Anthony grinning from ear-to-ear, glasses fogged, and probably the best thing he'd seen since the Wanderers beat the Falcons in their fifth year. Everyone else in the stands was cheering, and likely had seen the whole thing, and Zacharias didn't give a single fuck.

Their arms were around each other, and Zacharias forced himself to break apart, because it wouldn't do to show such ridiculous things in front of everyone else. He found himself unable to stop smiling, though, at Anthony who looked dazed but happy.

"I hope you don't mind," he panted, against Zacharias, "that I did that, in front of the whole school - "

Oh, fuck it. "Do shut up," Zacharias said, dragging Anthony back in. He kissed him again, amidst the cheers and catcalls and Anthony's laughing mouth.

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