This was originally posted over in my junk drawer but as it looks to be a complete-unless-something-unexpected-happens sort of story (and that page is getting crowded), I'm posting it to ff.n and marking it as done!
Suggestions and requests are welcome, but I'll only ever write something if a burst of inspiration happens.
Jessica looks up, cheeks wet with tears. Leaning against the foot of her bed, smiling at her, is a boy.
There's something different about him, she knows it right away without knowing how she knows. He's not another patient, or visiting family. The nurses don't even look at him, and he's not masked, so they should be shouting and ordering him out.
She wonders if he's an imaginary friend, like what she had when she was little. Just in case he is, she doesn't answer out loud, thinking instead Hello in her head as clearly as she can.
He smiles a little wider, his eyes crinkling in a nice way, like they're sharing a joke.
He has black hair - black like Rei's, from school, but not so silky. It sticks up like her big brother is always trying to do, but doesn't look sticky or stiff like his hair does. He has pale skin - really pale - and she worries for a second that he might be a ghost, but she doesn't really think he is because his lips are a bit pink like hers and his eyes are so green she thinks he must be wearing coloured contacts - and ghosts don't wear contacts!
The nurses smile at her too as they finish changing the sheets from under her and Jessica watches in amazement as one of them walks right through the boy. He grimaces a bit then rolls his eyes and she giggles softly. As she waits for them to finish checking her machines and writing in her folder, she tilts her head to see if his legs fade away like Danny Phantom's sometimes do. But no, he's just got boring black boots on and boring black jeans along with his boring black shirt. He has a necklace but even that's boring - just some sort of black triangle/circle thing at the hollow of his throat, made out of that magnetic stone her Grammy used to try and fix her sickness with.
"You need some brighter colours." She informs him, the second the nurses leave the room. He grins at her, and hops up to sit by her feet.
"I do, huh?" He asks. His voice is nice too, kind of soft and warm and strong. He seems happy to see her, to talk to her, and people haven't been happy to do that for a long, long time.
"What would you recommend?"
Jessica pretends to run a professional eye over him, just like the people on the fashion show she and her Mum watched at night time. She pretends he's one of the models for her world-famous designs, and she was figuring out how to perfectly accessorise the clothes she'd made for him to wear.
"You need green laces." She said authoritatively. "And, and green rings. But, different kinds of green, like, apple and emerald and, and-" She broke off into a cough, long and deep and painful. From the corner of her eye she sees the nurse on watch look up from her spot in the observation cubby overlooking the isolation rooms. One of her machines must be sending an alert. The knowledge sends a little twist of fear through her and she coughs harder.
"Easy, sweetheart." A cool hand rubbed her back and she opened streaming eyes to see the boy's sympathetic green ones looking back. "Just relax."
"Who-who are you?" She wheezed, trying to distract herself from the catch in her lungs. It worked, sometimes. Her Mum and Dad were really good at distracting her until she felt better.
He smiled again, but this time it was a little sad.
"My name is Harry." He said simply. "I'm here to look after you."
Movement caught her eye and she looked up just in time to see another nurse join the first, staring hard at something on their desk before looking up directly at her. Both women had that tight, focused look they got sometimes, when Jessica got real sick or someone paged something grown-up over the speakers and they had to rush off.
"Am I dying?" She whispered fearfully. The cool hand at her back slid away and picked up her smaller, sweaty hand instead.
"…Yes." The boy said frankly, something serious in his eyes even as he stroked her hand with his thumb. "But you don't need to be scared. I'm here, for you. To take care of you."
"Will it hurt?" She cried a little, feeling sleepy and scared and now her own machines were making loud noises and the door was opening.
"Only a little." The boy comforted her. "You've already felt much worse. This'll be nothing - and then I'll take you to what comes next."
She squeezed her eyes shut, then snapped them open again. She didn't want to die! There were lots more people now, shouting and moving and sticking needles into her IV and leaning through the boy - but they didn't seem as real as him, somehow. They were somehow quieter, further, less important.
"Hey." The boy said suddenly, distracting her just like her brother did. "Want a sneak peek?"
Before she could reply, the walls and floor and ceiling melted away. Her hospital bed and all the nurses and doctors were standing in a field of long, soft green grass - as high as her waist and waving in a soft breeze. Wildflowers she'd never seen before were nodding their beautiful heads and above them the sky was blue and gold and filled with rosy clouds and rainbows and flying horses.
She gasped in delight, eyes wide. Eager, but weary, she looked around. In every direction, something wonderful was waiting. Fairies flitted over a large outdoor picnic which was laid out with crystal dishes and food like she'd only ever seen in her story books. Waterfalls and floating cities shone in the distance. Tree-covered mountains curled welcomingly with all sorts of hidden nooks to explore. And everywhere, the air was fresh, the sun was warm, and everything was safe and healthy and happy.
She looked back up at the boy - at Harry - and squeezed his hand as hard as she could.
"I'll miss my family." She said, or maybe thought. He just smiled at her again, not sad anymore, just warm and comforting.
"No, you won't." She thought she heard him say, as the warm sun soothed her to sleep. "They'll be there waiting for you."
The tiny, fragile little girl with skin stretched painfully over brittle bones sighed softly as her soul slipped free from her body. The monitors attached to her still screamed in alarm, doctors and nurses still scrambled to recover her failing body but the little girl and her smiling, green-eyed guardian were gone.
And that was the new existence of 'Just Harry', the Master of Death.
Master had been an assumption, an arrogant one by those that had come before him. In truth, by bringing together the Hallows - by being worthy - he was in reality mastered by Death. He served it. The phenomenon, the power, the essence that balanced out life itself.
And yet, despite the fact that he had no power over it - he could not reverse death or stave it off or cause it to take someone before their time - he never quite felt like a servant. Or a slave.
He just felt… at home. A part of something that was as much himself as he was it. He served and was served in turn. He never felt commanded to do anything, only requested. Required. Reminded. He had but one job to do and it was one he did as easily as breathing because it was one he wanted to do.
And… it was a good thing. Sad, maybe, but he was learning that it didn't have to be. He was learning that his presence could be the moment when things got better for his little charges.
He brought comfort, protection, guidance and reassurance. He made a scary transition a lot easier. Sometimes, when the kids were close enough or believed enough - not necessarily in him, just in something watching over them - he could even start work before they were gone. Ease them free just a few vital moments earlier, make it not as painful and scary. He never took them before their time, no - he couldn't. But he could make a big difference, sometimes for days before the final moment came.
And he never got tired of helping children cross the road, between life and death.