Actions

Work Header

Harry James Crowley

Chapter Text

Crowley always read the Infernal Times, the best newspaper for gossip and sharp political commentary from Hell. It contained so much entertaining nonsense, and his subscription was free.

Those two things were related. The middle pages of the IT were always about curiosities on Earth, and very often, Crowley submitted suggestions, or photographic evidence. And sometimes, he was asked for his expert advice for an article.

Of course, he didn‘t always tell them the truth. He was a demon, he wasn‘t supposed to. Also, it was more fun this way, and Crowley also wasn‘t stupid enough to make himself easily expendable on Earth by educating other demons in the Earthly Ways. He preferred they learned Earth the hard way. If necessary, he made sure it would be hard enough by calling in a favour from the angel, but he hardly ever had to bother. Earth had a reputation to be harsh on demons for a reason and Crowley liked it that way. Never too many other demons getting in his way, except of course Hastur who could never take a hint.

His first impuls upon hearing the newest story the Infernal Times had dug up was to deny it. But he hesitated. It WAS interesting. Because it should be impossible.

But the demon Penemue, editor-in-mischief of the Infernal Times, had a knack for good stories. And Crowley would have been hooked on this one whether it was true or not.

"Wow,“ he said, "Parseltongue? A child? Really?“

"He must have demon blood in him, somehow. Are you really sure you haven’t spawned a little half demon here and there?”

“If I had, I’d know about it. It’s not mine.” Crowley hissed those words a bit too sharply, he realized. He didn’t like them.

"Bless! You were our last hope. We tried to find him and check on him, but he seems to live under magical protection.“

"Fucking wizards,“ murmured Crowley.

"Well, if they think they can take a demon child and hide it from us, they‘ll be in trouble. Right?“

"Right,“ murmured Crowley, and he realized how much trouble he was in. Either he‘d have to go up against wizards which was always a nuisance and a laugh for the other demons, or he‘d have to watch some stupid demons get discorporated in messy ways and THEN go up against wizards.
He would have to do something, and do it quick. Before his superiors were involved and got all kinds of ideas about how he should deal with this, which usually was just too much work.

"Guys,“ he said, "I think I know how to find that kid.“ He had no idea, but he needed to sound believable. The guys at IT liked him, he had to bank on that, but it couldn‘t hurt to sound like the expert they took him for. "Let me look into this story. Hold back the article a few more days and who knows, it might turn out a really big story.“

"Heaven, Crowley, if you can break the kind of security they have put around this kid, I‘ll name my left asscheek after you. This kid is better protected than the Antichrist.“
Crowley grinned. He very much wanted to turn down the offer, but he couldn‘t bring himself to.

"It‘s all about knowing who to talk to. I hadn‘t made it on Earth for this long if I didn‘t know how to talk to people. And Penemue, I‘m personally going to tattoo my name on that asscheek if I find the boy. Do we have a deal?“

The demon who had once fallen for teaching humans how to use ink and paper, and wouldn‘t dream of changing his name after the fall because he was still proud of that, laughed. "Deal.“

"OK, give me all you have on this.“

"Sure. And Crowley… are we absolutely certain he‘s not going to be that snake clown from a few years ago? You got a recommendation for his rise, and never been able to explain his fall.“

"Wizards and witches is all the explanation, and I‘ll bet they‘re behind this one too. And my guess is we’d have heard of more interesting things than talking to a snake if it was him.“

"Well, you’re the expert. Keep me updated.“

--

Crowley liked the story less the more he thought about it. He read through the draft of the article, and the sources the IT had included.

A young schoolboy had been hissing at a snake in a zoo, and set the snake free. No one of the zoo remembered the incident, the Infernal Times had had to find other visitors who had seen what had happened. Memory control. Very suspicious. Also proof that wizards and witches were involved.

And no one had been able to trace the boy ever since.

A parselmouth? That Crowley had never heard of?

He didn‘t like it. Not at all. Not because he thought that Riddle would be back. If he would, “fuck wizards” would have been the title of every IT article ever since, and the whole Hell would make fun of him again for the snake thing. He was infinitely grateful that he hadn’t even been on the same continent when the Rise of Riddle had been a thing.

