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no mortal man can win this day (it's a kind of magic)

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“Tell me I’m dreaming.”

Aziraphale sighed.

“For the last time, we’re not dreaming, Crowley.”

“’Kay, then remind me how we got into this mess again?”

Aziraphale stared up at the ceiling. Which – sure, magic ceiling, floating candles, kind of impressive. Also a little too on-the-nose, though. Crowley liked to think if he were to create a magic castle, it’d be a lot more exciting than this.

Then he remembered the Forbidden Forest, and the Chamber, and possibly the Dementors and the Tournament as well. Crowley grimaced. He hoped to G- Sa – someone, that the Antichrist’s imagination hadn’t extended quite that far.

He didn’t have a lot of faith in that hope.

“Possibly I shouldn’t have gifted him with all seven volumes of the Harry Potter books as a Christmas present,” Aziraphale murmured.

Now you’re thinking of it?” Crowley hissed furiously, trying his best to tamp down the panic bubbling up his throat and not start shouting. It would break down the dream (provided this was a dream at all, the opposite of which was a possibility that Crowley was determinedly Not Entertaining right now) and deposit them somewhere even more horrific, or something. Crowley did not want to end up on the set of The Hunger Games.

“Great idea, just brilliant, give the Antichrist who has the power to rewrite reality with his bloody mind some crazy magic books, love and sorcery, manual on how to destroy the fucking world -”

“Language,” Aziraphale said mildly. “We’re among children now.”

“We are children now, angel!” Crowley screeched, in his new squeaky child’s voice.

“I’ll admit, the concept is novel to me, as well,” said the infuriating angel, now a child, staring somewhat puzzled at his smooth, small hands. “I haven’t got the faintest how to start acting like a child. Or a wizard.”

Aziraphale-the-kid was – exactly how he’d always been, just several decades younger. On the surface, at least. With the adorably round cheeks, golden hair and dark blue eyes, he could’ve passed for a cherub on any Advent calendar. No pun intended.

“Lucky for you,” said Crowley, disgruntled. “You look all nice and human. Me, on the other hand -”

“Oh, I’m sure you’re going to be just fine, Crowley,” Aziraphale said, as half the Great Hall gawked at Crowley and his adult-sized sunglasses.

“They’re going to tear me apart,” Crowley muttered. “And then you’ll see.”

“See what, dear?” said Aziraphale. He was watching the singing hat with a look of mild horror and morbid fascination.

“Nothing,” said Crowley, as an eerily spot-on McGonagall started to unroll the parchment of doom.

“So, you’ve read all the books, then?” Aziraphale turned back to him.

Crowley resisted the urge to fidget.

“Audiobooks. Listened to it while driving.”

Aziraphale beamed.

“Excellent. So you know all the challenges that we’re going to be presented with, all the – the plot, and the -  creatures?”

Crowley stared at the angel's expectant face.

“Hold on a second. You haven’t read it?”

Aziraphale squirmed – which looked rather ridiculous in his swishy, over-sized black robes - facial expression doing its usual acrobatics when the angel felt guilty, or cornered.

“You haven’t,” Crowley said, genuinely amazed. “There is a book that I’ve read but you haven’t.” [1]

“Well, it’s not exactly as if children’s books are a priority of mine,” Aziraphale huffed, fussing over his tie. “Never mind ones that came out so recently. There are a lot of books on the market that are dying to be read, you know. The annual number of published works in the UK alone -”

“Angel. They came out in 1997. That’s more than twenty years ago. You might have read one of them. Just one.”

“Regardless,” Aziraphale said, pointed. “We’re going to be fine. You know the books’ content. We’ll be fine. As soon as Adam realizes his mistake -”

If he realizes -”

“He’ll let us out,” Aziraphale said, confident.

“In the meantime, we go to middle school,” Crowley sighed.

Magic middle school,” Aziraphale said with relish, as only someone who’d never read the books could be when they find themselves in wizarding Scotland, 1991.

Crowley stared at him, open-mouthed, indignant.

“And if not magic, what do you suppose we’ve been doing for the past six thousand years, then?!”

“That’s different.”

“Different how? It’s literally the same – never mind. This is stupid. What house do you reckon you’ll be in?”

“Gryffindor, I expect,” said Aziraphale, eyeing the empty plates with longing.

“What, because it’s got a big pointy sword?”

“Because Gryffindor stands for goodness,” said Aziraphale, put-out. “Equality, and – and kindness, and -”

“Then I’ll be a Snake for sure,” said Crowley. “Looks like we’ll be on opposite sides again.”

Aziraphale smiled at him, soft. Crowley wanted to look away, but found it a little difficult to. All the candles in the hall picked out the gold in the angel’s hair, and his eyes seemed to gain a sparkle, more lively than they’ve ever seemed in that dusty bookshop of his.

“Wherever you are,” Aziraphale was saying. “Whatever side you’re on, you’ll always be dear to my -”

“Crowley, Anthony!”

Crowley cringed, and turned wide, desperate eyes on Aziraphale. Aziraphale, the bastard, only pushed him firmly with a hand, and Crowley went stumbling towards the podium on legs that refused to cooperate, what with the unfamiliar length and whole new center of gravity.

