The Master of Death

Catching a Train

Harry sat leisurely on a chair, hands neatly folded in his lap. He had no recollection of sitting down, nor of coming here at all. He had simply awoken to find himself here in this place.

"I can't say I ever expected to find myself here again," He mused. "Though I guess I should have."

Even though he had no memory of getting here, he wasn't alarmed. Though it was somewhat unexpected, he recognized the place.

Above him, a glass dome glittered in the light of…actually, now that he thought about it, it probably wasn't a sun. It glittered in the Light, then; just the Light. The floor was white, as was the rest of the long hall. It was neither warm nor cold and it was entirely full of a strange white mist.

He was in that strange King's Cross Station again. He wondered if he would meet Dumbledore here again. Somehow, he doubted it. If he wanted to meet his old teacher again, he would likely need board a train.

Closing his eyes, he smiled calmly.

That was okay, he thought. Dumbledore had said it, hadn't he? 'To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.'

He wasn't scared that he was dead, perhaps because he'd had a chance to see this all before. At most, he was slightly sad, because of the people he was going to leave behind, but he knew he'd see them again. Until then, Teddy, James, Albus, and Lily would be okay, he was sure. He was proud of the children he'd raised and of the men and woman he'd made them into. Ginny, Ron, and Hermione, he was sure he'd see again before too long.

"Until then," He murmured as he walked, trying to decide on a train. He didn't like any of the one's he saw, though he was sure they'd all take him to his destination. Each of them looked the same and, though he had no eye for train, he was sure each of them as a perfectly good train.

But if this was it, it had to be that one, didn't it?

Nodding to himself, he walked into Platform Nine and Three Quarters, and saw a polished version of the train that had always taken him where he most wanted to go. Boarding it quickly, he couldn't help but stick his head into the front cabin, wondering who might be in charge of trains in the afterlife.

He was somewhat disappointed to find that it was merely an amorphous cloud of multicolored lights, though he wasn't quite sure what he'd been expecting; an angel, perhaps. As he looked at it, it shifted shape slightly, and he got the feeling that it was looking at him in turn.

"I'm ready," He told it. "Shall we be off?"

A few moments later, the train began to start.

"It will be a few minutes, sir." It replied. Again, Harry felt a bit put out, as it sounded like a normal human voice, with a few hints of an English accent. There were no booming voices or choirs as he spoke, or even lightshows.

Nodding at the strange being and giving it a polite smile, Harry walked away, sighing slightly. All in all, dying wasn't as strange or exciting as he'd been expecting. Hopefully the other side of this great adventure was more exciting.

Randomly choosing a cabin, he took a seat, before blinking as he saw what was on the seat opposite him.

"Oh?" He wondered. "How did you get here?"

Naturally, he received no response from the neatly organized bundle. On the bottom was his neatly folded cloak, while the beautifully crafted wand and perfect, unbroken stone. The Deathly Hallows, dying with their Master.

"Along for the ride then?" He wondered. "Well, if you wish to accompany me, I don't mind."

In a flicker reminiscent of switching on a light, the cloak was suddenly around his shoulders and the wand was in his hand. A weight in his pocket told him he had the stone, as well. He wondered about them, slightly. What did this mean? Was the wand still in Dumbledore's tomb? As far as he knew, he'd died of natural causes, so the Elder Wand would have lost its power as he'd intended, which could, he supposed, be considered 'dying,' but what of his Cloak and the Stone? Had they vanished from the world when he'd died?

Stroking his chin, he made a note to ask next time he saw Ginny. No one would notice if the Stone disappeared, but the Cloak should still be at their house.

"Sir?" A voice startled him from his thoughts. It was another of those colored cloud people, this one with a thicker accent.

"Yes?" He said, pulling down his cloak so the being could see him. If it had eyes, of course; he really couldn't tell.

"I'm terribly sorry, sir, but there have been a few issues." It said helplessly. "You are the Master of Death, aren't you sir?"

"I suppose I am," Harry nodded. "Is that a problem?"

"Of course not, sir," It assured him. "It's simply that we've been receiving a summon of sorts, requesting to see the Master of Death."

"Do we receive calls?" He wondered, blinking.

"It's fairly rare in the grand scheme of things, but it happens from time to time, sir." It replied, shape changing oddly in what Harry assumed was a shrug. "Should we answer, sir, or continue on our way?"

