Harry Potter, Squatter

By Enterprise1701_d

Chapter 48

Harry stood in front of the full-length mirror, staring at his reflection.

His reflection, which was as horrified as he was.

"Why do I need the monkey suit?" he asked over his shoulder, looking at Melinoe.

The goddess in question, who was discussing something with the salesperson, looked back. "Because we're about to stay in the top suite of a casino, and I'm not about to drag in a ruffian."

The salesperson laughed softly. "I would be a wealthy man if I received money each time I hear a young man complain about a suit," he told Melinoe.

"I bet," she replied with a soft laugh. "How much do I owe you?"

"That will be $4,375 in total, please," the salesperson said without bothering to check tags or using the register. "Will the young man be wearing his new clothes out, or shall I package them?"

Part of Harry wanted to get back in his comfortable clothes; another part of him didn't want to go back into the tiny changing booth and mess about with changing clothes.

"He'll wear them," Melinoe said, making the decision for him as she handed over a silvery-white credit card.

The man took the card, eyed it strangely for a moment, then went to run it.

"This is a most unusual credit card, if I may say so," he told Melinoe as he processed the payment.

"It's an Olympus Express Iridium card," Melinoe explained.

"Never heard of it," the salesperson said cheerfully. "Which is probably the point."

"Exactly," Melinoe replied with a chuckle.

"Olympus Express Iridium Card?" Harry asked softly. "Really?"

"When your father's the God of Wealth, you get perks," Melinoe answered. "Well, you get perks after a certain demigod of your acquaintance ensures your relationship with said father gets better, anyway."

"Oh," Harry said, thinking for a moment. "You're welcome," he added with a smile.

Melinoe laughed and ruffled his messy hair. "We should take you to a hair dresser, too," she teased.

"Please don't," Harry begged.

"I would recommend the salon down the road," the salesperson interjected. "Anton is a genius when it comes to hair."

Melinoe eyed him speculatively.

"I will throw a tantrum," Harry threatened.

"Well, I know when I'm beat," Melinoe said, playfully dejected, as the salesperson laughed. "Thanks," she said, accepting the card back.

"You're most welcome," the man answered. "Have a good evening, miss, young man."

They exited the shop, and walked to the nearest parking spot, where Christine was parked.

The haunted car had the audacity to honk at Harry in the classic wolf-whistle pattern. Wolf-honked, so to say. Melinoe exploded in laughter, but Harry just mock-sulked.

"You're not funny," he told the car.

"No, she's hilarious," Melinoe chortled. Harry shook his head, grinning. He could take a joke.

The Nemean House Cat had insisted on coming along, and somewhere during the wait for Harry to get outfitted, he'd turned back into a Lion. Somehow, the full-sized Nemean Lion had figured out how to work the windows, and so he stuck his giant head out and eyed the both of them.

Some bystanders squeaked and had made a run for it, but most passers-by just shrugged it off. This was Las Vegas, and if some rich eccentric drove around with a giant lion in their backseat, it was no problem of theirs.

"You'd better not hurt the upholstery," Melinoe said as she pulled the driver's side door open.

The Nemean Lion rumbled.

"I'm serious. Christine will eject you," the Goddess of Ghosts said as she slipped behind the wheel, Harry taking the passenger seat.

The car's engine rumbled agreeably.

The Nemean Lion chuffed, and drew his head back into the car as they started moving.

"Nemmy knows not to damage the furniture," Harry defended his pet.

"He'd better," Melinoe said, playfully shaking her fist at the rearview mirror, which was completely filled with a giant cat rumbling playfully in the backseat.

Enjoying the banter, Harry relaxed. Well, relaxed as much as he could when dressed up to the nines, anyway.

They pulled over at the front of a hotel & casino, and Harry had a bit of a flashback to the Lotus Hotel, where he'd kept an eye on Nico and Bianca and helped get them to school.

A valet came to park Christine, a fact that the haunted car didn't seem to appreciate but relented to anyway.

The poor valet almost jumped out of his clothes at the sight of the Nemean Lion slipping out of the backseat.

Harry was grinning widely, but Melinoe was outright laughing. Nemmy had the catty sort of look that proclaimed he was highly amused but too good to show it. It was the sort of look that cat owners the world over were very familiar with.

"Hang on a sec," Melinoe said before they reached the reception desk. She leaned over, pulled his tie loose, then unbuttoned a couple of the top buttons of his fancy dress shirt. "There, now you look like you're important, but letting your hair down."

Harry gave her a look.

"It's all about impressions, Harry," the Goddess of Ghosts said, her voice showing she was either highly amused or playing a great prank on him – or both.