No. It wasn‘t Riddle. But what was happening?
Time to go to the zoo.

By talking to the right people, Crowley of course thought of the right species of people. He asked the snakes in the zoo‘s reptile house. And the snakes were excited about that kid, and couldn‘t shut up about it. He got vivid descriptions of the boy, and his voice and intonation, and a good idea what happened.

The best account came from the Snake of the Day who had been talking to the boy, because he had also had a good chance to smell these people when the glass of his terrarium had vanished.
Every one of them, but especially the boy, had a unique smell, a bad smell.

The Wizards had been thorough with dulling down the incident in the zoo staff‘s minds, Crowley didn’t find a single zookeeper who remembered anything. But the wizarding world had a technological understanding that lagged even behind Aziraphale‘s, so Crowley was not surprised to find the security footage still intact, and it took him only the slightest amount of persuasion to make the zoo director‘s secretary show him an email about the incident that mentioned actual names and phone numbers. The secretary was obviously very lonely, and also pretty knowledgable about the zoo, so Crowley took him out for lunch to show his appreciation for a cooperative attitude, and didn‘t regret it.

Now he had names, a phone number, an email address and a license plate. In no time he had the address, and was on his way.

--

Finding the right town had been the easy part. Finding the street was impossible.

He drove the Bentley according to a map, then to a navigation app, then just randomly. He couldn‘t enter the street. What was going on? Wizard magic usually didn‘t affect him much, but there were always some high-powered spells to avoid, and this whole town, and especially this one street, were heavy with magic. In passing, he would have pinned it as just another wizarding community and avoided it, but the people in the streets wore the usual, not wizard clothes, and even more telling, electronic devices and modern technology were everywhere.

What had they done to hide the boy? He left the Bentley at the hotel and tried on foot. He had a feeling that he got a bit further in the right direction, but that was it. There had to be an actual dimensional twist here, but then why were the people who lived here unaffected, and he was?

He bought a map of town and marked all the point where walking ahead proved unsuccessful.

Ha. The marks circled more or less around the house he was looking for, and the closest school. So.
Someone had vanished the kid from prying eyes, includeding demon eyes. Interesting. So whoever hid the kid had ties to hell, strong enough to ask for a rather big favour. Or ties to the other side, but anyone there helping wizards with magic would owe the wizarding world an even bigger, colossal favour.

There were other ways he could try. Maybe he couldn‘t go to the boy. Didn‘t mean the boy couldn‘t come to him. He wasn‘t the demon of temptation for nothing.

And so began the snake sightings in Little Whinging, a huge snake, apparently, that people saw at all times of the day, and seemingly at random, although the snake seemed mostly to hang out in one part of town. One that, say, a child coming home from a certain school, could easily make to detour through, if said child was, say, interested in snakes.

Crowley enjoyed the occasional screams, and stoically endured the suicidally brave who tried to poke or whack him, and only lazily slithered out of their reach, instead of biting them like they deserved it. But he was a kid-friendly snake. No biting incidents whatsoever.

Honestly, he was a bit insulted that the official answer to the complaints from citizens was only a very lackluster search by the local police. He sat on a bench, in human form, with a newspaper and a cup of coffee, and ignored them.

This hiding in the open almost became his undoing when all of sudden, a smelly boy with a school bag stood before him. He hadn‘t seen or heard or smelled him coming at all, and only registered him because the kid directly looked at him.

Small, slight, glasses, messy head of dark hair, smell. That matched exactly the description he had gotten at the zoo. Maybe eight to ten years old, wearing oversized clothes, heavens what was that smell?

[Author's note: if you find Parseltongue difficult to read, you can jump to the end of the chapter and continue reading from there, there's a plain English version]

The kid stared at his belt buckle, which had the shape of a snake.

"Do you like ssnakess?“ he asked the kid, in Parseltongue.

The kid neither flinched nor took notice of the oddity, he just nodded and replied in the cutest Parseltongue Crowley had ever heard. "Yess, I do.“

It seems like the kid couldn‘t tell Parseltongue from human speech. It was adorable. Crowley found a smile on his face, not sure how it had gotten there.

