Zack is very diminutive. He stands no more than 5 feet and a quarter inch tall. (He is very defensive about that quarter inch and does not allow it to be rounded down.) He’s also skinny, so he kind of looks like he could blow away in a stiff wind. His hair is dark, and ascribes to the philosophy of ‘every follicle for itself.’ His eyes are gray. He tends toward nerdy t-shirts and jeans when given the choice, but consents to khaki pants and polo shirts beneath a white lab coat for work.
Zack was born in a poor neighborhood in Detroit. His dad was a drunk who worked at a gas station, when he worked at all. His mom worked part-time at a grocery store. They were on food stamps and lived in subsidized housing. Zack resented his family- especially his violent bullying younger but larger brother Nick and the Sperm Donor who blew the family budget on alcohol. The Female Parental Unit made mostly microwave dinners of awfulness, so Zack took it upon himself to learn to cook when he was nine. He also took over the grocery shopping and learned the value of coupon clipping and stretching a buck. Penny pinching habits he still kept up religiously even as a middle class astrophysicist.
He jumped on the opportunity to get out of there when the letter from Sonora came, and once he graduated, he left Detroit for good and never looked back until Nick tracked him down to tell him about their father’s funeral.
Sonora was a hard transition for Zack. He was glad to be out of Detroit, of course, glad to be in a school not overrun with drugs and gangs, but the whole magic thing broke him a little bit. He was a genius- and he knew he was a genius- so he had trouble accepting he’d been wrong about where the line between fiction and reality fell. And when he corrected that line . . . he shifted it to include aliens on the reality side.
In fact, he was absolutely convinced that his classmate, Stephen Baxter, was an alien. Also, wizards had made contact with an alien species called snitches. And when the weather charms went wonky during his second year, the only explanation was aliens. Frankly, aliens were everywhere in the wizarding world, but he quickly realized that people thought he sounded crazy when he tried to explain this. So he toed the line and made lip service to the cover story that there were no aliens on Earth.
But Zack knew better.
He went to college in California. He got dual muggle and magical degrees in Astrophysics and Astronomy. He also started a website to collect data in the alien conspiracy. In his first year of graduate school, one of his website readers tracked him down and left him her half-alien baby to keep safe from the authorities, who would surely try to dissect him if they learned of his existence. Zack took on this charge and raised the alien child as his own, appropriately naming him Clark, just like the Kents did with their alien son.
He got a nicer apartment (well, one with working plumbing anyway) and finished his masters and doctorate degrees. When Clark was eight, they moved to Maryland, where Zack had gotten a job as a research scientist in NASA’s observatory and lab out there.
He had his dream job. He had the brightest most brilliant son in the world. He could afford a nice middle class home for them. Life was good, even if the aliens kept looking to reclaim their lost progeny and the government was an ever present threat to Clark. But they were thriving and Clark finished Sonora with honors and was now on a full Quidditch scholarship to the University of Toronto.