Say 'hello' to me, from me, as you pass by.

this is the author on too little sleep with an overdose of assignments waiting menacingly in the wings. Never mix Harry Potter with transition metal complexes and too little sleep. the result is clearly dangerous. Also, please excuse any absent capitals, the whole lot got eaten when I uploaded this and putting them back in was annoying...I think I got them all, but I probably didn't.

xxxxxx

"Oh." Albus Dumbledore was already gaping in astonishment at the being who met him at the junction when his mortal form began the long fall from the battlements of the astronomy tower. By the time his mortal remains would hit the ground, he would normally have been processed and passed on, but Destiny knew he'd request permission to remain for a while.

"That's another one from destiny and two from fate."

"You owe me one though." The newcomer was grinning.

"No I do not." the first being jumped to his feet. "I predicted a surprised reaction and I got a surprised reaction."

"No, you got an astonished reaction...a whole three levels higher than you predicted and it came with a gape so I should probably charge you double."

"Bloody Chaos." The first being shuffled around in the pockets of his ethereal garments for a longish moment before handing over a lump of something.

"It's only fair." Chaos had his nose in the air for a quick sniff of disdain. "I've been trying to get that particular bit of chaos back from you for a thousand years."

"You shouldn't have bet on something so stupid as whether Slytherin's snake could survive without him."

"You had an unfair advantage." Chaos glooped the lump of...'chaos' from hand to hand for a moment before carefully storing somewhere within his own clothing. "You have a headmaster to deal with."

"He wants to stay and watch for a bit...Destiny already told me that one."

"Why on earth does he want to stay and watch?" Chaos stared at Dumbledore curiously.

"Because he's an insane old coot who just has to know how things are going."

"Well, I'm off." Chaos disappeared and the first being slowly sat back down.

"How did you know I'd want to stay and watch?" Dumbledore was finally recovering from his shock.

"Destiny told me." the being gave a shrug and then grimaced, before turning his head aside to yell. "THAT WASN'T VERY NICE, BROTHER DEAR!"

"I'll undo it for three lumps of chaos." Chaos was back in the room.

"Not a chance, go away before I do something ghastly to one of your pets."

"Consider me gone." Chaos vanished again, leaving Dumbledore to stare at the first being in utter confusion.

"What did Chaos do?" Dumbledore had no idea how to address this being who unquestionably had been his student just moments before he arrived at wherever this here was.

"Caused my mortal form to break-up with Ginny Weasley...at your funeral." The being scowled at something he could apparently see on the far wall.

"Do all of you have mortal forms?" Dumbledore was a trifle perplexed.

"Of course not." The being waved a hand, clearing the wall so Dumbledore could see the current action. A wizarding world in chaos on the verge of utter destruction. Three shadows of Harry and his friends...

"Why are they shadows?"

"They have removed themselves from our purview, until they return to the light there is nothing we can do directly against them." The being was frowning, restlessly flicking a lump of something from hand to hand. "Torment! will you please give Snape a break?"

"Why?" The new being was a shade darker than the two Dumbledore had otherwise seen.

"Because if you don't I might be compelled to take a hand again."

"Fine." Torment retreated and moments later Severus Snape had his chance to hand the sword of Gryffindor over to the man he referred to as 'brat'.

"If Torment retreats, Chance and Opportunity almost always step in." the being was smiling as he threw a little black stuff, which he'd hastily retrieved from somewhere in his clothing, into the scene. the black spot was tiny and sank immediately into the scene. Dumbledore was unable to determine what had happened.

"Why was the threat of you taking action all that was necessary to make Torment retreat?"

"Only for a moment." the being waved a diffident hand before frowning and throwing whatever had been in his hands into the scene, it spread stickily over the grimy attic which was part of the...scene. it was strange this ability to see everything and yet only see a few details.

"Brother, you owe me so bad." the newcomer was female and very light.

"Oh?"

"I persuaded Chaos to take a hand when fate got hold of the little Weasley...after he'd been wearing that gh-rch for a day."

"I had wondered about that." the being looked pensive. "How much do you think I owe you?"

"At least one destiny, a fate and two torments."

"The two torments, but no fate or destiny." the being spoke firmly.

"One torment and one fate?"

