Harry Potter, Squatter
AN: I had some time off and a couple of long weekends, so my lucky readers get two chapters today. :)
Hades didn't stay too long after that. He seemed pleased that Melinoe seemed willing to reconnect at some point, and made his excuses to leave.
Harry wished that the Lord of the Underworld wasn't still mad at him, though. Then again, he could understand why. He just wished it were different, that's all. Hopefully, things could go back to normal at some point – Hades was awesome and so was the Underworld.
"Don't worry, Harry," Hestia said as she stood up. "I will have another chat with Hades. I'm sure things can be worked out after he calms down a bit."
Melinoe snorted. Hestia shot her a dirty look. The Goddess of Ghosts bowed her head and pressed her lips together.
"He will eventually calm down," Hestia reassured him. She patted his shoulder. "I am very proud of you for helping Melinoe. It is a nice thing to help others, especially at the detriment to yourself. It would have been easy to ignore her plight and maintain your relationship with Hades."
"I just couldn't ignore it," Harry said.
"And that is what makes you a hero," Hestia replied, proudly, making his blush spectacularly. He wasn't a hero, and definitely didn't feel like one, either! The Goddess of Home and Hearth laughed softly. "And now you know how I feel when you proclaim me to be the best goddess ever."
Harry pouted at her, making her laugh again. "I should go," she said. "I will go and see if Hades has calmed down a bit."
Melinoe locked her lips together once more, to refrain from vocalizing her disbelief.
"Thanks, Hestia," Harry whispered.
She gave him a hug. "Don't worry, Harry. I will do my best to help," she told him, then released him. She turned to her niece. "Melinoe, I'm glad to see things are finally improving for you."
"Thanks, Aunt Hestia," the Goddess of Ghosts replied, honestly touched. "And, you know… thanks for sticking up for me. And visiting me. In the past, I mean."
"Even if it did very little good, I had to try," Hestia replied in a self-conscious manner. "Anyway, I should go. Have a good night, Harry, Melinoe."
"Night, Aunt Hestia," Melinoe replied.
"Night Hestia!" Harry said. The goddess nodded to the both of them, strolled to the fire, and disappeared.
Harry and Melinoe both sat in silence for a few moments, before the Goddess of Ghosts let out a loud breath. "Well, that was an eventful evening!" she said cheerfully. Harry did note, however, that her cheerfulness seemed a bit forced.
He appreciated the effort. "Yeah," he answered, doing his best to match her apparent mood.
"Hey, I promised to take you haunting with me tonight," she said, turning to him. "Wanna go?"
Harry grinned, not nearly having to fake his upbeat mood. "Sure," he agreed. "Sounds like fun."
"Great!" Melinoe cheered, jumping off the couch. "Let's go!"
"Ehm," Harry said, stopping her. "We're not going to hurt anybody, right?"
The goddess grinned, and turned to pat his shoulder. "Nope, we're not going to hurt anybody." She seemed to consider something. "Tell you what, I might introduce you to someone if he's in. I hope he's in, anyway."
Harry's grin widened. That sounded like fun!
"Come on, Kiddo," Melinoe said, throwing one arm around his shoulders and guiding him out. "I've parked around the corner."
"We'll be back later, Helios!" Harry greeted the statue as they left out the front doors. Just as the Goddess of Ghosts had said, she'd parked around the corner.
"Whoa," Harry breathed when he took in her car. "That car is awesome!"
"Isn't she just?" Melinoe asked as she opened the driver's side door, before leaning over to unlock the passenger side door for Harry.
"Form the time when people built real cars out of real metal," the boy said, having opened the door but not yet coming in; instead he just stared at the beautiful red car for a few moments longer. The red-and-white paint job matched the polished chrome of the fenders, and the fins at the back gave it a unique 1950's look that Harry just loved.
"You coming or am I going to need a mop to clean the drool?" Melinoe teased.
He flushed slightly and sat down. The interior was fire-engine red and he sunk into the plush bench seats. "No seatbelts, either," he said with a wide grin.
"She's built by mortals back in the day you were supposed to be responsible for yourself," Melinoe said with a wide smile. "If you killed yourself in a car, it was your own fault."
Harry laughed in reply, and Melinoe started the engine. "She's a 1958 Plymouth Fury. I love her," the goddess said as she started the engine. It produced a deep note that resembled Nemmy's purr late at night.
"She's awesome," Harry said as they pulled out. If Melinoe called her car a 'she', he was going to do the same.
"I call her Christine," she said conversationally as they left Olympus. "Me being the Goddess of Ghosts, she's more-than-slightly haunted, as you can expect."
Now it made sense why Melinoe called her car a 'she', Harry reasoned silently as he nodded in response to the goddess' comments. "She's a bit possessive of me, wants me all to herself and all that," Melinoe went on. "Thankfully, I'm the goddess and she's the car, so we understand each other."
The engine's sound changed subtly, and if Harry didn't know any better he'd say the car was pouting audibly rather than visibly.
"She's awesome," Harry repeated as he patted the dash. "She probably just wants to make sure nobody hurts you, that's all."
The car's engine purred.
"Huh," Melinoe said, looked at Harry's action and listening to the engine. "I don't think she would ever take to anyone besides me."
Harry laughed. "I get her. She's your car and wants to make sure you're alright. I'm your friend and as long as I don't hurt you, she doesn't hurt me." He patted the dash again. "Right, Christine?"
The engine's note changed into a curious uptick that definitely was an agreement.
Melinoe laughed. "That's just like you, make friends with the haunted car of the Goddess of Ghosts."