"Is it important?"

"I'm afraid I wouldn't know, but they're quite persistent."

"Are they causing trouble for you?" He wondered, furrowing his brow in concern.

"A little bit," It admitted. "We hadn't been able to reach you before now, however, so there wasn't much we could do."

"Well then, if it will make things easier for you, naturally I'd be glad to help."

The cloud made a wild shuddering motion that reminded him of a young man nodding eagerly, though he wasn't sure why.

"Thank you very much, sir. It may cause some delay in reaching your destination, however; I apologize for the inconvenience."

Harry shook his head calmly.

"Don't worry; it's no trouble at all. I have plenty of time now." He assured the strange being. "Shall we be off?"

"At once, sir."


Harry watched in interest, gazing out the window as they speed towards his next great adventure. For a time—for he could not tell how much time had passed, if any, looking back—they had speed through the white mist, before apparently changing tracks. A short time later, they had exited the mist and entered a much stranger place.

There was a sun of some sort hanging in the sky above, but it wasn't any color Harry had ever seen, or had even known existed; it was like something had decided to insert itself into the visible light spectrum. Also, no matter how far they went or how long they traveled, it was always right above him.

Literally, directly above him.

And for that matter…he wasn't casting a shadow, either. He told the cloud person as much, and it looked embarrassed.

"I'm terribly sorry for the inconvenience, sir, but shadows aren't allowed in this area," It said, gesturing out the window. "It had to switch trains before we entered; it'll meet us on the other side, I'm sure."

Harry raised an eyebrow at that.

"In that case," He said, trying to puzzle out how that worked. "Why didn't we simply take that train as well?"

"Shadow's aren't allowed to carry bodies with them on that train, sir."

"Ah." Harry said, unsure how to respond to that and deciding to just take it in stride.

The landscape changed quite suddenly, as the sky became completely black and the ground became a stark white—and, indeed, his shadow returned as well. Before his eyes, both the ground and the sky began to fade away into swirls of colors of every kind, including several that probably were, even as the train began to go up and down and upside-down like they were on a rollercoaster.

After they stayed upside-down for extend period and didn't fall, Harry had to ask.

"Excuse me, but how far do we still need to go?"

The cloud person seemed to ponder that question for a moment.

"We have to go a little further until we reach the gates, sir. Then we'll need to pass out of our Shape, Location, Communication, Identity, and Existence."

Harry stared at it silently for a while.

"I'm pretty attached to my Identity. And Existence. And my Shape, my ability to Communicate, and while I'm not completely sure how Location, I have a feeling I want to keep that as well.

It seemed to wince.

"It won't be a problem, sir; you'll get most of it back on the other side, when we pass in through theirs in the opposite order, sir."

"Most of it?" Harry asked, alarmed.

"Don't worry, sir—"

It cut itself off as the train suddenly sped up immensely, to the point where it felt like his face was peeling off.

Oh, wait; it was.

As was the rest of his body, actually, and the strange body of the cloud person. In moments, they were neither solid, liquid, nor gas, nor were they particularly defined in any way. Neither of them had any shape at all, and Harry took that to mean they had exited shape, but apparently not identity or location, because he was still himself and he was moving very quickly on something that might have been a train if it was anything in particular.

If he'd had a face, he would have frowned at the non-entity that was once a cloud person.

"I'm terribly sorry about that, sir; it always catches me by surprise. I would have warned you if I'd seen it coming." It apologized, so apparently they hadn't passed through Communication. "As I was saying, don't worry sir, it's just that our destination has much stricter rules regarding entering and exiting than most. To get in, we'll have to slip through the cracks, as it were. Existence, Identity, Communication and Location shouldn't be much of an issue, so it should be able to slip most of that through without any trouble, but they're very strict on letting matter from other Universes in—apparently, it's to keep things from outside from physically existing there."

"…Then…" Harry began.

"As I said, don't worry, sir. We'll get you in fine and anything you leave behind will be in perfect order upon your return." It assured him. "We pride ourselves on our service."


He never finished that sentence, because they passed out of Location and Communication almost simultaneously. He could no longer tell if he was moving, nor could he see or feel anything—but perhaps he was everywhere, no longer bound by specific locations, though it availed him nothing, as he was, and it was just as possible that he didn't exist anywhere, he supposed. At the very least, he still had his Identity, and was aware of himself in a distant way, though probably not for long.