"Two torments or we can deal later."

"We deal later." the female vanished.

"That was...?" Dumbledore left it hanging.

"Luck." the being was frowning.

"How many are there of you?"

"A lot." the being scratched his head. "Compassion, Courage, Destiny, Faith, Fate, Hope, Luck, Love, Opportunity, Resolution and Success are my sisters who i have much to do with. oh, and also Wisdom and Penitence."

"There are ones you don't see much of?"

"Of course. some I have never seen at all. Dreams avoids me like I'm something nasty." the being frowned. "Chance, Chaos, Desire, Despair, Doubt, Fear, Passion, Strength, Torment and Unity are my primary brothers." the being grabbed something out of his clothing and hurled it at the image and within seconds Ron Weasley was successfully reunited with his friends after the estrangement caused by Chaos interfering with Fate. "Hopefully I can win some more unity before I need it. Ignorance and Pestilence are brothers I try to avoid."

"Do you spend all your time gambling and playing with our lives?" Dumbledore gestured at the scene.

"Should seem familiar to you." the newcomer had an unsettling smirk which seemed familiar.

"I never gambled in my life."

"Old man, you've been gambling with death himself since you graduated from Hogwarts." the newcomer accepted a lump of greyness from the being who seemed to be bickering with someone else in an inaudible tone. two lumps of grey arrived in the room for the being to pocket and Dumbledore decided his initial doubt about the being was justified.

"What is that?"

"Shadow of death." the newcomer smiled. "highly prized this stuff because it screws with everything."

"Uou are?"

"Courage, I find that the shadow of death wakes the courage of most...though sometimes it fails miserably."

"Why gamble and play with our lives?"

"Why did you do it?"

"I..." Dumbledore stopped. "I just wanted people to be happy."

"You can't make people happy, all you can do is let them live their own lives."

"This is our job and though we were once serious about it, we've learnt that there's no point in being serious because our attitude doesn't have any effect on what we do..."

"Keep is simple, Courage, there's not much else to do and it does keep things interesting for all parties involved." the being drew a whole handful of the nasty black stuff from his pocket and eyed the wall pensively. Courage glanced momentarily at the black gunk, grimaced and vanished. Dumbledore watched in silence as, after a moment, the being threw a couple of small pieces from his handful into the scene.

"Hey!" it was a massed yell from what seemed like a million voices.

"Relax or I'll use the whole lot." the being repocketed the handful and sat up quickly to smile at the two death eaters who'd just arrived. somehow the being seemed to appear very different without anything changing. the men were processed in moments and passed on to the next stage of whatever.

"You did have to do that didn't you." the glum looking female handed over several lumps of varying shades.

"Oh thankyou, I was all out of unity." the being disposed of the lumps around his person.

"Well now you have enough to keep things very boring for several hundred years."

"Be happy, it hasn't been boring for the last couple of hundred years and we all need a rest." the being squinted back into the scene and seemed to be thinking hard. "Faith, do you think I might be able to persuade you to pay some attention to Hogwarts? Torment really has been going to town and I think the student body could do with a break."

"I can't, but I'll have a chat with hope...Torment's had a bit of a soft-spot for her and might oblige." Faith disappeared.

"You can't just threaten to step in like you did with Severus?"

"Torment would undoubtedly call that particular bluff." the being gave a sniff. "He never can tell when I issue that threat against Snape, he does know just how far I'll go against children...unless Fate has teamed up with Despair and Chance again, in which case everyone knows that all bets are off and I'll lose my temper. they've been a bit shy of teaming up ever since the 1940s...but there have been some mutterings of late from Doubt which worry me." the being had been scattering an amazing amount of stuff into the scene of utter chaos which seemed to be the penultimate battle.

"But..."

"I hate you!" the being abruptly threw another bit of black into the scene before waving his hand and banishing Dumbledore to a whitespace. it seemed only moments later, but Dumbledore was quite certain more than a couple of minutes had passed. "Sorry about that, but some of them would have tarried if they'd known you were and they really shouldn't."

"Who...?" Dumbldore was almost afraid to ask.

