A wand, thirteen and a half inches, yew, levelled itself at his forehead, at his scar. There was a high-pitched, whispered incantation, and he was aware of the sensation of falling, and when he was sure that his body had hit the ground, there was no jerk and flump of hitting the hard-packed earth.
He was falling, he was floating, he was flying. He was a contradiction of verbs, a voice popped up helpfully.
Harry was made aware of a presence forming next to him, like a ghost out of the ether. He could feel it latch onto him, and meld with his sense of self. It was a strange feeling, like discovering you had an extra limb.
He could feel again. There was a hard stone floor beneath him (tile, his mind identified), grungy with sand and dirt that many feet tracked in. There was light, but there was darkness.
"Open your eyes," a dry voice said. A woman's voice, heavily accented with an Asian language.
Green eyes blinked open, looking at the Japanese woman crouching above him. Information and memories and identities were trickling into his mind—nothing registered in his on-stun brain.
Right. He died. Sad. Well, no, not really. His life wasn't all that happy. He sat up, looking around for the aforementioned Death, but saw no one but the woman. He looked at her, green eyes silently asking if she could see something that he couldn't.
"You are Death," she said in response. "You gathered the items, did you not?"
She was four steps and a game of hopscotch ahead of him, he felt. He was still processing the fact that he was dead, that he could see his parents and Sirius and Cedric and all of those who had been killed or labeled as missing but everyone knew they were gone, that all he had to do to see his friends again was wait, because death is inevitable, no matter if you make the Philosopher's Stone.
"Hey," she said, poking him with a sharp, manicured fingernail between the eyes. "Are you stupid or just deaf?"
He ignored her, slowly coming up to the present. You are Death, he finally remembered what she said. Dread filled him—death was all-encompassing, immortal, and unchanging. Was he the same if he was Death?
"No," he said in denial, a sharp weight like he'd swallowed a brick resting in his stomach.
"Well then, you could at least deign to respond," she said, irritated. "I know it was a bit of an info dump, I had a migraine for a week, let me tell you, but I was aware."
"No," he repeated, whispering, listening to her and conducting a search of his mind. "No, NO!" He was Hades, he was Osirius, he was Hel, he was Donn and Mors and San la Muerte. He was the ultimate form of a person with multiple personalities. He was tall, dark, and broody, and blueberry-blue and cheerful with kids, he was a woman (and boy did that feel weird) with half his (her?) body rotted, and a man with a decapitated head that liked singing. He was a thief of souls, stealing them away in the night, and an animated skeleton that liked reading. And he was a dead teenager with bad eyesight and messy black hair.
Harry was doubled over, half-yelling, half-sobbing, half-desperate, half-pleading, and he knew that he was out of his mind because four halves did not make a whole.
He could feel his already fragile psyche bend and then shatter into a billion pieces, scattering into the ether as he struggled to keep up with the seven thousand years' worth of information and alternate Deaths.
It could have been two seconds, it could have been two centuries, but he took a deep, shuddering breath, his mind as Harry Potter scrambling back together. He felt his body swaying, the sounds of sobbing and great raindrops—no, tears—splashing on him. Hagrid.
"See your great hero," a high-pitched voice projected across a vast space. A thousand voices cried his name. "Set him on the ground."
Hagrid was shaking so badly that Harry feared he wouldn't be able to. There were voices in his head, offering comments—snarky and otherwise—platitudes, reassurances. There were a couple who weren't even talking to him, but someone else in their respective realms. There were voices that he listened to with his ears as well, mostly variations of strongly-worded denials.
What were they denying?
They think you're dead, idiot!
His thoughts paused. Voldemort, right. Forgot about him.
One of the other deities snickered.
Other deities. He was a deity? Was he a deity? A god? Blegh. He sounded like Malfoy. Stick with deity. Doesn't sound so conceited.
The snickers in his head increased.
There was the sound of yelling and a taunting, high-pitched voice, and it brought Harry back to his body. Right. Lying in the middle of a warzone. Great idea, Harry.
The snickers turned into laughter.
Shush. Snickers don't help playing my image of being dead.
The deity responsible sent him an image of the candy bar, and Harry sent him back the image of him facepalming.
By the time I get used to this, I am going to be the ultimate multi-tasker.
Multiple gods roared with laughter.
I'm not trying to be funny. In fact, I'm not entirely sure how that was funny.