Well, well, well, said a voice in his ears as the hat was thrust down. Crowley nearly went tumbling backwards on the stool. No need to panic.

Right, no, I’m grand, just wonderful, thought Crowley wildly. I’m stuck in a fairytale and there’s a magic hat reading my mind.

Not the fastest broom in the shed, are you, said the hat with a distinct air of judgement. There’s cunning enough, I grant, but – oh, not a smidgen of ambition.

What?

The loyalty’s commendable, the hat said, barreling full steam ahead. Alas, a lamentable lack of hard work.

Hey, ‘s not my fault. Hard to really go at it when your job’s to spread evil -

What about bravery, let’s see, ah –

There was a pause.

Crowley’s heart jumped into his throat.

My, my, said the hat.

Its voice, its tone had changed, even though Crowley shouldn’t be able to tell. It was a bloody hat. What business did hats have, going around sounding like that?

You really will do anything for him, won’t you? No, not just for him, said the hat's voice, wondering.

The light in the Great Hall was blinding, even through his shades. Crowley felt dizzy.

Of course, how could I forget? The hat murmured, its voice like diffuse poison. Defying God, questioning Them to Their face – rebelling from even Hell - naturally, there has only ever been one answer –

Gryffindor!”

“You’ve got to be joking,” said Crowley, dumbfounded, as McGonagall shooed him off to the side.

There were only Tracey Davis and Kevin Entwhistle between his name and Aziraphale’s, and he spent those few minutes trading identical looks of disbelief with Aziraphale across the hall, who was looking increasingly frantic at the head of the queue.

“Fell, Ezra!”

Aziraphale would be in Gryffindor, of course. Come to think of it, this wasn’t a bad arrangement. Having the same dorm would mean more time to plot their escape from this fantasy literature hell, even if Crowley had the sinking suspicion that there was nothing they could really do, but it would be nice to be able to play on the same team for once –

The rip of the hat opened.

Slytherin!”

Crowley's head hit the table with a thunk.

*

“So how’s the big aquarium-dungeon-dormitory?” said Crowley the next morning, as they loitered on the edges of the Quidditch field, standing five feet apart, whispering from the sides of their mouths.

Aziraphale might not have read the books, but Crowley had, and he wasn’t an idiot; he knew what a Slytherin and a Gryffindor seen consorting together got you in these parts.

“Dreadful,” groused Aziraphale. “Everything is so wet. And dark. One can hardly read a book in there, not even by the firelight.” He was flipping through the first year Charms textbook with the same sort of look he was giving the hat last night. “Wingardium Leviosa? Is this a misprint?”

“It’s magic in a kid’s book, Aziraphale. They’re not big on realism. Or grammar. Speaking of, how did that hat put you in Slytherin?”

“Oh, said it was very cunning of me to have ‘passed for a good little angel all this time’,” Aziraphale replied with tell-tale lightness. “Also, apparently my conduct during the Apocalypse – or rather, the Notapocalypse – befitted an ‘exemplary Slytherin.’”

Crowley stiffened. “That wanker. I’m going to have its sorry hide -”

“It’s a hat, Crowley, it doesn’t exactly have any hide,” said Aziraphale, exasperated, but the smile he directed at Crowley made him calm a little.

“Still,” grumbled Crowley. “It’s got us backwards. Gryffindors are supposed to be the nice ones -”

“And I’ve always said that deep down, Crowley, you’re –“

“Angel, I swear -”

Aziraphale paused and beamed at him, but his meaning was clear. Crowley fought to contain his blush. It was a resounding failure.

“I’m fine, Crowley, really,” said Aziraphale softly. “Besides, they’ve got quite a nice emblem, don’t you think?” He poked at the little green snake on the front of his robes, with a slightly besotted smile.

“It’s – not bad, I s'pose,” said Crowley, choking a little.

They gazed at each other in the way that people who were in love with each other, but who hadn’t declared it to each other yet, often did.

“So,” Crowley said after he broke eye contact, clearing his throat, trying his best to adopt a business-like tone. “Any idea what we’ll have to do to get out?”

“I was hoping that you might have some.”

Crowley grimaced. “Right. I was thinking – if we’re stuck in a story -"

Aziraphale, bless him - no, damn him - picked up on his meaning immediately.

"How does a story usually end? When the villain is defeated.”

"Exactly."

Aziraphale's eyes lit up.

“In this case, the villain is -”

“Voldemort,” Crowley nodded firmly. “So, as soon as we get him out of the way -”

“We’ll be tip-top!”

Crowley decided to ignore Aziraphale’s choice of words this one time, and said,

“Fortunately for us, there is a grand opportunity right here in this castle...”

 

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[1] Aziraphale had not read the books. He had, however, seen one movie, the fourth one, with Crowley. It may or may not have contributed to his decision to not read any of the books. [2]

[2] Aziraphale thought the only saving grace of the movie was the actor for a certain Death Eater, who resembled Crowley greatly. He did not see the need to inform Crowley of this fact.