A/N: Hello again. I would have uploaded this yesterday but I couldn't find the internet stick. I'm not sure I much like this chapter, but I'm sure the majority of you won't mind either way. Enjoy, until next time.
Chapter 22 – A New Deal:
Harry hadn't left his house in days. It might have been more than a week now; he couldn't be certain. He wasn't grieving, per say, he was more... moping. All that grief stuff was done and dusted, but he was still feeling a bit put out. Twitchy almost. Like he was itching to just do something, but he didn't know what.
Sometimes he had mind blanks. It happened to everyone. This time it was more of an elusive thought.
Harry sat up, crossing his legs and staring up at the ceiling. His neck was tingling.
Actually, if he cared to think about it, his neck had been tingling for quite some time now; weeks, maybe even months, he'd simply tuned it out. In a way it was reminiscent of how his scar would throb when Voldemort was particularly angry. Was Crowley in some pissy mood? Was that his problem? Did demons even have moods that were noticeably worse than what they were normally like? He certainly couldn't imagine Crowley having a tantrum – but perhaps that was more due to the respectable elder man he was wearing rather than what Harry actually knew about him. After all, what was there to know about a demon?
As he would later learn, quite a lot.
But Crowley didn't really concern Harry any more. He'd washed his hands of the demon, so to speak, and could only hope that he was never required to actually do anything for the Crossroads King ever again.
Oh, but Fate was never kind to Harry Potter, and he really shouldn't have expected anything else.
Still, he startled when the demon materialised suddenly in his living room, straight into the armchair he had been contemplating moving to from his position on the floor.
"What did I tell you about doing that?" Harry asked tiredly, slumping back down into an untidy heap on the carpet.
"Not very witty today luv, bad week?" While it was an innocent enough question – coming from a normal person, not Crowley – it was laced with enough humour to show that Crowley knew what he was talking about; no doubt it had been big news down in Hell, "We finally got a Winchester!" and all that.
"Charming. But unfortunately I didn't come all the way here to listen to your pathetic attempts at making me leave. I have a rather pressing issue that I... require... your assistance with."
Harry blinked owlishly up at the well-dressed figure in his chair. Surely he hadn't heard that right. Crowley wanted, no, needed, his help? Never.
"That's funny, really, but as you can see I'm not really in much of a position to help anyone, especially not you."
Crowley actually sighed. It was all frustration and exhaustion. Obviously he didn't really want to be asking for Harry's help, but for some reason or another he'd pegged him as the best person to go to. Harry didn't know anything better than anyone else, surely there was someone-
What, couldn't he use it properly? Well boo-hoo, it wasn't his to begin with.
Harry was a bit bitter about the whole thing now. Hind-sight was a bitch.
"Sometimes I regret not just taking your soul, boy," Crowley muttered darkly, eyeing him speculatively over a conjured glass of whiskey. The casual use of magic made Harry frown. "That way I never would have had to put up with any of this," he gestured vaguely with the glass, which only confused Harry further. Did the demon not like his house or something? It's not like he was obliged to spend any time there, so what did it matter?
"If you don't like 'this'," Harry mimicked Crowley's gesture, "then I'll say it again. Feel free to leave. Do you even need to be here?"
The irate demon glared harshly at Harry, banishing the glass with a lazy flick of his wrist. It pissed him off to see Crowley using his magic. Before it had simply been a sub-conscious knowledge that his magic was in Crowley's possession; he'd never envisioned the demon actually being able to use it. And he had the nerve to look so bored and irritable!
"Your magic; it is convenient, yes. To a point. When I'm in Hell, Hell adjacent land, or one of my bases on the surface, it is fine. Generally speaking. I know well that I have not been able to figure out even a portion of its potential, I cannot utilise it the same way you were able. Though it is a frustration, it was what I expected. Forcing things never wields quite the same result as when something is done willingly."
Harry groaned in frustration and rolled over, wondering how childish it would seem if he were to cover his ears. Maybe he should hum too. Why was he supposed to care if Crowley found his magic unsatisfactory?
"I realised that your magic had limits. What I didn't realise at the time was that it had rules too. An unusual and misfortunate oversight on my behalf, I'll admit. With the strife your kind were involved in at the time it seemed a ridiculous notion that you might have had some sort of law enforcement, not with you, a mere teenage boy, willing to sacrifice his eternal soul to stop a madman. They must have been truly incompetent in Britain."
If Harry actually cared he might have come to the defence of the British Aurors, but when put like that they did seem as though they were incapable of doing their jobs. He only knew a handful of Aurors anyway, and he didn't like most of them. They had treated him as a child and a saviour at the same time – 'You're too young to come with us; we can't afford to have you getting injured.'
"Unfortunately, the same can apparently not be said for the States. They, it would seem, are more than competent in their work, and highly disapprove of me using magic in front of... what was the word they used? Ah, yes. Muggles. Which means unless I want to be hunted down every single time I make a deal, I can no longer utilise your magic in my preferred manner – for theatricality."
Harry admittedly did a double-take at that. Crowley had been using his magic to be dramatic?! Of course, if he really hadn't figured out how to do much other than summoning and banishing – it wasn't conjuring, because transfiguration wasn't something you just 'picked up' without training – then it wouldn't be very good to him for much. At least he was getting some use out of it, Harry supposed bitterly.