The receptionist took one look at Nemmy, screamed, and made a run for it.

A man, looking more important than the receptionist, came out of a back office to investigate the commotion. He took one look at Nemmy, turned to Melinoe, and asked, "We are fairly tolerant when it comes to pets, Miss. However, we must insist they are house broken."

"He is," Melinoe said with a grin.

"Then welcome to the Fortuna Hotel and Casino," the manager said with a grin. "Will you be checking in?"

"Reservation under 'Olympia', the Celestial Suite," Melinoe replied.

"Excellent," the manager answered without bothering to check either computer or reservation. "David will be your butler for the duration of your stay, and Andrew is the concierge, just in case you need anything." He snapped his fingers. "Shall I have your luggage taken upstairs?"

"Christine is with the valet service," Melinoe answered as a bellhop came running without looking like he was rushing.

"Christine?" the manager asked.

"My car," the Goddess of Ghosts said with a smile that had too many points to it.

"Christine, excellent name," the manager complimented. The bellhop, being of good understanding, only required half a word and was already on his way out with a trolley. Meanwhile, the manager had shown them to an elevator and was taking them up to the top level.

"You don't seem surprised at Nemmy?" Melinoe asked as the giant Nemean Lion squeezed himself in with the people in the elevator car, covering them all in soft, golden, fur.

"Miss, this is Vegas," the manager said with emphasis. "We deal with the rich and famous. Besides, after a French rockstar brought his pet crocodile, I promised never to be surprised at people's pets ever again."

"A crocodile?" Harry asked. "Really?"

The manager nodded solemnly. "He called it 'Fang'. I have to admit it was pretty well behaved. Almost like a dog. Darnedest thing I ever saw."

They arrived at the top floor, half of which seemed to be dedicated to their suite. The manager introduced them to David, their butler for the duration of their stay, then showed them around.

The Celestial Suite was large enough to house dozens; including the fact that it had multiple sitting rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, a full-sized kitchen that Harry fell immediately in love with, and a separate suite just for the butler to stay in.

Harry was completely out of his depth with the fabulous display of opulent wealth, and did his best not to gawk. Melinoe, despite having grown up in a cave, appeared to be her father's daughter and simply behaved as if this wasn't just normal, but expected.

By the time the manager had left, the bellhop had brought up the luggage from Christine, and the butler had unpacked for them. Harry made sure to thank them both, but Melinoe simply passed them some real honest golden drachmas.

Harry felt a bit disappointed they preferred the gold over the thanks. Then again, everyone needed to make a living, he supposed.

After the manager and the bellhop left, Melinoe let the butler retire for the evening. Harry, despite being tired and feeling like going to bed, stuck around. He had the impression that there was more to this hotel and casino than he had expected.

Nemmy had taken one of the large couches in one of the sitting rooms for himself, and was now sprawled out over it. The huge lion was hanging over the edges despite the size of the couch, but didn't seem to mind.

"What are we waiting for?" Harry asked, curiously.

"A visit," Melinoe said with a mischievous, secretive grin.

Before he could ask 'from whom', he was silenced by the sudden appearance of someone. Or rather, the outline of someone, one that was slowly filling in.

This person was accompanied by music, a slow thumping rhythm accompanied by drums, with a rising chorus on top. Melinoe giggled as the mysterious figure slowly coalesced out of thin air.

The mystery woman was blindfolded, wearing a roman-style toga, and carried a horn that she had upturned at the moment so it wouldn't spill any of the many, many coins it held onto the floor. A veritable horn of plenty.

"Carmina Burana?" Melinoe asked as their visitor finished materializing.

"Mortals have the best taste in music," the visitor replied coolly. "This is the best music in the world."

"Because Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi calls you the empress of the world?" the teenaged goddess teased.

"Exactly," The Roman goddess said with a nod. "So few offer me my proper place in society. Regardless of musical taste, welcome to my city and my casino. Would you care to explain if this is a working visit?"

"Strictly pleasure," Melinoe answered immediately. "Besides, I also brought some company. You may want to take the blindfold off now. There's no need for blind and impartial luck right now."

As the Roman goddess started lifting her blindfold, Melinoe turned to Harry. "Harry, meet Lady Fortuna, Roman Goddess of Luck and Fortune."

Harry, already having realized who this was, didn't react as surprised as the teenaged goddess had apparently hoped for. "Nice to meet you, Miss Fortuna," he replied honestly just as the goddess lifted her blindfold. Part of him wished she was Tyche, his mother, whom he hadn't seen in ages, despite being in written contact.