"Jealous?" Harry asked teasingly.
"Hah!" Melinoe laughed. "Happy you and she get along. She's been one of the few happy things in my life for quite some time."
The fog lifted and they drive past the limits of a large city.
"Where are we?" Harry asked curiously.
"New Orleans," Melinoe replied cheerfully. "One of the few cities that actually like having me around!"
Harry laughed, and the Goddess of Ghosts went on, "We're going to one of my favorite cemeteries."
With the sun already having set, the atmosphere was a bit spooky – just as Harry liked it. Melinoe expertly parked Christine and the two got out and walked.
"Cypress Grove?" Harry asked. "The entrance looks more Egyptian than Greek."
"Exactly," Melinoe agreed cheerfully as they walked through the Egyptian-revival style front gates.
Harry looked at her, but she didn't elaborate.
The moment they crossed into the cemetery proper, Harry felt something shift. It was as if the city itself, and all its sounds and lights, became muted. Background filling.
He looked around, halfway expecting ominous music and dead bodies clawing their way out of earthy graves.
Melinoe, on the other hand, sighed and relaxed. Her shoulders lost their tense set and she closed her eyes while drawing a deep breath. "Oh that feels good," she said.
Harry looked at her for a moment, then shook his head. He liked a bit of spooky and creepy, but Melinoe's reaction was a bit much, he thought. Then again, she was the Goddess of Ghosts, so maybe this was expected?
"This is like my home ground," the goddess in question explained. "And he's home, making it feel doubly good."
"He?" Harry asked, curiously. "And why would him being home make you feel better here?"
Melinoe grinned wider, then seemed to turn expectingly to thin air.
Harry remained quiet, wondering why she was staring at nothing, as if expecting it to – oh.
Smoke gathered for a moment, and a lanky figure stepped into visibility. He appeared to be around Melinoe's apparent age, 16-17 in mortals years, but Harry could feel the pressure of age surrounding the newcomer. He was dressed in a leather jacket and a pair of jeans that seemed to fit him despite the agelessness of his aura.
"Lord Anubis," Melinoe greeted respectfully, dipping her head deeply. "It has been far too long."
"Melinoe," Anubis greeted back with a tiny smile. "It really has been. And who is your companion?" he asked, looking at Harry.
"Lord Anubis, all me to introduce Harry Potter, the mortal who freed me from my cave. Harry, this is Lord Anubis, Egyptian God of Burial and Embalming, the God of Cemeteries and Mummification, the Lord of Funerals and Death."
Harry did his best to give a respectful bow, while inwardly adding the Egyptian Pantheon to the list of pantheons that he now had personal knowledge of. "Nice to meet you," he said.
The Egyptian god seemed amused, then turned to Melinoe. "Freed you from your cave, did he?" the god asked.
"Strode in, told my Father he was disappointed, grabbed my hand, and just… yanked me away," the Goddess of Ghosts confirmed.
Anubis turned to face Harry again. "That was very brave," he said.
"It's just that… I grew up in a cupboard. Mel growing up in a cave sounded way too similar to my life, and I couldn't just leave her like that," Harry answered.
"Many have in the past, and just as many would have," Anubis answered, but his smile widened. Harry found that he liked this god. He seemed cool.
"Yeah, the kid's cool," Melinoe added. "And you should have seen him earlier, he tried to close the door in my father's face when he came looking for me. I doubt anyone ever had the gall for that; Father definitely looked floored."
Anubis' smile indicated amusement. "Very true," he replied. "It definitely sounded like something I should have witnessed." He seemed to enjoy the idea for a moment. "So, any particular reason you are dropping by?" he asked.
"The kid and I had a rough evening. Father's none too pleased about things, so I thought I'd see how my favorite Egyptian deity is doing."
Anubis definitely looked amused at that one. "Flattery, Melinoe?" he asked. "Besides, I'm pretty sure I am also the only Egyptian Deity that you are in regular contact with."
"Doesn't make it any less true," Melinoe replied gleefully. "Harry, Lord Anubis is cool. He's kinda-sorta my Father's equivalent to the Egyptians, but he's not as stuffy."
"What damning praise," Anubis teased, looking for all intents and purposes as if he wanted to burst into laughter. "Not as stuffy as Hades. I feel on top of the world," he added deadpan.
"Mister Hades is cool!" Harry protested. "True, he's not that outgoing, but he's still nice. I just wish he could get things over with and go back to normal."
Anubis and Melinoe shared a very amused glance; apparently they didn't think that was likely any time soon.
"So you take care of the dead, Mister Anubis?" Harry asked, deciding that a change of topic was necessary.
"I ensure all have the afterlife they deserve," Anubis answered calmly. "As people die, they pass through the Underworld, where their hearts are weighed against the Feather of Maat – also known as the Feather of Truth."
For a moment, Harry thought of Kukulkan and his penchant for human hearts. He'd visited the Mayan Deity some weeks back, he was looking incredibly healthy and was having a blast entertaining kids and scaring their parents.
"You mean, you take their hearts?" Harry asked.
Anubis looked amused. "The metaphorical heart," he explained. "In Egypt, the soul has five parts; like a hand with five fingers. The ba is a mortal's personality, it can leave the body while dreaming, or stay around as a ghost after death."
"Love those," Melinoe interjected with a grin.
"… yes," Anubis said, looking at her for a moment, before returning to Harry. "The second part is ren, the name. It is the name given to you at birth. It will live as long as it is spoken. The worst punishment in Ancient Egypt was to have your name removed from where it was written down, as it meant it would be forgotten and die."
"Oh," Harry said. "That sounds bad."
