Death finds the boy on the bridge between life and death, hidden underneath a bench, forgotten and abandoned like an unneeded, unwanted puppy, waiting for a train that won't come for him.
The boy is dirty, covered in the filth of life and death and things people don't mention, and though there was no need, no use, Death brushes his hand over the dirty skin, revealing the wounds beneath.
Life ruins people, bringing them into contact with the horrors and stains they try to hide from each other, but in the end only end up spreading; life covered the boy in its cuts and burns, but Death doesn't know if he's better or worse because of it.
The boy whimpers and whines as Death heals his wounds of life and brings forth what could've been, what should've been and, most importantly, what could be; silence comes with purity and with it, freedom.
Death smiles softly while wrapping the child into a veil of midnight blue, wondering if it's the first time the boy feels soft cloth on unblemished skin - the boy laughs like it tickles him.
Now that the boy is clean, Death has options to choose from and decisions to make - most importantly; where to take the boy - but for now he merely sits down with the boy and holds him in the perfect white of the station, content to sit still for a while.
"People would never appreciate this," Death says to the boy, looking over the station, the white train tracks, the perfectly still calm surrounding them, and continues, "but it is kind of nice, don't you agree?"
Of course, Death knows that not all see the station; it's the privilege of very few and it’s very strange, as most people tend to die in straightforward and simple ways and only the rare strange death could lead people here.
Death lifts the boy up, high over his head and watches as the child spreads his legs and arms and lets out a shriek of joy, free and unchained by the gravity holding Death still to the ground.
But it's more than gravity holding Death - the hold of life and responsibility is stronger, and though he tries to hold on to this moment of innocent wonder, he knows time is against him.
So he pulls the boy to his arms again and stands up, knowing it was time to choose between the two paths to go, knowing that no matter which he would choose it would be the last either of them saw of the serene, peaceful station.
It seems oddly wrong to have to choose for the boy as well, but it's Death's duty, so no matter how innocent and helpless and oddly beautiful the boy seems, no matter how fey-like the boy laughs and smiles, the choice has to be made; onwards or backwards.
It makes Death feel oddly old, though he is not old at all; it makes his bones ache and his back grow still, makes his steps seem clumsy and his hands too big to hold the boy in them.
His eyes grow misty and his throat aches, odd emotion welling up in his chest as he looks down to the boy, feeling like he doesn't have the right, all the while knowing only he has the right.
But in the end his steps are sure and his arms hold the boy steady to his chest, his heart steels and his eyes grow determined - he had made the choice a while back and though onward seems like the most peaceful solution, he has duties and even the innocence of a child can't make him choose otherwise.
He leaves behind a piece of parchment, underneath the bench where he found the boy; here I found him, here I took him, and here I made the choice - live and let live.
The journey back is brief and cold and on the way Death holds onto the boy tightly, like his last lifeline - which, he thinks, is not as ironic as it should be, all things considered.
One day Death knows he might pen it all down, what happened at the station, the choice he made, and the consequences that followed.
The ground is cold and unforgiving underneath his cheek and he is in danger, he knows as much; but whatever choice he had of what would or could follow died with the cry of the boy resting still in his formerly empty arms.
The mood of the air changes in an instant and Death moves, reaches out and yells out curses and magic and unnatural protection; this is what he is now, what will be his nature and what will have to be because that is what the boy needs him to be.
Drawings and sketches of Death tend to show a skeleton wielding a scythe, and maybe they are right but this time Death is a blood stained, scarred young man wielding a wand and holding a crying infant to his chest - and one day someone will paint galleries of paintings of him.
They try very hard to kill him, to down him, they curse him and hex him and jinx him, trying their very best to make him fall and stay down - but even Death Eaters cannot truly beat Death.
And in answer Death sends them to where he’d come from, and beyond - these people will never stop by the station, they will only see the trains and the beyond and unlike him and the boy, they will never come back.
Death conducts the dying with his wand, and their cries are the choir singing and their curses are the instruments - the concussion beat of misfired spells that hit the ground and the sorrowful string's wail of a spell flying past, creating a horrible symphony that only Death can appreciate.
Everything is different now and he can feel it, like tingling inside his skin, a slow burn somewhere in his chest and ice in his head, everything has been altered and he is no longer the same, but the greatest difference is in how little he minds being Death.