"I alsso like ssnakess very much. Are you probably looking for a big ssnake that‘ss been sseen around hhere lately?“

The kid nodded.

"Whhy? Whhat do you want to do with a big ssnake?“

"I don‘t whant to hhurt it,“ said the boy quickly. "I‘d jusst like to ssee whhat kind it is. And maybe talk to it a little.“

"I thhink I can hhelp you there,“ said Crowley. "I thhink he’ss around hhere ssomewhhere. You’re not afraid of big ssnakess, hhuhh?”

The boy shook his head.

“Sso you’re not going to yell, or make any rashh movementss, or try to run away then?”

The boy shook his head again.

“Ok, then ssit withh me a bit. I know this ssnake. I thhink hhe’ll be very curiouss whho’ss with me and come to hhave a closser look.”

The boy sat next to him without hesitation, putting his schoolbag next to him on the bench, but not in between them. He was small, cute and trusting, believed every word a stranger said. Crowley felt very protective of him all of sudden. He was proud of his skills as a tempter, but it didn’t feel good if it was this easy. Well, maybe it was the Parseltongue that did it. Crowley would definitely keep it up. Not that he would have much of a choice, in a minute or two.

"Ssit sstill now, and don‘t move. Hhe can already ssmell you. Whhen hhe comess hhere, talk to hhim like you talk to me, that‘ll interesst hhim. Remember, make no loud noissess, and no rashh movementss. The ssnake is big, I promisse hhe whon‘t hhurt you, but sstill better not to sstartle him.”

"Hhow do you know it‘ss a hhe?“

Crowley smiled. "Hhiss name iss Anthhony.“

He put his newspaper and coffee down, and then took his glasses off, still smiling. And without a further word of warning, he transformed into his snake form.

The kid, to his surprise, neither screamed nor ran away. He just sat there, his eyes as big as saucers. Unfortunately, he didn‘t talk, and even though Crowley could see him clearly, he started having doubts again. The protection spell tried to hide the kid even from his snake form. Well, same eyes, no wonder. He needed to talk to the kid.

“Hhello, kid,“ he tried. “Nicce to meet you.”

The kid needed a few moments, but he didn‘t run away, so Crowley waited patiently. He tasted the air once or twice, but ack, the kid was smelly. The smell was a lot harder to doubt, so if the kid wouldn‘t talk, Crowley would have to concentrate on the smell. He‘d never ever smelled that on a kid. Or on anyone, come to think of it. He just couldn‘t place it.

Finally, the kid said something.

"Hhello… Mr Ssnake.“

The sweet silvery parseltongue brought the kid back in sharp focus again. The kid sounded even cuter for snake senses, and Crowley smiled internally.

“I told you, my name iss Anthhony,“ he said.

The kids eyes wandered from the coffee cup to the snake. His expression was mostly one of curiosity and surprise. He didn‘t seem to be afraid at all, just excited.

"Ssorry… Anthhony,“ he said. "I‘ve never sseen a man whho could turn into a ssnake.“

Crowley moved his head to watch the kid from different angles. “Actually, I‘m a ssnake who can turn into a hhuman sshape,“ he said.

“Whoah, iss thhat whhy I can undersstand you?“

“No, you can understand all ssnakess. I thhink. Hhumanss whho can talk to ssnakes can talk to all ssnakess.“

Had he said too much? He really hadn‘t wanted to give the kid too many news at once, but luckily, this kid was a pretty robust one, it seemed. This new surprise just seemed to make him happier.

“Thhere are more people like me? Really?“

“Not many. It‘ss very rare, thiss gift. Ssnakess whho can turn hhuman are alsso very, very rare.
That‘ss whhy I thhought whe could probably get to know each other. I whanted to ssee whhat you‘re like.“

The kid nodded. “Whhen I heard there wass a big ssnake in town, I whanted to ssee whhat you‘re like too.“

Crowley started moving his head some more, slowly including more of his body. The kid seemed to like it. “I hheard from a friend whho workss at a newhsspaper that there are rumorss of a boy whho talked to a ssnake at the zoo, sso I whent there and hhad a chhat whith thhat ssnake. Hhe rememberss you very fondly.“

