Over the centuries, countless people had dedicated their lives to tracking down the Deathly Hallows. Some were motivated by scholarly obsession, others for fame, and more for glory. Many a dark wizard had dreamed of uniting the artefacts and becoming the almighty Master of Death!

No one was quite sure what powers that would entail, but many envisioned immortality, invulnerability, perhaps even the power to raise and command unstoppable armies of the dead.

How very disappointed they would be to know the truth.

Master of Death? Less a title of power and more of a job description.

It went like this: Death got really brassed off by people who attempted to defy their inevitable end at his hands. Problem was, there wasn't much Death could do about it. Being a Concept Personified, wherever he went, so too went all he stood for. That was fine on the higher planes his kind called home—all Concepts had a certain immunity to their fellows. But on a mortal plane? The moment Death descended, people had a tendency to … well, drop dead.

He was still super-sheepish about that incident on the world called Earth a little while back. He really hadn't thought it through before charging down there. And sure, he'd put a stop to that one leviathan's filthy necromancing, but … he also accidentally set off a near extinction-level event and wiped out the dinosaurs. Talk about taking collateral damage to new levels. It was a miracle anything survived. Or rather, it was thanks only to the intervention of his wife, Life, who came to drag him back home. With her brief presence, and the influence of her own Concept, she managed to ensure the continuation of life on the planet.

Now, one might think Death enjoyed that sort of thing: extinction events. It was pretty much the ultimate expression of his purpose, right?

Except no, because Death wasn't an idiot. There was a reason he'd fallen in love with Life, and that was because he couldn't exist without her. Literally. Because if everything was dead, the mortals could no longer reproduce. And if they couldn't reproduce, couldn't create new life, there were no more things to die. And he became obsolete.

Concepts could gain power in a limited number of ways. Worshippers gave them a boost, but it was comparatively minimal. The real power came from sphere of influence: the more beings and places a Concept touched, the more powerful said Concept became. A dead world was not actually under Death's influence at all, because no one was dying there any longer. And losing an entire world from one's influence was no small blow to his kind.

So really, extinction events were counter to Death's purpose.

It got really tempting though, when arrogant should-be-mortals kept thumbing their noses at him. Horcruxes for instance? Not looked upon kindly.

Incidentally, if Harry had never destroyed a Horcrux during that year on the run, the Master of Death thing wouldn't have stuck. It was sort of the last part of the unspoken job interview:

Wanted: Master of Death.
Duties: To act as Death's intermediary on the mortal plane, so as to avert unintended (and ultimately self-defeating) apocalypses.
Steps to Apply:
1. Express interest in the position via collection of the coveted Deathly Hallows, thus showcasing a willingness to work hard and overcome challenges.
2. Destroy a Death-defying artefact to demonstrate understanding of and commitment to what the position entails, rather than collection of the Hallows under mistaken assumptions.

It hadn't worked quite as Death intended. Harry had not only had some mistaken if vague impressions about Master of Death thing, he'd collected the Hallows—artefacts Death intentionally had planted on the mortal plane, despite the impression given to the Peverell brothers—utterly by mistake. But none of that changed the fact that Harry had passed the metaphorical job interview.

The only reason Harry hadn't kicked up a fuss was the fact that it made Destiny's power over him moot. Apparently, she'd been really ticked off about that—he was one of the Concept's favourite play-toys, and she'd had more planned for him than just a tragic backstory and a drama-filled, prophecy-driven childhood. The thought made Harry shudder.

Thankfully, free will did count for something. By accidentally dedicating himself to Death, and accepting the consequences, Destiny lost all claim on Harry.

Anyway, being Master of Death wasn't so bad, as jobs went.

Destiny had planned for him to become an Auror, according to Death. While it might have been a boyhood dream, and did sound a bit exciting, you really couldn't pay Harry enough to work for the Ministry of Magic these days. He'd suffered too much abuse at the hands of that organisation, up to and including the Ministers themselves: first was Fudge, the coward, who tried to make the world think Harry was a crazy attention-seeking liar, and who'd dispatched to Hogwarts his toady Umbridge who got off on torturing school children; then came Scrimgeour's attempts to strong-arm him into being a Ministry show-pony; and worst of all was Thickness, acting as a puppet for Voldemort himself, and that 'Undesirable Number One' business.

No, Harry was thoroughly disillusioned with the Ministry and wanted none of it, not even to be an Auror.

Being Master of Death was just as good anyway. It had all the excitement, and the same feeling of accomplishing good deeds. Plus: travel! These days, Harry spent most of his time zipping around the world, tracking and destroying Horcruxes and similar dark artefacts, or else hunting down dark wizards and the like who'd been messing with necromancy. Death had even been making noises about sending Harry further afield, like to other worlds further, to deal with a few situations cropping up here and there. So that sounded super exciting.

The Master of Death position also came with the sort of life insurance you just couldn't get anywhere else. Which was to say that Death, with permission from his wife, was willing to send Harry back if ever he got in over his head and kicked the bucket—as had been amply demonstrated at the Battle of Hogwarts when Harry let Voldemort kill him, only to get back up a few minutes later and off the Dark Lord.

End result: Harry was guaranteed a long and fulfilling life, something he'd begun to fear would be forever beyond his reach.

All in all, Harry was pretty satisfied with how his life had turned out. Collecting the Hallows, becoming Master of Death … it was the best mistake he'd ever accidentally made!

Author's Notes:

So this is an idea that's been percolating in my brain for a while. Generally I've envisioned it as a prologue of sorts for a crossover, justifying Harry being sent to another world/dimension. Like, someone there is messing with Death, and Harry is sent to intervene.

I feel like this has a lot of potential with the Naruto-verse especially. Because firstly, Edo Tensei. Enough said. And then there's the Reaper Death Seal. The Rinnegan's resurrection powers. The general resurrecting of the Ten-Tails/Kaguya business. Oh, and Orochimaru. Just. Him in general, with his death-cheating body-swapping. And his creepy snaky cursed seal thingies could have some Horcrux parallels.

Also, Hidan. Because, have you ever noticed that the symbol of Jashin is eerily similar to the Deathly Hallows symbol? I have this half-baked story idea where Jashin is a demon—or perhaps a lesser Personified Concept like 'Sadomasochism'?—who thought to profit from would-be Death worshippers by making his own summoning symbol quite similar, similar enough that someone trying to summon/contact Death could make a mistake and …

And like, Death is super unimpressed by this poser, a lowly demon/lesser Concept, pretending to be the god of Death and giving the real Death a bad name. And also stealing his potential worshipers. And so he sends Harry to put Jashin and Hidan in their place?

Or something.

It could also be a Middle Earth crossover. Because the One Ring is so obviously a Horcrux. Right?

Really, there are countless fandoms that could spin off from this. But … none of the possible crossover bunnies have panned out yet. I still like my little 'Master of Death is a job title' idea though, so I filled it out a bit and am posting this as-is. It's short, but hopefully interesting?

(And now I will stop before my author's note gets longer than the actual story.)

Reviews make me happy (hint, hint).