"Mm, Snape...which is why I'm mad at Passion, two Lupins...a Lestrange, I won't have fighting in my room...oh, and a Weasley." the being was frowning at the scene with a perplexed expression. "Please excuse you need to catch this one." the being vanished and Dumbledore found himself standing on the edge of the platform of Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross with a stunned Harry Potter. Dumbledore wasn't quite certain how he floundered through the conversation, he was almost more accustomed now to the the paradoxical and quixotic being than his student he'd spent six years with. yet in the end Harry Potter went back to live his own life and Dumbledore found himself back in the room with the paradoxical being.

"Who are you?"

"Eh?"

"I thought I knew who you were when I first saw you, but now I'm rather doubtful. Do you mind telling me your name?" Dumbledore flinched as what sounded like a million simultaneous groans came from all around and random lumps of stuff started arriving. "what...?"

"Just me cashing in." the being was grinning as he stowed away the lumps without ever changing in appearance. it was puzzling.

"Who are you?" the question drew more groans and more lumps appeared.

"How nice." the being had paused to finger a lump of stuff which seemed to quiver under his touch.

"Enough already!" the new being was another familiar face. "will you answer him before we end up owing you everything!"

"I thought you said you were the only one with mortal form." Dumbledore was blinking in confusion.

"I may have implied that, but all I said was that not all of us have mortal form." the being rose to embrace the newcomer. "This is Life, my pair, if one of us goes down the other also of necessity descends. Shadow and Light were also down there." the being abruptly hurled a handful of blackness into the scene.

"Honestly, that is disgusting." Life had flinched away from the blackness.

"It was never intended to be pleasant." the being flicked his hand and Dumbledore found himself with life in the whiteness.

"Why does he do that?" Dumbledore looked at the woman.

"Everyone has privacy for their interview with death...he's kind of bending the rules letting you remain at all." Life gave a shrug.

"He didn't banish me for the two death eaters."

"Did he speak to them?"

"No."

"Hence he didn't banish you temporarily." Life gave a shrug.

"How do any of you end up in the mortal world? particularly since you seem to also be here?"

"There is almost always one of us within the mortal world." Life gave a smile. "When one descends of necessity the pair follows. Torment and Faith were down for the Grindlewald years...except torment broke the laws of balance and boy did things start getting exciting. Light descended immediately after the Grindlewald years, called down by a claim that the light would fall...she actually did that time and it didn't half make a stir. Shadow of necessity followed Light to preserve the balance. Before Light fell, she bore Death in mortal form...which is rare and usually means that Destiny and Fate are fighting about something. Death descended because Tom Riddle swore he would defeat Death. Of necessity, to maintain the balance, I descended to balance Death's presence." Life paused. "Fate attempted to bring balance from Destiny to account for the presence of Light in Death's mortal veins when she caused the prophecy."

"Lily Potter was Light?"

"On this particular occasion she was."

"James Potter doesn't strike me as shadow." Dumbledore flinched as a groan sounded from nearby but wasn't really surprised when a being blinked into existance to hand over a lump to Life before blinking out again.

"We all are dictated within our existance by balance. as Life and Death, a pair, we lived unaware of our immortal bonds, but connected to our bonds. if Harry was with me, than no mortal died because life cancels death. When Harry was apart from me, mortals usually die...and in quite high numbers. we, as a pair, can create mortal offspring who are not bound to the immortal though. Our children will be perfectly normal mortals...and will probably be shocked out of their wits when they die."

"Concerning Death..." Dumbledore hesitated.

"In Harry's first year Quirrel died as a result of his necessity to tap into his immortal powers. In his second year when he tapped into those powers he was with me...and I was also tapped into my immortal powers, which is the main reason why Tom ever got as solid as he did without killing me. Tom, a mortal with immortal veins and an immortal basilisk died...but no mortals. Third year his brief tap into immortal powers was actually to borrow what he was gifted by his mother, Light. Patronus' don't normally persuade over a hundred dementors that they want to be somewhere else. Fourth year and the Tri-Wizard cup...Diggory wasn't the only mortal to buy it, Crouch snr and jnr both got nobbled because of Harry...let's also just say that quite a few death eaters died due to 'friendly fire' when Harry was playing harry hunting with Tom. Department of Mysteries...no one died until after I was separated from Harry and he was scared enough that in the end only Sirius died...you'd have either died, or received a very big shock if you had tried to kill Harry to get Tom. Mortals cannot kill immortals. Sirius was rather surprised though when he discovered that Harry was an immortal...seemed to think the 'light's' chances of victory were much improved."

