The train loomed enormous and scarlet in front of him, whistles going off for a last warning. Aziraphale hesitated before boarding.
“What if I’m not very good?” he asked.
“I know you’ll make us proud,” Michael said, brushing a fleeting kiss to Aziraphale’s forehead, while Sandalphon stuck out a hand to shake Aziraphale’s.
Aziraphale allowed both, and looked around hopefully. Gabriel had said he might make it, if he could get away, and Aziraphale didn’t want to leave before he got here, if he was going to. He wanted to say goodbye to him properly, more than the quick farewell as his cousin was on his way out that morning. Gabriel hadn’t even had time to ruffle Aziraphale’s curls the way he usually did, had been already striding out the door when Aziraphale came down for breakfast.
Guessing the direction of his thoughts, Michael stroked a hand over his head and pushed him up into the train. “If he was going to make it, he would have by now. Go. We’ll tell him we got you safely onto the train.”
The train gave a lurch as it began to pull away. Aziraphale gave one last longing look down the platform, a part of him half-hoping to see Gabriel running in their direction to call his farewells, but all he saw was various parents shouting last-minute I-love-you’s and missives to be safe and behave to their children.
He sighed, and went off in search of a compartment.
Aziraphale had just finished changing into his robes when the compartment door slid open without warning and a boy his own age spilled in.
“D’you mind?” he asked. “Everywhere else is full.”
Aziraphale gave the boy a discreet once-over. He was tall and lanky, looked to be more limbs and spine than anything, with dark hair and good cheekbones. He was dressed all in black; unlike the sensible, practical black of their uniform robes, this was stylish black, cool black. And he was wearing sunglasses. Aziraphale wished he could wear sunglasses, but his eyesight was terrible, so he had to wear regular glasses.
He gave the boy a shy smile.
“Sure.” He stuck out a hand. “I’m-“
“Wait,” the boy said, stopping him. “You’re from a Pureblood family, right? So’m I. So let’s not introduce ourselves, okay? Cause it might turn out our families don’t like each other and we might end up tainting our first ever ride to Hogwarts.”
Aziraphale’s hand lowered slowly. The boy had a point- Aziraphale’s family had a lot of enemies, even outside of the Luci family they’d been feuding with for centuries.
“All right,” he said, in a much smaller voice than he’d been using before. “I’ll- um- I guess it won’t hurt anything.”
His trepidation was immediately dashed when the boy smiled at him, a big beaming smile that, underneath, seemed almost as shy as Aziraphale felt.
The ride up was nice. Aziraphale told the boy about his cousins taking him to France over the summer to celebrate that he was starting Hogwarts soon— it had been brilliant, he said, they’d eaten at so many fine restaurants, he’d had the best crepes he’d ever had in his life, and his cousin had bought him so many fine clothes and robes of, so he said, far finer quality than any he could get in Britain. His other cousin had bought him his owl (a beautiful barn owl he’d decided to name Oscar, a Muggle poet he was rather fond of), and then swept him off to see the Bastille, where they had both snuck away while his back was turned, leaving him to panic in the dungeon until they’d come back for him.
“But it was just a silly prank,” he added, when the boy frowned at that. “They didn’t go away long. They didn’t mean any harm.”
“Doesn’t sound much silly to me,” the boy scowled. “It sounds scary.”
“I was scared, and then they came back, and no harm was done. I am capable of being brave if I need to.”
“Well, yeah, but,” and then the boy had shrugged, and looked away, and mumbled something sheepish before changing the subject to Houses.
“My lot tend to end up in Slytherin,” the boy said, frowning. “And I’ve got a cousin in Seventh year in Slytherin and they’ll be mad if I’m not in Slytherin with them, but I don’t want to be. I don’t know what House I want, so long as it’s not Slytherin.”
“I come from a long line of Gryffindors,” Aziraphale admitted. “I don’t suppose it will be so bad to be Gryffindor. And Slytherin’s not so bad?”
“It is when my relatives are in it.” The boy folded his arms and sank down in his seat. “But maybe I’ll be Sorted somewhere else. Maybe however they choose it, they’ll just, you know, realize I don’t belong there.”