"It is," Anubis said. "Without a ren, the body may still exist, but there would be no mind to guide it. It would be empty of meaning. The third part of the soul is ka, the life force. The ka leaves your body upon the moment of death."
The young demigod nodded obediently. Honestly, this was far more interesting than some of the history Athena made him study.
"The ka can also be used to power magic. For obvious reasons, that is very dangerous," Anubis instructed. "The fourth part of the soul is called ib, the heart. It is the record of the soul's deeds, good and evil, lies and truths. It is the ib that gets weighed against the feather of truth. Fail, and your soul is devoured by Ammit, the Devourer of Souls. Pass, and you proceed further along the journey to the afterlife."
"Oh," Harry said, thinking that he was happy he had a Valkyrie to take him to Valhalla. The Egyptian afterlife sounded like it would be a problem getting into, especially since there didn't appear to be any second chances.
Anubis smiled amusedly. "The final part of the soul is called sheut, the shadow of the soul. It is like a silhouette of the soul, containing a copy of all its needs and desires."
"Whoa," Harry said.
"Needless to say, gaining possession of a part of a person – or a god's – soul leaves one with considerable leverage over that person or god," Anubis explained. "Which is why these things are guarded incredibly well."
The young demigod nodded, that made a lot of sense. Suddenly, he thought of something. "Mister Anubis, you said that the ren lives as long as it's name is spoken, right?"
Anubis nodded. "Yes," he agreed, sounding curious as to where Harry was going with this.
"Does that mean that guys like Tutankhamun are still alive?" he asked.
"In the afterlife, yes, it does," Anubis confirmed. "There is more to it, of course. He completed the journey through the underworld, and his heart was judged fairly."
"Does that mean the poor guy had a lot of trouble for those few thousand years where his name was all but forgotten, until his tomb was discovered?" Harry asked, suddenly remembering a little factoid he'd learned from Athena's books. "Because I can imagine poor Tutankhamun, sitting in a quiet corner of the afterlife, practically dead, until suddenly everyone knows his name and everyone speaks of him."
Anubis looked like he wanted to laugh, but managed to restrain himself. "That is somewhat true," he replied, obviously enjoying the fact that this mortal was quick on the uptake. "The burial practices include the protection of the physical body, as it is the body that will live on in the afterlife. But, just as I explained earlier, you need a ren to live in your body, or it will be just an empty husk. So, while having your name forgotten won't hurt you physically, it will hurt your ren in the afterlife."
Harry nodded thoughtfully.
"Come on, let's change the subject or this one will be asking questions all evening," Melinoe said to Anubis while putting an arm around Harry's shoulders.
"I don't mind," Anubis answered casually. "He seems… respectful."
"I just love learning new things, that's all," Harry said, quietly pouting.
"And that is a good thing. Perhaps you should search out Thoth next," the Egyptian Lord of Funerals recommended.
"He's the God of Wisdom, right?" Harry asked.
"Exactly," the Egyptian deity confirmed. Melinoe groaned.
"Please stop encouraging him, Lord Anubis," she asked. "He's far too nerdy as it is."
Anubis looked amused. Harry looked conflicted. Melinoe laughed.
"Let's have some fun instead," the Goddess of Ghosts said. "Lord Anubis, how about our usual game?"
"Game?" Harry asked, perking up.
Anubis smiled faintly while shaking his head. "'Who encountered the weirdest deceased' again, Melinoe?" he asked.
Melinoe nodded enthusiastically. "Come on, it's great fun!" she encouraged, while Harry felt slightly disappointed that it wasn't a game he could play. Then again, weird dead people could be fun, too, he supposed.
"Very well," Anubis said with a grin. "I believe I will win."
Melinoe grinned widely. "That sounds like fighting words," she replied.
"It is a statement of fact," Anubis stated. "A deceased appeared before me, wearing a colander as headgear."
The Goddess of Ghosts blinked. "A colander? Really?"
The Egyptian God of the de Dead nodded seriously. "He claimed to be a Pastafarian."
"I didn't know Rastafarians wore colanders," Melinoe admitted. "Why does that mean you win, though?"
"Not a Rastafarian, a Pastafarian," Anubis answered with emphasis. "He was a disciple of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster."
Melinoe snorted, tried to hold in a laugh, then laughed anyway. "Really?" she asked, chortling.
Anubis nodded in that amused fashion of his. "Oddly, he wasn't shocked when he appeared before me. He seemed more… excited… than anything. Apparently, while he was an ardent Pastafarian, the entire religion appears to not take itself seriously. It is quite odd, and I didn't understand it entirely, but at least he didn't become belligerent."
"Right," Melinoe said. "You win, indeed." She turned to Harry. "Mortals are weird."
Harry grinned back. "So are gods, Mel," he answered.
"True," the goddess admitted, thinking about the various deities in the Greek pantheon. Anubis just nodded thoughtfully, similarly thinking about the Egyptian deities an their penchant for appearing with animal heads.
"He's nice," Harry said as they were walking back to where Christine was parked.
Melinoe nodded. "It's too bad he's limited to where he can appear," she said. When harry gave her a curious look, she explained further, "Egyptian gods are further away then we are. It means they can't fully materialize unless they have a host to bond with. Without a host, they're limited to areas that are deeply linked with their domains, like Anubis and a cemetery. Without a host, he can only appear on places of great death."
"Oh," Harry said. That made sense when he thought about the things Marduk had been teaching him. Greek gods were better known than the ancient Egyptian ones, so they likely had less people believing in them. "So they're like fad-"
"No," Melinoe interjected. "Don't ever allude to a god fading. It's like wishing them dead."