"I'll see you on the other side, me," He would have said, if it had still been possible for him communicate. He then would have added and "I hope."

But he wasn't, so it was in silence that Harry Potter faded from Existence.


"We wait for your arrival, O chaser of the cursed! Cloak our enemies in your shadow, that they may not see the light! Come upon us, O Hidden Terror, and go among our enemies unseen! With your right hand, strike down the living! With your left, raise the dead! Share your path with us, Son of Destruction, you who know both life and death and hold them tightly in your hands! We pray to you, we plead with you, so let our need become your road and come to us swiftly!" The leader cried, carefully reciting the words.

The consequences of a mistake at this point would be…dramatic. Perhaps only fatal, if they were lucky. He couldn't afford to make any, but at the same time, he had confidence in his own abilities—and all he needed to do was make sure the summoning went properly and then leave.

That had been the agreement—and, more importantly, it had been his masters orders.

His assistants spoke back in their careful refrain. He listened to them carefully, to make sure they made no mistakes; their role was less important than his own, perhaps, but a mistake on their part could kill them all just as easily. Normally, he would have blanched at the mere thought of doing something this risky with even one other wizard, much less two, especially ones that weren't even fully trained.

But his masters had told him to and that had been the end of it.

"Behold our offering, Hunter of the Damned!" They said in thankfully perfect unison. He was gratefully for, if nothing else, the fact that they were at least experienced in working together. "Flesh and Blood we've brought for you! One who lives and who died, brought here for your glory! Come to us and grace us with your presence! Come to us on your death-shadowed wings!"

At each of their feet was a man. One had been killed at the beginning of the ritual, while one would be sacrificed at the end. Both of their bodies were anointed with artfully inflicted wounds, praising the glory of the one they would bring into this world.

The still living man no longer had even the strength to struggle, and simply wept.

"Come to us, across the depths of the Abyss! Leave behind your kingdom and hasten across the shores of Eternity! Bring your servants who are neither living nor dead and rejoice with them in our world! For you, we open the gates!" The Leader continued, his voice rising.

This was it.

They were approaching the crescendo.

Soon, there would be no turning back.

Of course, for him, there never had been.

"Behold our offering, Hunter of the Damned!" His assistants continued. "Flesh and Blood we've brought for you! One who lives and who died, brought here for your glory! Come to us and grace us with your presence! Come to us on your death-shadowed wings!" His assistants repeated on last time, one lifting a blade to the fallen mans throat.

"On this empty night, we call upon thee! We call upon the Darkest Lord, that we may be blessed by the sight of your glory! Please, give us this mercy and let us see the face of the Master of Death!"

It was quite, as if coming from a great distance, but there was a sound much like a gate swinging open.

They held their breath.


He came back to existence with a crash.

In the first moment, he knew himself. In that beautiful moment, he knew with a surety that went beyond communication or even self-realization that he was himself. And perhaps he knew nothing more than that, but coming into existence after what may have been seconds or may have been trillions of years, that simple realization was the most beautiful thing in the world.

He could not communicate with anything, or even himself, and so could not form ideas and conclusions. As such, perhaps a million years passed as he basked in the simple truth of existence, as a mindless concept without mind or shape in a place that was nowhere, but it could just as easily have been no time at all.

It didn't matter. Eventually, he reentered Communication. Immediately, a thousand notions that had been meaningless without the ability to be put together with other ideas found themselves doing so. He was Harry Potter, a dead man, a wizard, a husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and with the way his oldest great-granddaughter had been going on about that boy, he probably would have been a great-great-grandfather before the decade had ended, if he'd survived.

Quickly putting together and organizing a million scattered words, thoughts, and ideas, he—who was definitely Harry Potter—slowly put back together the scattered puzzle that was himself. He wasn't sure if that had been a long process or a slow one, because even though he was now able to identify and communicate, he still wasn't able to tell time.

For all he knew, he was outside it. Maybe it relied on Location, which he was pretty sure he still didn't have.

"Are you okay?" He asked, unable to see the still formless former cloud person.

"Yes, sir," It replied, in the way things without voices or voice boxes replied. "Don't worry about me, sir. How are you, sir?"

