Disclaimer: The archangel Michael and the demon Lilith are based on the characters from the TV show Supernatural. No copyright infringement is intended.
"I want power."
"You are far too powerful."
"You're an incredible young man, Harry."
"... he will have power the Dark Lord knows not..."
"... you're powerful and dangerous..."
"You have power, child."
"See, you've got power—a lot of power."
"You're actually so powerful it's a little bit terrifying."
"I have power the rest of you could never hope to wield."
"I outdid myself with you."
I have power. I can bend the world to my will. I can make it do what I want and believe what I want. I don't even want much. I want safety and justice and peace. I want to be with him and I don't even mind where, as long as we're happy together.
I have power. It's time I used it.
Snape hands his wand over to the Azkaban guard, stands still as said guard slowly moves a Secrecy Sensor over him, then signs his name in the log book when he's been declared clean. A second guard leads him through the door that's become too familiar in recent months and through a torch-lit stone corridor to a second door. Beyond that is another corridor, this one lined by cells on one side. The prisoners inside them are mostly quiet, a few sitting by the bars to exchange quiet conversations with neighbours they can't see. With the Dementors gone, Azkaban is no longer a place of pure anguish and misery. That isn't to say it's pleasant—it's still a prison—but it isn't the torture that it once was.
They stop at the last cell on the row. A single prisoner sits on the bed inside, staring blankly at the wall opposite his bed, a purple teddy bear held on his lap. He doesn't react to the presence of Snape and the guard.
"Ten minutes," the guard says, and walks a small distance away to give a semblance of privacy.
"Hello, Harry," Snape greets.
Tyler sits nervously on a sofa in the sitting room of the Swift home—his home now, though even months later he's still getting used to it—and chews his nails as he watches the floo. He leaps to his feet when it flares and a familiar figure staggers out. He starts towards them then stops, watching as the boy wipes soot off his robes and then looks up, grinning broadly as baby blue eyes settle on Tyler's face.
Tyler can't help smiling at the friendly tone. "Hey, Alex. Long time no see. You sound like a Yankee."
Alex laughs. "Missed you too, Tyler," he says, crossing the space between them and throwing his arms around the other boy in a hug. Tyler returns it, relaxing entirely at the familiar feel of his oldest friend's arms, and the two boys cling to each other for a long while before finally pulling apart.
"So," Alex says, still smiling. "Cid's your step-brother?"
"Yeah. Who'd have thought, right?"
"Kind of cool, though."
Tyler nods. "It's good. I like it."
"Yeah, she's good too. And Dylan's alright for a dad." He glances around then back at Alex and lowers his voice slightly to say, "Mrs Swift doesn't like me much."
Alex bites at his lip. "Because you're a squib now?"
Tyler looks down and away, but Alex reaches out and takes his hand. "I don't mind. I'm still your friend. And you're always welcome to come stay with us. You know that, right? I'll always give you a place to stay if you ever need or want it."
Tyler looks up at him, smiling gratefully. "Thanks, Alex."
"No Potter today," Snape says. "The Bond's finally eased up enough that he doesn't throw a fit every time I leave him. I'm still angry at you for making him want me to take it and making me agree; I know you did, even if you say nothing. But he's going to start looking for work now. I think he wants to go back to teaching. It'd mean moving to Hogsmeade or him flooing to the castle every morning, and that's if Minerva, the students, the Board of Governors, and the Ministry consent to ever letting him teach again.
"I'm still researching a fix for your epilepsy. I haven't got very far yet, admittedly, but I'll keep working on it for you. It keeps my mind busy. It keeps Potter quiet as well. He knows not to distract me when I'm working, though he does insist on watching me. I've mostly gotten used to it by now.
"Eldred Worple's been asking about writing a biography about you again. I was strongly tempted to lace my reply with bubotur pus. I've told him you're not responsive, but if he writes again I'm just going to tell him to come and visit. Perhaps then he'll get it into his thick skull that trying to talk to you is like talking to a brick wall...
"Sorry. You're infuriating sometimes, Harry, even if I know why. I just wish I could help you. I wish a lot of things, but it never does anyone any good so I should stop really."