"Light and Shadow weren't surprised to meet him?"

"Shadow never knew him and Light knew from the moment she laid eyes on her son."

"Shadow didn't marry Light?"

"If Light and Shadow had married they would have created normal mortals, not what was needed to deal with the mess caused by Tom Riddle. Chaos took a hand in matters by allying with Chance and Opportunity to try and right the wrong caused when Torment ignored the dictates of balance and created Tom Riddle. Tom Riddle is a mortal with torment in his veins, because Torment spent time with a mortal. Mortals cannot have immortal veins without things going very, very wrong. it was quite bad enough Death having Light in his veins...can you imagine a mortal with torment?"

"I've just finished living through it."

"Oh no, not really." Life shook her head. "The presence of Shadow within the mortal realm and the fact that Death gave Faith and Hope almost complete free reign meant that you felt almost nothing of what might have been. Torment was almost completely inactive for several years...he's actually only started waking up since Destiny brought his mistake back to life...people died quickly in the first war."

"Why did Shadow and Light not...marry?"

"As I said, Chaos interferred...there was also the fact that Chance was in a temporary alliance with Despair and Hope was feeling angry. Harry, being Death with Light in his veins, has options when he tapped into immortal power....we don't yet know if he'll access those options in the immortal realm after his mortal forms dies or not."

"That would surely change many things." Dumbledore felt a sense of growing alarm.

"Undoubtedly, because if Death can access light, then of necessity Life must be able to access shadow to maintain the balanced pair."

"You aren't balanced in the mortal plane?"

"For many years we weren't, the only reason there weren't more deaths during that time was because everyone knew the imbalance was there and were, quite bluntly, rigged the game to account for that imbalance. Chance and Chaos got tired of playing on a rigged board, so my first year at Hogwarts fixed things to settle the balance."

"How...?"

"When life passes through a death shadow..." she pulled one of the grey lumps from somewhere inside her attire. "Only shadow remains, a link to the shadow powers. This is the death shadow cast by Chance in my first year...had Harry fallen to the basilisk or Tom..." Life fell silent and Dumbledore realised that he truly did not wish to know what might have happened with Life and Shadow linked on the mortal plane without Light and Death to balance them.

"Well, that's that done." Death arrived rubbing his hands and looking remarkably cheerful.

"Tom has passed on?" Dumbledore's expression was curious.

"He wasn't totally willing to go, but even he had to acknowledge that he'd lost out in his effort to elude death. He was more willing to go once we got the torment out of his veins." Death pulled a reddish-grey lump out of a pocket and handled it cautiously.

"How long until Torment realises you have it?" Life eyed the lump warily.

"He already knows." Death restored the lump to it's pocket. "He's not yet willing to pay the price I've set on it though."

"Price?" Dumbledore was worried.

"Everything has a price, headmaster, it is just a question of whether or not you are willing to pay the required price." Death pulled the lump back out. "it is dangerous for me to hold this, but not as dangerous as things would be for Torment should I return it to him in this state." with a dexterous twist Death had mixed black through the lump and the result caused both Life and Dumbledore to step backwards. "Or this." another twist and a ribbon of pure light was mixed in with the black and the reddish-grey.

"Death..." Life's voice was almost worried.

"He put me through hell because he didn't think his actions through." Death lifted angry eyes from the lump he'd created. "I'm going to make damn sure that no one ever mixes with a mortal again without thinking very hard about the possible consequences first."

"Death?" it was a worried looking Torment who appeared in the room.

"The price?"

"T'm in negotiations, I lost five of them to Destiny and two to Doubt in the recent battle."

"Idiot." Death removed the black from the mess, but left it laced with white. "the other eight?"

"I've got them."

"Then you can have this." Death handed over the lump. "I'll remove the light when I get the other seven."

"I hate you." Torment gingerly pocketed the lump he'd been given before hastily pulling lump after lump from his clothing. Death eyed the lumps for a long moment before lifting a brow at Life.

"Would you like to handle these?"

"Certainly." Life grabbed the lumps and ate them.

