This story follows each story's canon story line up until the point where I mention that story. From there I consider it 'free game'. After all, fanfiction is about creating a story with preexisting characters not sticking to canon. Harry will choose to take a different path. Don't hate him for it.
Not sure if there will be any coupling yet. There might be. Ashitaka and San are pretty much a set couple, as the story ends with them pretty much falling for each other, and I loathe to tear that apart.
With that said let's get to the part you actually want to read…hopefully.
Harry wasn't completely sure what to expect when he died, but it certainly wasn't this. The bland white hall stretched to either side of him for what seemed like eternity. It reminded him of King's Cross station, but cleaner…much cleaner.
"You have a choice." Dumbledore reminded him.
Harry nodded. He knew he had a choice. The hard part would be making it. "If I choose to die, what will happen?" he asked.
Dumbledore smiled. "You can board a train." He said gesturing to the tracks that were undoubtedly just out of sight.
"And where would the train take me?"
"Beyond." Was Dumbledore's half answer.
"And to everyone else? What would happen back in the real world?"
Dumbledore blinked and his eyes sparkled knowingly. "I always fancied myself to be a good judge of character." He started seemingly caught in a memory. "And in you I think I found one of the most self sacrificing people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. I should warn you though. Your decision shouldn't be made for their-"
"Professor." Harry cut in shaking his head. "You're not answering the question." Normally he would have let the old man skirt around issues, but just this once he decided the answer was more important than any advice the man could give him.
Dumbledore smiled sadly. "Indeed." He said turning his gaze to one of the many benches resting along the stark white corridor. "I imagine that they will find a way to defeat Tom."
"So the prophecy?"
"Is just that." The old man supplied with a grin. "Prophecies are such interesting things. They can be taken to heart or dismissed as lies and they always seem to work their magic, but not always in the way that people expect them to."
"Then I'm not meant to defeat him?" Harry asked confused.
Dumbledore tilted his head. "I suppose that would depend on your answer wouldn't it?"
Harry fought the urge to smack his palm into his face. Why was everything always so cryptic with Dumbledore? "If I choose to leave, to die, who will take my place? Who will defeat him?"
"The one who was meant to defeat him all along." Dumbledore answered absently as if it were obvious.
Harry fought back annoyance. "But he will be defeated? He'll die?"
"Everyone dies Harry. It's a natural part of life. Even Tom, in his mad search for immortality will fall. No one can truly live forever."
Harry bit back a retort. He wanted to know if Voldemort would die today. He wanted to know if any more of his loved ones would die protecting that castle from a mad man. Would there be any more Fred Weasleys or Remus Lupins that would die because of his choice. Dumbledore seemed to sense his turmoil.
"You shouldn't let the dead weigh so heavily on your mind."
Harry glanced up not realizing Dumbledore had been watching him.
"Your decision will not affect any more people regardless of which choice you make."
It was the first solid answer he'd received from Dumbledore so far and he was thankful the man was willing to tell him even that much.
Dumbledore smiled, and Harry remembered not for the first time how much he'd missed his mentor in the past year.
"You've made your decision."
"Then I'll leave you to it." He said leaving Harry alone indeed. His white robes slowly faded into the white background as if he were never there.
A whistle echoed through the station startling him, and he pulled himself upright. A scarlet engine, the only thing of color in the entire station besides himself and the long gone Dumbledore, pulled slowly up next to a marker labeled 10.
He slowly approached the train. It looked so much like the Hogwarts Express he was nearly overwhelmed by the need to have Ron and Hermione by his side at that moment. He took another step toward it and the doors opened for him. He went inside and found an empty compartment.
Harry woke with a start. He wasn't sure when he'd fallen asleep, but the train was beginning to slow. He stretched his arms over his head. "Time to find out what the afterlife is like I guess." He said standing as the train came to a sudden halt. There was none of the screeching of breaks he was used to when trains stopped. It was eerily silent in fact. He exited his cabin and made his way to the doors of the train which stood open. Beyond them was a forest. He raised an eyebrow. He hadn't known what to expect, but this was certainly far down on his list of probabilities.
He took a step off the train. Lush green fauna surrounded him. He turned back to the train, but there was no such train. Only a single door was visible. Through it he could see the train's interior. It was strange to say the least.
