Chapter 1 : Spare Me another Year
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"And that's a goal for Gryffindor!"
The crowd was buzzing; there was screaming and cheering heard and red and green covered the stands as the students of Hogwarts supported their teams.
James Potter hovered over the Gryffindor stand and closed his eyes, a grin etched onto his face, taking in the houses' excitement for the school's Quidditch final; Gryffindor vs. Slytherin. It was like a drug for James; the games, the rush he felt chasing the snitch, the sound of his name being screamed as he caught the small, golden ball, winning the game. This was what he was famous for.
Opening his eyes, he scanned the pitch, looking for a glimmer of gold. A flash was all he needed for encouragement; he pushed his Nimbus forward and chased it, flying faster than he thought was possible. Or was he just imagining it due to the excitement?
A line of green drew his attention and, on closer inspection, James saw Scorpius Malfoy, Slytherin's seeker, gain speed, catching up to the snitch. It seemed as though they were head to head, either could catch the snitch, but James was closer, he could feel it. The snitch was his. With that thought, James pushed forward, becoming a blur of red.
James heard shouting around him; mostly cheers, but one voice sounded more serious than the other. He couldn't make out who they were or what they were saying. He had no idea where they were coming from either, so James ignored them.
The voice was becoming clearer and he saw Scorpius turn his way.
Why wasn't he going for the snitch?
"What?" James yelled.
Scorpius pointed in front of James, just to his left. "Move, James!"
But it was too late. The bludger hit James in the chest and he heard a horrible cracking noise. The force of impact caused him to fall off his broom and he couldn't breathe. Then everything went black.
James turned frantically from left to right, turning in circles, trying to figure out where he was. Wherever he was, was a blindingly bright white but James had no desire to shut his eyes. It reminded him very much of what his father, Harry, had described when he talked of what happened after Voldemort had 'killed' him, except here looked nothing like Kings Cross, clean or otherwise. It just looked like a... Room. It was completely empty, besides himself; no furniture, no doors, no anything. He was all alone.
James took the opportunity to look at himself; he was also white, the same white as the room; his shirt and his pants looked blinding. He was barefoot and looked paler than he normally was.
He ran a hand through his hair. Either I'm crazy and this is one of those hospital rooms or this is... He looked around again and it seemed to fit his thought... Heaven?
He turned to the new person in the room, though how she got there confused him. She was beautiful, James couldn't deny. Her hair was jet black and cascaded down her back in waves. Her eyes were chocolate brown, warm and soothing. Her dress was white like his and she was also barefoot and pale.
Suits her though, he thought. There was something about her, though. James couldn't think what it could be, but he didn't like it. He felt cold.
"Who are you?" he asked.
She smiled softly, "I have many names."
"What are you?" he corrected.
James froze; if she was Death and this was indeed Heaven, as he'd thought, then he must be...
"Am I dead?"
She was still smiling and James didn't like it; it wasn't cruel but it wasn't nice either, it was just there, as if that was how she looked all the time. "Yes."
A shiver washed over him but it was gone in an instant, leaving a strange sense of calm. And that scared James more than anything. It must be this place.
"You don't remember?" James could have sworn she looked confused for a second.
He thought, "I was hit by a bludger and I fell of my broom."
She nodded, "the bludger broke your ribs, constricting your heart and lungs; you couldn't breathe and passed out. The force of which you hit the ground fractured your skull and broke numerous other bones and a piece of rib broke off piercing your heart; you bled out. That's what killed you, though any one of your injuries would have ended your life eventually." She turned to face him, her face passive, "it was quite quick."
James felt like he was going to be sick for only a second before the sensation left and he was calm again.
"What is this place?"
She looked around, "a sort of limbo. This is where people come to decide."
"Yes," she nodded. "Do you want to move on, cross over, or do you want to stay on earth, with the living, as a ghost?"