"It's been a pleasure, Torment." Death gave a smile before waving torment off and sinking into a chair that had simply appeared...either that or they'd left torment behind in the whiteness and returned to Death's original room. Dumbledore wasn't certain what had happened.

"Torment cannot trade the lump until the light is removed?" Dumbledore was puzzled.

"These." Death pulled an assortment of lumps from his attire. "These are...favours is probably the best name for them. It is a material IOU which can be used by anyone. Mine are death shadows. Life trades in life energy...second wind if you like." Death restored the lumps to their hideaways. "What I took from Tom Riddle was essence of torment. Torment was literally diminished by the loss and will remain unable to consume it until after he pays off the full trade and I remove the essence of light."

"Essence of light?"

"The reason my mortal form could access light as well as death." Death had a handful of blackness and Dumbledore suddenly realised why the man could produce it so fast, it didn't come from anywhere, he simply made it in his hand. "Essence of death...everyone hates it because only I can handle it."

"Death is more powerful?" Dumbledore was worried, had his entire theory been wrong.

"No." it was Life that answered. "It is just that all things come to death. If you didn't notice, he refused to touch the essence of life that Torment has held because they were not gifted by the deceased. Nobody but Death can handle essence of death, because death is the only non-tradeable. Because he is death, he cannot handle any essence but his own unless it is gifted to him by the deceased...and even then he can't use it. Normally, he simply returns what essence he is gifted to the owner...except when the owner has already gifted it elsewhere. Recently, many people have traded life essence to Torment because they believe it will enable them to die. They do not realise that Torment does not have the means to enable death. Torment has not been returning the essence, the normal practice, because of his own loss. so Death put a price on Torment's essence to ensure the return of all the life essence Torment has stolen. He removed the death essence before he returned it because Torment cannot handle death essence, and the light essence will be sufficient to ensure that he gets the rest of the life essence back as soon as possible. Torment doesn't like light."

"How did this ever begin?"

"Us? or the us on the mortal plane?"

"Either."

"Who knows why we exist...possibly for the same reason that mortals exist. as for our presence on the mortal planes...well we wouldn't be there if fools didn't keep challenging our rights within the balance." Death suddenly rose. "As you can see all is peace." Death waved towards the wall which showed infinite scenes of industrious peace and a world rebuilding. "Will you shuffle on now?"

"Was Tom at all remorseful?" Dumbledore was worried.

"Define remorse..." Death's eyes hardened. "Define remorse and then explain why Tom should feel it."

"He killed..." Dumbledore stopped because something had flared in the being across from him.

"Everyone kills, headmaster. You have killed for reasons you considered just...or for reasons of self-preservation. You have killed through every person you have affected in life...including tom. I kill for no reason at all but that Fate and Destiny are agreed that some's time is up and no one has sufficient alliance to stand against them. Should I be remorseful? I promise you I am not, yet I have taken lives by factors of billions more than Tom."

"Death." Life had risen and rested one hand on the arm next to her.

"He doesn't understand." Death finally took his eyes of Dumbledore. "he doesn't understand at all."

"Understand what?" Dumbledore didn't even flinch at the groans this time and he eyed the lumps briefly trying to decide who they'd come from. a lot of them were lumps of death shadow.

"Understand the effect of immortal essence on mortals." Life hesitated. "Let him understand then."

"You're not going to like this, headmaster." Death grabbed Dumbledore's hand and then shivered. Dumbledore shivered in turn as he felt something slither into him, a hunger, a dirtiness, a something which screamed at him and twisted against his mind.

"Wha...what was that?" Dumbledore became slowly cogniscent of his surroundings and found himself in a chair being gripped by Life. Death was pale and slightly nauseated.

"That was a tenth lump of paranoia, what torment trades in." Death opened the hand which had gripped Dumbledore and showed a small ball of reddish-grey.

"Is there any left in me?"

"It never was in you, headmaster, favours can only touch the surface." Death restored the small ball to its lump and stored it all away. "a tenth is more than the average dose felt by a human when a lump is added to life...but it is less than a billionth of the effect essence has within the mortal form."