"I'm okay, all things considered." Harry replied. "I still kind of miss having a Shape and Location, though."

"Don't worry, sir; after we reenter Location, we'll get time back as well, and then it'll be just a short time until we reach Shape."

Harry would have nodded if shapeless things could do stuff like that.

"And how long will it take to reach Location?"

"No time at all, sir," It replied dutifully. "And then we'll be somewhere."

"Ah," Harry realized. "Yes, I suppose not. Would you happen to know how long we were…gone, then?"

"As I am still currently outside it, I'm afraid I'm still having a bit of difficult comprehending time, sir, much less it's passing. However, based off what I know of the destination, I would say we were gone for minus a hundred something years, sir?"

Harry would have looked surprised if he still had a face.

"If you don't mind me asking, how did we do that?"

"It's no trouble, sir; it's really nothing impressive. If two worlds are parallel, then naturally, it's simply a matter of moving diagonally. After you exit time, it's really quite simple."

"Ah, I see," Harry said, nodding. "So basically, we exited time, drove backwards for a bit, crossed the street, and then reentered?"

"Something like that, sir. You're taking this quite well, sir."

Harry would have shrugged had he been able.

"Stuff like this just happens to me sometimes," He said, before pausing. "Well, not stuff like this, but…in all my years as a wizard, life never once stopped being amazing. I find it reassuring that death is the same way."

Suddenly, they were moving. Time was flowing, too, which Harry confirmed by counting the seconds. He went straight from one to ten without skipping about randomly.

"There we go, sir. Not much further now."

Harry hummed in response.

"You said there would be some problems concerning regaining our shapes, didn't you?"

"Ah, yes. Just some minor problems, sir; I apologize in advanced for any inconvenience it might cause. We had to leave our forms when we exited Shape, so we'll need to pick up new ones on this side. You needed a new body, anyway, sir."

Harry pondered that.

Finding himself in a new body was sure to be strange, but it wasn't the first time he'd done that sort of thing; he'd had more than his fair share of strange accidents with transfiguration, from students and trainees and scientists who weren't paying to enemies out for his blood. He'd manage, as long as his mind and magic made it through intact; he'd just transfigure himself back to normal.


"Pick up new ones?" He said. "We aren't body snatching, are we?"

He'd had to deal with cases of possession, too, but he was usually the one putting a stop to it or the one that someone was trying to possess. He had no desire to be the one doing it and locking up some poor lad in his own head.

In fact, he'd be fairly…upset if that were to happen.

Apparently, his formless companion recognized that.

"Of course not, sir," It said, before pausing. "Well, I don't know who is summoning you or why, so I suppose it's possible. But we aren't doing that, sir. We simply picked up some bodies while we were outside existence and are bringing them in with us."

"Outside existence?" Harry asked, blinking. "Wouldn't there be nothing there, then?"

"Of course not, sir; it just means nothing out there exists. I think you'll find that there are a great number of things that don't exist, sir; indeed, we didn't exist a short time ago."

Harry pondered that for a moment, slowly putting together the scattered pieces of what he knew.

"So there exist things even outside Existence, but they have no Identity, Location, Shape, or ability to Communicate?"

"Sometimes, but not always, sir. Have you ever seen a Venn Diagram, sir? With two or more overlapping circles? The concepts you're thinking of are the circle and normal reality is the area where all those circles overlap. Sometimes, the circles are concentric, but sometimes they aren't; so perhaps in someplace you could be outside Existence but have Identity, Shape, Location, and Communication. And of course, the 'circles' are by no means required to be the same size—or even be circles. It really depends on the place, sir. What we've picked up came from outside anything, however, so you don't need to worry about subverting another Identity."

Harry scratched his chin, interested.

"Do all Universes have those five 'circles' then?"

"Most places considered livable have at least those five, yes. Some places have more and some have less, but those places, as you can imagine, can be quite odd."

"Have you been to lots of interesting places, then?"

"Oh, yes, sir. Many, many amazing places."

"Perhaps when this is over, you can tell me about some of them, if you don't mind talking to an old man for awhile."

"It would be my pleasure, sir. Perhaps you'll even get to see some of them."

Harry was about to ask what that meant when the train suddenly slammed on the brakes and began moving much slower. If he'd been in his normal body, he probably would have pitched forward into the seat in front of him.

