Summary: God's MIA status backfires on the Angels when they ignorantly sentence a world-weary saviour to the unforgiving realm of Hell. If wizards are all sinners, then who can blame him when Harry succumbs to the call of demonic eyes?
Characters: Crowley, Harry Potter, Alastair
Genres: Romance, Horror (slight)
Note: Hello everyone. Yes, you've seen all this before (maybe). It was recently requested that I make a single access point for my Mistakes series, which I'm fairly amenable to doing. So there'll be this, and there'll be the individual stories as they currently are (because I don't want to lose any of the stats or anything from what I've already published).
Mistake Number One:
Nothing ever went right.
That was the only thought that passed through his mind as dark curse after dark curse tore through his body. The torture was to be expected, given everything else in his life. And they were good at it too. Of course they were. How else would they have managed to evade the Aurors for six years? The strong Death Eaters, the smart ones, fled as soon as He fell. The stupid ones stayed and fought on; they had quickly been dealt with – no mercy.
So Harry hadn't been surprised when he was kidnapped; what had surprised him was that it had taken six years for them to do it. Vengeful Death Eaters were more patient than he had anticipated. More careful too. They had actually acknowledged that Harry had a knack for escaping from perilous situations, and so they had aptly disguised both themselves and their location. Harry couldn't even recognise their voices, though after so long he hardly expected to.
He almost felt like telling them not to worry; that he was tired of living and would welcome his death with open arms – hopefully permanently this time. Not that they would believe him, if he could even get the words out.
But he was; he was tired of life. There were fan-clubs and stalkers and journalists and smear campaigns and assassination attempts. How was he honestly supposed to live like that? It didn't matter if he had friends or supporters. They weren't helping anything.
At least this way it wasn't actually suicide.
Another curse ripped through him, and blood bubbled up, spilling from his lips. His organs – the ones that hadn't already been crushed – were shutting down. He was dying.
Choking even as he opened his mouth, Harry breathed his thanks to his confused executioners, before breathing what he hoped was his last.
When he awoke, well, he'd been hoping he wouldn't. At least this time there was no train station, and he was properly clothed.
It took him a while to realise he wasn't breathing. Or rather, he was, but his lungs weren't moving. Thinking about it made his head spin. The impossibility of the situation at least told him one thing: he was properly dead this time.
Harry had always expected to simply... cease to exist, once he died. There had never been any reason to believe in an afterlife of any sort, seeing as neither he nor the Dursleys had ever been very religious people. But this was definitely something else.
Screams echoed all around him, pained and tortured. As for Harry, he was in what appeared to be a cell. It was fairly nice really; better than Azkaban at any rate. And wasn't that strange?
"Hello?" He called out curiously, figuring it couldn't hurt. He hadn't honestly been expecting a response.
"Oh thank Merlin, it's Harry Potter!" A vaguely familiar voice called from somewhere to his left. "He's come to save me! I knew there was hope for our love!"
Now he recognised her. It was that stalker that had gotten between him and an assassination attempt the other month. She had died instantly. And she was still delusional enough to think he could save her.
"Hate to break it to you lady, but you're dead, and so am I. I'm not saving anyone anymore." And he didn't want to either. Now he could say Good Riddance to his 'responsibilities' without worrying about the potential backlash.
The woman was crying now, and Harry blocked her out with the ease of experience. If he was going to spend his everlasting eternity here, he wasn't going to do it listening to waterworks.
Sitting on the floor in the centre of his cell Harry listened to the screams, and he realised something.
He was in Hell.
Bitter laughter bubbled up from his core, overflowing until Harry could do nothing more than sit and laugh at the irony of the 'Saviour of the Wizarding World' having been sentenced to Hell.
Life never had done him any favours. Why would death be any different?
Most of the time Harry merely sat in his cell. Occasionally one of the demons would get bored and drag him to the racks. It was becoming a bit of a competition to them, to see who would finally get him to scream. That wasn't to say it didn't hurt; it did, immensely. Harry had simply acclimatised to torture over the years. Screaming was an unnecessary waste of energy.