“Ohh,“ said the kid, a bit sad. “Sso thhey found hhim and put hhim back thhere again? I hhad hhoped he could sstay free.“

“Boy,“ said Crowley, “Hhe‘ss a tropical ssnake, thiss country iss whay too cold for hhim, hhe would have died. If you whant to chheer hhim up, you can go vissit hhim again.“

The boy looked even sadder now. “I can‘t,“ he said. “Thhey‘ll never let me go to the zoo again after that sscene.“

“Ohh,“ said Crowley, a bit out of his depth. “Ssorry. Well, I can alwayss go thhere and take my phone withh me and call you, thhen thhe two of you can hhave a little chhat.“

That brought a smile back on the face of the boy. “I can‘t call a ssnake. Or can I?“

“Why not? Whhat do you thhink I hhave thiss hhuman shhape for if not for sseing other ssnakess in zzoos? Thhey won‘t ssell zzoo tickets to ssnakess. Don‘t know whhy, I assked niccely?“

The kid giggled.

“Whhat‘ss your name, boy?“ asked Crowley. Technically, he knew, but he wanted to make certain.

“I‘m Hharry.“

“Hhello Hharry, pleassure to meet you. Lissten, I need to chhange back. Lotss of people hheading our direction.”

He turned back into human again. The kid watched him in utter fascination.

“Thhat wass sso cool!“

Crowley felt oddly pleased. Not many people had ever seen him transform, and even fewer liked it.

“Thhankss,“ he said and put his sunglasses back on. "I‘ll be in town for a whhile,“ he said. "Whant to go for an icce-cream one of thhesse dayss, maybe?“

The kids enthusiasm got a damper again. "Thhey won‘t let me. I can‘t go anywhhere.“

"Whhat, are you grounded or ssomethhing?“

"Ssomethhing like thhat.“

"Well, I don‘t thhink I can walk up to your hhouse and you invite me in for tea,“ said Crowley.
The boy shook his head. "I don‘t thhink thhat whould whork. Thhey don‘t like sstrangerss.“
Crowley nodded, but he filed that idea under Plan B. Sooner or later, hhe wanted to see this place where the kid lived, this incredibly hard to find place.

"Ssame time, ssame placce, tomorrow? Thhe bench?“ asked Crowley.

The kid beamed at him happily. "Yess!“

--
--

End of chapter

--


Transcript from Parseltongue to English:
_

"Do you like snakes?“ he asked the kid, in Parseltongue.

The kid neither flinched nor took notice of the oddity, he just nodded and replied in the cutest Parseltongue Crowley had ever heard. "Yes, I do.“

It seems like the kid couldn‘t tell Parseltongue from human speech. It was adorable. Crowley found a smile on his face, not sure how it had gotten there.

"I also like snakes very much. Are you probably looking for a big snake that‘s been seen around here lately?“

The kid nodded.

"Why? What do you want to do with a big snake?“

"I don‘t want to hurt it,“ said the boy quickly. "I‘d just like to see what kind it is. And maybe talk to it a little.“

"I think I can help you there,“ said Crowley. "I think he’s around here somewhere. You’re not afraid of big snakess, huh?”

The boy shook his head.

“So you’re not going to yell, or make any rash movements, or try to run away then?”

The boy shook his head again.

“Ok, then sit with me a bit. I know this snake. I think he’ll be very curious who’s with me and come to have a closer look.”

The boy sat next to him without hesitation, putting his schoolbag next to him on the bench, but not in between them. He was small, cute and trusting, believed every word a stranger said. Crowley felt very protective of him all of sudden. He was proud of his skills as a tempter, but it didn’t feel good if it was this easy. Well, maybe it was the Parseltongue that did it. Crowley would definitely keep it up. Not that he would have much of a choice, in a minute or two.

"Sit still now, and don‘t move. He can already smell you. When he comess here, talk to him like you talk to me, that‘ll interest him. Remember, make no loud noises, and no rash movements. The snake is big, I promise he won‘t hurt you, but still better not to startle him.”

"How do you know it‘s a he?“

Crowley smiled. "His name is Anthony.“

He put his newspaper and coffee down, and then took his glasses off, still smiling. And without a further word of warning, he transformed into his snake form.

