Death stares down at the soul standing before him. It was a male human, once – magical, to judge by the flare to his light. “Yes?” they say, raising a deliberate eyebrow down at him.
The soul squares his shoulders – a remarkable feat, considering the obvious fear in his eyes. “I want you to protect my son,” he says.
“Hilarious,” Death says drily. They wave what now looks like a skeleton hand in a dismissive gesture. “Why would I do that?”
“He has your cloak.”
Death straightens. “Excuse me?” They don’t wait for an answer, gliding down from what looks to be a throne. “That would mean…” Humming softly, they touch a bony finger to the souls’ cheek, tilting his head upwards. Meeting his gaze, Death delves deep into his conscience.
Everything settles into place.
“James Potter,” they murmur, stepping back from him. “Descendant of Ignotus Peverell, temporary holder of the Cloak of Death.” They crack a smile and savor the way their bones bend strangely at the move. James Potter, in his defense, barely winces. “Though you have called it by a different name, have you not? The Invisibility Cloak. A fitting name.” Tilting their head, they search through the knowledge they took. Then they hum, sinking back into their… throne. How boring some human minds were, to not be able to imagine something more interesting than that…
they allow themselves to bask in the memory of the Christians who had imagined them as their God or their Devil. It was fun to have skin for once. Ah, and to see their terror or joy, of course.
“Your world is in a terrible state,” Death says, twirling their staff between long fingers, “and usually I would not care.” They snap their fingers closed around the staff and glance over at James Potter, leveling him with a heavy look. “You, however, were on your path to becoming my Master. Had it not been for this… Dark Lord,” – they say the name with scorn – “you would eventually find yourself with all three Hallows. And your son…” Death chuckles softly, pleased to note James Potter’s shudder. “I shall give you a choice.”
Death stands once again, making a sweeping motion with their staff. Mostly for show, but the light crackles around it, and soon the room with no walls darkens, leaving only Death and James Potter highlighted. They’re surrounded by mist, floating and flowing shapelessly around, waiting only for Death’s command. “Your son is destined to greatness,” they begin. A young shape runs through the mist, a distant echo of children’s laughter ringing through the air. “Shall you refuse my offer, his death will be soon and brutal.”
The shape fades.
James Potter looks at Death with wide and terrified eyes. “What – what is the offer?”
Death carefully keeps their eyes trained on him. The shape returns, older now, moving slowly through the mist. “As long as some who love him are dead, he shall return from death as long as they deem intelligent.” The shape staggers, fading to red as it falls to its knees. James Potter takes half a step forward, then clenches his hands and keeps still. “They may part with a sliver of their soul so it keeps the body and spirit sown together.” A soul shard, light blue of color, settles across the shape’s shoulders. The redness to it retreats and it stands once again, standing defiantly, staring bravely at something neither Death nor James Potter can see.
Hm… curious. The images are not purely controlled by Death. The boy will meet a mighty foe – greater than any of them anticipates.
“He will carry with him some part of the shard he got.” The figure in the mist raises a hand, and it glows the pale blue of the soul.
James Potter swallows. “This… part, what is it? What does it… consist of?”
“It all depends on who and how much was given – and how much was taken.” Death gives another small, dangerous smile. James Potter glances at them just in time to see it and hurries to turn away. “It might be knowledge – of magic, of history, of language. Anything, really. It might be experience, or a taught skill, or simply mental age.”
“Will it… change him?”
Death would roll their eyes if this form permitted it. “Of course it will. You are changing the very fabric of his life.” They recognize James Potter’s fear, however. “It will never change who he is, however. His personality, his core, and his deepest desires will remain unchanged.”
James Potter’s shoulders sag in relief. Then he straightens. “And the price?”
A wise man. Death smiles, cold and dangerous. “His humanity.”
The figure falls to its knees again, struggling against invisible restraints, twisting and twitching. It fades to an ugly green-like yellow, remaining hunched over, its arms and legs longer, back strangely shaped.
James Potter lets out a choked gasp. “But how will – ”
Death holds up a hand to silence him. “You humor me. It will only enter his body after his first death – and I shall let him control it to some degree.” The figure in the mist flinches, chokes, and then heaves to its feet again. The yellow twists into a green-blue shade. It looks human once again, except for the glint of yellow eyes. “Though it will forever remain part of him, and it shall color his every move.”
There’s a moment of silence. James Potter stares at the figure.
Then turns back to Death. “There is nothing else?”
“There is nothing else.”
James Potter closes his eyes. “I accept.”
Death thumps their staff against the floor. The mist is sucked away, as though it was never there in the first place. “It has been done. You may return to your rightful place.” They know he will go to the Mirror, will go to see his child and anyone else who might remain in the charred coal and smoke. Perhaps he has yet to even realize his love has joined him in death.
James Potter inclines his head. “Alright.” He turns to leave through the massive doors he himself conjured, but before he leaves, he turns back to them. “Wait! What – what kind of creature will he be?”
Death smiles, and it’s not a kind smile. “A demon.”
James Potter pales, but doesn’t comment.
The doors close behind him.
Death stands, bones breaking and molding as the room shifts and turns around them. They sprout feathers of fire and amber, soaring up to perch on the branch shaping up in the tree growing on the riverbank. Closing their eyes, they chirp gently, carefully tucking in their wings.
Time will show whether the world requires their interference again, but for now…
For now, they relax.