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This is something of an experimental chapter in terms of style...

Harry Potter and the Breath of Life

"I forsee that it is something that will remain forever misunderstood. Raising the dead, bringing them back. That is not the fearsome power True Necromancers have, regardless of what our predecessors believed. It is the ability to take a human being and routinely strip every memory, every impulse, every emotion they have ever felt and reduce them to nothing more than occupied space. They can feel us raping and using their very soul. There is no word for that kind of pain. And then we kill them. Once you have felt that kind of power over your fellow man...can you be anything other than a god?" - Angela Halrend 1979 -

"I guess this is it until next semester..." Malfoy rolled his eyes and made a gagging expression, obviously viewing Hermione's sentimentality as something to be made fun of. Harry, not so gently, stepped on his foot while giving the girl a bright, fake, smile.

"I guess it is. You really should get an owl, you know." Speaking of that, he really should get an owl of his own too. Using the remaining Ergusson birds was all fine and dandy but last summer, Constanze had been getting a bit annoyed with him for not buying his own. He probably wouldn't have the time during winter break but it was going on his list for the summer Diagon Alley trip. "I don't understand why you didn't get one in the first place..."

The girl looked mildly apologetic. "It's an odd animal to have for a pet so my parents-," she gave Malfoy a glance and cleared her throat. "I'll do that."

And then there was an awkward pause. Harry wanted to ask them, did they remember anything!? But if they didn't, blurting out such a weird question would just cause problems. They stuck to the cover story the whole train ride but there was something off about them that made the hair on his neck stand up. Just as he was about to spout something lame and false about having somewhere he needed to be pronto, Hermione took a step forward and threw her arms around his neck.

"Take care of yourself." And there was a smell, that reminded the boy of the bleach he had to use on the white laundry back at the Dursley's but not quite...

"I will," he promised as she pulled away, the smell fading as she did so. There was little that could happen in the few weeks of Christmas vacation, what could she possibly be worried about?

She looked at him, looked through him, and then nodded towards Malfoy. "Next semester then."

The blond snorted as she walked away, clapping a harder than normal hand on Harry's shoulder. Minor payback for his foot, the boy imagined. "Mayhaps it's a Gryffindor thing. See you on the Eve." And then he off towards his parents, assuming that Harry had someone to meet. He had avoided thinking about it on the train, but this time he didn't have anyone. Shrugging, he picked up the handle to his trunk and watched the entire thing automatically start to hover above the ground with a small pang. The next adult wizard to pass him got a slight tug on his robes.

"Excuse me, sir, but is there a floo nearby?"

The man smiled at him, or rather, at his scar and gave simplistic directions in a babying tone that severely grated on the boy's nerves. "Try not to get lost now, wouldn't want you to disappear on us!"

Harry gave him a blank smile. "Of course not." Of course not...it isn't as if any of you bothered to find out where I was in the first place.

The floo didn't like him any better this year than it had last year, sweeping him along in dizzying circles before spitting him out in the Manor. "Oof!" Face, meet carpet. Trunk, meet backside. I fucking hate the floo...Swearing under his breath, Harry pushed himself up only to become aware of the high pitched, grating laughter of a certain portrait. "Oh, shut up!"

Constanze tried to function. "I-I'm sorreeeehehehe, b-but I haven't seen anyone come through the fireplace like that since your father last visited." His heart sank at the reminder. "He claimed that his shoes were untied, hmph! Conveniently, forgetting that he wasn't wearing those muggle contraptions..."

Grumbling, he left his trunk where it fell with the intention to do his laundry later. All he had on the train were those pumpkin whatchamacallit (what is with wizards and their pumpkins anyway?) and playing a far more sadistic verion of Russian Roulette with the Bertie Botts jelly beans that ended when Harry was shot with a vomit flavored one. He was halfway starved already.

Harry traversed the hallways to the main hall but once he reached it, he stopped. And felt his face burn.

--Oh ho!--

Thana was sitting precariously on the stair railing, staring at nothing --wait, not quite nothing. There was a slight warping at a point in front of her face that made his eyes go cross-eyed looking at it. Well, that was all well and good. Thana was spacing out. So what. But unfortunately, for some reason she choose to forgo her usual robe attire and opted for something that looked remarkably like an extra large T-shirt.