“Maybe,” Aziraphale agreed. “Maybe you’ll be in Gryffindor, with me.”
He hadn’t meant it to be anything of any sort, but the way the boy lit up at his words made something in his chest squeeze and clench painfully. He decided then and there, wherever the other boy ended up being Sorted, he would be there too.
Sorting was an ordeal, Aziraphale decided. At least Fell would be fairly early on, or should be- and he’d get to know his friend’s name, too. The boy had refused any introductions, had even threatened to walk away when Aziraphale tried, and as a result he didn’t even know how long his friend would be in line or which of them would be first. Every name that was called had him flicking his eyes in the direction of his friend, but he remained still
He fidgeted restlessly as “Azrael, Death” was called and watched a tall, skeletally thin boy step forward. And he thought Aziraphale Fell was an unfortunate name. Death Azrael had definitely beat him out by his.
“Hufflepuff!” the hat called after a moment or so of deliberation, and Death Azrael crossed the Great Hall to the Hufflepuff table in a few long strides.
Next came “Black, Raven”, a gaunt boy who looked like he needed a few good meals in him, who was Sorted into Ravenclaw.
“Crowley, Anthony,” called the Deputy Headmaster. Aziraphale had just enough time to think that the name sounded familiar before his new friend peeled out of the line and slouched forward.
And oh, Aziraphale thought, because of course that would be the case, wouldn’t it? The Dei and Luci families had been feuding for six hundred years, and while Aziraphale didn’t have the whole family tree memorized the way some of his relatives seemed to, he knew enough to know that the Crowley name had been a part of the Luci family from all the way back to the beginning of their feud.
“Ravenclaw!” the Hat finally said, and Aziraphale watched Crowley slope across the Great Hall to join Raven Black, who gave him a vaguely friendly sort of smile and scooted over to make space for him.
Aziraphale’s heart sank. He was glad that Crowley didn’t have to go to Slytherin where he would be miserable, but he was supposed to be in Gryffindor, with Aziraphale.
It was for the best, he told himself. He and Crowley would never be allowed to be friends, their ride to Hogwarts had just been a pleasant diversion and now they would be, at best, distant classmates.
“Fell, Aziraphale,” he was called, a few names later, and decided that he had, indeed, got the raw end of the deal with his name. Not that Aziraphale wasn’t a perfectly lovely name, and Fell wasn’t a bad name either, but both of them together left something to be desired. Still. It was better than Death Azrael.
The Hat slipped down onto his head. He got the feeling of having his head rummaged around in.
“Oh, another of your lot, eh?” a voice inside his brain said. “Suppose you’ll be heading to Gryffindor like the rest of your family.”
Wait, Aziraphale thought hurriedly, and felt a note of inquiry in his mind. Um. If you put me somewhere besides Gryffindor. Would my family be able to blame me for that?
“Don’t see how they would,” the Hat said. “I’m the one that decides these things, and your family should know that.”
Plausible deniability, Aziraphale thought, or rather, felt. It wasn’t a coherent thought that he could put into words, it was just an idea, something welling up in him. He couldn’t be blamed if the Hat decided he was better suited to another of the noble Houses, and it was the Hat’s choice, not his.
“It’s always your choice,” the Hat said, and he once more felt that sense of his head being rummaged around in. “Ah. I see a thirst for knowledge in here, a longing to understand. Very well- I think you’ll do quite well in RAVENCLAW!”
Aziraphale set the Hat aside but didn’t immediately run off to the Ravenclaw table. He was waiting, for what he wasn’t sure- for the Hat to change its verdict, for someone in his family to swoop down and tell him off, for lightning to strike- but none of that happened, and at a nudge from the Deputy Head he scurried away to take a seat at the Ravenclaw table between Raven Black and- and Crowley.
Only once the Feast began and everyone was attending to their meals did he sneak a look up at the teacher’s table. Uriel was up there, sat a few seats down from the Headmistress, and caught him looking before he could tear his gaze away. Dark eyes locked with his, and his appetite left him, at least for the moment. They were going to have words later, he knew. He was in trouble.
It was nearly two days later before Uriel approached him. He spent the first two days in a state of constant anxiety- his appetite, never gone for long, was back in full force, but he found himself glancing over his shoulder more often than he ought, and more than once his classmates had to pull him back into the present.
