A/N: This is a little plot bunny that developed yesterday and would not go away until I wrote it down. Since I really didn't want it interfering with my work on Long Live the Queen, I did, and now you get to enjoy it. My thanks to Ben Franklin for the original quote that led to this story :P
Harry Potter had a headache, and not just your basic "give me a potion" variety. No, he had a headache to end all headaches, and no potion would make it go away.
After defeating Voldemort, he had just wanted to fade away, be "normal" for a change, and live a quiet life. He knew it wasn't going to happen, but nothing had prepared him for exactly how far from reality his dream was.
When the Ministry was finally cleaned out and everything had been sorted, Harry found himself the "beneficiary" of a number of estates. Unbeknownst to him, as the one who killed Voldemort, he had magically claimed his position among the Death Eaters. And having demanded fealty from his minions, every Death Eater had been required to name Voldemort as receiving half of their estate in their will. Thus, Harry had suddenly been granted half of every dead Death Eater's estate, whether he wanted it or not.
Additionally, because so many people had died, there were many, many wills that had to be probated. And quite a number of them had ended up landing in his lap as well, either indirectly or occasionally as bequeathed gifts to "The Boy-Who-Lived" or whoever killed Voldemort.
As a result, Harry suddenly found himself not only very, very famous, but very, very wealthy. This brought along a whole other set of issues, from people begging him for money to trying to figure out what to do with dozens of properties he now owned. But that wasn't the worst of it, not by a long shot.
Taxes. Lots, and lots, and LOTS of taxes.
And so, Harry found himself sitting at the desk in his study, in the one house he had decided for certain to keep, trying to figure out his taxes. He knew he should probably hire someone to do it for him, as he certainly could afford it now. But that would mean having to go out in public again, and the last time he'd done that he felt like he'd barely escaped with his life.
The desk was covered with papers; bank statements, inheritance forms, tax forms, instructions for tax forms and more were all over the place. There were a few piles that looked like they were once organized, but the majority of the papers were all over the place.
Looking at yet another form, then back at the instructions for it, Harry's head throbbed even harder. He was about to put it down and take a break when he noticed movement out of the corner of his eye. Instinctively he drew his wand and spun in that direction, already moving to the side to dodge any spells cast his way. There wasn't anyone else in the house, and nobody should have been able to get in, so whoever it was was a threat.
Getting a good look at the interloper, Harry's blood froze. His initial impression was that it was a Death Eater: they were wearing a long, black cloak with a full hood. But that was where the similarity ended, as there was no mask, and instead of a wand they held a wicked looking scythe that was taller than they were. This was no Death Eater, this was Death himself!
"Harry James Potter," Death intoned, "your time has come."
Harry's mind reeled. His time? Now? But he just managed to move past that bloody prophecy so he could live! "But..." he sputtered.
"No buts, Harry," said Death, "everyone's time comes eventually, and now is yours."
"No," said Harry. He shook his head, then repeated, louder, "No. Not now, not until I decide it's time." He glared at Death, his challenge clearly visible in his expression.
Death stared at him for a moment, then did the last thing Harry expected. He laughed. Softly at first, then louder, until he gave great belly laughs, threw back his head, and had his hood fall backwards to reveal his face.
Harry was shocked, first that Death HAD a face, and then that it was so ordinary. Short, dirty blond hair and a round face with an unremarkable nose and lips. Only the eyes stood out, and even then they were just very dark, almost but not quite black.
Death stopped laughing, looked at Harry, and asked, "And just what makes you think you get to decide when I get to take you?" Strangely, he didn't seem angry or upset, just curious.
"Because," said Harry, "I'm the Master-of-Death."
Death gave Harry a look, and replied, "Master of Death? You?"
"Nononono..." said Harry, shaking his head. "Not 'Master of Death,' 'Master-of-Death.' It's hyphenated; like 'Boy-Who-Lived' or 'Man-Who-Won.'" Harry cupped his hand around his mouth and lowered his voice, as though telling a secret. "Or even 'He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named,' but we don't talk about him."
Death raised an eyebrow. "And why does the hyphenation matter?"
Harry shrugged. "I dunno, but all of my other 'titles,'" Harry made air quotes around the word, "are hyphenated, so I figure that one should be too. In any event, I'm the master of all three Hallows, so I'm the Master-of-Death. That means you can't take me if I don't want you to."
Death thought for a few seconds, then frowned. "Wait a minute! You dropped the Stone in the Forbidden Forest. You're not its Master anymore, so you're NOT the Master hyphen of hyphen Death!"
Now it was Harry's turn to frown, before an idea popped into his head. "Has anyone else found the Stone and claimed it for themselves yet?"
"Um," said Death, "no... not that I know of. And I would know if it happened."
"So there," said Harry triumphantly. "I'm still the Master of the Stone, at least for now. Are we done yet?"
Death drooped his head, and muttered, "I guess so, unless you need anything else from me." There was a slight pause, followed by, "Master."
Harry was about to dismiss Death when he had an idea. "Hey, I'll make you a deal. If you can do my taxes for me, I'll go with you willingly." Death looked up sharply, but Harry continued before he could say anything. "On the other hand, if you can't do them, you'll leave me alone until I decide it's time, even if I'm no longer the Master-of-Death."
Death's eyes narrowed, then his whole face looked contemplative. "Let me get this straight. You want me to do your taxes for you. If I succeed, you'll come with me now, no questions asked. But if I fail, I don't get you until you decide to come to me, even if someone else claims one or more of the Hallows?"
Harry nodded. "Yes, that's what I'm saying."
Death looked thoughtful, then grinned. Harry grinned back; he figured getting out of having to do his taxes was worth dying for, since trying to do them had apparently killed him in the first place.
"Nope, no deal," said Death, causing Harry's face to fall in shock "I'm afraid I couldn't agree to that even if I wanted to."
"But, why?" said Harry dejectedly.
"Because," intoned Death sagely, "the only certainties in life are death and taxes. Have fun!"
Death pulled up his hood, once again hiding his face. He then waved and disappeared, leaving Harry standing gobsmacked behind his desk. Looking down at the mess of papers on it, Harry let out a groan before getting back to work.
And he still had a headache, dammit!