Lily Potter (formerly Evans) had a great respect for the wizarding world. She would readily admit it. While wizarding culture had its problems, some of them grave ones, it also had its virtues, and there was nothing that could ever make Lily regret that she was a witch.
But no matter how much she loved magic, no matter how pleased she was to belong to the wizarding community, there were some things she would not experience.
Giving birth under the care of wizard healers was one of them.
In some ways healing was a very advanced field, but unfortunately in others it was just as backward and subject to the same prejudices and blinkered perception as the rest of the wizarding world.
The muggle world had long tried to make childbirth both as safe and as comfortable as possible. Nurses and doctors involved in the process were rigorously professional, adhering to strict standards of training and medical procedure, and did their best to control every aspect of the birthing process. Muggles also approved of the use of drugs to minimise pain and ease the effort of childbirth, which, as every mother knew, was something to be devoutly thankful for.
Wizards, on the other hand, regarded childbirth almost as a mystical event, an initiation into the deeper mysteries of life. Rather than being seen as a process which should be as managed and controlled in order to obtain the most positive result possible, the magical community regarded childbirth as an event which must be endured and allowed to take its course. Healers would intervene if the mother or child appeared to be in any danger, of course, but no efforts were made to ease the pain that the mother was in, or affect the birthing process in any other way.
“Sod that,” Lily had told her husband dangerously, when James had waxed lyrical on the beauty of the fullness of the experiences of motherhood and the meaning of life. “I’m giving birth in a muggle hospital with modern medicine and proper doctors and pain-relieving drugs, and if you feel like arguing I’ll hex your bollocks into next week.”
“Right,” James said swiftly. “Muggle hospital it is.”
So it was that the 31st of July, 1980 found Lily Potter in one of London’s muggle hospitals, giving birth to a baby son.
Unfortunately, as events unfolded, she might have been better off with St Mungo’s.
Crowley was running late.
This wasn’t precisely an anomalous event: Crowley had just enough of a theatrical streak to like making a dramatic entrance, when the occasion called for it. Tonight, however, he was cursing the fact that he was running late.
After all, when the infant Antichrist was lying in a carrycot in the back seat of your car, and you were supposed to be exchanging them for a rather more human baby at a particular time, it was best for things to go as planned. The forces of Hell might approve of anarchy and disorder in theory, but when it came to their own business they liked everything to be just-so.
Crowley wasn’t sure exactly how he had gotten the job of handing the Antichrist over to be raised by some unsuspecting pair of human parents, but suspected darkly that it had something to do with the fact that he was the only one who seemed to actually understand how human affairs worked. This was a delicate operation, the kind where you couldn’t just go blundering in. This required subtlety, which Crowley was – unfortunately – forced to admit wasn’t exactly a common trait among the denizens of Hell. Besides which, the fact that Crowley was actually stationed on Earth on a full-time basis no doubt made it more convenient for him, of all people, to be the demon in charge of switching the Antichrist for someone else’s child.
Crowley parked the Bentley in the car park outside the hospital, and opened one of the car’s back doors. The Antichrist had cried, at first, a thin high wail, but he had quieted down during the drive. Crowley stared down at him. The baby looked like any other baby that age: small and red-faced, with a few tufts of black hair on his head. But as Crowley watched, the Antichrist opened his eyes, to reveal a pair of eyes that were a deep, brilliant green, and unexpectedly knowing for an infant.
Crowley shuddered slightly. Knowing that the kid had inherited his unholy parent’s eyes didn’t make Crowley feel any more comfortable about what was going on. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Crowley picked up the carrycot gingerly, ignoring the fact that the baby Antichrist was staring straight at him, and walked into the hospital.
No one paid him all that much attention – a harried-looking man with a baby wasn’t exactly an uncommon sight in the maternity ward – as he made his way to the part of the hospital where he was supposed to meet his contact.
When he got there, there was a nurse waiting for him.
“You’re late,” she hissed, and practically snatched the baby from Crowley. She peered down into the Antichrist’s face with a look of fascination.
“He looks so… normal,” she said at last.
“Wait until he looks at you,” Crowley said darkly. “You’ll make the exchange, then?”
“Of course,” said the nurse, dragging her gaze away from the Antichrist’s face to give Crowley a dismissive glance. “It won’t be a problem.”
“It had better not be,” said Crowley. “Hell has a lot riding on this, you know.” And he knew exactly who would get the blame if anything went wrong. Him.
The nurse rolled her eyes.
“It’ll be fine,” she said.
Crowley lingered for a moment longer, but the nurse said, “Well? Get along with you, then,” and reluctantly, Crowley left the matter in her hands, walking back outside to the car park.
He got into the Bentley, and sat for a moment.
He’d done his bit to ensure the apocalypse; now all they had to do was wait eleven years. Hell would send agents to corrupt the boy, of course, while Heaven sent their own people to try and coax him down the path of righteousness. But either way, the end was inevitable.
It was a funny thing. Crowley had been working for millennia towards the end goal of the apocalypse, and he’d always known he’d be around when it eventually happened – angels, even fallen ones, were more-or-less eternal. But now that the end of all things was actually at hand, he found that he wasn’t exactly happy with the prospect.
For one thing, Crowley actually liked Earth, and humanity. It was a major failing in a demon.
It was just – humans were so creative. They had an imagination that both Hell and Heaven lacked And for all that humans they could devise with worse tortures than any demon could come up with on their best day, humans sometimes showed more grace than even Heaven could dream of. Sometimes even the same individual was responsible.
The whole thing was ineffable, as Aziraphale would say.
Crowley shook his head, and started the Bentley, with the intention of going home to a nice bottle of wine, and then having a long nap. Tonight, after all, had been a stressful occasion.
It was funny, though, Crowley mused, as he pulled out the car park, that they’d chosen a pair of wizards for the Antichrist’s parents. But then, he supposed, a magical couple would be more likely to overlook any oddness associated with their child. Whatever the reason, Crowley almost found himself feeling sorry for James and Lily Potter.
Still, at least Crowley’s part in this was done, for the moment. He’d handed the kid over, just as he was supposed to.
What could possibly go wrong?