As Fortuna looked at Harry, she grimaced. Her face twitched, and suddenly her entire body shimmered in some unspeakable fashion, right before re-coalescing in a different form.

"Mom!" Harry squeaked, suddenly confronted by Tyche rather than Fortuna.

"Changing so suddenly hurts," Tyche complained to herself, before looking up at Harry. For a moment, she looked like part Tyche and part Lily Potter, before she grabbed hold of herself and maintained her Tyche persona.

"!" she attempted to say, before Zeus' curse struck her mute. It didn't stop her from grabbing Harry and giving him a hug – a hug he heartily returned.

Releasing the hug, she looked him over. In a move known to children all over the world, Tyche immediately closed the top buttons of his shirt and started to re-tie his tie, before taking a handkerchief and started to clean imaginary dirt off his cheeks.

Focusing on Melinoe, the Greek Goddess of Fortune said, "who dressed him? He looks like something the cat dragged in!" Nemmy yawned luxuriously.

Melinoe looked a bit less self-assured. "Ehm…"

"Still, it's wonderful to see him," Tyche said, before looked down at her son again, looking him up and down. She focused on Melinoe again. "And he looks healthy and well-cared for."

"That's because Hestia's awesome," Harry said, realizing that Tyche was talking to Melinoe to avoid Zeus' curse.

"Don't let him fool you, the kid's great with food," Melinoe blabbed.

"So I heard," the Goddess of Fortune replied. "Something about Lady Artemis selling her Hunters for chocolate cake."

"Artie would never do that!" Harry protested. "She did let me borrow Miss Zoë for a few minutes, but that hardly counts."

Melinoe and Tyche both eyed him for a few moments, making him dreadfully uncomfortable.

"Right," the Goddess of Ghosts finally said. "Borrow a Hunter, that's so much better."

"It was just for a few minutes! I had to get to Iceland right away, and Miss Zoë could walk me there using her super-secret Hunter skills in just minutes."

"Riiight," Melinoe repeated, drawing out the sound. "As if anyone else could borrow a Hunter for personal transportation."

"Artie was rather upset I asked, but she and Miss Zoë calmed down when I offered chocolate cake," he said. "She did say I shouldn't try that again, though."

"My son is a lunatic," Tyche said, half to herself and half to Melinoe, deliberately making sure she wasn't focusing on Harry to avoid Zeus' curse.

"Literally, Lady Artemis being the Goddess of the Moon and all that," Melinoe replied.

"I am not a lunatic," Harry muttered to himself, crossing his arms.

"Kid, nobody else would have the sheer balls to ask Lady Artemis, Goddess of Maidens, to borrow a Hunter. Especially not when they're male, and it's basically as a taxi service. And nobody else would get away with bribing them with chocolate cake, either. You have balls made of high-carbon steel, and the luck of the gods," Melinoe said.

"Literally the luck of the gods," Tyche told the Goddess of Ghosts.

"Thanks, Mom!" Harry chirped.

The Goddess of Fortune grinned at him, then shook her head in exasperation. She turned back to Melinoe. "I have some things to look after, this is a large city and it never sleeps. You should take him to the restricted floor in the basement, here's a keycard. He'll clean up."

"Why do I have the impression you want me to corrupt innocent little Harry with high-stakes gambling?" Melinoe asked teasingly.

Tyche laughed. "He's my son, you won't corrupt him with some wagers. Besides, I have the impression you're well under way to being a bad influence without my help."

"Guilty as charged," Melinoe answered proudly. "He needs some more fun in his life."

Tyche grinned and nodded, before turning and giving Harry another hug. She opened her mouth reflexively, and her voice hung in her throat. Grimacing, she hugged him again.

"I'll miss you too, Mom," Harry answered, not needing speech to understand what she was trying to say.

She ruffled his hair with a smile, then vanished.

"Come on, Harry. Let's check out this restricted floor," Melinoe said, immediately proceeding to the entrance of the suite.

"Can't we get some sleep first?" Harry asked.

"Sleep? In Vegas?" Melinoe asked teasingly. "Never! Come on, let's at least check it out. Aren't you the least bit curious about your mom's restricted gambling club?"

Harry sighed. Yes, he was interested and curious, but he also wanted a decent night's sleep first!

Melinoe simply grabbed him and guided him out. "You can sleep after we check it out. Come on, Harry, don't be a stick in the mud."

The young demigod sighed and followed obediently. When Melinoe got like this, she seemed to forget he was mortal and couldn't just ignore sleeping like the gods could.