"Wha..." Dumbledore didn't quite managed to jump out of the way before death got hold of him again. A warm wash rushed through him, energising him and making the world seem a much nicer place. the feel was familiar and Dumbledore frowned as Death stepped back, this time reabsorbing the small ball of white.

"Familiar?"

"Yes." Dumbledore shifted warily as he watched the being.

"That was sunshine."

"What does shadow trade?"

"Shadows." life responded quietly and Dumbledore felt a chill wash through him from where her hands rested on his shoulders.

"Severus?" Dumbledore stared in disbelief at the two beings who messed with his brain. "Severus was the Shadow?"

"Why else was he able to spy for twenty years without anyone too deeply questioning his motives? As Shadow he brought peace to the Torment within the Tom's veins because Shadow has long been allied with Torment..."

"Why?"

"All immortals are allied with Light or Shadow under the Balance." it was Snape's voice which startled the headmaster next. "Of every pair one is allied to the Light and one to the Shadow. Faith has been long allied with Light, leaving Torment within my domain of alliance...and Torment requests I hand over the remaining life and request you remove the light." Shadow bumped across the light-woven lump of torment, sending after it seven lumps of life.

"Thankyou." Death eyed the seven lumps for a moment before waving Life to take them. Death then carefully removed the light from the reddish-grey lump. "You owe me two shadows and a destiny...he wanted Tom to feel remorse."

"I have no idea why I continue interacting with you." Shadow scowled before abruptly handing across the lumps.

"Light and Shadow are first under Balance?" Dumbledore was frowning as he tried to understand the heirarchy of the immortals.

"That is correct." Shadow seemed amused.

"Where do Life and Death come?"

"The bottom, just above Balance."

"Eh?" Dumbledore blinked in renewed confusion. "Balance is a boundary?"

"Balance is state." Shadow shrugged briefly before glancing at death. "Why do you instruct him?"

"He asked."

"Ah." Shadow took a seat, moments later to be joined by Light. "This, where we are, is Balance. Balance controls Chaos. but Balance is affected by all who reside within. If Balance is upset, then Chaos rules for a period until Balance is righted. Light and I are essentially the house parents of Balance. All immortals reside within balance...we are affected by Chaos. Life and Death come from us, yet even we must answer to Life and Death." Shadow gave a faint smile. "The cycle with neither beginning nor end. Without us, neither Death nor Life exist...and without them, we do no not exist."

"Or to put it this way, if you had not chosen to defeat Grindlewald the way you did, Gellert would never have sworn a wish that torment dog your footsteps for the rest of your days. If Gellert hadn't sworn, Torment would never have descended to create Tom. Tom was the torment which dogged your footsteps. Had Tom not sworn to defeat Death, I would never have descended to resolve the matter...but I could not resolve the cause of my descent fully until after you died since Tom was bound to your life." Death glanced at Shadow. "Who did cause his idiocy that ended his life...and don't say him."

"One death."

"Fine." Death shoved across one of the dark grey lumps.

"Torment cast a death shadow...made him feel paranoid and impatient and caused him to override his own commonsense...expecially since guilt was hanging around that day bickering over the fact that Torment had two hopes."

"Ah." Death nodded his head slowly. "Torment's reasoning?"

"An attempt to end things."

"Fair enough." Death slid a second lump to Shadow and banished a lump to somewhere, though Dumbledore was willing to guess that Torment would be the recipient. "In otherwords if you want Tom to feel remorseful, then you must feel true remorse since the only reason Tom ever existed as he did was because of a choice you made." Death was silent for a moment. "It happens, headmaster, for reasons far beyond what any should dare to judge. If you put your mind to it you can blame anyone for everything, all life is interelated with death. it is the law of Balance."

"You want me to...err...shuffle on?"

"If you wouldn't mind." Death indicated a door. "Your presence is starting to cost me rather badly and there is nothing left that is relevent to your life."

"Thankyou." Dumbledore nodded to all before he passed through the door.

"Just how much did letting him remain here cost you?" Light was looking worried.

"Eight death shadows, ten sunshines, three shadows, a round dozen of torments, two hopes, a doubt...and I may have also lost my Balance Card." the last was spoken rather grimly.

"Why did it even enter the deal?" Shadow was starting to look grim.

"I felt the headmaster had to understand before he met Tom on the otherside."