'Harry Potter.' The voice seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere all at the same time.
"Y-yes?" he answered swinging his head around in hopes of seeing the speaker. Around him the plants began to wither as though a long drought had struck them. They slowly turned brown and died. It was a morbid sight. "What's going on?" he said with confusion. Had he caused the forest to die?
Just as suddenly as the plants had begun to die a deer appeared before him. He took a step back startled by its sudden appearance. 'Do not be afraid. This is not by your doing.'
Harry locked eyes with the deer. "Who are you?" he wanted to ask what the deer was, as he'd never met a deer that could talk, but he figured the thing would consider him rude or at the very least strange if he asked such a thing.
'I am the forest spirit. I govern this land of ancient magic. You may call me Shishigami.'
In giving his name the spirit unintentionally answered Harry's other question as well. "What's happening? And how do you know my name?"
'Your name is known well young one. You have always held a deep connection with both life and death and through that connection you have held contact with the spirit realm."
"The spirit realm?"
'Yes, the dwelling place of spirits. Though others, like myself, often choose homes on Earth to protect.'
"Then we're not in the spirit realm right now?"
"What's wrong with this place?" he asked again.
'Humans have wrought destruction in this forest. My time for this world is short.'
"Spirits can die?"
The deer nodded its head slightly. 'They can. When we choose to inhabit bodies to increase our control over the physical world we also take on the weaknesses those bodies possess.'
"Why are you dying? Of old age?"
This time the deer looked almost sad. 'Humans are weak. They seek wealth, fame, favor. A human woman claimed my head so I must kill until it is reclaimed, but even when it is returned I will not be able to stay here.'
Finally Harry asked the question that had been bothering him the most since he stepped off the train. "Why am I here?"
'That is a complicated question, with an even more complex answer.' The spirit conceded seeming tired. 'This forest needs a spirit. Without one it will wither and no life shall grow here again.'
Harry had a feeling he knew where this was going.
'You have lived a tiring life.' The deer said seeming sympathetic. 'But this forest needs a new guardian. No other person could do such a job. Times change upon this Earth. Humans grow more numerous. To place another spirit like myself here would mean their demise, but a protector with the guise of a human would not be as noticeable.'
"Wait…you want me…to protect a forest?" Harry asked staring at the dead plants.
The deer bowed its head. 'That is indeed what I ask of you. It is a large role to fill, but should you take up the position there shall be many things gifted to you.'
Harry tried to quiet his racing heart. He wasn't sure how to react. "You said humans did this." He gestured to the forest. "Why trust me? I'm human too."
The deer's eyes seemed to peer into his soul. 'I do not dislike humans simply for their humanity. They are like any other creature that walks this Earth. Misguided though they are, they are still children of this planet.'
There was silence as Harry thought on that. The deer seemed to think he needed the moment for he stood silently watching him. Finally Harry spoke. "If I did this…if I became the guardian here…my family, my friends who've died…"
'Time means little to the dead.' The deer said cutting him off. 'but if you wish to see them before taking residence it can be arranged.'
Harry thought on his exhaustion. He was tired, yes. He hadn't wanted to go back to his world. That much was true. But that was less due to lack of wanting to live, and more that he did not want to feel the weight of being 'the boy who lived' any longer. He didn't want the pressure of having people doubt him, or place all their hopes with him. He just wanted to be…him. He wanted to be able to make a mistake without half the world decrying he was unfit to guide them. He raised his eyes to meet the deer's which watched him curiously.
"If I can see them I'll do it." He said without faltering.
'Very well. Before my time here is finished you should know something. You will see them again. Eventually this forest will no longer need a protector, and when that time comes you will be allowed to return to them. For now, join them. The forest will call you when my time here is done.'
So that's the prologue. Poor Harry, even in death he's in demand. How did I come up with the idea…well partially due to the strange way my brain works, partially due to watching a Harry Potter marathon followed up by Princess Mononoke, and partially due to the only other crossover in this section.
This isn't the end. I've only just begun this story. I'm not sure how fast updates will pop up as I'm trying to write for my other story right now, but I'll update as often as possible. Well, I'll be heading off to a party now. Drop a review for me? I guarantee one chapter for every five reviews at the very least. Much love guys! 'Til next time!