Hermione finishes her chapter than checks her watch, closes her book, and stuffs it in her bag, getting to her feet and slinging her bag over her shoulder as she leaves the Hogwarts library. She makes her way to Charms alone, already going over the spells they'll be revising that day in preparation for the NEWTs that are only a month away. She's surprised at how calm she feels about the upcoming exams, but since Christmas, when she came back to Hogwarts to start her seventh year late, she's spent almost all of her free time studying. She lost both her best friends and she never really got close to the others in her year, even Lavender and Parvati despite six years of sharing a dorm. She and Neville haven't made up after everything and Hermione doubts they ever will; they speak to one another only when they have to and Neville seems to avoid her as much as he can. So she studies, filling hours she used to spend socialising instead reading, and whenever she feels a painful pang of loneliness and loss, she reminds herself that she missed a term of the year and should be grateful at the extra time to focus on studying and making sure she's caught up. It doesn't really make her feel better.
"I've got to go now."
Snape pauses, as always, to give Harry a chance to respond and, as always, is greeted only with silence. Harry doesn't so much as shift and hasn't the entire time Snape's been there. Snape will never understand how Harry went through his trial as cool and calm as Snape had ever seen him, confessing to every crime he ever committed under Voldemort's command, and to the murder of Vernon Dursley and the Assistant of his own free will, but from the moment his cell door closed behind him he completely withdrew into himself. According to the guards, and Lucius in the next cell over, the only time he ever speaks is at night, when he mutters in his sleep and more often than not wakes up screaming. Snape hates it, fights to get Harry sentenced to Saint Mungo's psychiatric ward instead, but the courts are adamant beyond reason. Harry was of sound mind when he confessed to his crimes, which weren't committed under the Imperius, and he is a danger to society, so he will spend the rest of his life in Azkaban.
Snape turns away, thinking he shouldn't torture himself by coming to see the broken wreck his son has become, but knowing he'll continue to do so anyway.
"I'll see you next month, Harry."
"This is wrong."
"I'll say," Sirius agrees with Lily. "Snape is smiling. Nicely. With James."
"This whole place is wrong!" Lily snaps and the humour fades from Sirius' face. He shares a glances with Lupin, stood on the woman's other side, and then they both put a hand to her back and guide her from the cosy sitting room to the kitchen and towards the backdoor.
"Hey, where are you going?" Harry stops them, looking over with a smile from where he's pouring drinks. "We're having cake soon."
"Just taking your mum out for a chat," Sirius answers. "We'll be back in a sec, kid."
"Make sure you are."
Sirius smiles and leads Lily out into the garden, standing underneath blazing sunshine as Lupin shuts the back door and steps over to join them.
"Why is it so wrong, Lils?" Sirius asks her and she glares at him.
"You know why. This place isn't real. Harry can't stay here!"
"It's as real as purgatory or heaven or hell," Lupin counters calmly. "It's a lot nicer than two of them, as well."
"I am sorry, Remus," she says sincerely. "If it was my choice, I'd take you to heaven instead, but it's not, and it's beside the point. Harry can't continue to believe this place is real. He needs to return to reality, to earth."
The three of them turn to the door. Draco steps out, mouth turned into a scowl and eyes glaring at the three of them as he shuts the door behind him.
"Why does he have to return to reality?"
Lily looks at him with pity. "Draco, I understand you want him to stay, but he is projecting his soul to a fantasy world and he's ripped your souls from where you're supposed to be and taken me from my work. James and Severus aren't even real. Your parents aren't real, Draco. Are you satisfied to have imaginary parents?"
"I'm satisfied to have Harry," he replies.
"You would condemn Harry to spend the rest of his life insane because of your own selfishness?"
Guilt briefly flickers across Draco's face but it's quickly replaced by anger. "As opposed to you, who wants to see her own son waste away miserably in Azkaban. At least while his soul is here he's happy. He'll never be happy on earth."
"Mr Evans' happiness is quite beside the point," a new voice remarks and all four of them stiffen, turning to face the three figures now standing in the garden, all three giving off an unmissable aura of power that makes Sirius and Lupin back up until they stand by Draco. Lily remains where she is, but she glances between the three apprehensively.
"Who are you?" Sirius asks warily, drawing his wand but not raising it.
The one who spoke, a skeletal man in a black suit and holding a cane, answers, "I am Death. This," he says, gesturing to the figure on his left, a woman with pure white eyes and a white summer dress, "is Lilith, higher tier demon and representative of hell, and Michael—" he gestures to the handsome, suited man on his right who smiles politely "—archangel and representative of heaven."
"What, no one from purgatory?" Sirius quips, but there's a shake in his voice that belies his realisation that the people in front of him are far more dangerous than anyone or anything he's ever met.