And that was it.

And he could tell. She was sitting as she usually did with one leg stretched out and the other bent up in a way that caused the fabric to ride up something fierce...

Loook awaaaay! Just turning his head was a colossal effort.

--No! Look, damnit! Are we a man or not!?--

He didn't bother dignifying that with a response. He tried closing his eyes but the image...he'd like to complain about it being burned into his eyelids but it wasn't...a bad thing...really. He cleared his throat and took a breath. "THANA!" There was a yelp and a split second later a painful sounding crash followed by creative swearing about him, a spoon with sharpened edges, his arse, lemon juice and baking soda.

--That imagination scares me--


He opened his eyes tentatively, one after the other, and breathed a short sigh of relief. Her shirt was twisting, stretching into the familiar robes in an almost sentient manner. He tried not to think much of it, mostly because she was once more on the second floor poking the air with a tense look of anxiety on her face. A horrible suspicion about the warping he had seen crept up.

"Do you often tear holes in reality when you aren't paying attention?"

"No!" she snapped, dropping her hand in a huff. They stared at each other. "Not really..." Her shoulders slumped guiltily. "Some times. Small ones only!"

Harry raised a finger. "I...am going to say nothing and get something to eat." He didn't want to think, damnit. He wanted food. NOW.

"It won't work," came her voice from behind him, soft and unsure with a tinge of growing dread. "It won't."

His head turned slowly to peer over his shoulder at her, at pale blue eyes that were looking everywhere but at him. "Is that the truth?" he asked dully, already knowing the answer in spite of the fact that it just wasn't fair. Every action had a bad consequence, that was the way things seemed to be, intended or not.

Thana flinched at his tone. "Not everything was a lie, you know." She turned her body away from him, like she was preparing to shield herself from something. "You will die."

"I'll do anything...eventually, right?" Thana said nothing, just watching him like one would eye a cornered and rabid animal. He blew out a breath. Bloody fucking hell. "Let's get this over with..." She held out a hand and as soon as he felt the cold skin of her hand, the world dissolved into a grey mist and then reformed into some familiar looking streets. London, somewhere, with Big Ben's lit face overlooking them in the distance. Strangely, he could have sworn that it was early evening when he got hom but for some reason the clock was showing a time hours later. "We've been here before," was all he said, settling for just giving the tower a suspicious look instead of voicing his thoughts.

Jumping does more than move beings through space, huh?

"We have," she agreed, an eerie little smile alighting on her lips. "In search of a murder that won't damage you too much." She shrugged, looking for all the world like she was completely carefree and careless. Harry knew she wasn't, but it was still a very good act. "I don't think you'll mind this one. These are...his hunting grounds, so to speak."

He quirked a disbeliving eyebrow. "Hunting what?"

"You can't save her but perhaps if you hurry, you'll get to him before the bobbies do."

He felt like tearing his hair out. Some answered him, some didn't. Some lied, some told the truth, some told him what might be the truth...he was hungry, he was tired and he was beginning to feel violent. She was not helping. "What the fuck are you talking about!?" The answer came, not from Thana, but by a woman's desperate plea for help down a dark alley way. Thana was immediately forgotten. With almost no thought to his own personal safety, as usual, Harry dashed into the darkness, full of righteous fury. "Hey, fucker-!"

Slimy. Greasy. For a moment, he could almost swear he saw oily tendrils of depravity and corruption waft off the man despite the fact that his glasses were firmly perched on his nose. He couldn't see what the man was doing, but the gurgling whimpers cut off abruptly with a savage movement, and a meaty snap. Heat.

And he was aware.

He could feel the grainy texture of the street, of the building walls as if he was touching it directly. Feel the slight movement of air caused by movement, by breathing. There was a flash of silver and somewhere in Harry's mind, he realized that the man had pulled a knife on him. But looking at the criminal now, lips moving in silent snarls while advancing, he could only think that it was...pathetic. Weak.

Compared to Death itself nipping at the edges of your soul, a knife was nothing. Weak, yes, amusing. Mortal. His nostrils flared. He could see, he could hear, he could feel...he didn't understand what was happening but there was something living in his presence. And he wanted it.

Once he made the decision to take that step, the rest was easy.