“You look jumpy,” said a red-headed girl in Potions with them- Carmine Zuigiber, Gryffindor, his memory supplied. They would be House-mates, if his treacherous brain hadn’t rebelled. He just shrugged, and she twirled her wand like a sword. “Are you scared someone’s gonna come after you? Cause if they do I’ll fight them. I don’t mind.”
“That’s sweet of you, but it’s fine,” he said, glancing over his shoulder again.
She scoffed. “I’m not being sweet. I just wanna fight someone.”
He turned back to his potion, blushing over his presumption. Crowley elbowed him. “Check this out,” he said, and with a flick of his wand sent an extra sprinkle of powdered doxy poison into her cauldron when she wasn’t looking. Slowly, her potion started to bubble, and then turned black and started to congeal.
She turned back from slicing moonflower roots and gasped at the nearly solid mess her potion had become. She looked around for some kind of explanation, and her eyes landed on Crowley, who was burying a laugh in his sleeve, and Aziraphale, who was half-heartedly scolding him over something.
Her eyes narrowed. So that was how it had to be, was it?
By the time they left Potions that day, the dungeons were a mess of flung ingredients and destroyed potion attempts, and everyone in the class had detention, and Carmine was looking remarkably smug, given that she had managed to avoid any sort of blame despite being one of the two that had started it.
“Oh, already a detention and only three days in,” Aziraphale lamented, while Crowley sauntered along beside him on the way up the Great Hall- well, Aziraphale called it sauntering, because he’d read the word in a book and thought it rather suited the way Crowley walked as though he were trying to wade through a tide that was nearly knocking him over at every step. Most everyone else called it walking like it was his first day having legs and he still hadn’t worked out what they were for. Crowley called it tripping with style, and assured Aziraphale that by the time he had hips to swing he’d have mastered the motion and then Aziraphale could see what a real saunter looked like.
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Crowley said, waving away his concerns away like flies. “We’re ickle Firsties, and there’s so many of us, worst case scenario we have to do a bit of cleaning or something.”
“But when Gabriel hears about- and I don’t want Michael ticked off at me-”
Crowley frowned at that, and looked away. It was the first time Aziraphale had mentioned his cousins since the train ride, and admittedly, he was sort of wondering what Crowley would say. Did Crowley know that they were meant to hate each other? He couldn’t be sure, and he was afraid to ask. Plausible deniability. There could be any number of people named Crowley, his friend didn’t necessarily have to be from the Luci family, and if he didn’t ask then he didn’t know. Right?
“Aziraphale,” came a voice, and he turned to see another of his cousins standing in the doorway to one of the classrooms.
“Uriel!” he said, and hastily corrected, “I mean, Professor Uriel. Hi.”
“I’d like a word with you, Aziraphale,” Uriel said, and gave Crowley a pointed look before adding, “A private word.”
Crowley shoved his hands into his pockets and slouched, but at an encouraging grimace from Aziraphale, he turned and slumped away, not bothering to practice his saunter as he headed to the Great Hall alone. Aziraphale chewed his lips nervously and, with one last look to his friend, followed Uriel into the classroom.
“You’re the first of our family to be Sorted outside of Gryffindor in a very long time,” Uriel said without preamble once they were alone.
Aziraphale looked around nervously, and wondered if he ought to take a seat. He opted for setting his bag down, and stood before Uriel with his hands clasped neatly in front of him, head hanging rather than look up at his cousin. What was he meant to say? That he’d been so scared of losing the first person he actually liked that he’d begged the Hat to Sort him into Ravenclaw just so they could be together? He didn’t see that going over well with his family, even if Crowley weren’t a Luci.
He startled as a dark hand landed on his shoulder. “I’m not angry with you, Aziraphale, not over the Sorting. The Hat… makes these decisions sometimes, and they aren’t to be undone or questioned. I just wanted to give you a warning.”
“The boy, Crowley. He’s a member of the Luci family.”
Aziraphale gasped softly. There went his plausible deniability. At least Uriel seemed to take it to mean that he’d been unaware.