Michael's polite smile vanishes. "The monsters of purgatory remain where they belong. All save one, at least," he comments with a distasteful look at Lupin.
Lupin grabs Sirius' arm to stop him doing anything stupid like trying to curse an archangel, and Lily speaks to Death.
"Sir, what is this about?"
"I'm sure you realise that, Lily. Your son has proven himself far more powerful than any of us could have imagined, even Crowley. Very few beings are able to create entire planes of existence, even for souls, or drag claimed souls—" he glances pointedly at Lupin, Sirius, and Draco "—out of their residence through sheer force of will."
"What do you intend to do about it?"
It's Michael who answers. "An agreement has been reached."
"Reluctantly," Lilith mutters. Michael ignores her.
"Harry Evans must not be made aware of his abilities. He must be kept ignorant of the true extent of his powers."
This statement is met by a brief silence and then Sirius blurts out, "You're afraid of him."
Lilith and Michael scowl then realise they're reacting the same and Michael's expression clears back to a mask of indifference while Lilith's scowl deepens.
"I'm a more powerful demon that you can imagine," Lilith responds to Sirius. "I'm working directly beneath Lucifer himself for the apocalypse that will soon tear your world apart. I do not fear a mortal child."
"If you aren't afraid of him, then why are you so desperate to keep him from figuring out just how powerful he is?"
"Sirius!" Lupin hisses. "Don't argue with them."
Lily glances between the three figures then settles her gaze on Death. "You expect me to let Harry keep believing all this is real, don't you?"
"I expect you to obey the laws I set down and maintain your duties as a reaper," Death replies. "Whether Harry believes this place to be real or not is irrelevant, as long as he doesn't know it is. Do you understand me, Lily?"
Her lips purse and her hands clench at her sides, returning Death's pointed stare without saying anything for several long moment, then her fists unclench and her expression eases. "Yes, sir. I understand."
"Good," he says, and the three beings vanish.
"You're going to ignore him, aren't you?"
Lily looks at Sirius like he's grown an extra head. "Do you think I'm mad, Sirius? I'm not going to disobey Death."
"You're going to do something," Lupin says. "I've been friends with James and Sirius for years, Lily. I know a scheming face when I see one."
"You can't," Draco snaps, arms folded over his chest. "You heard them. If heaven, hell, and Death agree on something, then we should do as they say!"
"I intend to," Lily tells him. "I won't let Harry know that this place is real. I intend to do the exact opposite."
When she starts towards the back door, Draco stands firmly in her way. "What do you mean by that?"
"I mean I intend to convince him that everything here is inside his head. When he believes that, he will give up the fantasy and let his soul return to his body."
"You don't know that, Lils," Sirius counters.
"No, but it's the best hope I have of convincing my son to return to reality."
A window opens just a few feet from them, prompting them all to look over as Harry sticks his head out. His skin is completely scar free and although his eyes are mismatched in colour they're both real, glinting with happiness as they look over everyone in the garden.
"Are you lot coming inside or what? This is meant to be a celebration party for mine and Draco's NEWT results and you're going to miss the cake if you don't hurry up. James and Dad will eat it all."
"I can believe that," Sirius says with a grin. "We'll be right in, kid."
Harry beams at them all and vanishes back inside, pulling the window shut behind him. Draco looks at Lily.
"You want to spoil that? To make him realise he's actually in Azkaban and wasting away? To be miserable?"
"I want him in reality," Lily says firmly. Draco's lip curls into a sneer and he says nothing more, turning and entering the house. Sirius goes after him, passing Lily without a glance, but Lupin pauses beside her.
"I won't help you," he says quietly. "If Harry thinks this place isn't real and he makes it vanish, then I go back to purgatory. This is as close to heaven as I can get, Lily. I won't stop you doing what you believe you have to, but I will never help you either."
She nods and he heads inside. She sighs, tells herself she's doing the right thing, and steps after him.
A/N: There you have it, the end of For the Price of a Soul. I hope you've all enjoyed it and I hope you don't hate me too much for killing Draco. As you can see, he's not completely gone.
To those of you wondering about the Assistant—his future has been deliberately left unmentioned on account of that fact that I want to leave my options open. I have various ideas about what to do with him, but haven't decided exactly where I want him to head. This doesn't mean there will be future stories about him... but it doesn't mean there won't be either. I make no promises either way.
So thank you for reading. I appreciate all reviews, good and bad (so long as you're polite about it), and I hope you'll now go read the sequel: Peace is a State of Mind.