The problem wasn’t that Aziraphale didn’t like Crowley.
The problem was that he didn’t not like him.
The problem was that Crowley was charismatic and charming and so bloody sure of himself with his stupid swagger and his stupid sunglasses and his stupid smirk any time Aziraphale as much as looked his way. It was really rather infuriating.
The problem was that Crowley was a Slytherin, always had been always would be, a cunning serpent with a forked tongue – Merlin! Rumour even had it that he spoke Parseltongue1, for Godric’s sake.
The problem was that Aziraphale was a Gryffindor. By definition, they could not get along.
There had been a moment, right at the beginning, two 11 year-old boys on a train, chatting the hours away, sharing chocolate frogs and jokes and a mutual understanding to stick together and then –
We’re not friends, Aziraphale had told Crowley after the Sorting, I’m a Gryffindor and you’re a Slytherin.
“Hey, angel,” the, by now, familiar voice of one Anthony J. Crowley sounded through the hallway and Aziraphale did his best to keep his face clear of any kind of emotion as he turned around.
“Fancy a trip to Hogsmeade with me, next weekend?”
That, that right there, was the problem. Ever since the very first day, Crowley had tried to spent time with him and every time Aziraphale answered –
“No, thank you.”
And every time Crowley shrugged and smiled and walked away as if Aziraphale didn’t desperately want to say yes! Yes, let’s go together. Yes, let’s do something. Yes, let’s be friends or maybe something more.
But he never did.
Because, in the end, he was a Gryffindor and Crowley was a Slytherin.
(1 this rumour was true. Crowley liked to have long, philosophical conversations about the dichotomy of good and bad with his pet snake Ashtoreth)
After the Sorting, Crowley had avoided Aziraphale for a year2, but then, on Christmas Day of their second year, the Gryffindor had received a package, neatly wrapped and unsigned, with all his favourite sweets and from the next day on, Crowley kept coming back, kept asking.
A casual question while passing each other on the way to class3.
A horrifically pink and rose card on Valentine’s Day4.
A shout through the Great Hall during dinner5.
A Howler during breakfast6.
Six years of being asked out in ways Aziraphale would have never even thought of.
All the while, the Christmas packages kept coming and even though Aziraphale knew, at least on some level that he always stayed clear of, where they came from, they kept coming anonymously and thus allowed him to keep enjoying them. Plausible deniability.
Clearly, it was a game for Crowley, a chase, and the second Aziraphale gave in, he would laugh, he would say why would I go out with someone like you, and Aziraphale didn’t think he could take the humiliation. No, better to decline every time and at least preserve his dignity.
It wasn’t like Crowley was serious anyway, not judging by all the stories Aziraphale had heard about the other boy. The Tempter. Many a girl had suffered heartbreak through the Slytherin’s hand7 and Aziraphale had no intention whatsoever of joining their ranks.
(2 He’d been sulking. If anyone had asked Ashtoreth about it, she would have told them that a sulking Crowley was not a nice thing to have around, but no one ever asked her, so no one knew)
(3 Casual only to Aziraphale’s ears, Ashtoreth had spent many an hour trying to talk Crowley down from the anxiety attacks he kept getting before and afterwards.)
(4 Crowley still had night mares about that one.)
(5 An impulsive decision that Crowley regretted to this very day)
(6 Don’t ask)
(7 This rumour was not true. Girls kept asking Crowley out and he kept declining and then he kept complaining to Ashtoreth)
Gabriel had, admittedly, not the best character, but he was also the only one to ever show any kind of interest in Aziraphale, apart from Crowley of course, in a manner that promised more than having his homework copied by someone who was too lazy to do it themselves, so Aziraphale was willing to give him a chance. He was also very handsome.
“What a lovely day,” Aziraphale said as the two walked down to the village, their arms and hands brushing on every second step, “Where you thinking of going to Madame Puddifoot’s or –”
“Absolutely not!” Gabriel cut in, his voice much louder than strictly necessary, making Aziraphale wince, “I would never step foot into that atrocity.”
“Oh, well…” He had been rather looking forward to going to the tea shop and maybe trying out one or two of the cakes that looked positively scrumptious.
“No,” Gabriel continued, “We’ll go to the Three Broomsticks.”