“I wrote to Gabriel about him, and he says that Beelzebub brought the boy up. Supposedly as a nephew, but Gabriel was at school with Beelzebub and doesn’t recall any siblings, so we think he might be from a distant branch of the family. We’ve been assuming the Crowley line was defunct, so having this one pop up out of the blue like this-” Uriel broke off, and gave Aziraphale a reassuring smile. “It doesn’t matter. The point is that you know now, so you can stay away from him.”
“I can’t, though,” Aziraphale said, and winced over the contradiction before pushing on, “I mean, we’re Housemates and we share a dorm and all of our classes- I can’t exactly avoid him, can I?”
“You don’t have to be friends though.”
But I want to be friends, Aziraphale thought, and didn’t say. His shoulders sagged. “All right, Uriel. Whatever you say.”
“Good boy. Now go on, it’s time for lunch, you don’t want to miss it.”
Crowley had saved Aziraphale a seat in the Great Hall, but when Aziraphale approached he glanced up and saw Uriel sliding into place at the teacher’s table and with a squeak, he pushed past, taking a seat a few students down. He found a place beside Raven Black and a boy who was being very insistent that his name was Grievous Bodily Harm, though Aziraphale was sure he had been called Teddy at the Sorting.
He glanced in Crowley’s direction and immediately looked away, unable to bear the hurt way Crowley was watching him.
Carmine Zuigiber had apparently decided that the two of them were friends, because when Aziraphale went to the library later she pounced on him and settled down beside him, sitting with her chair leaned back and her feet on the table playing with her wand while he studied.
“So word in the Great Hall is that you and Crowley aren’t friends anymore,” she said eventually. “D’you guys have a fight or something?”
Aziraphale sighed. “No, nothing like that.”
“S’just, you guys were thick as thieves in Potions this morning, and then according to that kid calls himself People Covered in Fish, Professor Uriel had a private chat with you and then you didn’t have anything to do with him after that.”
“Oh, good lord,” Aziraphale said. Well, nothing to it- the rumours were going to start regardless, he might as well set them straight. “Professor Uriel is my cousin, and our private chat was to let me know that Crowley is a member of the Luci family.”
“Uh-huh.” She had her head tilted back to stare at the ceiling, her pencil trapped between mouth and nose. “So what?”
“So, I am a member of the Dei family.”
She waited, and when he offered no other explanation, huffed out a long puff of breath. “Hey, Fell? I grew up in a muggle orphanage. You wanna give me a few more details to go on? Why’s it matter you and Crowley are from the Day and Lucy families or whatever?”
“Dei and Luci,” he corrected. “Our families hate each other, have for centuries. Crowley and I are meant to hate each other.”
“Oh, sick, that means you guys are all starcrossed and stuff.”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” he said, a blush crawling up his neck. “It is simply… better if we aren’t friends. The consequences from our families- I know what would happen to him if my family got wind of our friendship. Better to just let it die now, before it begins.”
“You think they’d kill him?” She rocked her chair forward to sit on all four legs. “If you were friends? You think they’d kill him?”
“Not… I don’t think they’d go that far. But I don’t think they’d be very nice about it.”
“Tch. You guys should be friends anyway. Who cares about your families?”
“Why… I do.”
“That’s so lame. Boy, I’m glad I don’t have a family. No one at the orphanage thinks I should be loyal to them just because we’re from the same orphanage.”
“That would probably make things easier,” Aziraphale admitted weakly.
Aziraphale was technically a Principality, but nobody really talked about that these days. Gabriel was intensely bitter that his cousin had chosen to give her son his father’s name instead of the name that had been in their family since the split; sometimes he acted as though the decision had been made to spite him specifically, which was of course silly, but then Gabriel could be silly at times. According to Michael, it was just family pride expressed in an odd way, and Aziraphale needn’t let it bother him.
Gabriel sent him an owl the next day. It was apparent that Uriel had finally written to him about Aziraphale being a Ravenclaw, though judging by Gabriel’s silence on the subject, nothing had been said about his brief friendship with Crowley. Maybe Uriel had felt that keeping away from Crowley was Aziraphale making it clear that he’d taken the warning to heart.