The kid, to his surprise, neither screamed nor ran away. He just sat there, his eyes as big as saucers. Unfortunately, he didn‘t talk, and even though Crowley could see him clearly, he started having doubts again. The protection spell tried to hide the kid even from his snake form. Well, same eyes, no wonder. He needed to talk to the kid.

“Hello, kid,“ he tried. “Nice to meet you.”

The kid needed a few moments, but he didn‘t run away, so Crowley waited patiently. He tasted the air once or twice, but ack, the kid was smelly. The smell was a lot harder to doubt, so if the kid wouldn‘t talk, Crowley would have to concentrate on the smell. He‘d never ever smelled that on a kid. Or on anyone, come to think of it. He just couldn‘t place it.

Finally, the kid said something.

"Hello… Mr Snake.“

The sweet silvery parseltongue brought the kid back in sharp focus again. The kid sounded even cuter for snake senses, and Crowley smiled internally.

“I told you, my name is Anthony,“ he said.

The kids eyes wandered from the coffee cup to the snake. His expression was mostly one of curiosity and surprise. He didn‘t seem to be afraid at all, just excited.

"Sorry… Anthony,“ he said. "I‘ve never seen a man who could turn into a snake.“

Crowley moved his head to watch the kid from different angles. “Actually, I‘m a snake who can turn into a human shape,“ he said.

“Whoah, iss that why I can understand you?“

“No, you can understand all snakess. I think. Humans who can talk to snakes can talk to all snakes.“

Had he said too much? He really hadn‘t wanted to give the kid too many news at once, but luckily, this kid was a pretty robust one, it seemed. This new surprise just seemed to make him happier.

“There are more people like me? Really?“

“Not many. It‘s very rare, this gift. Snakess who can turn human are also very, very rare.
That‘s why I thought we could probably get to know each other. I wanted to see what you‘re like.“

The kid nodded. “When I heard there was a big snake in town, I wanted to see what you‘re like too.“

Crowley started moving his head some more, slowly including more of his body. The kid seemed to like it. “I heard from a friend who works at a newspaper that there are rumors of a boy who talked to a snake at the zoo, so I went there and had a chat whith that snake. He remembers you very fondly.“

“Ohh,“ said the kid, a bit sad. “So they found him and put him back there again? I had hoped he could stay free.“

“Boy,“ said Crowley, “He‘s a tropical snake, this country is whay too cold for him, he would have died. If you want to cheer him up, you can go visit him again.“

The boy looked even sadder now. “I can‘t,“ he said. “They‘ll never let me go to the zoo again after that scene.“

“Oh,“ said Crowley, a bit out of his depth. “Sorry. Well, I can always go there and take my phone with me and call you, then the two of you can have a little chat.“

That brought a smile back on the face of the boy. “I can‘t call a snake. Or can I?“

“Why not? What do you think I have this human shape for if not for seing other snakes in zoos? They won‘t sell zoo tickets to snakess. Don‘t know whhy, I asked nicely?“

The kid giggled.

“What‘s your name, boy?“ asked Crowley. Technically, he knew, but he wanted to make certain.

“I‘m Harry.“

“Hello Harry, pleasure to meet you. Listen, I need to change back. Lots of people heading our direction.”

He turned back into human again. The kid watched him in utter fascination.

“That was so cool!“

Crowley felt oddly pleased. Not many people had ever seen him transform, and even fewer liked it.

“Thanks,“ he said and put his sunglasses back on. "I‘ll be in town for a while,“ he said. "Want to go for an ice-cream one of thesse days, maybe?“

The kids enthusiasm got a damper again. "They won‘t let me. I can‘t go anywhere.“

"What, are you grounded or somethhing?“

"Something like that.“

"Well, I don‘t think I can walk up to your house and you invite me in for tea,“ said Crowley.
The boy shook his head. "I don‘t think that would work. They don‘t like strangers.“
Crowley nodded, but he filed that idea under Plan B. Sooner or later, he wanted to see this place where the kid lived, this incredibly hard to find place.

"Same time, same place, tomorrow? The bench?“ asked Crowley.

The kid beamed at him happily. "Yes!“