"Can't I stay on earth alive?" he asked desperately. He was only eighteen; there was still so much in life he wanted to do. He hadn't even graduated Hogwarts yet. He couldn't leave everything behind; his family, his friends, his life. James didn't want to die.
"It doesn't work that way, James."
"You said you were Death, you can make it work!" he shouted. "Not that I truly believe what you say," he said as an afterthought. "I expected Death to be a skeleton donned in a cloak with that long axe."
He saw a flash of anger in her eyes, "silly stories you humans made up. I can take any form I please."
"Do anything you want to, I bet."
"Of course," she answered, proudly.
"Then bring me back," James demand. Then he sighed and pleaded. "Please. It's not my time. I want to go back to my family."
James did not cry, but right now it seemed impossible not to. But he could feel no tears. "I'll make a deal," he all but whispered, running out of ideas. "Just give me a few years."
He had barely blinked and she was so close, he could feel her. Her breath was cold against his face. "What will you give me?"
She held his face in her hand, studying him, and she moved closer. For a second, James was sure she would kiss him. Then she moved back, her hand now to his chest. "You have a year then I get you."
She nodded again, and James wanted to hurt her, and that smile was back. "A year is long enough."
Long enough for what?
"And what will you do with me?" He had to know, had to ask. "Will I come back here?"
"No," she replied. "You won't get to move on and you won't get to stay as a ghost. You'll stay with me... Forever. Forever's a long time, do you want to reconsider?"
"I'll take my chances," James said adamantly. "How will I know when my time is up?"
"You'll die the way you died today, only it'll be much slower; every injury will happen slowly and your last days will be painful." She cocked her head to the left, her hands behind her back. “That should give you enough time."
"Enough time for what?"
She looked at him contentedly. "To say good bye." James gulped. "Are you sure you want to do this?" He nodded. "Can you put your family through that; let them get you back just so they can lose you a year later?"
James hesitated before answering. "Take me back."
The room began to darken, as if the light was running out, and Death began to fade. "Wait!" he shouted. "Will I remember this when I wake up?"
"When you're ready?"
Then everything went black.
The first thing James heard was a number of concerned voices. His mother was one, his father another, though his brother, Albus, and Scorpius stood out above the rest. "He's moving, I swear it."
"There was no pulse," Albus tried not to shout, though there was no anger in his voice, only sadness.
James tried to open his eyes. "Look. Watch his eyes."
He could feel his brother stare and succeeded in opening his eyes. "James!"
"What happened?" he asked quietly.
"You tell us," Albus demanded. "You weren't breathing a minute ago.”
James rolled his eyes and sat up slowly. "Obviously I was."
"No," Harry answered from his right. "A fall like should have killed you, it did kill you, you had no pulse. But now your awake."
"You sound disappointed," James retorted. Though he could tell James was joking, Harry spoke seriously, "of course not, nothing is making me happier than seeing you awake. I'm just confused."
James shrugged, "I guess I'm just lucky."
"Lucky?" Albus pulled a face. "It's an absolute miracle. Someone up there must like you."
"Yeah," James said, feeling weird for a second before the feeling disappeared. "What about the game?" he asked, standing up fully. His mother, Ginny, chose the moment to hug him, squeezing him tightly, afraid to let him go.
"Time out," Rose told him, moving in-between her two friends. "Scorpius chose to try and help you instead of catching the snitch."
"Why?" James asked.
"Wouldn't be fair if I caught it just because you were hurt, would it?" Scorpius said, smirking a little. "I tried to warn you. I didn't have time to push you out the way."
"I know," James said. "It's not your fault. Besides, I'm fine, so I say we get on with the game. This is my last Quidditch final before I graduate; I intend to win."
"Are you sure you want to do this?"
James turned quickly; he'd heard those words before today, he was sure of it. "What?"
"Are you sure you still want to play?" Harry asked again.
"Oh. Yes, I do." James looked up at the sky, sure it was a little brighter and whispered, "it's what I'm here for."