Whatever the explanation, Gabriel only expressed disappointment that he hadn’t been Sorted into Gryffindor. After all, Gabriel wrote, the Hat should have known where to put him, and why didn’t he ask, once it started wibbling on the matter? The Hat would have taken his request in consideration, Gabriel wrote.
Now that was interesting, Aziraphale thought. How was Gabriel to know that the Hat had given him a choice in the matter? He’d always been taught that the Hat Sorted you and you went where it said, no questions asked.
He got an owl from Michael, too. This one expressed a lot of self-blame- it wasn’t Aziraphale’s fault, it was his cousins’, who had encouraged his love of books and let him slack off in his fencing practice- and really, they should have tried harder to make him brave, but he always got so scared, Michael said, that it was sometimes difficult to push him too hard. No, Michael said, it was their fault as his caretakers for not giving him what he needed to be Sorted into Gryffindor like the rest of his family.
Aziraphale wrote them both back- separately, since they had written him separately- and tried to reassure them that they needn’t worry. He was still a Dei, he assured them, and Ravenclaw was a noble house, and he was already making friends, and as there was nothing to be done at this stage, couldn’t they just be happy that he hadn’t been Sorted into Slytherin?
He briefly debated asking Gabriel how he knew the Hat let him choose, and decided against it. He didn’t want to incriminate himself- better to let Gabriel go on thinking he just hadn’t even thought of asking.
“Whatcha doing?” Carmine asked, dropping into the seat beside his. There was another student with her (Chalky White, Slytherin, his mind supplied), and they took the seat on the other side of his. He looked between the pair.
“This is the Ravenclaw table,” he said.
“Is there a rule against sitting at other tables?” Chalky asked.
“Ah- hm.” Aziraphale considered. “I’m not sure.”
“Well me and Chalky sit at each other’s tables all the time,” Carmine said, as if they hadn’t been at the school for less than a week now. “No one’s said anything. If they say anything, we’ll stop. Maybe. But they haven’t said anything.”
“Who’re you writing to?” Chalky asked, tilting their head a little to try reading his letter. He covered it hastily; they pouted.
“I’m just writing to my cousins,” he said. “You know, letting them know I’m settling in well. Making friends, learning things. You know.”
Chalky nodded in agreement that they did know, and then swapped to shaking their head. “I don’t have cousins.”
“Me and Chalky grew up in the same orphanage,” Carmine supplied. “They don’t know family anymore than I do.”
“Seen Raven anywhere?” Carmine asked, swapping the subject while she swiped the last of Aziraphale’s toast.
“I believe he and Crowley went down to the Quidditch pitch to watch the Gryffindor team,” he said. They’d been talking about it that morning in the boys’ dorm— the Gryffindor team were doing some team-building exercises to get back into flying condition before tryouts later in the month, and Crowley had wanted to watch them. He’d said all of that while pointedly not looking anywhere in Aziraphale’s direction, which Aziraphale supposed he deserved but didn’t make it hurt less.
Carmine groaned and slumped backwards in her seat. “Ugh! It’s criminal that they don’t let Firsties onto the teams,” she said. “I’d be an amazing flyer! I’d be great!”
“You’re allowed to try out,” Chalky said, as both stood and the pair began moving away. “You should show them what an amazing flyer you definitely are, and they’ll have to let you on the team.”
“I mean, I've never actually flown before, but,” and then they had moved out of earshot and Aziraphale didn't get to hear the rest of her argument.
He returned to his letters, and decided it wouldn’t matter to his cousins that he was happy, and settling in, and making friends. He sighed, and stuffed his letters into his goblet, watching them go soggy with a grim look. Then he got up and headed to the library. All of the friends he was making had gone down to the Quidditch pitch, so he might as well get some homework done instead.
It was amazing how miserable Aziraphale was at not being friends with Crowley, given the two had known each other all of three days before parting ways. It didn’t help that Crowley seemed to be moving on after his silent rejection: when Aziraphale saw him, he was usually laughing uproariously at something one of their classmates had just said.
It wasn’t fair, he thought, and then corrected himself. It was fair. Just because Aziraphale wasn’t allowed to be friends with him didn’t mean no one was. Aziraphale was just feeling grumpy because Crowley was proving so popular and the only people interested in Aziraphale were Carmine and, he suspected only for her sake, Chalky and Raven.