Spells were being yelled, and he firmly shunted the laughter in his head away so that he could concentrate on the war. He opened his eyes, whipping his invisibility cloak out from under his shirt and throwing it over himself, getting an idea of what was going on. Fights were breaking out everywhere, and Nagini's head lie severed from her body. Triumph flooded through him.
Tone it down, please, sir.
Harry arched an unseen eyebrow. Sir? That's just weird.
"I have won the war! Why do you continue to fight? It is pointless!" Voldemort laughed.
Harry felt one of the other deities peeking in.
This guy cheated death for years. Anyone like drama?
For all their revered status, they sure behaved like preschool children with their feelings of 'pick me! pick me!', Harry mused. He stood in the center of the Great Hall, he was now realizing, inside the circle of space that Voldemort had cleared. He whisked the cloak off himself, smirking. "Not as long as I live, Tommy-boy. And I plan on living for a very long time."
How long is that going to be, anyway?
He felt the goddess's amusement as she answered him, A very long time, sir.
Harry was suppressing laughter as Voldemort looked positively bug-eyed. His head rang with the Death deities' evil cackles. "You! Why—don't—you—ever—die!" Each word was punctuated with some rather nasty spells.
Tsk, tsk, tsk. Now that isn't very nice.
The god who said that reminded Harry very much so of a more snarky Snape.
What are you doing?
Oh please, if 'love' is the power he doesn't know about, then do a love-based spell! Not the silly disarming one!
Despite the abrupt crossover from spell to spell mid-word, Prongs still came prancing out of his wand, lowering his antlers and charging head-on into the Killing Curse, meeting it dead-on. The two spells erupted in a wash of love and hate.
Shut up. Didn't do much except knock me on my arse, now did it?
It blocked an unblockable curse. He—it was most definitely a he at the moment—sounded ridiculously smug.
It still knocked me on my arse. Harry took a look around. Along with everyone else, it seems.
See? Very useful.
Harry just laughed a little as he scrambled to his feet, his wand leveled at the groaning Voldemort.
That was when he realized that he felt better than he had in…years, actually. He might not be exactly happy with inadvertently becoming Master of Death (why did Dumbledore give him the blasted Stone?!), but all the gods talking and interacting with him—unbiased, humorous snark that no one in the Wizarding World gave him but so enjoyed, and actually feeling secure in the knowledge that he was welcomed into the (unexpectedly large) family of Death gods. Dying seemed to have rejuvenated him for some unknown reason, fixing all the little aches and pains that he never consciously realized he had.
Honey, if we didn't have some kind of a sense of humor, we would have all killed each other off a very long time ago, Hela said, tone immensely amused.
And, whether you like it or not, you were essentially reborn. Like your phoenix, almost. About a year from now—probably less—you'll be fully immortal.
!!!! was Harry's mental exclamation.
What? Death gods don't just pop out of the woodwork for no apparent reason, Osirius said, laughing. All of us were mortal at one point, and occasionally, die and pass on the traits of the god to another person. Some gods split their attention, hosting in bodies, or make their own. Like me, I only became immortal when I died a couple years ago.
I have friends! I have a girl that I want to get married to! I never wanted to be a Master of Death!
Why did you have the items, then?
The Cloak was a family heirloom, the Wand I was trying to keep out of the hands of Voldemort and didn't realize that I had its ownership until I died, and the Stone was willed to me.
"POOOOTTTTER!" Voldemort yelled.
One of the deities seemed to laugh hysterically. You became Master of Death through CIRCUMSTANCE?!
"Here," Harry said absently. He could feel a maniac grin stretch across his face, and felt faintly disturbed at himself.
Hela snorted with laughter. Sorry, sir, that was some of me bleeding over.
I don't think you death gods understand how truly disturbing that sounds, Harry said to her.
Give it a year's time and you'll be a death god, too, Osiris reminded him.
"Oh, bloody wonderful," Harry muttered aloud.
Voldemort launched into his second attack.
Ooooo, look at all the pretty colors, Coatlicue cooed.
That's not very helpful, Leelee, Izanami said dryly.
Harry got vague impressions that they were both creation goddesses and got along rather well, despite their origins on opposite sides of the world.
Coatlicue huffed. May I, my lord?
Oh my god, you can do whatever you want as long as you don't call me that again! Harry yelped in his head.