"Valid point." Shadow's eyes were narrowed. "But worth a Balance Card?"

"Better temporary loss of Balance Card than loss of life essence."

"Who too?" Shadow's eyes narrowed.

"Who do you think?" Death gave a soft snort. "Chaos is the only one able to touch Balance Cards."

"When will we know?"

"Pretty soon." Death's attention drifted to the scene of the mortal realm where Albus Severus Potter was boarding the Hogwarts Express after having been reassured by his father that being a Slytherin would not have been the end of the world. a family were arriving late...things were stirring within the scene indicating the presence of immortals within the mortal realm. The hogwarts Express was pulling away from the platform. "He was rather sore that I kept such a tight reign on him when I was descended."

"Without a balance card you will have no control of him at all while down there." Shadow came to stand next to Death as they gazed at the scene.

"I know." death gave a tiny smile and shot shadow a mischievous look. "Aren't you and Light going to have so much fun?"

"Not a chance." Shadow scowled darkly down at the scene. "if Chaos is going to insist on trading Balance Cards then he is not going to enjoy the future much."

"Oh?" Death lifted a curious brow.

"Let's just say that since I've just noticed your loss of card that there is going to be a new family at Hogwarts this year." Shadow had gripped Death by the arm before grabbing Light. Life had grabbed Death's other arm just in time.

The fabric of time and space bent and tore and a family barrelled onto platform 9 3/4 just before the moment of too late passed. The family hurried across to bundle onto the train while heads craned out of the train windows to gawk and Ron Weasley made a joke.

"Zat is eet." Leon Serpentard picked himself awkwardly off the floor of the carriage as the motion of the train settled down, gave his wife a hand up before untangling the two children in his care. "Elspeth, ze eenglish are mad."

"Well, my trunk is certainly carnivorous." Paul Serpentard was fingering a bloody gash on one arm. "Aimee?"

"I'm fine." Aimee gave a wide smile from where she sat on her trunk. "You make a nice, soft landing Paul."

"Nyeh!" Paul scowled. "Couldn't she have remained at Beauxbatons?"

"No." Elspeth Serpentard dusted herself off and fixed her hair. "Aimee comes with us no matter what...just as you do." Elspeth straightened Aimee's hair with a deft flick of her wand.

"Why are we even here as students? for all anyone knows we're still too young." Paul was scowling rather unhappily.

"No one knows 'ow old eizer of you are." Leon checked stashed the trunks securely and settled them down. "You 'ave passed ze tests, you 'ave a right to be at zis school." Leon eyed the two children narrowly. "You will not be sorted into ze same 'ouse, but you are family. Am I clear?"

"Yes, father." both children had stiffened.

"First and foremost you are Serpentards...then come any connections you make in zis school."

"Yes, father."

"Zay say zat at zis school your 'ouse will become you family...zat is not ze case. Zis is family. Zat is ze world."

"Yes, father."

"Good, now go find little friends and forget that you are related to le Professeur Serpentard."

"Oui, m'sieur." The two children fled, leaving Leon to lean back and sigh.

"Leon?" Elspeth seemed mildly curious.

"What was I thinking?" it was almost a moan.

"I wouldn't care to speculate." Elspeth was restraining her smile with difficulty.

"He's bad enough in Balance."

"You both enjoy it." Elspeth retrieved a book of her own.

"I did it for fifteen years...what made me even contemplate subjecting myself to such torment again?"

"Do you want me to explain?" Elspeth's mouth twitched.

"No zankyou." Leon pulled a book from his bag and slouched down. "You will make it sound incredibly soppy and stupid."

"It wasn't me who made the decision to voluntarily descend." Elspeth smiled quietly.

"It also wasn't you who seems to make Life and Death insufferable morons on the mortal plane." Leon scowled at the book in is hand. "Zis book is frightful." Leon turned the book upside down, a vague hope that perhaps he might find it improved by the change. "Why did zey change ze books I chose? Zese books have nothing in zem."

"I'm sure you will soon fix that." Elspeth couldn't help but laugh. whether in Balance or the mortal realm, Shadow never changed, and for that she was thankful, he made life very, very interesting.

xxxxxx

a/n: Congratulations on lasting, if I could, I'd hand out medals for the achievement. - Adari