“He’s pining for you something fierce,” Carmine said, the fifth time she caught Aziraphale casting subtle looks at Crowley during Potions. “He still wants to be your friend. You guys should just say fuckit to your families and go for it. What’s the worst that could happen?”
“Tremendously terrible consequences,” Aziraphale said, though he couldn’t actually think of anything specific.
“Why do your cousins get to decide who you’re friends with anyway?”
“Well, because they brought me up. They’re my caretakers.”
“Dead. I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Oh, sick! Same hat, dude.”
She raised one fist expectantly; he stared down at it, confused, and she rolled her eyes. “Whatever, man. You shouldn’t let your cousins dictate who you’re friends with.”
He didn’t blame her for not understanding. She couldn’t possibly understand what it was to have a family as old as his, to have a legacy as far back as his. He was the youngest of the Dei family, there was a lot of weight on him to uphold his family’s traditions. It did get tiresome, having her constantly encouraging him to turn his back on them.
It occurred to him, sometimes, that his family would approve of her as his friend- she was a Gryffindor, after all. Would they approve of her? If he’d been in Gryffindor, if he’d never met Crowley, she probably wouldn’t have any reason to encourage him away from his family. They’d like how ready she was to fight at any opportunity, he rather thought. And when he’d told her that he’d been given fencing lessons all his life, she’d been jealous.
He sighed. He wanted to like her, but she was a bit much, sometimes. “Carmine, do be a dear and shut up, won’t you?”
She glared at him, but mimed zipping her lips before huffing and turning away.
Toward the end of September, Gabriel dropped by the school to discuss something-or-other important with Uriel, and caught Aziraphale on his way from Defense Against the Dark Arts before he left.
“Gabriel!” Aziraphale said, surprised, and caught the glare Crowley shot his cousin as he slouched away with the rest of the class. “Goodness. What are you doing here?”
“Business, but I wanted to see how you were doing before I left.”
“O-oh,” Aziraphale said, suddenly taken aback. “That’s very touching.”
But Gabriel was already eyeing the Ravenclaw colors on his robe with disdain, and said, “Honestly, Aziraphale, why didn’t you just tell the Hat that you were a Dei? It should have known to put you in Gryffindor.”
“No one ever told me I’d get a say in the matter,” he said, which was true and unincriminating.
“Of course you get a say,” Gabriel said. “The Hat takes your choices into account- it wanted to put me in Slytherin, you know, but when I told it I knew I belonged in Gryffindor it changed its tune.”
“Well.” Aziraphale sniffed, struggling to process this new information. He hadn’t known. “Perhaps someone should have told me ahead of time.”
“I suppose,” Gabriel said, and Aziraphale knew he was thinking about how timid he was, not at all like Gabriel, who was always so assured about what was right. Neither of them could really imagine Aziraphale defying the ruling of the Sorting Hat, or any authority he’d been taught to obey.
Gabriel brightened, and clapped his shoulder. “Still!” He said. “You’re here now. How are you getting on?”
“Well!” Aziraphale said. “I’ve made a couple of friends- I could… introduce you?”
“I don’t really have time for that sort of thing,” Gabriel said. “In fact, I really should be getting on- walk with me to the door, we can talk on the way.”
Aziraphale’s shoulders sagged, and he obediently fell into step just behind Gabriel, filling him in on his classes and a little bit about his friends as he followed his cousin to the front hall of the school. It was all right though, he reminded himself. Gabriel was a busy guy, and he’d taken time to see him anyway, when he could have just come and gone without Aziraphale even realizing.
In fact, it was a show of affection of the sort that Gabriel rarely gave him, and by the time he made it to the entry hall, Aziraphale was already feeling better about the short visit being cut off, and it was in much better spirits that he bade him farewell and sent his love on to Michael as well.
He wished he dared to ask for a hug, and settled for, “I love you,” and beamed when Gabriel ruffled his hair affectionately in return.