And thus, it seemed, it was decided.
Now, again Aziraphale didn’t not like the Three Broomsticks. It was homey and warm and Madame Rosmerta was a sweetheart who always had a soft spot for Aziraphale and gave him a cocoa on the house during the winter but…well…Aziraphale always went to the Three Broomsticks, he had never been to Madame Puddifoot’s.
Inside the pub, it was busy as always. Aziraphale could make out Anathema, Newt, and a group of third years chatting animately in a corner by the window, Gabriel’s siblings where standing by the bar drinking Butterbeer, old Madame Tracy was chiding some man Aziraphale didn’t know before dragging him outside by the ear, and, of course, Crowley, sitting by himself and staring at Aziraphale from behind his sunglasses, his face unreadable.
It was all very chaotic.
“Aziraphale, my dear boy,” Madame Rosmerta smiled brightly when she caught sight of him, “The usual?”
“And for your date, love?”
Behind them, a glass shattered and a chair cluttered and Aziraphale glanced at Gabriel who was scanning the room and muttered a dismissive, “Butterbeer,” before walking towards a free table, leaving Aziraphale to pay for the drinks and carry them through the crowd.
Aziraphale’s usual was a large hot cocoa with extra whipped cream and extra marshmallows and two biscuits on the saucer, and no one but Madame Rosmerta managed to make it quite the way he liked it which was why Aziraphale always looked forward to coming here during the Hogsmeade weekends.
“Are you sure, you want to drink that?” Gabriel commented once Aziraphale had set down their drinks.
“Yes?” Aziraphale answered, though it came out more like a question while he eyed his cocoa. Is there something wrong with it?
“Aziraphale.” The taller man leaned forward and put a gentle hand on Aziraphale’s on the table. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to indulge in certain guilty pleasures every now and then but…well…you should maybe consider laying off the sweets for a bit, don’t you think?” Gabriel’s eyes were pointedly directed at the blonde’s stomach.
“Y – you think?” Aziraphale stuttered, his face hot and his palms sweaty. He thought he might feel sick as he stared at his drink. The drink stared back.
“Definitely,” Gabriel agreed, “See, you’re not bad-looking, per se, one might even say cute with those blonde curls and the blue eyes, but you gotta lose the gut.”
“I – I –”
“But don’t worry.” Gabriel patted his hand, “I’ll help you.”
Somewhere, in the back of his mind, something protested against the words leaving Gabriel’s mouth, revolted against the sympathetic expression on his face, screamed and raged and shouted and suddenly Aziraphale did feel sick.
“I rather think you should leave,” the blond finally choked out, making Gabriel blink.
“I rather think you should leave,” Aziraphale repeated, more clearly, more strongly, more confidently, “This was a mistake.”
Gabriel blinked again. Then, slowly, his dumbfounded expression morphed into something else, something dark and sinister as he, once again, leaned forward, and hissed “Don’t come crying to me when you stay fat and lonely all your life,” and then he did leave and Aziraphale allowed himself to breathe, staring at the empty chair, his vision blurring and his eyes burning.
“Oh, my dear boy.” Two strong arms enveloped him in a gentle embrace. “Really, I wasn’t going to say anything but him? You deserve so much better. Here, let’s go to the back, give you some privacy.” Numbly, Aziraphale realized that he was being led through the pub, behind the bar, into a cosy room with a fire and a sofa. “Sit down, darling, I’ll just get you another drink, maybe with a shot of something stronger?” Without waiting for an answer, Madame Rosmerta was gone and then back again, pushing a warm cup into Aziraphale’s hands.
“Thank – thank you,” the blonde hickuped, cradling his drink.
Next to him, Madame Rosmerta tutted. “Hush now, dear. And do drink your cocoa before it gets cold.”
It helped. With every sip Aziraphale took from the chocolatey, creamy goodness in his hands, his breathing calmed and his tears ran dry and the memory of Gabriel’s words faded into the background.
When he left the pub, Crowley was nowhere to be seen.
Gabriel was everywhere.
No matter where Aziraphale went, the other boy was already there, surrounded by his siblings and friends and admirers and no matter how hard Aziraphale tried, he couldn’t help but hear the hushed whispers and stifled giggles that followed him, couldn’t help but feel their eyes on him. Judging him.