Technically speaking they weren't supposed to torture him at all. That was for people who had sold their souls.
(Harry had perfectly good ears; was it a crime to use them to learn more about his new home?)
Not that there was much to learn.
Hell was Hell. There were demons and it was an eternal punishment. Just like how people normally imagined it, though more expansive and with more variation. Variation which, unsurprisingly, spread to the demons themselves. That they had differing personalities was practically a given, considering they were sentient beings capable of intelligent thought. But they also had set duties. He'd sort of expected them to all just do whatever they wanted. There were the demons who manned the racks, demons who looked after the Hell Hounds, and the mysterious demons of crossroad deals. Harry had never seen any of them in his corner of Hell – just the torturers.
Alastair in particular seemed to have made it his goal in life (metaphorically speaking) to break Harry – had told him as much. But by Harry's definition he was already pretty well broken. One day he'd have to ask Alastair what he meant by it; not today though.
The screaming helped him sleep.
Was that messed up? He imagined it was. Harry had stopped worrying about what was 'acceptable' or 'normal' months ago. At least, it felt like months. An hour could be a year and a week could be a minute and he still wouldn't care. It wasn't as though Hell had day and night. What did time matter to a dead person?
Souls weren't really made for sleep; he never felt refreshed or energised when he woke up. It was simply something he did to occupy his time. There wasn't exactly anything else to do except for trying to strike up conversations with the souls around him, and he had learned from experience that none of them were ever in the mood for it. Being dead really put a stick up some people's asses. And most of them had known exactly what they were getting into as well; pricks.
Eventually the torture became a highlight of his existence. It amused him, watching the various demons frustrate themselves over his silence. Yes, it hurt, but it was more of a sting. Demon or no, they had nothing on seriously dark magic. And seriously dark magic was something he had been exposed to more than his fair share of; the poor demons never stood a chance.
Still, they kept their bet going, regardless of how hopeless a bet it now seemed. Perhaps that was the most amusing part of all.
Alastair was just so mad, every single time they were together. He was meant to be the best, and all he got for his efforts were half-lidded emerald eyes and taunting smiles.
So finally, one day, he got fed up with it all, handed Harry a knife, and pointed him towards another soul.
"Torture him," he'd ordered, and so Harry did.
Harry felt no guilt for torturing the souls in Hell. After all, that's what they were there for. It wasn't some vacation; it was a punishment.
As soon as Alastair was satisfied with him he gave out the order for the others to lay off of him. He didn't get tortured any longer, because they had admitted defeat, realising it was pointless, and because he was quickly becoming one of the most skilled torturers they had on hand. He could get a soul from obstinate denial to wannabe torturer in a week – it took some demons months, years. Some souls were too stubborn to break at all, and they were contemplating setting Harry on them, just to see if he could work his magic on them.
Nothing about Hell bothered him, and something about that bothered the demons.
No-one had said anything about turning Harry into a demon himself; he supposed they felt one-upped enough already without having him as actual competition (he was still just a nobody as a soul, even if he was a useful nobody). Their unease was blatantly obvious the more they tried to hide it. Harry unnerved them.
Harry knew he would unnerve them even more if they actually had any idea who he was, but as things stood he was just one more soul that had slipped through the cracks and wound up downstairs, deal or no deal.
A hero, huh? If only the world could see him now.
Demons gossiped more than one might expect.
Sure, the gossip might be dark and dreary and bloody and filled with death and destruction, but it was still gossip.
It was through their gossip that Harry actually gained some insight into the other factions of Hell.
He learned that they had no leader, because Lucifer (and wasn't it still slightly shocking that Lucifer actually existed?) was locked away somewhere – he didn't understand what they meant when they said 'The Cage' and he wasn't about to ask. He also learnt about the crossroads demon who fancied himself to be all that – his comrades-in-arms seemed to have very low opinions of the man, though they didn't really like any demons outside of their own division, so it wasn't much of a surprise. This Crowley person had merely worked his way to the top of their Hate List.