"Oh," Harry repeated. "Sorry."
Melinoe waved it off as they reached the car.
Putting his hand on the smooth-as-silk finish, Harry looked over the hood as Melinoe walked around the car. "Can I drive?" he asked.
The Goddess of Ghosts eyed him for a moment, looking surprised. "No," she answered decisively. "Nobody drives Christine but me. Besides, she's likely to kill you if you did."
"Oh," Harry replied, momentarily dejected.
"Can you even drive?" she asked, curious, looking over the car from next to the driver's side door.
"Sure!" Harry piped up. "Hermes taught me. It's great, but I don't often get a chance to."
Melinoe snorted. "Tell you what," she said, tossing him the keys. "Let's let Christine decide. If she lets you in and lets you start the engine, you can drive. With me around, she's not likely to run you over or electrocute you or something."
Harry blinked as his demigod reflexes caught the keys without him even realizing it. "Sure!" he said enthusiastically as they rounded the car.
As they crossed paths, he hugged her. Not the quick-and-short sort of hug he'd given her before, but an actual honest-to-Hestia hug. Hugging the Goddess of Ghosts was an interesting experience, her domain making it clear just how much past history he was dragging along, just how many Ghosts of the Past haunted him.
"Thanks, Mel," he said, shaking off the sensation of being wrapped in her domain.
Melinoe froze for a moment, something Harry had completely expected. He'd frozen when Hestia first hugged him. Artie had frozen when he'd first hugged her. Melinoe too, would get used to it, he reasoned. And maybe one day, Zoë would, too.
"You're welcome, kiddo," she said, as he released her. He gave her a wide smile, then made his way to the driver's side of the car.
"Hi Christine," Harry said as he reached the door and patted the roof. "We're both friends of Mel's, right?" he asked.
The car did not respond, not that Harry expected her to.
"Please don't kill me," he whispered as he bent closer to the car. Carefully he lined up the key with the lock of the door and slid it in.
The car still did not respond.
Taking that as a good thing, Harry unlocked the door. The door lock popped. "So far so good," he said, grinning as he pulled the door open.
He leaned across to open the passenger door for Melinoe, then sat himself straight behind the steering wheel.
Christine being a 1950's car, the bench seat didn't really allow for adjustments in height so Harry had to sit at the edge of the seat to be able to look over the steering wheel.
"We both like Mel, right?" he asked the car. "I promise I'll be careful. Will you let me drive?"
No response from the car.
"Please?" Harry asked. "You know I'll only drive if Mel is there and says it's okay."
There was a slight hesitation, then the engine kicked over.
Melinoe laughed. "Hah! You didn't even need the key!" she chortled. "Better use it anyway to unlock the steering wheel, it's a trick I could see her pull on you."
The engine sounded pouty as Harry slipped the key into the ignition and turned it, carefully making sure he didn't hit the starter by mistake as the engine was already running.
Ten minutes later, he had the biggest smile on his face as he drove along.
Melinoe, on the other hand, was eyeing him with annoyance. "Just what," she asked acidly, "are you doing?"
Harry, still smiling widely, turned to her. "Driving," he answered.
The Goddess of Ghosts pinched the bridge of her nose. "You're driving like an old mortal's grandmother," she stated, listening to the powerful engine barely going above idle and watching the needle of the speedometer indicating they were doing about ten miles an hour under the speed limit.
Said speed limit being 35 miles an hour in this part of New Orleans.
"I don't want to get a speeding ticket, or run the risk of a ding in Christine's beautiful paint job," he defended himself.
Melinoe sighed again. "Christine can repair herself, and I'm a goddess. The Mist will take care of any cops chasing us for speeding tickets," she answered. "Go for it."
Harry pressed the accelerator just enough to get them to the speed limit, but not over it. "Shouldn't we follow the law?" he asked when he saw her motioning for him to speed up.
Melinoe simply laughed. "Says the ten-year-old driving a car."
Harry gave her a good pout. She knew what he meant!
The Goddess of Ghosts just kept laughing. "I'm a goddess. Mortal laws don't apply to me. Think of them as a bunch of silly little suggestions to ignore at will!"
Harry silently thought that he was a mortal himself, but refrained from saying so.
"You chicken?" she asked with a laugh, adding clucking noises for emphasis.
He gave her a filthy look, which only caused her to laugh harder. "I don't think Hestia would like it if I broke the law," he said. "Even more than I already am, I mean," he added.
Melinoe eyed him for a moment, then nodded. "Aunt Hestia's great and all that, but sometimes you just have to go for things," she said. "Haven't you ever done something she wouldn't approve of?"
Harry thought about the one-drink-rule that he sometimes circumvented. He nodded silently.
"Great!" Melinoe said. "The right-hand pedal is the throttle. Now use it."
Harry grinned as he did as she told him and deployed the go-faster-pedal.
Christine's engine sounded like it was saying 'finally' as the car shot forward.
"There we go!" Melinoe whooped when they crossed twice the speed limit and were making headway to tripling it.
"Whee!" Harry whooped as he flicked the wheel and basically threw the car into a drift around a corner, somehow able to do so with control that was so perfect he even kept it in the lane.
"Whoo!" Melinoe joined. "Nice one!"
Christine's throaty engine seemed to agree as the needle crossed triple-speed-limit and kept climbing.
Behind them, blue flashing lights and the sound of a police siren indicated that someone wasn't having as much fun as they were.
Melinoe looked over her shoulder.
"Wait," Harry asked, now thoroughly in the moment and enjoying every second of it. "I want to see if I can shake him off."