Crowley was nowhere8.
The Slytherin had, during the past 6 years, become such a constant presence in Aziraphale’s day-to-day routine, that Aziraphale had never quite realised just how much space he filled and now there seemed to be a Crowley-shaped hole deep in Aziraphale’s soul. Even in the classes they shared, Crowley was noticeably unnoticeable, almost as if he was avoiding Aziraphale except why in Merlin’s name would do that?9 It just didn’t make sense and, as much as he hated to admit it, Aziraphale missed Crowley. Missed his stupid swagger and his stupid sunglasses and his stupid smirk any time Aziraphale as much as looked his way.
Aziraphale was lost.
He had never felt more out of place in Hogwarts than in the time after that fateful Hogsmeade weekend. The Sorting Hat had Sorted him into Gryffindor because he had asked for it, because everyone in his family had gone to Gryffindor, because he, too, wanted to be brave and daring and chivalrous and courageous. Of course, hindsight was, as they said, always 20/20, and Aziraphale had realized fairly quickly that he might have been better off somewhere else. Still, Gryffindor had always been his home. The armchair in the Common Room in front of the fire place, his haven where he could curl up with a book and just forget the world, the Dorm and his bed his sanctuary, a place of peace and good dreams. Now it all reminded him of everything he wasn’t.
(8 He was sulking. Again.)
(9 Again, if anyone had asked Ashtoreth, she would have had a great deal to say about that since Crowley never shut the hell up about it)
Christmas Day came but, for once, Aziraphale did not wake up to a package of chocolates and biscuits and little cakes on the foot of his bed, instead there was a note.
Meet me on the Astronomy Tower tomorrow at 7. Please.
A. J. C.
Aziraphale stared at the piece of paper in his hand, but the words stayed the same and Aziraphale was confused. It was just a handful of words but they sounded…desperate. Sad, somehow. Defeated.
Aziraphale stared at the piece of paper in his hand and the time passed him by without him even noticing. Breakfast time came and went, teatime was missed, and dinner ignored.
He wasn’t sure whether to be excited or scared of the following day.
“Angel.” The word, barely more than a breath in the cold winter night, was filled with wonder, as if Crowley hadn’t actually expected Aziraphale to come, his body lacking any sign of the usually so carefully constructed ease that he carried everywhere he went and his sunglasses missing, revealing light brown eyes that seemed almost golden in the pale moonlight and the flickering shine of the candles.
Candles. Candles and a blanket covered the floor of the Astronomy Tower and right there, in the middle of it all, lay a box, not unlike the others Aziraphale had received over the years, but bigger. Much, much bigger.
“Crowley,” muttered Aziraphale, not daring to speak any louder, lest the spell around them might be broken, “W – What is all this?”
“Right.” His hands fidgeting, Crowley stepped forward, then backward, then forward again, and Aziraphale could see his Adam’s apple working furiously in his throat. “Right. Before you say or do anything just…just hear me out, okay? This is the last time, I promise, tell me to leave and I will, I just…” Crowley trailed off, his eyes looking everywhere but at Aziraphale as he took a determined step towards the box, picked it up, and all but thrust it at the Gryffindor. “Merry Christmas.”
Aziraphale blinked. First at Crowley, then at the box in his arms, then back at the Slytherin who rather looked like he was having a minor panic attack.
“Crowley…” It was all that he managed to say, all that he managed to think.
“Go to Hogsmeade with me,” Crowley whispered, staring at the little bow on the gift, “Please. Just once. Anywhere you want. Just…I know you don’t like me but –”
“I never said I didn’t,” Aziraphale protested weakly, trying to wrap his head around what was happening.
The other boy made a sound that might have been a sob or might have been laugh or maybe even both, and finally raised his eyes to look at Aziraphale, his eyes wide and pleading.
“You don’t have to lie,” he said, “You don’t have to pretend. I just…I just want a chance.” He looked so earnest then, fragile even, vulnerable.
“Why?” asked Aziraphale.
“Why would you want to go out with me? If this isn’t some sort of game –”
“A game?” Crowley echoed incredulously, “Why would you think – why would I – I don’t –”
“I do know what people say about you, Crowley.”
“What people. Say about me.”
