Chapter Three - Fire and Lies
He is standing in a ring of holy fire, glaring at the upstart brats when it happens. Castiel appears, next to the annoying, noncompliant brothers, and says his name with a sort of resigned anger.
It hurts, more than it should, because even though Castiel was always the little brother who always got under his skin, Gabriel had left willingly all those years ago. But then, he stops, and stares, and overlapping with this sight of the dark haired, blue eyed angel is one of a dark haired, green eyed human boy with an exasperated stare. It is all he can do not to gape, because suddenly, he is dumbfounded that he never saw it before. Because even though he had been the Boy-Who-Lived, Harry Potter had always seemed invisible to him, even when he had practically been standing right in front of Gabriel.
And that scares him.
Because that could only happen with a fellow angel, and it was a fate Gabriel had barely managed to avoid before he had vanished into godhood.
He needed to talk to Crowley.
Crowley has never seen Gabriel quite so ... flustered. Pissy, yes. Upset, definitely. But flustered? Never.
Still, it's sort of amusing, watching Gabriel stuff a metric ton of sugary "food" down his throat as he paced and muttered to himself. Still, after about half an hour, it was getting boring. So Crowley waited until Gabriel had stuck a fistful of what looked like miniature donuts into his mouth, before appearing before his angelic acquaintance.
Who squeaked, and promptly had to attempt not to choke. "Crowley! Don't do that! You could've made me lose some of my precious donuts!"
Crowley smirked, and opened his mouth to tease the angel, when Gabriel pinned him with as serious a stare as the prankster could muster. So, Crowley paused, wondering what exactly had the trickster so on edge. But he didn't expect what came out of Gabriel's mouth.
"Did you ever meet Harry Potter?"
"Maybe." Crowley drawled, his raised eyebrow the only sign he might be shocked. "Why do you want to know?"
Gabriel nibbled on his bottom lip. "Um, well... IthinkCastielisHarryPotter."
Crowley blinked. "What?"
Gabriel shifted. "I-" he sighed, "I think Cassy might have been Harry Potter. But then again, I only met, I mean really talked to him once, well, besides a few times of mostly passing glances, which may or may not, but probably don't, qualify as really meeting someone, but that's not really important, I guess, and I know you spent some time in Britain in the last couple of decades or so when you were mad at me and bored and-"
"Stop!" Crowley interrupted, his head starting to pound at the angel's rapid speech. "Why in the nine hells do you think Castiel and Harry are tied to each other?"
Gabriel twisted his fingers together in an oddly human nervous gesture, and looks away. "I've told you before, right, about what can happen to angels? Angels who do stuff like what I did? But without the benefit of being able to hide?"
Crowley nodded, eyes narrowing suspiciously.
"Well, I'm not sure when, but I think it happened to Castiel. And I think they made him Harry Potter."
Crowley felt his eyes widen as his mouth dropped open in shock.
This is how it begins - Crowley's wandering the deserted labyrinth of identical houses that makes up the London suburb know as Little Whinging, Surrey. He is there because, somehow, there is an unmanned crossroad near there, and, even more improbably, there have been the faint stirrings of intent calling out that a deal will soon be made. But Crowley has all the time in the world because the mortal seeking a deal is waffling, deliberating over the payment and choices and if they are willing to seal a deal with a demon.
That is, until the mortal finally decides to go through with it, and begins the ritual to call a demon.
The first thing that comes to mind when Crowley appears behind the mortal hoping to make a deal, is that a mistake has been made, because walruses can't talk, let alone call him. Then he takes a second look, and realizes that it is simply a morbidly obese whale of a man. Whom he sincerely hopes has never procreated.
Crowley has only barely finished introducing himself, when the man begins speaking. Or rather, monologuing about how he wants the power to take control of his old company so that he can make sure his son - and Crowley mentally shudders at the thought - is well set off once he dies.
And revenge, can't forget revenge, on the people who dared to fire him.
There was only one oddity - the man wanted twenty years, instead of the usual ten.
Crowley considered it for a moment as the man continued on, before deciding that it could work - so long as there were a few ... additional conditions.
"If," Crowley drawled, interrupting the man mid-rant, "I grant you ten additional years, there will have to be an additional price to pay."
The man's piggy eyes bulged, and he blustered. "Say here, what do you mean by that?"
Crowley waved a hand negligently, "Nothing much. Just for an additional ten years, I must have a second soul. After all, it is ten years per soul."
The man took a moment to think it over, which obviously required the full use of the stunningly few brain cells he had available to him.
Finally, after an excruciatingly long minute, the man nodded and replied, "As long as it isn't my son, I can agree to that."
