A/N: Asking for quicker updates isn't going to get you anywhere. I have a schedule, and it will only be broken when I've finished writing all the chapters. Cheers.
Chapter 4 – Crowley:
By the 4th of February 1998 Harry Potter had had more than enough of the war. He was supposed to be their saviour, yet no-one was letting him in on any important details and, more to the point, he knew Dumbledore was keeping something from him, and from previous experience it was only vital pieces of information that the old man hid away.
Vital pieces of information like the fact that there was a bloody PROPHECY about him. Didn't he deserve to know things like that? It was his life to live, dammit, and they weren't letting him!
If Sirius were still alive he would be fighting for Harry's right to be in the loop. It was one of the things he missed the most about the man, not having had the time to find much else to miss. That was Dumbledore's fault too, Sirius's death. Originally he had blamed Snape, but in the end it was the Headmaster who had had the stupid belief that the two would get along well enough to teach and learn such a complex art.
But no, after months upon months of consequent grieving and trying to wheedle information out of any Order member he could find, Harry had given up. Not on fighting the war, no, but on relying on the Order of the bloody Phoenix for absolutely anything at all.
Today, today Harry had once again sneaked away from Grimmauld Place, but this time there was no-one around to care.
Harry walked briskly towards the crossroads, a small box clasped tightly in his hands. It had taken a good week's research to find a dirt crossroad that wasn't too far from London; most all of them were paved over now. It hadn't been a hard decision to make, once he found out about Crossroads Demons. Forfeiting his own life was such a small price to pay for vengeance. Oh, he wasn't naïve enough to believe that such criminality would cease with Voldemort's demise, but he wasn't trying for world peace, he only wanted vengeance for those killed by the regime of the current Dark Lord.
Admittedly, it was the ingredients for the summoning that had taken the longest to organise. Harry was still a bit queasy about the whole cat bone thing - odd, since he'd used weirder in potions - but demons were demons, so he figured he could deal with it just this once.
Kneeling down in the centre of the crossroads Harry formed a hole with magic in which to place the box – he was, after all, seventeen now, and he had to use his magic for something. He wasn't entirely sure as to what was meant to happen, having only had one experience with any sort of demon before. Shaking his head he climbed to his feet, deciding there was no reason to remain on his knees in the dirt while he waited.
The wait that ensued was silent and felt like an absurdly long time to the young wizard. He entwined his fingers behind his back and rocked on the balls of his feet, wand shoved into the pocket of his jeans.
"Well, this is certainly an interesting development," a voice spoke lightly from behind him. Harry spun around to find himself face to face with a man in a crisp black suit. It wasn't exactly what he had been expecting, but without much of an imagination to draw on his expectations had been pretty non-existent anyway.
"Who are you?" Harry demanded, just to be sure that it was indeed who he thought it was. The man chuckled, and while it was a warm enough, friendly enough sound, it set Harry on edge. Yeah, that sounds like a demon.
"I'm the answer to your prayers, luv." Harry rolled his eyes at the demon. Prayers, right. More like the darkest desires of his soul. "So what can I do for you this fine night, aye? Money, love, talent?"
"I don't want anything trivial like that. What I need is help." Harry drew himself up to his full, not-very-impressive height and looked straight into the demon's eyes. "What do you know of magic? Real magic, not the sort your demon buddies offer up."
"Magic-users aye? Down in Hell that's just a myth."
"Really?" Harry paused, digesting that little piece of information. Apparently the magical world really was secluded from the rest of the world. "Well, if it makes you feel any better, demons are even less than myth where I come from. It was bloody hard, in the beginning, trying to get anywhere with that sort of research." He wasn't sure if he was trying, for some strange reason, to reassure the demon, or if he was just participating in an exchange of information.
"Well now, I'm going to have to look into that. I'm missing out on a whole species of possible customers..." Harry bristled, eyes narrowing behind his glasses. He wasn't sure he liked being referred to as a whole other species.
"That's not why I called you here demon."
"Crowley. The name's Crowley, luv. You mentioned help. What sort of help you looking for?" Crowley dragged his gaze up and down Harry's malnourished form, hands in the pockets of his suit-jacket as he watched the young wizard squirm.
"I need your help to kill a wizard known as Voldemort. His birth name is Tom Marvolo Riddle. I wouldn't ask, but I can tell there's something off about him, or he would have died a long time ago," Harry trailed off some at the end, still trying to mull it over for himself as to how the dark wizard managed to stave off death so easily.
"Kill a wizard aye? I get the feeling I'm going to have to do some research into this, aren't I." Crowley shook his head, attempting a put-upon expression that was ruined by his relaxed stance. In all honesty, he was intrigued. Either way he'd be getting some solid information that none of the other demons had access to.
"There's a man, Albus Dumbledore," it was pretty hard to miss the malice in Harry's voice when he spat the name, "I'm pretty sure he knows a lot about what's going on, but he refuses to let me in on the secret."