The Goddess of Ghosts laughed. "You're way more fun like this, kiddo!" she cheered. "Have fun!"
Harry's smile was epic as his foot mashed the pedal to the floor. Christine's engine roared. The speedometer, being of 1950's make, gave up after and pegged itself to the 'fast' end.
Harry flicked the car around another turn, Christine drifting around the bend, with perfect a four-wheel drift, completely in her lane. He was in perfect control, balancing the car's power, speed, weight, and center of gravity on sheer instinct.
It was as if he and Christine were one being, the tiniest movement of the steering wheel enough to tell her what to do. All sensations fell away as he fell into the here and now, forgetting to breathe as man and machine became one.
Behind them, the police car either gave up or was unable to follow as they drifted around yet another corner.
Harry hardly took notice, his entire being focused on the sheer exhilaration of speed and control.
Unfortunately, more lights and sirens came from side roads, which broke him from his flow. Harry somewhat disappointedly noted that the police had the rather unsportsmanlike advantage of using radios to call in reinforcements.
He let off the accelerator. "Calling for help is cheating," he pouted.
Melinoe laughed, and made a rather rude hand-gesture. The flashing lights and wailing sirens cut off. "Be careful now, I made us more than a bit invisible. Aunt Hestia will kill me if you run some mortal over or cause an accident."
Harry quickly eased up further and cut down to about one-and-a-half times the speed limit, suddenly feeling as if he were standing still. Christine's engine sounded like she agreed with that assessment. "I think Hestia would be more than a bit upset with me, too," he answered.
Melinoe grinned at the understatement. "Hey, let's get some food," she suddenly said, pointing to a restaurant across the road. "There's an Applebee's over there."
"Okay," Harry said, flicking the steering wheel. Christine careened across the road, and came to a dead stop, perfectly parallel parked between two other cars, next to the curb without touching it.
Melinoe whistled despite herself. "Nice one," she complimented, before grinning in a teasing manner. "You could have just pulled into the parking area over there, though," she added, motioning to the entrance of said parking.
"Oh," Harry said. "Oops."
Melinoe snorted. "Don't sweat it. Christine loves a good run."
The car's engine definitely agreed, before shutting off in a rather pouting manner, definitely sulking about its fun being over.
Harry turned the key and extracted it from the ignition before patting the steering wheel. "It was a really fun drive," he said, more to Christine than to Melinoe.
"Give me those," the Goddess of Ghosts said, still teasingly, yanking the keys from his hand. "Christine's mine."
Harry laughed as he checked the mirror before opening the door. "I know, Mel. I know," he said.
Harry returned from his weekly lesson with Athena. As usual, he was pretty wrung out as the Goddess of Wisdom pulled no punches during her lessons. Somehow, she always found the exact amount of pressure to make him perform at the peak of his ability, yet without inflicting damage on him.
Feeling somewhat better after the short walk from her temple to Helios' temple, he waved at Christine, parked next to the temple. "Hi Christine!"
The car flashed her headlights in greeting. He grinned and gave her a thumbs-up, before waving and walking to the temple itself.
Feeling like smiling again after his short encounter with Melinoe's haunted car, he pushed the front door open and slipped in.
"Hi Helios," he greeted. The partially-faded deity's presence wrapped around him and gave him a hearty 'welcome back', followed by a minor note of warning.
"Oh? What's wrong?" he asked.
The warning shifted, making clear there was no element of danger but merely a head's up.
Harry grinned up at the large statue. "It's good we understand each other," he said. The presence squeezed him in a hugging sensation, then gently patted his back in a sign of 'go in'.
Following Helios' advice, he walked into the living area, to find that Melinoe was talking with someone. The Goddess of Ghosts had changed her coloring, now developing red highlights in her hair and a deep burgundy outfit that seemed to have walked out of the 1920's, full of lace and velvet.
The unknown woman, on the other hand, looked very similar to Melinoe's true appearance. Her left side was incredibly pretty, wrapped in an ermine cloak that shimmered like snow carried by the wind.
Her right side was withered, with a skeletal hand and leg, patches of blue ice covering decayed flesh, rotten teeth and a milky-white eye.
"There he is!" the Goddess of Ghosts said, excitedly, to her guest. "Hel, meet Harry. Harry, this is Hel, Norse Goddess of the Dead."
The goddess in question eyed him, as if waiting for his reaction. He smiled at the Norse goddess, approached her, and stuck out his hand. "Hi Miss Hel, it's nice to meet you," he said politely, completely ignoring her appearance. She looked kinda-sorta like Melinoe did, after all. Which meant she looked just as cool as Melinoe did.
Hel seemed surprised at that for a moment, then stuck out her withered right hand to accept the handshake. The look on her face clearly showed she expected him to have a reaction.
He didn't see why, and simply accepted the hand and shook it.
"I can see why you are the talk of the pantheons," Hel finally said. "You are unusual."
Harry smiled at her. "Thanks," he answered, feeling flattered. "Why am I unusual?"
Hel stared at him.
"She expected you to react to her appearance," Melinoe tattled with a giggle.
"Oh," Harry said, looking from Hel to Melinoe and back to the Norse goddess. "Why? I mean, you look cool and all, but you sort-of have the same theme going as Melinoe."
Hel shook her head. "As I said, unusual."
Harry pouted. "It's everyone else who's weird. You two look great!"
The Norse goddess looked like she didn't know how to respond to that.
"The kid's so clueless it's cute," Melinoe said with a laugh. "And he's pretty fun, when he's not working himself to death."