“Raven says that Crowley says that your cousin looks like a right prat,” Carmine said over dinner later. She’d thrown herself into the seat beside his at the Ravenclaw table without even pretending to stop at her own first, and now that Aziraphale was paying attention, he saw no sign of Crowley anywhere.
Raven was taking a seat beside Carmine, and he murmured his agreement of her words.
“He does look like a right prat,” Raven said. “But a very sharp and successful prat.”
Aziraphale nodded. “He has ambition,” he said. “Michael says he wants to be Minister of Magic by the time he’s thirty.”
“How much time has he got?”
“Think he can do it?”
“I…” Aziraphale shrugged. He wasn’t sure how to articulate what he was feeling, which was that he didn’t think Gabriel ought to be Minister of Magic, but his loyalty and affection for his cousin made him support him anyway, and he said, “I think so. If anyone can, it’s him.”
“He still looks like a right prat,” Carmine said, the final word on the subject.
Aziraphale’s longing for Crowley’s friendship had become a tangible ache. It seemed like every time he saw the boy he was surrounded by a new group of friends, and Aziraphale wished he could be one of them. He wanted to know what it was that made Crowley laugh so hard, wanted the companionly arm slung over his shoulders as they walked through the school. Wanted Crowley grinning at him the way he grinned at Raven and Carmine and Chalky and the many, many other friends he seemed to have.
He settled for watching Crowley from a distance, trying to get to know as much as he could without talking to him.
Crowley’s best subjects were Herbology and Astronomy. In his other classes he skated by on a combination of natural inclination and as little studying as he could get away with, keeping his head down and maintaining a fairly mediocre presence. In Herbology and Astronomy, though, he positively glowed, volunteering answers, indirectly helping out his classmates when they floundered.
Aziraphale wondered if he was just discovering these passions, or if they were things he already had a knack for and Hogwarts was giving him a chance to flourish at them. He longed to know. Oh, why couldn’t they just be friends? Why did Crowley have to be a Luci, Aziraphale a Dei?
He tried talking to Uriel, couching his questions in idle curiosity about their rival family.
“Don’t worry about it so much,” Uriel assured him. “He’s a Luci, he’s from the Crowley bloodline. That’s really all we need to know.”
“I was just wondering,” Aziraphale pouted. When he was younger, he could get what he wanted out of Uriel just by pouting. It seemed those days were past, now, though, because Uriel just patted his shoulder and reassured him that he didn’t need to know more than he’d been told already.
He listened raptly when Carmine and Chalky and Raven talked about the things they had done with Crowley. They never revealed any personal information, but they revealed casual details that Aziraphale would otherwise not be privy to. Little details, like that was thinking of getting a pet rat, and that he was designing a tattoo for when he persuaded his uncle to let him get one, and that he liked Queen (whatever that was- the others seemed to know, but Aziraphale was lost). Aziraphale swallowed these details hungrily, and wished he was learning them firsthand.
Crowley got detention a lot. He didn’t seem particularly malicious, but he was prone to naughtiness and just general rebellion, and it seemed like nearly every night that he came into their dorm long past curfew, slithering into his blankets without a sound. Aziraphale only knew about that part because he stayed awake until Crowley got back, though he never revealed that he was awake.
Crowley tried out for the House Quidditch team. Aziraphale went to the tryouts, because most of their House were going, or at least enough to make it seem that way when Aziraphale squeezed into the stands between Raven and Carmine, and a trio of upper-class girls he didn’t know but was sitting far too close to for comfort.
Crowley didn’t make the team, of course, First years never did, but he flew marvelously on his borrowed broom and Aziraphale, who didn’t know the first thing about Quidditch, thought that maybe he could probably be on the team next year. That would be nice, and Aziraphale lost himself in a fantasy of cheering on Crowley in the stands with the rest of the House, covering up his support in House pride.
“-aphale, look out!”
Aziraphale had just enough time to register the shouted warning from Raven before the stray bludger smashed right into his face and— blackness.
When Aziraphale came to, Uriel was leaning over him. Uriel’s face flashed through worried and relieved before settling into the passive calm that Aziraphale was accustomed to.
His face hurt.
“Wh’ happ’e’d?” he said, struggling to sit up. Uriel got a hand around his back and helped him to seated.