"Okay, so let me get this straight. Basically, you want me to help you obtain the means to kill this Voldemort person?" At Harry's nod he continued, "Well, standard procedure and all that puts the price for any sort of deal at your soul in 10 years, but I get the feeling you already knew that." Harry's silence seemed to speak volumes to Crowley, because he nodded to himself and started walking around the teen as he spoke. "However, I can't shake the niggling feeling in the back of my mind that everything's going to go to Hell, excuse the pun, and you could turn out to be a rather important asset, young mister wizard." Crowley tapped his finger on his chin as he pondered something that only he could understand.
Now even a child would know that having a demon take an interest in you was a very bad thing; Harry was no exception. The difference between Harry and everyone else however, was that he knew very well that all sorts of crap could amount from this, but he didn't care. Whatever Crowley wanted he knew he would agree to it, without question, because he was 100% committed to destroying the Dark Lord whom murdered his parents and friends. There would be no stopping his revenge.
"Well? Are we making a deal or not?" Harry demanded, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth. If Crowley backed out, there was nothing he could do. He would have to make do on his own, but he didn't want that. He knew it would be damn near impossible to get anything out of Dumbledore by himself, because he had absolutely no aptitude for the mind arts, and because the Headmaster was firmly seated in his belief that Harry didn't need to know the gritty details until the very last moment – to preserve his childhood or some cock-and-bull story like that.
"Yes yes, calm down luv. I was just thinking that it'd be such a shame to see you killed for this. You're a proverbial fountain of untapped knowledge, you know that?" Crowley's dark eyes sparkled with amusement as he watched Harry tense, and noted where his hand hovered near the back pocket of his jeans.
"So... what then? You want my memories? Is that it?"
Harry desperately needed Crowley to stop playing games. An alarm was ringing in the back of his mind. Someone was in his room. Had he remembered to put the map away before he left? He couldn't remember...
"No, something more substantial than that. I think... Yes, that's good. Kiddo, I want your magic." That certainly wasn't what Harry'd been expecting. Give up his magic? Would Crowley want it in 10 years like usual, or would he want it sooner? In actuality, it was magic that had caused all of the major issues in his life, so being without it almost felt like a saving grace. Surely Crowley didn't intend for it to be so, demons aren't exactly selfless, but it was a surprisingly good deal.
"What?" Harry could have laughed at the shocked look on the demon's face if the situation weren't so serious. Someone could stumble across them at any moment, depending on what he had done with the mess of research that was his room.
"When, as in, how long do I have until you'll be wanting my magic?"
There was a lengthy pause, Crowley presumably attempting to work out why Harry seemed to eager to agree to what Crowley would have thought of as a rather hefty price. Then again, from what Harry had gleamed from stories, most people who made deals didn't even know the price when they made their deals.
"A year," Crowley eventually decided, "Once you defeat this Voldemort person, you can keep your magic for up to one year. Of course, if at any point during that year you feel like giving it up early, just give me a shout and I'll come running." Harry couldn't help but roll his eyes at that, while on the inside he was actually a bit shocked. That was longer than he was expecting. One part of him had almost been expecting Crowley to demand payment up-front, what with the way his eyes seemed to light up when he named the price. He didn't even want to know why Crowley wanted his magic. He'd sleep better at night that way.
"Alright, good, deal."
That, unfortunately, was as far as Harry's knowledge on demon deals went. He had no idea how demons went about 'sealing the deal', although his imagination was trying to tell him it was going to be horrific and painful. He certainly hoped not. It wouldn't do him any good to show up back at Grimmauld twitching as though he had just been under the cruciatus. They'd never let him out of the house again!
Crowley smirked, sensing his discomfort, and stepped closer.
Until he was right in front of Harry.
Crowley wasn't the tallest person Harry had ever met, but he still had to tilt his head back in order to meet the demon's eyes now that they were so close together. In any other situation Harry might have been fuming about the height difference, but everything in him was screaming for him to flee, and it was taking just about all of his willpower not to turn tail and run.
Crowley rested a hand on the back of Harry's neck and, distractedly, part of Harry was surprised that the hand was warm. Before he knew what was happening a pair of lips had covered his own.
Typical, Harry found himself thinking, my first kiss stolen by a demon. He should have hated it, pushed Crowley away. For the love of Merlin, it was a demon! But he stood his ground and allowed it to happen, closing his eyes.
Harry pulled away with a gasp when Crowley's thumb dug into his neck, burning him. Scowling, with a glare stolen from the best, Harry gingerly rubbed the side of his neck, resisting the urge to lick his lips. He'd only ever been kissed once before, after all, and he didn't like to count that. It was something of a dark stain in his memories.
"What did you do to me?!" Harry hissed, his words barely English in his anger. Of course, his anger only served to amuse Crowley, who had taken several steps back to stand on top of where Harry had buried his summoning box.
"Nothing bad," Crowley placated, attempting to sound reassuring but only managing to sound vaguely amused instead. When he didn't offer any further explanation Harry spun on his heel, kicking up a cloud of dirt, and apparated to the corner of Grimmauld Place.
Not making any attempt to be subtle, Harry stormed down the street and into Number 12. The moment the front door slammed shut the voices from the kitchen ceased, but Harry wasn't interested in them. Running up the stairs he locked himself in the first bathroom he came across and stared into the mirror.
There, in black, burned into the side of his neck, was the symbol of the crossroads.