Harry turned his pout to the Goddess of Ghosts. "I don't work myself to death!" he protested.
"U-huh," Melinoe answered sarcastically. "Why don't you tell us where you were before you arrived?"
Wanting to get away from the subject entirely, he desperately looked for a subject change. He eyed the coffee table.
The empty coffee table.
"I had a session with Miss Athena," Harry answered completely honestly, then jumped at the chance. "Did you offer your guest something to eat or drink, at least?" he asked in turn.
For a moment, Melinoe looked down, before blinking. "hey! I am the goddess! You don't get me to make me feel guilty!"
Hel laughed, and it sounded like she rarely had the opportunity to do so.
"Then don't be rude to your guests," Harry scolded with a grin, before turning to the Norse goddess. "Would you like something to drink? Tea? Coffee? I have some cookies that should go well with either."
Melinoe pouted, he hadn't shared the secret of where he kept his cookies with her, she noted.
Hel looked like she wasn't used to hospitality, and needed a few moments to make up her mind. "Coffee will be fine. And cookies."
"Yes! Definitely cookies!" Melinoe acknowledged.
"Leave some for your guest," Harry teased while playfully waggling his finger. "I'll go make some coffee, I'll be back."
Just as he turned to walk into the kitchen, someone knocked on the front door.
"Who could that be?" the young demigod wondered while he turned.
Hel, on the other hand, stood up. "I think I should leave, since I'm not supposed to be here and all that," she said. "Mel, great seeing you again, and glad you're doing well. Harry, you're unusual, but the good kind of unusual."
Harry barely managed to grin at her before she vanished into thin air. The knocking on the front door repeated itself, somehow managing to convey annoyance at the delay wikthout actually changing rhythm or intensity.
"I better go see who that is," Harry said.
Mel was pouting, her arms crossed, looking for all intents and purposes like a mortal teenager.
Harry made his way to the front and pulled the door open.
And froze, as he was suddenly confronted by two goddesses; goddesses with whom he hadn't had contact yet. One of them was instantly recognizable – Demeter, Goddess of Agriculture had been there that day he had been dragged before the Olympian council.
The other goddess, however, was one he hadn't met yet. Considering she looked like Demeter, though, he guessed this was Persephone, Goddess of Spring.
Otherwise known as Melinoe's mother and grandmother.
He sallowed. "Ehm… hi?" Harry offered, hoping to find out whether they came in friendship or in anger.
"I've heard from my daughter that you were able to rescue my granddaughter from the kidnapper's cave," Demeter said as introduction. "Now that she's free, I would very much like to meet her."
"Mother," Persephone muttered angrily, either at the somewhat-friendly statement or at the slight against Hades. She turned to Harry. "My daughter, take me to her," she demanded.
Harry was of a mind to let Demeter in and tell Persephone she should make an appointment.
Demeter poked her daughter in the side. "There is no need for that," she scolded gently, before turning to Harry, and looking at him expectantly.
Only because Demeter seemed kind and willing to educate her daughter on social niceties did Harry plaster a smile on his face and nod. "Of course, Miss Demeter," he said kindly. "Please, come in. Melinoe was in the sitting area last time I saw her."
The Goddess of Agriculture graced him with a motherly smile. "I see Hestia has been teaching you," she said amicably. Persephone simply strode in, barely giving him a second glance.
"This young man rescued my granddaughter," Demeter stated under her breath, as if trying to scold Persephone without causing a public spectacle. "At least have some courtesy."
"Melinoe didn't need rescuing," Persephone grumped.
Harry reaffirmed that he didn't like the Goddess of Spring, and at the same time reaffirmed that he very much liked the Goddess of Agriculture.
"My poor granddaughter was stuck in a cave in the underworld, put there by the kidnapper. She very much needed help, and I am grateful to this young man for giving it," Demeter sniped back, before turning to Harry as if the conversation was closed.
"This way, please," Harry said politely, pretending he hadn't heard every word the two goddesses exchanged. He ignored Persephone and gave Demeter a grateful smile, though.
He showed them into the living area.
Persephone took one look at Melinoe, the blood-red streaks in her hair, the burgundy 1920's-era dress, and the red-eyed skull-stud in her nostril, and froze.
"What have you done to yourself?" she asked-slash-shouted, and grabbed her daughter to pull her out of the comfortable seat she had been in. "Just look at yourself!"
"Mother!" Melinoe shouted back, squirming out of her mother's grasp. "I don't think you have the right to comment on what I look like or what I wear," she added in protest.
"I am your mother, young lady!" Persephone challenged, her hands on her hips.
"Who locked me in a cave," the Goddess of Ghosts screamed back.
"Before this descends into a screaming match," Demeter interjected in an attempt to quell the coming fight.
"Too late," mother and daughter replied at the same time. It caused them to look at each other in surprise, before annoyance set it and they both drew a breath to resume screaming at each other.
"As I said," Demeter stated, more firmly, freezing both the Goddess of Spring and the Goddess of Ghosts in their tracks. "Before this descends into a scream match. Perhaps my granddaughter would like to say hello, first?"
Melinoe startled for a moment. "Grandmother?" she asked.
Demeter nodded. "It's a bit unfortunate that my daughter and the kidnapper had you locked in a cave in the underworld, where I couldn't visit. I'll be ever grateful to your young man for freeing you."
Melinoe blushed bright red. "Grandmother! He's not my young man!" she protested.
Demeter simply laughed with delight and gathered the younger goddess up in her arms. "It's so good to finally see you, Melinoe," the Goddess of Agriculture said. "I've wanted to see you for so long."