Harry looked forward expectantly and was met with the sight he'd expected. Through the formless 'seats' in front of him, he could see all the way to the front of the train—and it was a train now. As if paint were being dumped on something invisible, colors and shapes and matter appeared in row after row of the train and left it looking very different then it had before. He caught a glimpse of dark fire and smoke and walls of black stone, before the wall and seats in front of him resumed shape.

And then he ran into a wall of water.

Or, at least, that's what it felt like. A wall of liquid force, slamming into his face and then swallowing him whole. It crept across the front of him and the back of him and inside and out, until it had touched every part of him, giving substance and shape to every atom and molecule until he fully existed and was real.

There was a sudden weight to it; having form when moments before he hadn't. And some pain as well, as expected of being born into the world. But with it came a delightful realization of being real in every sense of the word that sent his hearts pounding.


Harry looked down at himself. He looked down at his fingers and hands and arms. At his body and legs and feet and clothes and how they had been warped and changed.

And then he opened his mouth, the mouth inside his mouth, and the mouth inside that and asked a question.

"I have to admit, I didn't see this coming. Could you explain this, please?"


For a long moment, all was silent. In the wake of that sound of a swinging gate, nothing happened, forcing the three of them to wait in tense silence.

At least, it was tense for the leader. The other two hadn't had much of a mind of their own in a long, long time.

"Did it fail?" He wondered. If this had been any other summon, he would have been angry, embarrassed, or upset at his failure, but in this case, he was simply relieved. If he had tried and done everything right, but the summon simply hadn't worked, then he could simply report back to his Masters that the ritual had been a fake or had otherwise become useless.

In a way, this was the ideal result, because it meant he didn't have to worry about what would happen if the summon worked.

He was about to give a sigh of release when he noticed his assistants had turned their faces slightly, as if noticing something. Since he'd left them that ability specifically to notice threats and react to them, he immediately tensed and scanned the area careful. It was possible, if unlikely, that he'd done something wrong and the Gatekeeper had caught wind of his actions, even if his Masters had assured him he wouldn't arrive until it was far too late.

But there was nothing like that. Granted, he wasn't quite arrogant enough to think he would be able to spot the Gatekeeper if he was actually trying to hide, but as the seconds ticked by and he didn't die, he became sure that wasn't the problem.

He was about to risk giving away where he was to ask what his assistants had noticed when he heard it. Or rather, when he started paying attention to it. It wasn't an amazing, unearthly sound or anything like that, which was probably why he hadn't noticed it immediately. In fact, for someone like him, who had lived through the industrial revolution, it was a commonly heard sound that he could recognize anywhere.

It was the sound of a train. There was no mistaking it; he'd seen dozens, if not hundreds, of trains, heard even more, and had even ridden on a few himself. In fact, he would even go so far as to make an informed guess and say that it was steam engine, despite not having heard one in more than fifty years. That had probably been why his assistants had noticed it instantly, even from such a distance; they had probably never heard the sound of a steam locomotive in their lives.

However, despite how easy it was to recognize the sound, it didn't cause it to make any sense. There weren't any train tracks nearby—and if there had been, they certainly wouldn't have run on steam.

So unless someone had managed to construct an outdated train, put down tracks, and then set everything up to make both operational without him noticing—in an area that he constantly monitored—and it had decided to run for the first time right when he was performing his ritual, then there was only one real possibility.

And it was a fairly bad one.

Though it did explain why the sound was coming closer.

"Get down!" He ordered, quickly ducking under his work desk. Without hesitation, his students moved to comply.

There was a long moment filled with nothing but the sound of an oncoming train.

And then that moment was shattered with a thunderous, deafening crash as said train crashed into, through, and back out of his house.

Powder and rubble rained down from the ceiling and he thanked God that he was in the basement. But even being in the basement shouldn't have saved him; the floor should have broken like paper under a train's weight.

The fact that it didn't pretty much confirmed his suspicions.

Waiting a moment to make sure nothing happened, he carefully moved out from under his desk, glancing up at the ceiling. He couldn't see the train, of course—but he could see the black stains sinking through from the floor above, veins of darkness spreading and intertwining until they formed something recognizable as train tracks.