He let him get close, close enough to stab the knife into his chest with extreme predjudice and gawk when his would-be victim did nothing but flinch.

"Your aim sucks." And then he pulled.

It peeled off easily, like he was stripping a banana of its covering. It felt like, strangely enough, like clay with this almost sweet, heady smell (?) to it that reminded him of rotting meat in a rubbish bin. For a brief moment, he wanted to give it back. It stunk, damn it, he didn't want to eat this! But a strong sense of self preservation --he would die otherwise!-- finished pulling the flickering ghost into his own body. It washed over him in cold waves, making his knees give out and dump him on the street, panting.

"Holy shit..."

"You...died," came Thana's bewildered voice from the alley way opening. "Potter! You actually fucking died-!"

Harry gave a tired grin. "I got better."

"Without me!" She shot back, her words were coloured with something... "You did that without me...I wasn't Waiting...guess you don't really need me anymore."

The shot of adrenalin went straight to his heart. She couldn't leave him! Not until he- She couldn't leave him! Others existed and she was closest thing he had to an ally, he was as good as dead as ignorant as he was. He could use her because she was invested in him, and just the idea of her leaving permanently was almost...paralyzing...

I haven't stopped being dependent yet...

And from within --Well, you can't expect that to go away in what...a week?--

"I need you to help me." He spoke plainly, sitting on the dirty street was no place to act high and mighty. There was no reason to lie yet. "Youcan help me with the challenges, right?"

"That," she spat. "Is strictly forbidden. I can't tell you what they are, and I can't directly help. Death Incarnate sponsored you, so Death Incarnate can not interfere in a beneficial way. My hands are tied, after all, I can't simply become not me-" she suddenly cut herself off, eyes widening. She had meant it as a throw away statement. She was an Incarnate. If she gave Death up, she stopped being immortal. And the only way to stop being immortal was to die. Physically seperating Death from herself while remaining alive was impos-

Harry just stared at her. He knew, he knew Thana wanted him to succeed. That was the entire reason for the advice on leaving the Rose where it lay, wasn't it? He couldn't die now because then he couldn't give her what she wanted, little fragments that Harry was putting together now put to use. So if there was a loophole, any way to circumvent it, chances were she would think of it... the only question remaining was if she would take it.

He would not be a tool anymore.

Death can be manipulated.

And she said nothing else.

"I would have thought you to stay with the boy."

She paused, and eyed him. It was a reasonable assumption, she had been spending a lion's share of her time watching him lately, but for some reason knowing that he assumed, and that he would have been right, stung. She felt like she had gained power by telling herself the truth more often but in exchange was an unsettling loss of control.

She wanted that back.

"He's sleeping." She shrugged and tried to smile. "I just want to visit the Fountain again...can I?"

"Everything I own is forever open to you, my goddess."

Her smile became a bit more genuine, even as her eyes flashed with pity. That answer was so cute, it was pathetic. "Excellent! I'll just walk around until I remember how to find it." As expected, no one would have been surprised, he offered to lead her straight there. The Fountain of Blood was a literal gold fountain that endlessly spilled blood into its basin. It would only stop when mortals stopped killing each other and from its very conception at the beginning of Time, it was still going strong.

She could only sigh as she approached the edge of the red depths. The heart of Sparta. "Beautiful as always." Still smiling impishly, she motioned for Kring to come closer. "Do you know?"

Three little words, can mean so much. Three. "Know what, my goddess?"

And in the end, his outward appearance in relation to hers didn't matter. That which dwelled within him was only a fraction of Death, it would always be inferior and it was ultimately hers.

As Death Incarnate, she took it back.

She was building a-

Long before she understood the mechanics of it, Palquenta always had a fascination for creation. For giving life to a void in which there was nothing , for perpetuation of existence that, in a strange, exciting way, ensured that not only did the original carry on but that something new could take its rightful place in the universe. Life persevered, it struggled, it grew, it adapted and adopted; it was capable of so many things. The list only expanded as Time passed on. There were traces, essences, of the very first still in the world and it was beautiful.

(And in this way, she began to view Death as a crime. Ugly.)

