After the War and Voldemort’s defeat, Harry Potter quite subtly steps out of the limelight and into the sidelines. Everyone is too busy with their losses and fixing what is left of their world to notice that their Saviour is suspiciously absent from any festivities and almost every memorial service.
His friends sort of expect him to become an Auror to hunt the rest of the Death Eaters and dark wizards but he’s done his job and just wants to rest now. Ron is accepted into the training program though, and Harry is there when he graduates as a fully-fledged Auror. Images of him dressed in sombre blue and smiling gently as he congratulates his first friend splash across the Daily Prophet for a scant week before that appearance dies away.
Hermione, true to everyone’s expectations, becomes one of the foremost researches in the Department of Mysteries while lobbying for creature rights in her spare time. She drags Harry up on stage to announce the successful cure for Lycanthropy (among magical Werewolves only – Harry only later learns, through Crowley, that there are Muggle ones as well). Apparently his tea-making skills and impeccable nagging to eat and sleep are important enough to warrant another medal which he accepts as graciously as one forced against their will can. The public is content with a picture on page three during the first round of articles.
But eventually he finds himself at a loss as to what to do with his life. Ginny had moved on years ago – apparently war-damaged young men are not conducive to relationships when combined with war-damaged young women – and he has no real interest in anyone to be honest. For a while, he can’t even remember what an erection feels like, let alone attempting anything more when he does get one.
In the end, it’s Luna who suggests it when he visits her at her house for a tidy little supper: “Why don’t you retire?"
So he does. He empties one of the many pureblood vaults he inherited (one good thing about inbreeding – he’s related to a surprising number of dead families with a decent amount of gold) and purchases the Eilean Donan Castle near the village of Dornie in Scotland. It’s a tourist location for Muggles but a small hoard of goblin warders and a favour from Hermione and the DoM later and the town has a mysterious sort of charm that brings in tourists even if none of them can remember why they wanted to visit in the first place. Former visitors wonder why on earth they have pictures of them standing around in empty fields with Harry plus one castle of his very own.
Kreacher didn’t want to leave the Black house but he willingly went to Harry’s new home when he discovered it was a ‘proper’ house and not just a flat somewhere in London. Winky came along too and Kreacher took it upon himself to make sure she kept her nose well away from any of the Butterbeer. His two elves were happier in the quiet of the countryside and they served their often eccentric Master who sometimes insisted on making his own food and accidentally ended up inviting a demon into the castle.
Harry had found the expensively dressed man scowling at his wards and invited him in out of the cold after extracting a promise not to harm anyone behind Harry’s carefully constructed defences. Crowley had come willingly enough when he heard Kreacher asking after the Wizard’s preferred nightcap and the rather impressive list of options.
Finding out the man was a demon wasn’t exactly unusual for Harry. He’s used to the strange and unpredictable – finding out demons exist, and angels too, is really just par for the course. Besides, demons are at least predictable in that a promise extracted is a promise kept. So Crowley keeps showing up and Harry has long since made him sign a contract (triple-checked by goblin lawyers) so that he doesn’t have to trudge out to the ward-lines just to let him in each time.
It isn’t even that Harry particularly likes Crowley – he’s still not sure how to handle an actual demon popping in and out of the place – but he certainly doesn’t mind him or the company.
“That’s my scotch,” he flicks his wand and the bottle sails back into the cupboard which locks itself with an ominous click. “Get your own.”
“When did you get a bottle of 50 year-old Glendfiddich?” Crowley says the name with perfect intonation and quite politely doesn’t attempt to remove the bottle again. Harry’s pretty goddamn sure that he’s going to have to make the demon Swear to leave it alone if he wants to get any of that bottle.
“It was a gift. I’m a right big celebrity, you know?” he bumps the demon with his shoulder on the way past into the kitchen and the older male sighs and follows after like his great mutt of a dog that sometimes shows its face on Harry’s property. “Are you just here to mooch off my breakfast?”
“Something like that,” Crowley says and not-quite-lounges indolently at his usual seat at the head of the table where he can comfortably peer down the length of smooth worn wood at Harry while he’s cooking. “How do you feel about looking after my bones?”