Bodies litter the ground in display and someone is screaming; he shouldn't have and couldn't have been able to arrange, but he has and he feels content about it, even as the boy whimpers against his chest - the bodies are dead and the spirits are Death's now.
The outpour that is his and comes from him and fills him with odd serenity stills and Death quiets down, turning to face the man who is and was and will never again be the boy who is still resting against Death's chest, cradled by his left arm - and they both know which one of them is truly the outlet of death.
There are no words to say, no explanations either of them need, because Death knows what he is and so does Voldemort; in the end all that is needed is a lifting of wands and spells exchanged, ending the reign of one in the flight of a borrowed wand, and starting the rein of another as Death reaches and catches the Elder Wand as it rushes to join its master.
The Hallows are together in the hold of their master; the Cloak safely tucked away in his pocket, the Ring still adorning his right middle finger and the Wand, now in his hand, completing the set of three - completing the Master of Death for now and forever.
The air fills with cries and screams and laughter, the sudden conduct of joy and relief and freedom as a war ends - and in the noise the silence relays the unease of those who had seen the first steps of Death on Earth.
Thank you, they say, confused and cautious, thank you, thank you, thanking him for ending the war, all the while worrying, why and how and when he had become capable of killing, and not just killing, but killing so many people, so soon, so quickly, so easily - but they don't judge him, don't dare to, because he has granted them peace - and because inside their hearts they fear him and don't know why.
Death doesn't mind and doesn't care, because now that the threat is over, all there is left is him and the boy, who whimpers in his arms at the noise, at the lingering fear of what had just happened and tiredness - a weakness Death can allow even if it's not one he still shares.
The people around him look at him and follow him, congratulating and thanking him all the while keeping their distance; Death doesn't care as they no longer matter, and instead of answering the uneasy and nervous questions he smiles to the boy, his old enemy and his new life, and makes the people around him even more nervous.
"The poor child," a woman says while stepping to Death's side, "Give him here, Harry dear, I will take care of him," she continues, reaching for the boy, "The poor child," she repeats again, not knowing she's pitying the boy for all the wrong reasons.
But of course Death doesn't let her have the child, and moves away from her and all the others who offer to relieve his burden, making them frown and narrow their eyes, asking him what he is doing, where did he get the child, what was going on, "Why the hell are you playing with that kid, mate?" But it's not a game, not really.
"Death is with you," a woman with frazzled hair and large glasses whispers when he walks by her, "Dead by your hand," a dark skinned man murmurs, worried and frowning, "Death to you," curses one of the survivors of the other side, bound and tied and angry and defeated, "Dead because of you," someone hisses in the background, holding a dead child, too young to fight, "Death," they all say, not really knowing who they were addressing.
They clean up and pick themselves up, prisoners are taken away and victors are toasted, wounds are wrapped and the dead are buried, while leaders come forward and gather everyone around to listen to the new truth and the new way of life - and amidst them Death walks, still cradling the boy, knowing that though people are watching him, following him and still shaking his hands in gratitude, he would never again be one they would willingly follow.
Eventually Death slips away between the clusters of people, the mourning and the joyful, and takes the boy with him - the war won and lost is not his anymore, neither is it the boy's, and while the survivors figure out a new way to live, he leaves on his own, alone with the boy and his new way of being.
The work begins almost immediately after, regardless of time or duty or the whimpers of the boy, so death rocks the boy into silence in his arms, brushes his head gently, calms him down, and makes his way towards his first protégé, his first customer.
He becomes a whisper and a legend in the course of the night, and a nightmare in a week; they speak tales of him in pubs and in dark saloons: how he survived, how he killed and how people now see him where someone dies, walking away with their spirits - he is their saviour and their nightly terror.
What he has to do is easy in the long run, the only complicating factor is what they do; when people die, they are rarely happy about it and usually they fight against it, rage against him, trying to make him undo what happened - but in the end it doesn't matter, as all Death has to do is to be there and his work is done.
Death teaches the boy to speak with the names of the dead, and the boy learns their curses and cries against Death as the first thing he learns - before knowing how to walk, the boy knows how much people fear and hate his dark haired guardian.
And while Death walks, his living friends mourn after him, knowing he is lost to them; Hermione Granger studying what she can about the Hallows and death and Horcruxes, Ronald Weasley gathering his things and putting them away, knowing his friend won't need them while he travels the world, sideways and strange.