He took a deep breath, slowly exhaled, and spoke.


He honestly considered bailing out then and there, his Masters be damned. It would be easy enough to open a gate to the Nevernever…

No. If he ran now, he'd be hunted down before the sun rose. His only hope now was to somehow survive the night.

"Follow me," He said simply, with the firm awareness that he would be obeyed. His servants fell in behind him, coming out from cover without hesitation, and they made towards the stairs.

Though they had been fine in the basement, it was likely their…associates upstairs hadn't found this experience enjoyable.

Which was a shame. Truly.

He didn't even get a chance to open the door to the next floor, however, because one of them tore it off its hinges before he could.

"DuMorne!" She hissed, her flesh mask torn away, along with bits of flesh beneath it. Since she was still alive, he deduced that she hadn't actually gotten hit by the train. A quick glance around confirmed that about half of their vampiric guests had miraculously survived. "What is the meaning of this!"

He honestly had neither the patience nor the time to deal with them right now, however, so he brush passed her without answering the question, already feeling the beginnings of a headache.

It wasn't hard to spot the train—it went straight through the house. It wasn't hard to figure out that it was abnormal, either, what with the oddly colored fire, fell lights, strange smoke, and black walls.

However, it still didn't make sense; why a train? Even if he knew why it was here and who was on it, why would they come by train?

And why, for God's sake, did they have to drive it through his house!

"What the hell did you do, DuMorne!" The vampire insisted.

He snapped a quick, furious glare in her direction.

"Silence, you fool! This isn't the time!" He snarled, shifting his gaze back to the train. As if it were a normal train, there were windows along the side, allowing passengers to lookout—or in this case, allowing onlookers to peer in.

If the creature they'd summoned really had arrived, then logically, he was on the train.

Walking slowly, He shifted his gaze from window to window. After glancing over one of the windows, he paused, frowning, thinking he'd seen something.

He glanced back into it, staring for a long moment, not seeing anything but sure to the core that there was something there. It was like he was looking at a picture, missing something important, and knew it. But he couldn't wrap his mind around it.

No matter how hard he tried to see it, there was nothing there.

And then nothing in the cabin shifted and looked back at him, staring out the window at him curiously.

All the pieces that he hadn't been able to see fell into place in that moment and he saw what he'd been missing—what his mind had refused to see.

Stumbling back, he saw it—oh, God, he saw it—and, as it looked out that window, he knew it had seen him as well.

For a moment that stretched on without end, he tried to look away—to look at something else; anything else—but he couldn't. He couldn't shut his eyes or move in the face of what he saw through the tainted glass windows of that long, black train.

And then, like a Godsend, a sudden hiss of released air drew his attention, breaking the spell that had held him in place.

For a moment, he felt nothing but relief at the sheer fact that he'd been able to look away; that he hadn't been stuck for eternity staring at that image, like he had feared for a second he would.

But then, the relief fell away, along with the bottom of his stomach, as he turned and realized the reason behind the sound.

But the doors of the train had already begun to open.


"Oh, dear!" Harry cried, alarmed, looking wide-eyed out the window. "We drove the train right through someone's house!"

The former-but-definitely-no-longer-cloud person slid forward to peer over his shoulder. Its mandibles twitched once as it closed its eyes. At a glance, Harry would say that it had seven sapphire eyes and just as many legs, but then, he would look again, and it would be obvious that it had twenty-three limbs, and a lone, pale eye that was surrounded in flame but did not burn. As he crept near, a thing Harry could no call a flower drew near his face; he quickly brushed it away and drew back his hand before it could bit him.

It sighed.

"I apologize, sir;" He said. "I'm afraid my brother's not a very good driver."

"Hold the explanation until later, then," Harry commanded, rising. "I'll go check on things."

He gestured with his wand, ignoring the way the roots began intertwining with his fingers as it seemed to attempt to grow into some horrific tree. They nibbled on his fingers in a way he hoped was affectionate, but he could barely feel their teeth through the armored growth that had once been his clothes. He thought that if it could be called anything, it was a type of impossible fungus, but its teeth were aimed outwards and it didn't seem to be trying to eat him at the moment, so it probably wasn't important.

A brief cloud of sparks filled the air and he nodded to himself; that spell did exactly what he'd intended it too. He performed a few other minor spells to make sure casting one on himself wouldn't make him spontaneously combust or something. When he felt satisfied that seemed unlikely, he tapped his wand to his forehead.

