Chapter 1: The Pale Horseman
"Harry Potter," he said very softly. His voice might have been part of the spitting fire. "The Boy-Who-Lived." None of the Death Eaters moved. They were waiting: Everything was waiting. Hagrid was struggling, and Bellatrix was panting, and Harry thought inexplicably of Ginny, and her blazing look, and the feel of her lips on his — Voldemort had raised his wand. His head was still tilted to one side, like a curious child, wondering what would happen if he proceeded. Harry looked back into the red eyes, and wanted it to happen now, quickly, while he could still stand, before he lost control, before he betrayed fear — He saw the mouth move and a flash of green light, and everything was gone.
Harry awoke on cold floor, the worn linoleum smelling a little iffy to his nose.
"Wait a second… Cold floor, iffy linoleum floor," he thought, thoroughly confused by this afterlife he was now in. Through his confusion, something else struck him as weird: He was naked as the day he was born. At least, that was that he assumed he had been born like. The moment he realized his rather embarrassing state, a smart pinstripe suit manifested itself around his body, including tie, slippers and even some rather nice cufflinks.
Harry stood up, feeling lighter than ever before, as if a great weight had been lifted from him. Just as he had started to get his bearings, his admittedly muddy thoughts were interrupted by the first sound he had heard since being struck by the killing curse.
"Join me, Harry," he heard a measured, oddly cold and yet polite voice say. It came from a central table in what Harry now believed to be the stereotypical American diner.
"Huh, the afterlife is a diner," he thought as he approached the man sitting at that particular table with his back to Harry, cutting what was obviously pizza.
"Sit, eat!" the man intoned, his voice still measured, but now with a distinct tone of order to it.
Thinking it best to comply, Harry rounded the table to get a good look at the mysterious stranger who seemed so unfazed by everything that was going on. The man had a gaunt face, combed back, dark grey hair over a receding hairline and a look of such disinterested indifference it was very disconcerting. He was dressed in an impeccable dark suit, with a coat slung over the backrest of his chair. It was immediately discernible where Harry's clothes came from.
"Who… Who are you?" Harry asked the first question that came to mind.
"Oh, I have many names, so many I don't even remember them all. The Egyptians used to call me Osiris; the Greeks preferred Thanatos or Hades and to some I am the Pale Horseman. Does this answer your question?" he explained and looked at Harry expectantly. The young man could only nod slowly, before taking a hard gulp. He knew all of these names, as he now knew who he was sitting in front of.
"You're… Death?" he asked, only to be pinned down with a hard, emotionless stare.
"Oh yes. You might ask yourself, why do I bother with you? After all, in the grand scale of things you are rather insignificant, are you not? One tiny little being, on one tiny little planet in a solar system so very unimportant, how would you be of any interest to me?" Receiving a small nod from Harry, he continued, "Well, you see. I am currently find myself unable to take care of some things that must be done, as I am trapped in some backwards village in what you call the United States; only on this plane of existence, between life and death, can I speak to you."
Harry could only stare at the strange man, Death, as he called himself. He cut off another piece of the thick, cheesy pizza, pushed it towards Harry and indicated for him to eat.
"The natural order has been damaged," Death stated bluntly, showing the first real emotion Harry had seen from him, and it was slight anger. "The one you call Riddle has mutilated his soul and escaped Death. He is even less than a bratty child, a bacterium, throwing a temper tantrum because his daddy didn't love him. And this thing managed to cheat me? The soul is to be whole, and when life ends, it ends."
Still, Harry could only stare in confusion at who he now understood to be a primordial force. There from the beginning of time up until the bitter end. Suddenly, his gaze was drawn towards a ring on Death's finger adorned with a single, white stone. Harry had seen and felt enough magic to know that this was way beyond anything he had ever experienced or imagined.
"I have, what you could call a leash around my neck, so I cannot take care of him on my own. Therefore, I propose a bargain: You will be able to go back, as much is certain even without our little trade, or you could go on; it might be the easiest way out for you."
The young man started to have an idea there was to be a third option and could not help but ask, "I guess there is a third option?"
"You will go back in time to a point, where you can put the natural order back better, follow fate in a better way, name it what you will. You could prevent a great number of deaths that went against the natural order, as they were premature," Death answered brusquely.
Inside Harry, a battle was waging that was in no way smaller than what had occurred on the Hogwarts grounds. His sense of duty, his willingness to protect was clashing with his weariness, with how tired he felt, tired of suffering, tired of being fate's play ball. In the end, only his 'saving-people thing' could win out and he gave a pained nod.
"Very well, some advice for the way then: Do take care to actually make the hard decisions this time around, would you. Also, beware the two youngest redheads and their mother; she seems quite fond of mind-altering potions."
Harry was now getting angry, how dare this guy imply Ginny and Mrs. Weasley in something like this.
"If you mean that…" he started angrily only to be interrupted by Death snipping his fingers. In an instant, Harry was lucid.
"Still have something to say?" the still annoyingly calm Death opposite of him asked. "You might not even be the only one, if you catch my meaning. Now, last advice: Think before you act, do not trust the old meddler, a visit to your local bank, alone, is always helpful, look into your pocket when you arrive and, if you have the time, visit Chicago. The pizza is delicious."
And before Harry could utter one more word, everything around him faded into nothingness again.
AN: Hello AO3,
I was thinking I would put this up here as well and worked over all the chapters I have previously posted on FFN. Whether I will include any smut in this story, I haven't decided, but if I do, it will only appear here.
Hope you like it,