“That had better not be another bad innuendo,” Harry warns even as he’s absorbed in perfecting two omelettes simultaneously. “Especially not if you’re going to offer to fix my fantastically horrible vision in exchange – I rather like my spectacles. Make me look wise and wizardly.” One omelette floats gently to settle before the demon with a glass of orange juice and toast on a tidy little red-checkered napkin. The King of Hell’s lips twist in amusement and he eats a few bites and sips once at the juice as he watches the Saviour of the Wizarding World settle with a scowling sigh across from him.
Kreacher mutters darkly when he appears to snap the dishes away and Harry tries to muster a grin for his elf. The little male pats his hand gently as if in sympathy (though he is under no illusions that Kreacher is secretly thrilled to be able to just leave when he wants and perform his usual duties from afar)
“It wasn’t,” Crowley says abruptly.
“An innuendo or an offer?"
“Innuendo. Well, it was that, but not intentionally.” Crowley leers a little and Harry nudges the Deathstick where it lies just beside his plate. The Elder Wand vibrates eagerly; the wizard gets the impression that the wand is just waiting for Crowley to do something so it can go to town in destroying him.
The King of Hell doesn’t miss the gesture. He leans back and lays his hands flat on the table while flashing the worst innocent-grin Harry’s ever seen.
“Your bones, last I checked, were outside my wards,” Harry gestures with his fork pointedly as he eats. “Why would I want to look after your rotted old corpse anyway? Isn’t it enough that I see your face every week?”
“Oh ha, funny little wizard,” Crowley frowns at him. “Not guard – just watch them. See who comes and goes – that sort of thing.”
"Let me think of who’s interested in hundred year old demon bones,” Harry deadpans. “Yes, I do believe that is one, just one, which is to say: the demon who bloody owns them.”
Kreacher snaps his dishes away and he slumps forward a little. Crowley is standing the moment the house elf is gone. He can’t just appear across the room – not while Harry is in it and not unless it is a matter of life or death – but he strides with easy rolling confidence of a man who has convinced harder clients than Harry Potter to agree to his terms before.
Of course he’s tense when the warm palms settle on his shoulders but he relaxes the longer they remain motionless and simply there. The warmth is unnatural from a human but perfect from a demon and it is physically comforting no matter how resolved he is in not agreeing with Crowley.
“Why do you want them watched?” he ventures. The hands move to smooth the junction where his shoulders meet his neck and he leans back and hums a little. “Don’t think I’m asking because of this either.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it, luv,” Crowley drawls low and smooth. “Call it seeing a hunch confirmed. I’m going to be busy for the next little while.”
“Because that wasn’t cyptic at all,” he mutters into the silence. Then, with a sigh, “Alright, I’ll agree to watch them if you swear not to take my Glenfiddich.” The demon’s presence makes the Deathstick tremble warningly. Harry tucks it away and tilts his head up to peer into dark eyes.
“Deal,” Crowley Swears and looks delighted as he spins away with a flourish of his dark coat. Harry smothers his grin before the demon sees it and just shakes his head instead. The magic of that promise is wrapped around him and the Elder Wand grumbles even as it enforces the spirit of the agreement as Harry understands it and refuses to allow any leeway for the demon half. There is an advantage to being Master of the Deathly Hallows – they tend to like pleasing him more than they like obeying the word of every single little rule of magic.
“Are you going to elaborate now that you’ve extracted that?” he asks.
“Some pesky brats have recently entered into an arrangement with me,” he leans against the counter and frowns into the middle distance. “I know they aren’t smart enough to find my dusty remains but I’d rather not risk it just the same – they’ve got an angel who’s particularly fond of the denser one.”
Harry knows that type. “A little slow on the uptake but quick and deadly on the draw, I imagine,” he grins widely at the dark look. “Used to be me, you know?”
“Still is,” Crowley taunts and dodges the wordless stinging hex Harry sends in response. “Doesn’t Hell just wish we could get our hands in your souls,” he mutters and his eyes are hungry for all the wrong reasons.