"You could have come down for a visit," Persephone grumped.
"That would involve the kidnapper," Demeter answered spitefully.
"Hades is not that bad," the Goddess of Spring retorted.
"It's called 'Stockholm Syndrome'," Demeter replied dismissively, and looked at her granddaughter instead. "Forget your mother for a bit and talk to your dear grandmother," she said to the younger goddess. "I'm glad to see you doing well."
Melinoe grinned; like most children she was happy to see one of her parents be the one in trouble for a change. "I'm doing very well, Grandmother. Harry got me out of that cave, breaking Father's edict, and since then I'm able to go out whenever I want, and not just at night."
Demeter tisked. "How awful to only let someone out at night."
"And a cave," Harry added.
"And a cave," Demeter repeated with a nod. "That is definitely not a good place to live. Not enough sunlight for the seeds to grow, all dark and damp. It's good for fungus, but not much else."
"I know, Grandmother," Melinoe said respectfully. "I'm really glad I'm here now."
"I can only imagine," the Goddess of Agriculture replied, guiding Melinoe to one of the couches and sitting down with her.
"Mother, you shouldn't spoil her," Persephone scolded, sitting down as well.
"Nonsense, it's a grandparent's sacred duty to spoil their grandchildren," Demeter answered.
"Ehm, would you like something to drink?" Harry offered, wanting an excuse to escape. "I can easily make some coffee or tea."
"And you promised cookies!" Melinoe said, playing up the childish angle in an attempt to make her grandmother protect her more fiercely.
Said grandmother smiled in a way that showed she knew exactly what the younger goddess was trying, and had no problems with it in the least.
"Some tea would be lovely," Demeter told Harry.
The demigod nodded, and looked at Melinoe. "Coffee's fine," she told him, making him nod again. He glanced at Persephone, who had her arms crossed and looked grouchy.
"Tea," she stated to Harry.
"I'll be right back," Harry answered and fled as quickly as manners and decorum would allow. When gods started fighting, he wanted to be far away.
He entrenched himself in the kitchen, and occupied himself with brewing tea and coffee, as well as retrieving the cookies from his secret hiding spot.
Despite the fact that it had only been a few days, he's learned quickly to hide the confections if he didn't want Melinoe eating them all.
He had the suspicion that Helios was helping with that, he'd certainly never noticed the little cubby-hole before.
When he had a platter of cookies and three steaming cups with various beverages, he really had no other excuse to dally.
Sighing, he returned to the living area with a serving tray.
Persephone had shifted and was now sitting next to Melinoe; it looked like the Goddess of Ghosts wasn't about to allow her mother closer than that, however. Demeter had changed seats as well and was now facing the two of them from the other side of the coffee table, looking pleased at, what looked like, progress.
Glad to see that the temple wasn't about to be destroyed in an all-out fight between various deities, Harry put the serving tray on the coffee table.
"For Miss Demeter, Goddess of Agriculture, a cup of tea made from various fruits," he said, handing her the cup and saucer. Demeter took an appreciative sip.
"Delicious," she decided. "Also, not something I had before."
Harry grinned at her. "I've been experimenting."
"Hence the delay," Demeter said with amusement.
"When gods fight, it's best to hide," Harry admitted as he picked up the second cup and turned to Persephone. "For Miss Persephone, Goddess of Spring, a cup of herbal tea."
Persephone looked surprised but accepted the cup anyway. She took a sip, before her face cleared. "Very refreshing and reminiscent of new growth," she determined. "Excellent tea."
Harry let out a small breath of relief; that one had been a bit of a gamble, really. "And for the Goddess of Ghosts, coffee strong enough to hold up the spoon."
Melinoe grinned, sipped, and sighed. "You do make good coffee, kid."
"And cookies," Harry said, putting the treats, and the tray, on the coffee table. Melinoe looked like she was about to pounce.
"You may want to leave some for the guests," Harry said gently as he sat down, choosing an empty single-seat couch and picking up his cup of hot cocoa.
Melinoe pouted childishly at him while Persephone and Demeter seemed to share an amused look. They both take a few cookies before Melinoe did pounce.
"You make the best cookies," the young goddess declared.
"Thank you," Harry replied politely. They sat in silence for a few moments, apparently waiting for someone else to make the first move. It was more than a bit awkward, in Harry's opinion.
"I still wish you'd chose a more respectable look," Persephone finally said. "You are of the House of Hades, after all."
Melinoe huffed in a fashion eerily reminiscent of teenagers all over the world. "It's my body and I'll look however I want," she replied testily. "At least this way, people won't run away screaming at the mere sight of me."
"People are idiots," Harry interjected. "I told you, you look cool."
Demeter smiled in a motherly fashion, but Persephone had a steely gaze leveled at him. "You're the exception," Melinoe replied. "You weird demigod, you."
Harry smiled. "So everyone keeps telling me. I don't get it. Hestia says to treat people by their actions, not their looks, and that's what I'm doing."
"A commendable attitude," Demeter stated. "The world would be better if we listened to Hestia more often."
Harry nodded in agreement.
"It's unfortunate that our blood runs hot and our anger easily takes over," the Goddess of Agriculture went on. "It's our nature to make rash decisions, regrettably."
Persephone sighed. "It is," she agreed, before turning to her daughter. "Your father and I have had a few… more than a few… uncomfortable talks, these last few days," she admitted.
"So I heard. Father dropped by yesterday," Melinoe replied. "He wasn't very nice to poor Harry."
Persephone's face twitched, looking like she wanted to agree with Hades.
"Which is a shame, because Harry really looks up to Father," Melinoe went on, ignoring her mother's facial expression.