A cold, wet sensation flowed over him, like someone had dumped a tub of ice water on him. He felt his body began to shift and twist into his normal form—

And then it flowed off and he changed back.

"Hm…" Harry pondered. "This complicates things, somewhat."

As he cast a few more transfiguration spells with equal results, his Invisibility Cloak crawled back up the length of his body on equally invisible legs, settling around his shoulders comfortably after shuddering once in satisfaction. It tugged on the teeth of his clothes, apparently trying to decide if they were eatable, which caused them to hiss at it. Somewhat worried, he reached into his pocket with one of his left hands, and drew out the Resurrection Stone which had gained a few new dimensions and sides.

He looked at himself, more exasperated then anything.

"Am I terribly alarming, do you think?" He asked his companion.

A man appeared outside the window, looking in quietly, as if confused. Harry glanced back out, curious himself, and for a minute, there was no reaction.

And then, the man stumbled back, his face a mask of horrified alarm.

"Well, I suppose that answers that question," He sighed. "Okay, let's try this one more time."

He tapped his forehead again with the same cold sensation. His body began to change, his bifurcated arms sliding back together before his many crystalline eyes and his hearts slowly merging into one. His monstrous form trembled, twisted inhuman knots of muscle warping beneath with his metallic hide, even as it became more and more human as its geometries straightened. The hardened blades and barbs of his black hair, darker than it had ever been in life, softened down, turning to the aged white of an old, old man. The rows of shifting, twisting thorns stopped their chainsaw like spinning and receded, merging into strong white teeth. Eyes closed and moved back towards his face, his new appendages fell away, strange organs slid back inside his body and merged with or became old ones, and the creatures skittering along inside and outside his body turned back into the normal systems. Parts of him liquefied and others hardened, even as his skeleton merged together and broke apart, slowly becoming something human. When halfway through his transformation, he felt his body try to resist and fight off the spell, he forced it down with his will alone, forcing it to continue.

He sighed, then, back in the shape he'd taken when he first begun this trip. He opened his eyes, which had only one color, one iris, and one pupil. He opened a mouth with a single row of stationary teeth and inhaled deeply, filling human lungs. He'd like to say he was completely back to normal, but he could still feel his body trying to resist the enchantment he'd put it under.

"Why am I having so much trouble transfiguring myself?" He asked, mostly speaking to himself.

"These forms don't like to be changed, sir. They are things that never had a chance to exist, and now that they do, they wish to continue doing so."

Harry blinked at that.

"Are they conscious?" He wondered, furrowing his brow.

"Not in the way you're thinking." Was his answer. "But they have a desire to be that I'm sure nobody who actually does could possibly understand. By the way, sir; if you wish to appear as you did before, you may wish to do something about your shadow."

Harry glanced down at it. It was now a trailing monster onto itself, reflecting a hideous form that looked nothing like what he'd been.

He tutted, casting a spell at it, which, naturally, just impacted with the floor because shadows are merely the absence of light. He pondered it for a moment, before shaking his head.

"It doesn't matter," He said. "People could be hurt out there. Hopefully, no one will notice."


"Were you the ones who summoned the Master of Death?" The monstrosity that crawled out of the train—and who had apparently been driving it—questioned.

A part of Justin wanted to demand where he'd learnt how to drive, but the majority of him was suppressing its disgust and trying to simultaneously avert it's gaze and yet not come off as insulting.

"I was," He admitted, seeing no reason to deny it at this point. The only option left was to try to somehow salvage this situation.

Which was going to be very hard, because he'd intended to summon the being into a well made and fortified circle, and not upstairs, in a train, where nothing was there to keep it from killing him.

And the others, he guessed.

"Well, I'm here," Another voice said. The Monster moved aside at once, crawling alongside the walls of the train on its many amorphous legs. After he was no longer blocking the exit the speaker came into sight.

Justin was surprised, despite himself.

He hadn't assumed there would be an Outsider so skilled at taking human form.

It was, or appeared to be, an old man. His hair had long since turned white with age, but his eyes were as bright as any Justin had ever seen. There were both laugh and worry lines deep in his face. Perched upon his nose was a pair of glasses, through which grandfatherly eyes seemed to twinkle at him. His robes were a simple, comfortable black about which nothing in particular stood out.