Osiris had been of two minds about it. Sometimes, when she heard him speak, it was about an unstoppable turrent, a storm, a wave, a forcethat could not be denied or thwarted. He had asked her once, what living things needed. Light, she had answered, having seen the way plants stretched towards the sun and having seen the way humans would falter and fall into an odd depression when light withdrew for too long. Air, she had said, having seen that even the fish of the ocean needed to filter pockets of oxygen into themselves to live and that nothing made the cold vacuum between planets its home. Food, she had grumbled and then complained that she was hungry. Everything needed some kind of nourishment, from the smallest parasite to the largest animal, and young Chosens too.

But she had been wrong. All life needs was energy. What makes a heart start beating? What makes a mind start thinking? And this energy comes from Life itself. It was a mistake to view everything in categories; things will and things have gone extinct but until the universe itself ends, Life will find a way. Listening to him then, his face had almost been glowing.

(And this was the version she always told Thana then. Being allowed to sit on the Throne as she regaled her with tales, excited and unaware of how much it probably hurt the woman-)

And sometimes Life was personified into something warm but unyielding, empathetic but not compassionate, laughing but unhappy. To him, it had been akin to a lover (or perhaps exactly like one. It was far from impossible and there was that nasty rumour of where Thanatos originated-) that kept her distance in public but would not permit dalliances from him. Jealous and controlling, cruel in subtle ways that went unnoticed until it accumulated into a mountain.

There was no way of knowing whether or not his strained mind had exaggerated or even invited such behaviour, but it was a Life that frightened her. The evil witch with a flaming sword and multiple faces, who lived in a large tree and had no qualms about making a nonsense demand and then punishing creation forever after when it was disobeyed.

(She feared herself since Chosens are picked based on similarity- It was a person she, nonetheless, became. Four faced, or maybe just one, convoluted mess of a being- there used to be two Trees-)

Her time as a Chosen had been a bittersweet one, retroactively tainted even further by what came after into a poison. She was Osiris' legacy and she was filling his shoes remarkably. Some of the old remained and she liked to think that perhaps she was also composed of something new. And now she was continuing her own existence in that terrible way. It wasn't traditional, but she would take what she could get.

She was building a-

She could feel her Opposite, tentatively poking at the bond that weakly bound them as one of them vanished. She could feel the boy, suppressing a similar link. And she could feel the others, hovering around somewhere behind her. Were they feeling confusion? Did they fear what Death would do or did they simply stop caring, as long as it didn't happen to them? What about what was happening to her own self...

"What are you doing?" There was genuine curiousity. A smoky voice, strong and smooth. Desire. She never left her Realm anymore, but she supposed that was no longer true. She was here.

"Trying my hand at creation," she replied honestly. Maybe it would work, maybe it wouldn't. Would the Weave allow it? Did it matter? She was dying and it was absolutely astounding how many things became irrelevant with that realization. What would it be like, at the end? Did it hurt? It was hard to imagine feeling, and knowing nothing. At first, she was tempted to ask her Thana but out of them all, Death Incarnate knew the least about mortality. "Do you need my assistance?"

"I do not believe so." There was a short silence that Pal rather enjoyed. Zion had kicked up a slight breeze because of her mood and the grass waved to her. "Hel was wondering, if you would pledge by Never."

A sudden heat. Disgust. "No."

The silence was a little less enjoyable this time as the wind blew hard enough to create a slight chill until she had calmed. Mercurial emotions, did that mean anything? She looked over her shoulder, but Desire was gone. She idly wondered how one could leave her Claimed Realm, without her knowing it, but she wasn't interested in the answer. Shifting her weight, for her foot had gone numb, she returned her attention to the small pile of materials.

A unicorn's heart. A siren's larynx. Sinew from an a Grindylow. Muscle from a centaur. A giant's stomach and liver. A basilisk's entrails. Nerves, carefully harvested, from a vampire. Bones from a leithfold. Replacements for what she had destroyed. Repayment.

She was building a daughter out of the pitiful remains of that girl who gave for nothing. (Thana, my Thana...why?) Creating for the same reason by which Always had created. For something to love and be loved by. To no longer be alone.

child... a small, broken moan. It was no raging typhoon. It was no callous monster. It was defeated, sad and in pain. But out of habit, it was ignored. what have you done...

(Too little. Too late-)

This time, they will die together.

And before the very eyes of Fate, the Weave slowly began to unravel.