Moving is easy for Death and the boy now, no longer confined to walking or vehicles or even apparition; Death moves like the wind without needing to touch the ground, he goes through the trees and the walls without ever needing to go around anything, the boy sailing the world in his arms, safe and free.
They hear the world from all sides, Death listening to the cries, curses and whimpers with a kind smile and merciless eyes, the boy hearing the laughter and the melodic tunes and joining them whenever he could, each listening to their own music in their own way.
"I am very wealthy, I could give you all the riches you want," says one man, as Death escorts him away from the bleeding corpse; "I know all sorts of magic, I could make your wildest dreams come true," promises a sorcerer while Death steers him towards the train; "I am very pretty, you could have me for all eternity," a woman promises him and pleads with him, as he helps her find a seat; "Daddy, look what I made," the boy says holding up a drawing of a crude skeleton with a scythe, and Death is very impressed.
The boy sleeps through most of Death’s work, resting his head on Death's shoulder and innocently dreaming away while Death leads another spirit towards the train; dreaming of light and bright colours and flowers and trains and cars and bicycles while Death ignores the cursing and accusing and threatening of his protégé of the moment.
The boy adjusts to the hand resting over his eyes, hiding from his sight another scene of death, protecting him from blood and gore; he doesn't bother to try and see because he knows what he would see - because at his young age, he knows exactly what his guardian is and what he does and what are the scenes they travel through every hour of every day.
Death denies the boy nothing - as they walk, the boy eats and drinks and enjoys candy and ice creams, his clothes change and he has toys and on the rare quiet moments Death tells him stories and reads him books - except for a home and friends, the boy lacks nothing.
Sometimes, in those rare quiet moments, Death remembers the boy he used to be, even if only very vaguely; the boy with green eyes and black hair and magic and friends and dreams - and a life and a heartbeat.
Death scares everyone, the boy can see it all the time: on the faces and in the actions of those his guardian picks up and escorts to the train - they fear him and hate him and wish they could escape him but they never can and though he can't really understand all of it, he feels a little sorry for them because they don't know his guardian the way he does.
They tell tales of Death and the Boy, how the black haired, green eyed Death comes, followed by a little black haired and dark eyed boy: Death rarely says much, listening and guiding and preferring to fall silent, but the boy laughs and laughs, his steps are light and joyous even as he holds Death's hand, and together they take people away from life.
No one escapes Death, not even the boy and as years go by, the boy grows older until Death can't carry him in his arms and instead the boy crawls and walks and runs, whichever he prefers, never knowing why it made Death so sad to see him grow another day, another month, another year older.
The boy was a duty he’d picked up in the station between life and death, leftover from a barbarous act, a reason for his survival - a responsibility he bears because of another's mistake - but still Death loves him more with each passing hour and second, hating the time as it ticked by, taking away yet another moment from the boy's life.
Eventually the boy is eleven and a letter catches up with them as they pick another life from Earth; two sheets sealed in a parchment envelope, an invitation to a school and to a nation of magic.
Death takes the boy to the street and together they explore magic, touching and examining and buying until the boy has everything he needs from clothes to knowledge and a general understanding - and the people on the street know that Death's son is going to Hogwarts.
They take away one more protégé together before it is time to head to the physical train station - a boy dead by overdose - and while Death guides the fidgety dead boy to the white train, the living boy wonders how many times he has seen the trains, been inside the trains, and still kept on living afterwards.
Platform nine and three quarters is full of people, of wizards and witches of all ages, students and children being guided by their parents and teachers - and among them, Death walks, followed by the boy who looks around wide eyed and full of wonder, never having seen so many people all at once.
Of course, soon there is a wide empty space around them as people instinctively realise who Death is and that it's not safe to be so near, all except the children who, blind to the fears of their parents, walk through the bubble of dread around Death, ignoring the strange man saying solemn goodbyes to his son.
The boy makes his way through the real train, not white like the trains he usually sees, and finds himself a place to sit at the far end and there he sits alone until another boy joins him, saying, "You don't mind if I join you, right? Name's Teddy Lupin." To which the boy answers, "Tommy Potter," and they spend half an hour in awkward silence.
Death goes on alone, leaving his boy to the guidance of the living and returning to his corner of existence and his side of life.