There was a lot of laughter in response to that statement, from all the death deities. Harry paid them only half a mind as his vision seemed to double for a moment and he could actually see Coatlicue coming near him. With black irises and hair and tanned skin, she was rather startling and intimidating to look at with her leather armor that wrapped around her torso and a skirt of snakes.
Yes, a skirt of snakes. Harry had to double check to make sure that he was seeing her right.
She got close enough to touch and then seemed to be sucked into him. Harry found himself all of a sudden observing his movements rather than being in control.
"Oh, Tom Riddle!" Harry sang, skipping out of the way of another curse. "I'm not very happy with you!"
Voldemort gave him a wordless snarl and sent a Killing Curse.
If you get me killed now, after I've adjusted to having a bunch of snarky immortals in my head, I will not be very happy with you.
Hela laughed aloud. Be careful, it might tickle. Sir, you've begun the transformation into a death deity. A measley little curse would probably feel like someone blew a feather in your face. Possibly amusing, possibly irritating, and most definitely not lethal.
Now if someone had cut off your head… Hades added.
Shut up, Hades. No one asked for your opinion, Hela snarked back.
Shut up, both of you, Coatlicue said. Or do you want to miss it?
The Killing Curse splashed across Harry's chest, and he sneezed.
Are you kidding me?! Harry yelled incredulously.
Everyone looked at Harry in shock. At least he acted dead for a while before he came back last time. Shrugging it off was just…unfathomable.
Harry sneezed again.
I think you guys forgot that I've been Master of Death for all of fifteen minutes, Harry thought. That's seriously irritating. It's like I have Crookshanks standing on my chest and directing all his fur up my nose.
That's cats for you, Osiris grumbled.
I thought that Egyptians were supposed to like cats? Hades questioned.
Bast is driving me crazy. Her and my two kids. Osiris replied.
That's so weird, Harry said.
He got a definite sense of amusement from the blue god.
"I hate to cut off the fun," Harry said apologetically, "but I kind of need your soul now, before I burn out Harry's."
If you were a normal person, that's what would happen eventually if one of us possessed you. We would burn out your soul. Gods can use souls like wands, basically, Osiris explained. But even fifteen minutes into the transformation, you're quite a bit hardier than a normal human.
He was quite a bit hardier than a normal human long before the transformation started, Osiris, Hades said dryly.
The Great Hall was staring as Harry cheerfully continued between Voldemort's curses.
"Excuse me?!" Hermione shrieked. "Who are you, then?!"
"My apologies," Harry said. "Harry kindly lent me the use of his body for the moment. My name is Coatlicue, I am one of the many death goddesses from your Aztec mythology."
I wasn't planning on telling them that I was toting around thirty plus death deities in my head, but okay, whatever works. Their faces are priceless, Harry said gleefully.
"Hades wanted to come, but his temper tends to get out of hand, and the Reaper's cloak would have turned pink with the amount of cursing around here," Coatlicue said cheerfully. "So I came! Of course, it's a bit cold to be wearing leather and snakes, so I borrowed Harry here."
Harry himself could almost hear Hades bury his head in his hands. He wasn't sure if the god was laughing or groaning at his shot reputation.
Yes, Thantos said.
Harry paused, trying to place him. …Greek?
Well then, if you're the Greek god of Death, what is Hades?
I'm the one that makes sure that those who are dead, stay dead, Hades said dryly. Trust me, it's a thankless job. My title is the Greek god of the Underworld, or god of the dead, not god of death, or the actual act of dying.
The Greeks have too many deities for how long they lasted, Harry remarked.
"What is an Aztec goddess doing here, on the other side of the world?" Hermione said, puzzled.
Harry's face smirked. "Welcoming a new death deity, of course." Then he seemed to reach out and yank at Voldemort, and the magical construct collapsed like a puppet without strings. "Thanks!"
Yes, leave me with explaining that, Coatlicue, thanks, Harry grumbled, and seemed to stumble back into his body.
"…That was a strange experience," Harry said aloud, shaking his head like he was coming up from water.
"Harry—what did you do?!" Hermione shrieked.
"I didn't do anything!" Harry protested.
You gave permission, Coatlicue said helpfully.
"That's not the way that I thought Voldemort would die, admittedly, but that works too, mate," Ron said cheerfully.
That seemed to be the cue to the rest of the masses—oh yeah, Voldemort was dead—and mobbed Harry.
Harry was still protesting that he hadn't done anything.