When they thought he wasn't listening, or that he couldn't hear them, they also gossiped about Harry. That was mostly spiteful – 'how dare some stupid soul act like he's better than us?!' Alastair was unnervingly proud of him, claiming him as his own creation, his pet project. He liked to think that, by at least accomplishing this, he had in a way won the division bet. Sure, maybe Harry wasn't screaming, but he had been 'broken'. Or so they thought.
Harry was no different now, months after his induction to Hell, than he was when he arrived. Nothing was broken – he had just taken up a new activity with which to spend his eternity.
But what they didn't know wouldn't hurt them, and Harry was willing to let them live with their delusions for as long as they pleased.
It was a shock when Crowley first dropped by their niche of Hell. According to all the rumours he preferred to spend his time top-side, where he could monitor deals and had access to copious amounts of good alcohol.
But there he was, in all his tailored-suit splendour, wandering the halls.
He was different to how Harry had imagined him being. Not that Harry had a particularly strong imagination; Crowley just wasn't what he had expected.
Wearing an older man, dignified, in an expensive looking all-black business suit, he had a different sort of edge to him than the demons Harry was used to. Immediately the saviour-turned-torturer was intrigued, curious about the unfamiliar demon. What was he there for? What was he like? How long was he sticking around? Would be come back?
It wasn't until Harry was torturing the disgusting soul of a drug dealer that he realised Crowley had yet to leave. He was a shadow in the corner of Harry's vision, silently watching him work.
It felt different to when other demons had watched him work in the beginning. Normally, they were watching and waiting for him to fail, to break down from his "fragile human emotions" so that they could mock him and regain their pride with proof that they were better than him. With Crowley, Harry hadn't even noticed it until he caught a glimpse of the darkly dressed man. His observation was silent, his presence nearly non-existent.
Crowley wasn't judging him or waiting for anything; he was just watching.
"Come to see what everyone else has been complaining about?" Harry asked curiously, watching the demon out of the corner of his eye as he meticulously pulled out the fingernails of the soul he was working on. The screams were all background noise now, barely worth taking note of when there was actually something more interesting to listen to.
"You under-estimate your reputation darling," the demon replied smoothly, not missing a beat. It was sarcastic – or rather, not sarcastic, but not entirely sincere – but the word 'darling' floating through his ears in that particular accent (he certainly had the sinful speech part of darkness down) did funny things to Harry, things he was unfamiliar with. He ripped the last nail out with more force than he'd meant to, earning himself a pained wail and a wash of begging. Unfortunate. It had been his intention to drag his torture out for much longer than that before actually breaking him.
"Is that so? I would imagine I have a rather awful reputation, if I had one at all."
Harry signalled to one of the other demons waiting and wandering about the racks to take his charge away, asking quietly for a replacement – there was no time like the present, and he got the feeling Crowley would simply leave when he was finished. Nothing interesting happened when he was back in his cell. At least he could open it by himself now – it was the equivalent of his own room, for all it was dirty and boring and not at all private.
"Well I'm sure they would prefer it if it were, but with the way they all complain like little children who had their favourite toy stolen the result is rather more amusing. I had never known how very whiny demons could truly be until you came along. For the amusement, you have my eternal gratitude."
Pausing in sorting out his tools Harry glanced over his shoulder, confused by the gratitude. He couldn't help but notice how out of place Crowley looked there, in his suit, compared to Harry's ripped jeans and baggy t-shirt, both permanently darkened with blood. It came with the territory, he supposed. Going top-side it would be easy to get new clothes; Harry was stuck in the same rags he'd been wearing when he kicked the bucket.