“You were hit with a stray bludger,” Uriel said. “How do you feel?”
“My fa’de hurds.”
This got him a private smile. “That will happen. Come along- you need a Healer. Your friend here has agreed to walk you to the Hospital wing.”
His expression fell (painfully) as Carmine came to help him to his feet. Of course- of course Uriel was too busy to walk him to the Hospital wing, he should be glad he registered as a cause for concern at all, but- oh! It hurt. What was he doing wrong? Why didn’t any of his family want anything to do with him?
“Am I hard to like, Carmine?” he asked, as she helped him make his slow way up the grounds to the castle.
“Nah, you’re fine. I like you.”
It should have been a relief. Mostly he just thought back to the Sorting, and wished that he’d let the Hat put him in Gryffindor anyway.
Halloween came and went. The Halloween feast was glorious enough to shine through Aziraphale’s now-constant misery. He tried a little bit of everything, listening to his classmate’s conversation washing over him without really bothering to join in it himself.
November dragged by. It was cold, and wet, and miserable, but at least in December he had holidays to look forward to. Toward the end of November he got an owl from Michael telling him that Sandalphon had gotten tickets to a production of Hamlet Aziraphale had been hoping to see, and Gabriel had taken off three whole days to spent Christmas with the family, and when he asked, he found that Uriel would also be spending Christmas with them.
It had been years since the whole family had been together for a holiday, and it warmed a place deep inside of him that he hadn’t even been aware was cold, and that got him through the rest of November and the first few weeks of December.
As holidays neared, he was made aware through Raven that Crowley would be going to Spain with his family. Crowley, from what Aziraphale could tell, detested the cold, so Spain would be nice for him, Aziraphale thought. It would be warm there. He quietly wished him a lovely holiday, and hoped that when they all returned perhaps he might say a few words to Crowley, perhaps begin mending the chilly feeling between them. They couldn’t be friends, but there was no reason for them not to be friendly, at least.
Their mutual friends- Raven and Carmine and Chalky- were all remaining at Hogwarts for the holidays, so Aziraphale and Crowley both found themselves on the train alone. By some sort of quiet agreement, they shared a compartment once more, but for the first half of the trip, they sat in uneasy silence, Aziraphale attempting to absorb himself in a book but really looking up to watch Crowley napping across the compartment from him every few moments, and not taking in a single word.
At lunchtime, the trolley came by, and Aziraphale woke Crowley in case he wanted anything. While they sat making their way through the pile of sweets on table between them- Aziraphale’s much bigger- Aziraphale decided to brook the subject that had been simmering between them.
“I’m sorry,” he said very quietly. “I never meant to- I mean-”
“It’s fine,” Crowley said, refusing to look up at him. “It’s family. I mean, it’s stupid, though. What does it matter that our families had some silly feud six hundred years ago?
“That ‘silly feud’ nearly divided the entire Wizarding community in Britain. We’re hereditary enemies. We’re meant to hate each other.”
“ Do you hate me?”
Aziraphale shrugged, and then shook his head. “I don’t. Actually, I wish…” he hesitated to say more, but Crowley was peeking up at him curiously now, and somehow the train seemed… well, liminal, he supposed. He fidgeted with a cauldron cake and said, very quickly, “I wish we weren’t who we are. I would very much like to be friends with you, if it were possible.”
Crowley gave him a weak smile, and turned his attention to his snacks, and said, very casually, “You know… I don’t see any reason why we can’t just be friends on the sly. Plenty of places Professor Uriel won’t see us. Nobody has to know.”
Aziraphale opened his mouth to refuse, and then thought of how miserable he’d been over the past several months. Of how much he just wished he and Crowley could be friends.
Professor Uriel wasn’t likely to visit the Ravenclaw common room, or their dorms, he thought. Not to mention all of their classes- Uriel taught Arithmancy, and it wasn’t likely either of them would take that class at all, let alone in the next two years.
Crowley looked so hopeful. Aziraphale’s resolve crumbled, and he smiled.
“All right. Why not?” He wiggled. “It might be kind of fun, even. Defying my family. Oh my.”
He grinned, and Crowley grinned, and very soon the two of them were laughing uproariously, and didn’t stop for a very long time.