Oh how he wished he could have seen Crowley's face when the Aurors turned up that first time. It would have been priceless.
"Well what do you expect me to do about it? It's not my magic anymore, it's yours, remember?" Harry griped, irritably tapping his fingers against the carpet. Crowley confused the hell out of him sometimes.
And he really had to stop using the word hell in association with the demon, it just seemed like a pun in his mind.
"Well that's the thing now, isn't it? You see, I'm not sure I can be bothered putting up with it anymore. It just isn't worth it."
"Then don't bloody well use it. That doesn't mean you have to come and gripe at me. It's hardly my fault that magical people have to follow rules too."
"Not your fault, true, but you do possess an understanding of them that I... lack," Crowley spat the last word, as though it left a foul taste in his mouth.
Harry couldn't be bothered putting up with him any longer. Climbing to his feet he moved to leave the room, leave Crowley to his ranting until he got it through his thick skull that he wasn't wanted there.
Crowley had other plans.
Crossing the room in the blink of an eye Crowley grasped Harry's arm in an iron grip, pulling him to a stop, and, unexpectedly and with no warning, plunged his other hand into Harry's stomach.
"Fuck!" Harry shouted at the intrusion, trying to twist away from it but unable to move. It was the second time he'd had to deal with Crowley messing with his insides, and he hadn't been particularly keen on it happening again after the first incident.
Something seemed to flow from Crowley's hand, spreading through him, filling him up, but oh how it burned. It felt like his entire body was on fire, and for all he knew it could have been. His eyes were screwed shut, and his knees would have collapsed from under him had Crowley not been holding him upright.
The tiny part of his mind that wasn't enveloped in pain was musing. 'Gee, didn't that feel familiar?'
It was over before he knew it, and then he was in a heap on the floor once more, this time not by choice, but necessity. His limbs ached, flaring with old cruciatus pains he'd thought long gone. His head was pounding and he was severely dazed.
If he tried hard enough, he could just make out the outline of Crowley's figure hovering over him – watchful, not worried.
"What... did you... do to me... this time?" Harry rasped, trying to take steady breaths and fight off the pain.
"Do you know what we crossroads demons are particularly skilled at?" Crowley asked lightly, as though Harry wasn't on the floor and he hadn't been the one to put him there. "Binding contracts. Part of the job description, really. I can even twist the details of a deal without informing the other party, if I so desired. Now, you really shouldn't be glaring so accusingly luv, because I just gave you a gift!"
"Yeah right..." Harry muttered, still breathless. Then the rest of what Crowley had said hit him. Changing the terms of a deal. He suddenly knew exactly what had just happened; but what was the cost this time? It could be nothing good.
"Oh, figured it out have you?" The demon mocked in a tone far too happy to be assuring in any way, shape or form. Oh, it must be a horrendous deal then. For Harry; it was probably the greatest thing to happen to Crowley since he got the magic in the first place, and that was a long near-ten years of no good news.
"Normally I don't do this, see, because you have to give back what you previously took – and why on Earth would I give someone back their soul when they have nothing else of worth to give me? But this time, that magic of yours is put to better use by the person it belongs to. So you'll just have to belong to me."
Harry's eyes widened in shock and he cursed the day he ever thought it was a good idea to summon a demon. His life could never be simple now could it? He was going to be Fate's plaything till the day he died. Or rather, he'd be Crowley's plaything... Right then he didn't know which sounded worse.
"Why am I so thrice-damned interesting to you people?" Harry hissed out through gritted teeth. Crowley raised an eyebrow in amusement, but didn't feel the need to try and answer him. Harry hadn't expected him to. It would be nice though, if one day he could figure out what the answer was.
"Get up soldier dearest, I'm sure you've been in worse pain than that before."
Soldier, wasn't that a comforting thought?
Breathing angrily through his nose, teeth still clenched against the pain, Harry slowly worked his way to his feet. His legs trembled and he swayed on the spot, but he was up. At least that way he was eye to eye with Crowley, and could glare more effectively.
Magic raced and bubbled beneath his skin, and though it should have been a familiar and welcome sensation, it really wasn't. There was the simple wrongness of it being there after so long without, and then there was a sense that it had been tainted. His magic carried Crowley's taint in it now, and he could feel the demonic essence running through his veins.
It wouldn't be as simple as that, it was never that simple.
"What is the cost this time?" Harry demanded, wanting it out in the open so he knew what he had to deal with.
"Nothing too bad,"' Crowley said in a faux-reassuring manner. "I say jump, you jump. Get the idea?"
Unfortunately, that's more or less what Harry had anticipated. It didn't make it sound any more appealing.
"And if I don't?" He challenged, fists clenched at his sides.
"I think we'll run on a case by case basis, but in the end, if you refuse me? You die and I get to boss around your soul for the rest of eternity anyway. It isn't such a bad deal. You be an obedient servant and I won't sentence you to the racks once you die; you'll have a torture-free afterlife in Hell."
Harry couldn't see that happening, but he was in no position to complain.
Sighing in defeat, Harry fell to his knees and looked down at the carpet.
"Fine," he spat, though he had no say.
Wizard turned muggle turned magical servant.
Nothing ever went right for long.