Crowley nodded equitably, knowing it would be easy enough to take someone else's now unknowingly damned soul. Maybe that of the woman stupid enough to bear the whale's child?
"Now," Crowley began, stepping forward as he spoke, "to seal the deal."
At this, the man took a step back. "Now see here, do we have to," and the man shuddered with revulsion before he squeaked out, "kiss?"
Crowley sighed internally, but managed to plaster on a smile. "Yes, but think. One small kiss, really no more than a peck on the lips, and you'll have all the power you desire, you need, for your quest. And after you've come so far with your desires, do you really want something so small to stop you from getting what you deserve?"
The man visibly shuddered again. "Alright." He muttered, eyes closed. "Just a small peck, and the ritual did say something to that effect anyhow, and I knew that before I started." He shuddered again, and said again, practically shouting, "Alright then, get it over with!"
Crowley, now smirking internally, sealed the deal.
Crowley watches the man waddle off back home as fast as he could, only now realizing he had missed the man's name. Not, of course, that he'd need it to find the man's soul when the time came. And yet, despite the fact that the deal was done, and there was no need for him to remain at the now abandoned crossroads, Crowley didn't move from his spot. At least, not until a voice came floating out from behind him.
"What were you doing with my Uncle?"
Crowley jumped about foot into the air, and whirled around, eyes immediately drawn to the tiny child kneeling next to his hellhound. He studied the waif, taking in its - his, Crowley's mind corrected - impossibly green eyes, and emancipated frame, before his mind brought up the boy's words.
"You're related to that whale?!"
The boy studied Crowley's face for a few moments, before nodding slowly. "Guess so." The boy replied with a shrug. "Considering how much they say I'm a burden, I don't think they'd keep me if we weren't related." Here the boy paused again, taking more time to examine Crowley, as if looking at his nonexistent soul. "Will you tell me what you were doing with my Uncle, please sir? I need to know if I'm going to have to stay out of the way tomorrow once I'm let back inside."
Crowley held his tongue of the words that wanted to come, words to question why the boy was locked outside on the chilly fall evening, in clothes little better than rags, because he knew the answers far too well. After all, many who came to him to make a deal had been abused, and this boy fit the picture to a tee.
"Your Uncle sold me his soul so that he could get his job back."
The boy nodded, as if he expected that. "Well," he muttered, "at least my research was useful, though I am a bit surprised it wasn't too freakish for Uncle Vernon."
Crowley cocked an eyebrow at the boy's words. "Hey, kid. What's your name?"
The boy looked up sharply. "M'name's Harry. And I'm not a kid anymore, I'm nine."
Crowley felt his other eyebrow rise, but before he could say anything the boy continued speaking.
"And I ain't making a deal with you either." Harry glared up at Crowley as if he could read the demon's mind, green eyes blazing, "I may not be much, and I may be a freak, but my soul's all I've got and my teacher said that our souls are everything we are and everything we could be and all our hopes and dreams all together and infinite." And as he spoke, the boy began to glow, as a purifying power almost like an angel's Grace surrounded him. "And I can't give that up, not to anyone, because... Because I know I can be more than what my relatives think of me."
And the boy looked up at Crowley, power gone and eyes now glistening with tears, and Crowley for once in his very, very long life, felt shame.
So, with an internal sigh at the upheaval to his personal equilibrium, he knelt in front of the boy. "Kid, I can't promise I'll never ask that, because that is what I am. But," here Crowley paused as a truly wicked (for him) idea came into his head, and a vaguely demonic smirk scuttled across his face. "should you need me, I believe I shall be in the area. You need only call my name three times at this crossroads and I shall come if I am able. I will not always be able, but I will try." 'After all,' he thought to himself, 'I do have a deal to check up on, and maybe a few more to make.'
"So, I just need to say Crowley three times?" Harry replied skeptically.
Crowley just smirked a little more, and nodded.
Harry stared at the demon for a few more seconds, before nodding in acquiesces.
Harry spends most fall nights with Crowley that year, and quite a few winter ones. For the first time in his then nine years, Harry gets to celebrate Christmas. Then spring comes, and summer, and his first birthday party, and another full turn, and as far as things go, Harry's life is infinitely better for Crowley.
Crowley is the first to learn of Harry's letter, and feels an inordinate amount of pride and a vague sense of gleeful corruption at Harry's skill in pick pocketing and pranking, as he listens to Harry's greatly exaggerated tale of pulling a letter directly from his uncle's pocket. He, not Hagrid, takes Harry to Diagon Alley. He sees Harry off to Hogwarts every year, and when things go to hell, he may, not that he'd admit if, have willingly given the boy some help. But even as he watches the boy age, and eventually disappear, he never remembers the complete flash of purity from their first meeting.