"Mister Hades is awesome," Harry agreed. "I wish he weren't mad at me."
"Who cares what the kidnapper thinks, anyway?" Demeter said with a shrug.
"I do," Harry pouted at her. The Goddess of Agriculture ignored him.
"In any case, I do hope you will think about coming home," Persephone said to Melinoe.
"Maybe. I promised Father I'd think about it," the younger goddess answered. "I'm good here, though."
"And you can see your dear old grandmother here," Demeter teased.
"Yes!" Melinoe said, seeing the excuse and running with it. "I can see and get to know my grandmother here!"
Persephone pouted. "You can get to know her down in the Underworld as well," she answered.
"No, she can't," Demeter snapped.
"Mother," the Goddess of Spring said, exasperated. "Hades is my husband, and I do love him."
Demeter coughed Stockholm Syndrome. Persephone glared at her. Demeter looked away.
Harry just felt uncomfortable. The whole situation felt awkward to the extreme, even more so than when Hades had dropped by. At least then, he'd had Hestia there to help.
He wondered what she'd do in a situation like this. Maybe Hestia was secretly listening in and giving him some inspiration. Or maybe he just knew her well, but suddenly he knew what she'd say.
"Please don't fight," Harry told them. "I don't like it when people fight."
"Let's not upset the demigod who rescued me," Melinoe said in his defense.
"Agreed," Demeter added. "It took guts to stand up to the kidnapper like that."
Persephone seemed to pout for a moment. "She didn't need rescuing," she protested, although it didn't sound like her heart was in it.
Melinoe and Demeter gave her a look. Harry just felt disappointed.
"Fine," the Goddess of Spring finally said, relenting. "It was an error on our part." She sighed deeply. "We… I… would be most happy if you would come home. We've had rooms prepared for you in the palace."
"So Father said," Melinoe replied mulishly. "I said I'd think about it. I just don't want to get stuck there again." Persephone looked hurt at the somewhat unreceptive reply.
"Mel," Harry said, drawing her attention. "For years, I didn't know my mom. I was told she died in a car crash. Then, I met her, and… well… it didn't go well, you know?"
The Goddess of Ghosts looked like she wanted to know the point, but was polite enough to listen.
"And then, the next day, a certain King of the Greek gods cursed her. And she can't talk to me anymore. And I regret that day I met her, that things didn't go well, because now I have my mom, but I can't talk to her at all, even if I wanted to." He could write to her, and did so every now and again. Despite the fact that some things were easier to put on paper, it still caused a rift, a disconnect, between them. They wrote about things, every day things, mundane things, but it wasn't the same as having an actual meaningful conversation.
"Please don't throw away your mom and dad," he finished, and swallowed deeply. "You never know, you could end up regretting it."
Demeter didn't say a word, and simply stood up and hugged him.
Hugging the Goddess of Agriculture engulfed him in the wonderful motherly feelings of nature, and he could practically feel the garden and the trees and everything else that grew from the ground.
Meanwhile, Melinoe looked at Persephone, who looked hopefully back at her daughter.
"I'm willing to try," she finally said. "Even if it's only because Harry wins sob-story of the year."
"Melinoe," Demeter said, disappointedly, as she released Harry. "That's not a very nice thing to say."
"It made him smile, though," the young goddess said, pointing to Harry, who did indeed have a tiny smile.
Persephone, looking like she wasn't going to wait any longer, reached over, still looking hopeful. Melinoe hesitated for a few moments, then, tentatively, leaned towards her mother, allowing her hug.
Demeter smiled. "I'm glad to see that," she told Harry.
"So am I," he answered the goddess. "I just hope Miss Persephone means it."
"She does," Demeter answered. "She'd better. I've met my granddaughter now, and I'm not giving up on spoiling her."
Harry laughed softly.
As Persephone released Melinoe, she turned to Harry. "And now I would like to hear the full story of what happened," she said. "Young mortals don't often run free around the Underworld."
Harry grinned, and recounted how he'd done Hades a favor, and in return wrangled an invitation to the Underworld to see the Zombies-versus-Terminator fights he'd heard about. He told them about the tour, Hades being called away, and how Alecto had taken over.
"Hang on, my husbands Head Fury showed you around the underworld? And he thought this to be 'age appropriate'?" Persephone asked.
"He told Miss Alecto to keep things age appropriate," Harry replied. "Besides, Miss Alecto's fun."
Persephone, Melinoe, and Demeter shared a look. Harry ignored the goddesses and their creepy silent communication skills, and recounted how they went to the arena, he bought some food, and met his dad.
"You're incredibly lucky the food in the amphitheater is imported and not genuine Underworld Food," Persephone admonished. "Or you'd be stuck there."
Harry nodded. "I remember the story of the pomegranates, so I was really careful to stay away from them."
"I wish others were as smart," Demeter said, giving her daughter a meaningful look.
"I was starving," Persephone answered defensively.
Rather than let the argument continue, Harry went on with how Alecto had showed him around the rest of the Underworld, including the Lethe, before he stumbled across Melinoe's cave when Alecto was returning Medea.
"Son of the Goddess of Fortune, indeed," Demeter said, smiling and shaking her head. "Your luck is both incredible and atrocious."
Harry just pouted. "I know," he said. "Unfortunately, there's not much I can do about it."
He was glad that he'd gotten Melinoe to make up with her mother, though.
AN: Joshua, my very dear friend, got me the graphic novel adaptation of The Kane Chronicles for Christmas/New Year. I just couldn't resist the opportunity to introduce an Egyptian Deity.