They entered the elevator, and the Goddess of Ghosts put the keycard into the slot. Immediately, it started descending, not even waiting for them to push a button. When it reached ground, it kept going. And going. And going.

Suddenly, it made a ding sound, and Melinoe was able to retrieve the keycard – the elevator kept descending, no longer displaying floor numbers.

It stopped suddenly, simply displaying 'E' as the floor number, before opening the doors. Demigod and Goddess stepped out into a lavishly decorated hallway, with burgundy rugs that were ankle-deep, golden fixtures, and walls covered with paintings.

At the end of the hallway was a set of elaborate double doors; in front of said doors stood two immaculately dressed men.

"Hi!" Melinoe chirped as she approached. "Tyche told us to come."

"May I see your card, please?" the left guard asked politely. Melinoe handed it over as Harry joined her. He was tired and it was hard to keep up with Melinoe when she was racing like this.

"Ah, yes," the guard said as he slipped the keycard into a computer. "Welcome to Espoir. Would you like to know the rules?"

"Sure, thank you," Harry said before Melinoe could blow him off.

"There are very few rules in any case," the guard said. "Rule number one – all bets are final. No take-backs."

Harry nodded, that made sense. "Rule number two – anything and everything can be bet."

He blinked, that one was a bit different. "Rule number three – anything can be made into a bet."

"Al… right," Harry answered, already realizing that this was going to be an experience like no other.

"Rule number four, see rule number one. Just because you bet something outrageous on something stupid doesn't mean you get to take it back."

"Thank you," Harry answered, seeing Melinoe bounce impatiently next to him.

"Enjoy your visit to Espoir," the guard said as he opened the door for them. Beyond the threshold of the door, the carpet ended to be replaced with inlaid marble floors.

Melinoe was through it almost before the guard had the door completely open, but Harry took the time to give him a grateful nod and follow at a more sedate pace. As he entered, he noticed a message laid into the marble.

Abandon hope all ye who are bad at gambling, Harry read. Cheerful, considering this restricted club was called Espoir. Hope.

As the door closed behind him, he suddenly felt overwhelmed. The odds in this place were constantly in flux, flowing one way or the other, never settling down to anything he could read or keep track of. Like a white-noise generator blocked out sound, so did the fluctuating odds in the room block his probability senses.

The next thing he noticed was that these people had power, and lots of it. Having grown up around gods these last few years had pretty much immunized him against the feeling of intimidation that came with being confronted by such power, but that didn't mean that he didn't recognize power when he saw it.

Drawing a breath, he ignored the people, and studied his surroundings. Espoir seemed to be a casino within a casino, with many rooms connecting to the central room both he and Melinoe had emerged in. The floors were solid marble, the walls were covered with interesting tapestries of various depictions, and the light fixtures were solid gold.

The entire thing had a baroque kind of feeling that shouted both wealth and opulence.

Harry hated it immediately. It somewhat reminded him of that hallway in Hades' palace, the one with the flowers made from precious metals and gemstones, but more tacky and less sophisticated. It served no purpose other than to scream about its wealth.

"Well, good luck, Kiddo," Melinoe said. "I'm going to go explore for a bit."

Harry eyed her. "You've dragged me here and now you're abandoning me?" he asked her. Before she could reply, he went on, "if that's the case, I'm going to bed."

Melinoe pouted at him. "Fine," she said. "We'll stick together for a bit."

Harry sighed. "I'd just as happily go to bed," he said. "This place will still be here tomorrow."

"Harry, Harry, Harry," Melinoe admonished. "You're in Vegas. Sleeping is for when you're not in Vegas."

"I'm pretty sure that's not right," he replied with a shake of his head. "Otherwise, all the people that live here would have gone nuts with sleep deprivation."

"Who says they haven't?" the Goddess of Ghosts asked with a grin, before grabbing his arm. "Come on, show a lady around."

The young demigod sighed; then his mind caught on to something. "If I see one, I'll think about it," he answered, slipping his arm from her grip.

Melinoe pantomimed being hit in the heart. "Oh, ouch. Burn from the demigod," she said with a laugh. "Good one, Kiddo."

Harry grinned, happy that she was able to take a joke. Resigned to his fate, but feeling slightly better after the dig at her, he followed the goddess as they meandered through the club.

To his disappointment, the other rooms weren't any better than the large central one. Lots of marble and gold and tacky, ostentatious wealth that grated on his nerves.

In the end, he sat at the bar nursing an alcohol-free fruit-juice cocktail after Melinoe managed to talk him into staying while she went and explored. Part of him was glad he'd been able to finagle the keycard from her in retaliation, at least it would allow him to slip out and come back.