Gabriel comes to Hogwarts in Harry's sixth year. He isn't quite sure why, just that it has been a boring seven years without Crowley, who's been avoiding him for that long because of some stupid joke Gabriel barely remembers. So he's looking for entertainment, because his normal gig just isn't cutting it anymore, and he hasn't been to Hogwarts to check out the next generation of pranksters anytime lately so he feels it's past time.
Once he gets there, he realizes that the quality is ... lacking. As far as he can see, there's really only two, a pair of prankster twins. Inventive, yes, but only by purely magical means. It's as if they've never even heard of the things that normal people can come up with, that are simply better for that nonmagical element. At least, he thinks that for the first few months.
Then he began to see something else. Hints of a truly devious prankster, that had the signature of both the twins and not. And it made him positively gleeful. (Because, really, what wizarding prank turned peoples skin blue with artificial dye and woad?)
But he never expects who he finds as the culprit. Because, with laughing green eyes that sparkle with mischief, that reminds him of someone, the name just on the tip of his tongue, is Harry Potter. Not that it's really surprising, because he had been like that too, all shadowy tricks and jokes and an innocent face, masked by emotionlessness, that everyone believed and everything pinned on some clueless flunky. So, even though he discovers Harry's presence less than half way into the year, he waits until the end of the year to confront him. (Well, the year had been pretty dark, and despite what Crowley thought, he did understand the meaning and implementation of the word tact.)
It is just after Dumbledore's funeral, and oddly enough Harry is waiting for him and - there are white, white wings stretching out behind him, gone, out of sight, out of mind, as soon as he blinks - the glare aimed at Gabriel when he appears is filled with exasperation.
"So." Harry starts abruptly. "You're the one who's been stalking me."
Gabriel gaped at Harry, "I - I am not a stalker!"
"Really? Cause I know you're not a Slytherin student, despite the crest on those robes, since Draco's never once mentioned a student that looks like you. And I've seen you watching me, ever since Yule, and I know you were watching the twins before that, so what else am I supposed to call you?"
Gabriel made like a fish, eyes wide and mouth opening and closing rapidly.
Harry smirked at the sight. "Well?"
Gabriel stomped his foot. "I'm not a stalker!"
"Well, I'm pretty sure you've been sneaking around, with unlawful intentions, so what other word would you prefer?" Harry replied with a smirk.
Gabriel glared at Harry in response.
The smirk never moved, but Harry bowed his head in apology, "How can I help you?"
Gabriel shrugged, accepting Harry's vaguely Crowley-esque apology. "Just wanted to meet you, before you left, especially after the Smurf prank."
Harry's smirk turned into a genuine smile, "Yeah, that one was pretty good. How'd you know it was me?"
"The artificial dye, or should I say massive amounts of blue food coloring, was my clue it wasn't the twins. But I clued on to you with the Massive Pile of Goo incident that the twins took credit for, but when it happened, they were surprised, you were smug."
A smug smile crossed Harry's face at the memory, as he nodded in understanding. But before he could say anything else, the train whistle pierced the silence. Harry looked backwards quickly, before turning back.
Only to find himself standing alone.
When they leave their memories, Crowley is the first to speak. It starts with a distinctly shark-like grin that splits his face, "Oh, I can't wait for that deal to end."
Gabriel gave him a look of confusion, but Crowley continued on before Gabriel could actually say anything. "It's been what, eighteen, no nineteen years, now since one Vernon Dursley, also known as Harry Potter's uncle came to me to make a deal for power, so long as he got twenty years and I got two souls. So I'm going to take great pleasure in dragging his and his wife's soul to hell."
At that Gabriel and Crowley shared a vicious smirk.
AN: And CUT! ~ I have had this chapter in my head for almost a month, after I watched the episode that introduces Gabriel, whom at that point was merely a "trickster". Also, this chapter is dedicated to Windy Rein and LaurelGraceCourage. The first asked for Gabriel and Crowley, and the other said the Dursleys should go to hell, and I must say I took great pleasure in writing this chapter, and laughed evilly when I got the idea.
As before, though, I have no idea when the next chapter will come, as this (along with Axis) are really rarely visited by my muse. Hopefully the next one will have something to do with everybody coming together, but it could just as easily be a series of vignettes from Team Free Will's POV.
Still, I hope that this chapter isn't too much of an evil cliffie, or make anyone want to cry or punch me in the face (or both).
Please don't forget to review!