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[ H A B E A S C O R P U S ]

It's easy enough to slip away, Crowley finds. He feels the faint tug of the summons at the back of his mind - growing stronger much, much faster, now that they know who they're calling - and lays a hand on Aziraphael's, flashing him a grin through the dark. I'll be back in a bit, he mouths, and hopes it's true. An awkward passage along the row of seats, picking his way over the legs and bags of other cinema-goers, and he slips quickly up the aisle and out into the deserted second-floor lobby.

Barely audible, over the muffled sounds of explosions from the next screen over:


[ C O R A M ]

And much louder this time:


The same cellar, the same quivering old man backing from the room, the same salt-and chalk cages writ on the stone floor.

"Good evening," says Crowley.

"Good evening," says Voldemort.

[ B O N A F I D E ]

The contract hangs in midair between them, suspended on a wing and a prayer - or something like that. There are gaps here and there, amidst the close-packed letters - a few things still must be discussed. Terms, details, insert-name-here. The binding of the Dementors is to be transferred to Crowley when Voldemort has won; what that means, exactly, is debated upon for some minutes. Body-count, as Crowley suggests with a smirk, is rejected - the slipperiness of demons is legendary, after all. There would not be much to stop him making off with his prize at any moment at which Voldemort's losses measure less than his opponents'.

[ M U T A T I S M U T A N D I S ]

"No," Voldemort decides, voice sharp. "You shall have the Dementors, demon Chaim, when I decide that we have won."

"Very well," Crowley answers, enunciating each word with an air of careful finality. "The Dementors go to me when you consider that you have won."

In the gaps, the here-and-theres, a few more words fade into view. Somewhere Down There, on pre-submitted copies (in triplicate), the same terms appear. Crowley's smile curls oddly.

He produces a sleek black pen from some inner pocket, floats it and the contract across the unseen barriers to Voldemort. "Sign," he says, leaving a dramatic pause between the words. "Here." The scratch of ball-point against heavy paper, and the two drift back to Crowley. He clicks the pen once, twice, then snakes his hand over the underlined space, tracing a complex, wiggly sigil that glows an ugly orange-red and then fades.

There's a beat of silence, entirely unmomentous, before Crowley folds the contract, tucks it neatly into his breast pocket with the pen.

"Now," he says with a pale grin, stepping neatly over the wards. "Shall we?"

[ A D L I T E M ]

Standing in the lee of an outsized stone angel in the Little Hangleton graveyard, Voldemort narrows his eyes impatiently, fingers playing idly over the flat of his new dagger - Hell-forged, pro forma. The demon stands a few yards in front of him, gazing unfocusedly out over the mist-shrouded tombstones, an expression of intense concentration on his face. He looks a little grey. His hair is damp, also, though it's not apparent whether this is from exertion, or simply the condensation of mist.

Presently, a bead of moisture rolls down from his hair-line, drips off the end of his nose.

[ A C T U S R E U S ]

The silence is thick, a pressure against one's eardrums - increased somehow by the deep, subaudible pulse of power coming from the carefully-folded master-copy in Crowley's pocket. It's not just an object, binding their agreement; it is the means by which he becomes the conduit for... for this. He lifts a hand and presses it to the ouside of his jacket, listening to the faint crinkle of paper against his ribcage, so different from what he was once used to. And will be again, he promises himself, though the haze, if this works like it's supposed to.

It isn't easy. Works better when they're fresh. Last longer, too.

As the ground beneath their feet starts to shift slightly, and Voldemort's face starts to split in an unholy grin, Crowley vaguely hopes he didn't say that out loud.


[ E X P A R T E ]


He almost forgets, before slipping back into the cinema screen, to conjure himself a bottle of water. He's glad he does, though; he hadn't realised how dry his mouth was. The darkness is a plus, too. What took you so long? Aziraphael mouths, laughing silently as Crowley trips over someone's feet. Sorry, Crowley returns, dropping back down into his seat. Queues were bloody murder.
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July 2010

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