"I'm so glad my humanity amuses you." Harry had meant for that to be sarcastic – he was of a split opinion of whether or not he was annoyed that no-one was willing to make him into a demon – but it came out sounding more genuine than he would have liked. He shifted uncomfortably, carving a careful line across the torso of his newest victim to cover up his nerves. The high-pitched scream had Crowley's lips twitching in a smirk. He didn't say another word, and was gone before Harry realised.
It was something along the lines of several weeks before their paths crossed again.
During the endless periods of consciousness and unconsciousness Harry had almost forgotten about the demon... Almost. Try as he might he couldn't get the lingering sound of his voice out of his head. He had nearly convinced himself it didn't matter, because he'd never see him again, but look how well that turned out.
"Still at it I see? Gotta love a hard worker."
Crowley had snuck up on him again while he was working, and caused Harry to slip up when he spoke up out of nowhere. Then again, is there really any such thing as slipping up when the aim is to cause pain in the first place? Either way, the hook dug too deep and the guy passed out on the rack. Boring.
"Someone has to do it," Harry shot back, pretending that it didn't bother him to have the man watching him like that. "All the demons around here are lazy as shit, and it's not like I have anything else to do. They won't let me near the Hellhounds." A pout formed on his lips against his will. Would it really kill them to let him see the Hellhounds?
"They keeping you on a tight leash then luv?" Crowley stepped forward, coming into Harry's personal space. He stood behind him, peering over his shoulder to inspect Harry's work. Any demon could appreciate some good torture now and again. It would seem Crowley was no exception.
"Something like that." While it was true that he had been told he wasn't to leave their area of Hell no matter what happened, he could easily get away if he so desired. The only problem was not knowing what they would do in retaliation if he pushed too hard against their constrictions. They had no respect for him, and he was sure they would come up with something actually horrid in their anger.
An arm reached over Harry's shoulder, pale hand tracing the outline of one of the various wounds littering the bare chest before the duo. The action made his skin crawl, but in a good way. No-one dared to come that close to Harry any more, and yet Crowley had showed no hesitation.
"Tell me Harry Potter, do you not feel regret?"
Harry twitched – it had been a very long time since anyone had addressed him by that name. The demons called him Human, or Scum – Alastair called him Harry or Apprentice. Briefly he wondered how the demon had come across his identity. Turning on the spot he felt the outstretched arm come to rest against his back, draped over his shoulder, a lazy action but a purposeful one all the same. He tilted his head back a fraction to stare into the demon's eyes, calculating, questioning, confused and uncaring. Harry's free shoulder rose and slumped in a shrug.
"What is it I'm meant to be regretting? Enforcing one faction's idea of justice... that's been my entire existence. Is it so strange that I would continue it even now?"
Crowley nodded thoughtfully, pulling away and straightening the sleeves of his suit jacket.
"They would do well to appreciate your skills," he informed Harry, though it seemed more like he was directing it at the demons lingering nearby. There was something unreadable in the way he said it, and before Harry had the chance to ponder it the demon was gone.
When he slept, he didn't dream. It was one of the things Harry missed most about being alive. Without dreams, even nightmares, everything felt just a little bit emptier. When he was awake though, his mind was free to wander.
After his second meeting with Crowley, he slept less and thought more.
He was beyond complaining about things not making sense – nothing in Hell made sense, not really – but that didn't mean the demon didn't confuse him. Why was he interested in him? That was all Harry really wanted to know. None of the other beings he'd encountered since death had expressed any interest in him at all, save Alastair, and that was almost sickening, the attention he got from the torturer, but this was different. It wasn't maniacal, which helped. It was actual interest, and it made him... curious. While alive it might have made him uneasy, but now he just wanted to understand what was happening.
"Hell is problematic after all," he mused aloud, garnering much protest and grouching from the inhabitants of the cells near his. They thought him stupid, a traitor, but then he'd never really been one of them, had he? A privileged muggle, in one way or another, whether it through a proper childhood or through good fortune bestowed by their deals... No, he'd never been like them.