Looking at him, Justin couldn't help but think of him as if he were a fellow wizard and despite his knowledge of his true nature, began to…not so much relax, but feel as if he were still somewhat in his depth. As he had a thousand times whenever he met a fellow magic user, he quickly glanced the man over with trained eyes.

The wand in his hand immediately drew his attention, but he just as quickly looked over it. Wands, rods, and staves were standard parts of the arsenal of wizards and, while perhaps the most dangerous, they weren't the most important things to look for. It was simply something you had to accept was there and, if needed, deal with.

But it was the more insidious and subtle weapons that one needed to spot.

He checked the man's fingers for rings, almost unconsciously, found a gold band that could have been a wedding band but filled it away, just in case; it wouldn't be the first time someone had hidden a deadly weapon in that disguise. He then checked his wrists, neck, and, though enchanted earrings were rare on men, his ears, none of which carried anything. With the most common items out, he checked him over for out of place metallic items, noted several pockets that could easily had contained small items, but found nothing obvious.

And then he realized what he was doing.

Mentally kicking himself, he glancing quickly back at the—he had to remember it wasn't a man or a wizard—things face, and was thrown further off-guard at its slightly amused smile. It'd noticed what he'd been doing and, more then that, it had glanced him over as well.

Worst of all, it had finished before him and then waited for him to catch up.

He felt like he was looking at a Senior Wizard.

"I apologize," It said, quite polite and amiable as it stepped down from the train. "It was not my intention to crash into your house."

Here he shot a look toward the creature clinging to the side of the train, on eyebrow arched. The things main eye split open vertically, revealing a mouth, which murmured an apology.

It glanced back at him.

"I assure you, I will take responsibility for fixing whatever damage might have been caused. It shouldn't take very long to fix your house, but were you or your associates hurt in the crash?" When it mentioned his associates, it had glanced once over the ugly, bat-like form of the vampire's, and had then looked back to him, apparently not finding it odd, curious, or even important.

Justin half-expected one of the vampire's to say something that could get them all killed, but they'd been silent since the first creature had stepped off the train. He glanced towards the leader, saw her looking at something by the 'man's' feet, and followed her gaze.

Then he snapped his own back up to its face. He worked his jaw for a minute before managing to say something.

"Thank you for the kind offer," He said, hoping he wasn't falling into some kind of trap. "Thankfully, none of our injuries are important. I am—"

He had a sudden flash of uncertainty that made him double think giving both his first and last name.

"Justin," He finished, not missing a beat. "And this is my companion…"

He honestly didn't remember what the vampire leader's name was. He was sure he'd been told it at some point, but it had been useless to him, magically, so he'd forgotten it in an instant.

"Amara," She said, quietly.

"Amara," The Outsider repeated, smiling kindly. "Meaning Eternal, if I recall. A fitting name, my dear, for I imagine your beauty will never fade."

The Vampire twitched uncomfortably at the praise, her slimy, batlike form shuddering, but the Outsider's attention had already shifted, focusing quite suddenly on the pair standing behind him.

"And who might these two be?" It wondered.

Justin tensed, nervously. It couldn't know what they were…could it? Or had it just been chance that had shifted its gaze to them?

"They're no one important," He assured, keeping his tone neutral.

"Truly?" It interrupted, suddenly standing beside him, apparently without have had to cross the intervening space. "Remarkable. Do you mind if I take a look?"

Even as it asked, it was already stepping passed them, its full attention focused on the two of them.

Swallowing, Justin turned to look at its back, before starting as he found that he couldn't see anything but it's head.

"I-is something wrong?"

It glanced at him over what Justin was fairly sure was its shoulder.

"Ah, no," It said. "I'm simply curious. You see, over my long life, I have seen many strange and wondrous things. However…" It glanced back at the pair. "I must admit, I've never met anyone who wasn't important."

Looking back at him, the being caught his eyes, slid neatly past his defenses, and simply began to ruffle through his mind. Images and thoughts swam across his vision, too fast for him to make out anything definite.

A second after he felt the invasion, Justin quickly turned away, breaking the connection.

"My, my," The creature said, his voice very quiet and no longer particularly grandfatherly at all.