A Different Kind of Badass
Harry stared at the man in front of him.
Blonde curls. Mild blue eyes blinking in gentle befuddlement. A slightly pudgy figure, not much taller than Harry, outfitted in a tartan suit, of all things. An old, cloth-bound book in good condition held carefully in one hand, while the other pushed a pair of old-fashioned, gold-rimmed spectacles further up a straight nose with long, delicate fingers.
The only thing that looked even slightly worrying about the entire picture was the large snake wound around the man's neck, regarding Harry lazily with curious golden eyes.
Otherwise, the man looked like a particularly diffident librarian.
"You know," Harry said, "I'm pretty certain that I asked for a bad-arse guardian angel."
The man blinked at him, puzzled, but unoffended.
"I mean, you haven't even got a sword, and then there's..." Harry gestured at the suit, but words didn't really encompass that kind of monstrosity.
Dumbledore would love it.
The man's head tilted slightly, while the snake hissed with gleeful laughter. Whether it was at the expense of Harry or the alleged angel, Harry couldn't tell.
"Don't, ah, judge a book by its cover," the man replied placidly. "There are lots of ways one can be, er... 'bad-arse.'"
Harry just looked skeptical.
"No offense, but unless your secret superpower is uber-librarianism, I'm not convinced."
The snake almost fell off the man's shoulders laughing at that.
While Harry and the others tried to discover a way to defeat Voldemort, Aziraphale and his snake were mostly left alone. They spent the first couple of days exploring the castle, before settling down in the library.
Harry wasn't exactly sure why a guy claiming to be an angel had a pet snake – "I wouldn't call him a pet if I were you, my dear - 'companion' would be a better term -" "Pet? I'm not a PET! The cheek of it! You tell that brat, angel!" – but the two seemed to be close; at least, whenever Harry glimpsed the would-be angel the snake was either getting under his feet or else wrapped around his shoulders, while Aziraphale made little huffing noises and complained that it was heavy and tried to rearrange the thick coils.
It had been two weeks, just about, and Harry had almost forgotten the odd bookish man, when he and Ron and Hermione happened to be in the library just when Malfoy decided to harass Aziraphale.
"So, you're the muggle Potter summoned, are you?" asked a peremptory voice loudly.
Harry, Hermione, and Ron looked up to see Malfoy standing by Aziraphale's table, looking down his nose with utter contempt, while Aziraphale blinked up bemusedly.
"Mr Potter did call for my assistance, yes," Aziraphale allowed, closing his book, although he held his hand between his pages to keep his place. He looked up at Malfoy with curiosity, apparently
unaware that Malfoy's appearance meant trouble.
"Trust Potter to botch it up," Malfoy sneered. "Look at you, you pudgy muggle lump. Fat lot of help you'll be!" And he laughed mockingly.
"That git!" Ron muttered angrily.
"I can't believe him," Hermione hissed furiously, looking ready to storm over any moment.
Harry, though, just watched as Aziraphale's eyes narrowed slightly, and suddenly wondered where the snake had disappeared to.
"Oh, one should never judge by appearances, my dear," Aziraphale said, quite calmly, getting to his feet.
He eyed Malfoy consideringly. Standing, they were more or less the same height.
"You know, I can't help but wonder if you quite know what you're getting yourself into, with this Dark Lord of yours," Aziraphale said meditatively. "That sort of mutilation of the soul leaves its practitioners irrevocably insane, you know, without even beginning to discuss the repercussions that become apparent after death."
He moved forward a little.
It seemed as though with the movement, Aziraphale seemed to grow a little taller, and a little bit more… there, somehow.
Harry blinked, but the subtle effect was still present.
"I mean really, I've never understood this determination to disfigure oneself on such a fundamental level, even where the lure of immortality is involved – not that I've ever understood that either, because why would you want to exist for all eternity, as the earth turns to dust, the sun fails, and eventually even the universe itself dies a quiet death? It all seems rather senseless, if you ask me."
"As though they think that far," a voice hissed derisively, apparently unnoticed by everyone but Harry. He glanced around, but couldn't work out where the snake was hiding. "They're humans, angel. The closest their minds can get to 'forever' is listening to nothing but Elgar for a week. The idea that 'forever' includes the End of Days never occurs to them, for some reason."
"Shut up!" Malfoy sneered, reddening at the unexpected stream of intelligent musing from his target.
He decided to redirect the conversation onto familiar ground. "Muggle filth like you doesn't belong here. I think you need a lesson."
And he aimed his wand at the priceless, fifteenth-century treatise on the nature and origins of magic that Aziraphale had just been reading.
This would prove to be a mistake.
"Lower that wand at once."
Everyone's gaze snapped to Aziraphale instantly, only to quail at what they found there.
The angel's eyes glowed with fury, bright and piercing and impossibly knowing. Even from across the library, Harry felt as though whatever Aziraphale looked at was laid bare and measured, with equal compassion and severity, terrible in their incorruptibility.
Malfoy's wand fell with a clatter onto the table.
He looked utterly horrified, staring into Aziraphale's eyes like a rabbit mesmerised by a snake.
Speaking of snakes…
Harry looked around instinctively, his intuition warning him of what was coming.
Malfoy shrieked like a girl as he was suddenly wrapped in thick muscular coils, which squeezed without remorse.
Gasping for breath, Malfoy found himself nose-to-nose with Aziraphale's 'companion,' its own eyes blazing golden as it peered at him lazily.
"You're pretty dumb even for this lot, aren't you?" the serpent hissed – in perfect English.
Malfoy made a kind of gibbering noise.
The snake just gave a hissing laugh, and loosening its hold on him, glided across the carpet towards Aziraphale.
Malfoy ran for it.
There was a long silence as Aziraphale sat down again and serenely returned to his reading, the snake winding its way upwards and peering over his shoulder at the book, tongue flicking in and out.
Harry had no doubt, after all that he'd just seen, that the snake was reading also.
He glanced at Hermione and Ron, who were still gaping with stunned, open-mouthed expressions.
He shrugged to himself, and walked over to the other table.
Aziraphale and the snake glanced up attentively in perfect unison.
"So," Harry asked diffidently, "do you happen to have any idea what I could do about Voldemort?"
Aziraphale gave a faint, amused smile and set his book aside, and gestured for Harry to sit down.