Confusion was at least good for one thing – it kept him alert.
Returning from an incredibly lengthy session with one of their newest catches – souls that truly possessed no remorse were rare, but they did exist, and when they came along it only meant massive headaches for all involved – it took Harry a while to notice the newest addition to his room.
Positioned in a neat pile just inside of the cell door and off to the side was a fresh set of clothes. Harry eyed it suspiciously, sitting cross-legged in front of the pile. They were muggle in style, good quality too.
Reluctantly he plucked the note from the top and held it in front of his face, squinting slightly to decipher the elegant writing in the wavering light.
Thought you could do with something new. Just because those savages don't appreciate the idea of new clothes doesn't mean you should be unduly subjected to their barbarian ways of thinking. Think of them as a gift darling, free of charge.
Raising one eyebrow Harry cocked his head to the side, staring between the note and the clothes. What did he want? He was way out of his depth.
"So, how do you like my gift pet?"
Harry turned his head slightly in the direction of the voice, but made no other physical acknowledgement of the demon's unexpected appearance.
"Where did you even find it?" Harry asked curiously as he calmly hammered nails into his current victim's fingers. The shirt Crowley had gotten him was a pitch black Weird Sisters tee, and he hadn't even known wizarding bands had merchandise. He also wanted to know how the demon knew he even liked the Weird Sisters.
"I have my ways."
Rolling his eyes Harry put down the hammer and turned to face the much older demon. The look in dark eyes sent a shiver down his spine and the saviour subconsciously licked his lips, noting the way Crowley followed the movement.
"Well you've certainly got my attention," Harry said lightly, trying to ignore the frantic beating of his phantom heart. Being around Crowley gave him an odd rush – it wasn't quite adrenaline, but it was amazing nonetheless.
The demon crossed the space between them in three strides, standing inside of Harry's personal space bubble. He couldn't bring himself to care. Crowley ran his hand down the side of Harry's face, delicately plucking the glasses from his face, and Harry belatedly realised that he didn't have any eyesight problems now that he was dead. He smiled sheepishly, looking up from under his long fringe at the amused expression on Crowley's face.
"It would be a shame if something happened to your eyes."
And then Harry was alone again, embarrassed and confused.
Lifting his scarred left hand he traced his cheek, following the path Crowley's fingers had taken. There was a familiar lingering heat, and he marvelled at the fact he was blushing. Blushing. What was going on?
Harry would be the first to admit that he was a bit emotionally stunted. Spending ten years experiencing nothing but negative emotions will do that to a person. It stopped him from having proper, close relationships with people throughout his rather short life. So why in God's name was he suddenly finding himself in some sort of messed up cycle of strange and obscure flirting with a demon of all things?!
It wasn't love, he didn't think he was capable of feeling that particular emotion, and he'd hazard a guess that demons weren't big on it either, but it was still something. A stirring in the pit of his stomach. A warm haze. A... a longing.
The unpredictable absences only gave him more time to think, and he found himself missing Crowley's presence.
Perhaps he was attaching himself to the first person to show him any genuine interest. Perhaps it was illogical and irrational. Perhaps it was the biggest mistake of his life. But he deserved something good, didn't he? Even if the definition of good might be somewhat skewed considering the circumstances.
Upon Crowley's next visit Harry wasn't in the mood for messing around. He dropped his tools, spun around, grabbed the demon's black tie, yanked him forward, and crushed their lips together. The feeling was incredible, indescribable, and for the first time since he died Harry's magic danced around him, sparks racing along his skin and whirling around them.
When they parted Crowley was smirking, as though he had accomplished something, but there was shock hidden deep in his eyes. Harry grinned cheekily up at the crossroads demon and said "Take me with you."
He was sick and tired of the racks, of the demons who pushed him around and mocked him. Crowley could get him out. He'd take any out he could get.
And if his long-dead heart felt a bit lighter at the thought of going with the demon that had captured his interest so fully, he wasn't going to complain.