“Yes. You’re quite the heartbreaker.”
The heartbreaker in question blinked and looked like it was his heart that was breaking right now.
“And I do not enjoy having my emotions toyed with.”
“So, if this some…some nefarious scheme…it won’t work on me.”
“No.” Crowley nodded, his face, even without the sunglasses, impossible to read. Slowly, the Slytherin took a step back, the another one, his head still nodding. “Well,” he finally said, pulling his lips into something that Aziraphale thought was supposed to be a smile but really just looked like a pained grimace, “Like I said…I won’t bother you anymore. I’m sorry, an – I’m sorry, Aziraphale.”
Maybe it was Crowley’s tone, so very defeated it almost hurt Aziraphale to hear, or maybe the prospect of never speaking to him again, or maybe it was the name, Aziraphale had never really noticed how Crowley always called him ‘angel’, never Aziraphale, and now…
“You didn’t answer my question,” he said before Crowley could truly leave.
For a long moment, Crowley stood there in the doorway, illuminated by the candles and the moon, so very beautiful, and didn’t say anything. Then –
“I heard about what Gabriel said to you,” he began, his voice low, “And he’s wrong, you know. You’re the smartest, kindest, bravest and most beautiful person I know and you deserve so much better than him. Merlin, you deserve better than me, too, but at least I’d try…If you asked me to pluck the stars from the skies, I wouldn’t stop until I’d found a way. If you asked me to go with you to every bloody tea room on this entire bloody island to try their chocolate cakes, I’d drive you there myself. If you asked me to search every bookshop in the world for that one Shakespeare edition you love so much, I would, because –” he faltered, just for a second, but Aziraphale could see it in his eyes, the sheer amount of emotions, shining so bright it paled everything else in comparison. “- Because,” Crowley continued, “Aziraphale – angel – you deserve all that and so much more and you…you don’t even realise it do you? How bloody amazing you are.” Crowley shook his head, a barely-there motion, hardly visible in the half-light of the Tower. “And I – I know I can’t really live up to any of that but –”
“Yes,” Aziraphale whispered but Crowley didn’t seem to have heard him.
“- do my best to –”
“Yes.” A little louder this time.
“- you right and – what?”
“Yes, Crowley,” Aziraphale said a third time, carefully stepping closer, almost afraid to scare him away if he moved to fast now but that was okay. Crowley had waited so long for him, so he, Aziraphale, could wait now, too. Their hands brushed when he stood right in front of the Slytherin but Crowley didn’t pull away and Aziraphale decided to take the plunge. Tentatively, he entwined their fingers. “Yes,” he said yet again, making sure to meet Crowley’s eyes, “I would like nothing more than to go to Hogsmeade with you.”
Crowley blinked. “You would?”
“Right after breakfast.”
“Splendid,” the blond exclaimed, ignoring the dumbfounded look on Crowley’s face, “It’s a date, then.”
“It is?” Crowley said, “I mean, yes, it is.”
“And,” Aziraphale continued, forcing himself to hold Crowley’s gaze despite his heart hammering in his chest, “I rather think it is me who needs to apologise, Crowley. I’m sorry. I should know better than to listen to rumours or house rivalry or stereotypes.
“That’s alright, angel,” Crowley choked out, his eyes suspiciously wet.
“It’s really not, but…I’m hoping it will be.” I’m hoping you’ll forgive me for not seeing it sooner. “Now,” the Gryffindor smiled and raised the box he was still holding, “Do help me with these, won’t you?”
The next day, Crowley led Aziraphale to Madame Puddifoot’s with a blush on his cheeks where he watched while Aziraphale ate the best chocolate cake he had ever had.
The next week, Aziraphale kissed Crowley by the Lake, while the fireworks above their heads painted the sky in all the colours of the rainbow.
The next month, they walked the halls of Hogwarts hand in hand, while Gabriel glared at them and Anathema smiled and Newt looked confused.
One year later, they moved into a small apartment in London, small and shabby but theirs and Crowley made him hot cocoa with extra whipped cream and extra marshmallows and it was even better than Madame Rosmerta’s.
“Thank you, my love.”
“Anything for you, angel.”10
(10 If snakes could smile, Ashtoreth would and she’d probably never stop.)