“You keep your smoky black minions out of our people and we’ll keep our magic away from searing your godforsaken souls,” Harry returns cheerfully even as he keeps a wary eye on his guest. It isn’t that the Magical community isn’t aware of the non-magical creatures and demons – it is that they are immune to possession because of their unique magical cores which automatically subsume and destroy any foreign invasions. The only person who can possess a witch or wizard is another witch or wizard.
It is because of this immunity – mirrored in the magical animals and half-human beings – that their community has collectively forgotten the existence of angels and demons. Hermione only found any information for Harry because she was the DoM’s top researcher and had exclusive access to the scant data left. The immunity also prevents any deals being made for power – Voldemort’s soul could be split a thousand times and not a single speck of it would be able to make a deal. It was simply easier to let that world fade from theirs.
So naturally, Harry doesn’t actually worry that Crowley could do anything to his people. Muggle magic – based on deals with demons or else rituals powered by faith and belief with just a drop of power from an interested party – can’t affect them. Even most muggle creatures are weakened just being in their presence and any violent ghosts or spirits are naturally urged to resting (or at least keeping away) the moment they catch a whiff of a magical core. Still, a human convinced to stab a wizard to death is perfectly capable of it regardless of whether or not they can perform spells or have a demon riding around in their bodies.
Harry is protected from violence on his property as are any of his invited guests (provided they aren’t demons and they don’t try to commit harm against any other guests). A pureblood supporter who’d once come to do an interview under the guise of a reporter had attempted to kill the visiting Luna on sight but found his spell backfired immediately. Ron said it served him right and wrote the entire incident off as self-defence and only asked Harry to pay a fine to the man’s family. Luna had eliminated that by casually saying that they could say the payment wasn’t necessary to remove their blood-debt to her from the failed attempt. Everything was settled out of court and Harry had returned to his life without a single fuss and the mere idea of attempting anything against his person or acquaintances forever eliminated.
"I assure you, I was thinking no such thing,” Crowley sniffs haughtily but smirks a moment later. “Speaking of, how’s your lot liking this end of days?”
“I don’t think they notice it, to be honest,” Harry says wryly. “Charlie says the dragons are a little more agitated as of late, but nothing terribly notable.”
“What our side wouldn’t offer for just one of those beasts,” the demon purrs at the thought.
“They don’t like you very much though,” Harry returns. He hasn’t actually tested the theory with a real dragon, but the charmed replica he’d kept from the Tri-Wizard tournament hissed irritably and charred one of his books when Crowley had poked his head in on Harry in the study on the third floor once
“Shame, that,” Crowley laments theatrically. There is a silence for a long moment. It’s broken when the great mutt wanders into the kitchen.
He’s a beast of a thing – larger than an Irish wolfhound and muscled like a mastiff – and his eyes are ghostly white and appear sightless for all that the thing can see just fine. Crowley was surprised that Harry could see him but then, Harry was a wizard and the Master of Death; seeing a hellhound seemed like the exact sort of thing he should be able to do.
“Hey there, Growly,” the wizard greets with a bright smile. The hellhound’s head swings round and his ragged tail wags as he takes the few steps needed to shove his shaggy black snout into Harry’s palms for a scratch.
Crowley looks appropriately sulky for a demon whose best intimidation tool was utterly besotted with someone other than himself. His sulk turns to a scowl when Growly flops to the floor and rolls over to his back so Harry can rub his belly. “Mutiny,” he grouches.
“You’re just sore that he likes me more than you,” Harry says easily and moues distaste when he runs a palm down a long scar on the dog’s shoulder where the fur is all matted and tangled. “Poor old boy; daddy’s very mean, isn’t he?”
Growly makes a sort of rumbling contented sigh and stares with half-lidded eyes at his Master as though Harry is merely demonstrating the correct way to pet him and he’s not a giant pile of furry goo under the wizard’s hands. Neither man is buying the look but Harry likes the great mutt and rubs his belly once more before patting him firmly and leaving off. The hellhound remains sprawled on the floor and chuffs at them but settles in for a nap.
“More demons with hellhounds they think might stand a chance?” Harry asks conversationally.
“Menaces, the whole lot of them.” Crowley agrees. “Good thing my pup’s bigger.”
“Good thing,” he echoes and drags his eyes away from the long scars. Crowley is gone and, when he looks back, so is Growly. Demons. Go figure.