The games looked interesting enough, but he was tired and wanted to sleep.

"Bloody Mary, double on the bloody," a gentleman said from behind Harry, causing the demigod to look over his shoulder while the bartender prepared the drink. His voice was cultured, yet trilled its R's in a distinctly eastern-European fashion.

"You look tired, Sport," the gentleman commented at Harry's appearance.

He snorted. "That's because I am," he answered honestly. "A friend of mine dragged me here after we arrived. Of course she went to explore on her own – and all I want is to go to bed."

"Ah, the joys of having a lady friend who can talk you into things that you know better than to do on your own," the man said with a chortle when he picked up his drink.

"Very true," Harry answered. "I don't know how she did it, either." He sighed, then stuck on his hand. "Sorry, where are my manners? I'm Harry."

The gentleman sipped his drink, grinned, and shook the offered hand. "Vlad," he answered. "Pleasure to meet you, young Harry."

"Cool name!" Harry said with a grin, ignoring the spark of power that he felt from the handshake.

"Thank you," Vlad answered smilingly. "Anyway, I'm afraid I will have to go. Some newbie is playing Mac, and he's hustling her like nobody's business."

Harry nodded. "It was nice to meet you. After this, I'm going to bed – I don't think Mel is coming back any time soon."

"The joys of lady friends," Vlad remarked. "Hate to see them leave but love to watch them go."

Harry just looked confused, while Vlad laughed heartily. "I will see you around, young Harry," he answered, and turned to leave.

"See you later, Vlad," the young demigod answered, and drained his drink. Screw this, he was going to bed. Gambling was a lot more fun when you weren't tired.

He left the club soon after, and made his way back to the penthouse suite. As the elevator took him up, he remembered a promise he made to Hestia. A promise to be careful with gambling… and while Hestia hadn't wanted him to promise to only play with Hermes and the rest of the guys, he still wanted to keep it that way.

Oh, well, he'd check the club out properly once he was properly rested.

He stumbled into the suite, managed to change into comfortable pajamas, and was embraced by the arms of Morpheus before his head hit the pillow.

0000

He woke up the next morning, feeling refreshed. There was something about sleeping in a different bed that broke the every day grind, and it brought a sense of relaxation with it.

He got up, took a shower, and got dressed. Thankfully, there was only the one monkey suit so he dressed casually, in clean jeans and a t-shirt, before exiting the bathroom adjoined to his bedroom.

David, the butler, immediately asked him if he wanted some breakfast. For a moment, Harry was surprised – used as he was to cooking for himself, he didn't expect the question – but he rallied quickly.

"Sure," Harry agreed. "Thank you. Some blueberry pancakes would be good."

"Very good, sir," David replied. "Would you like something to drink as well?"

"Some orange juice would be good," Harry decided. "And a cup of herbal tea."

"Of course, sir, I will have it right over." The butler vanished, leaving Harry to take a seat at the dining room table.

This Celestial Suite really did have everything. With nothing to do, Harry wondered how late Mel had gotten in. Of maybe even if she had gotten in. It wouldn't surprise him if the Goddess of Ghosts really had stuck to her declaration and foregone sleep. She was nocturnal by nature, after all.

Breakfast arrived quickly, and Harry made sure to thank the man before tucking in. He could get used to be waited on, he decided. The food was good, and there was something exceedingly decadent about having other people cook for you in your own home, rather than at a restaurant.

He started to understand why other people lived like this.

He finished his food and started stacking the dishes, only to be interrupted by David who cleared the table for him instead. Harry grinned, shaking his head, and went to find Nemmy; he didn't want his pet to feel neglected.

After a good few minutes of that, Harry realized that Mel hadn't shown up and had probably stayed up all night.

Not that it was any of his business. Besides, as Goddess of Ghosts, she probably worked better at night anyway.

Still, he was curious how she was doing, and after a full night's sleep, he defiitely felt up to exploring his mother's secret gambling den a bit better.

After a last snuggle with Nemmy, Harry made sure he was dressed in the monkey suit – again – and left the suite, before entering the elevator and taking it down to the Espoir club level. Getting the card from Melinoe definitely came in handy now.

He arrived down at the basement level of the club. Different guardsmen were at the door, yet they waved him in as if they knew him. There probably was some kind of registration system that made the guards know who was allowed in or not.

Harry entered Espoir casually, looking left and right to see if he could catch a glimpse of Mel.

He didn't. Shrugging to himself, Harry looked around at the various high-powered people playing all kinds of games – two of them seemed to be gambling on a coin toss, of all things. He grinned to himself, and shook his head.

"You look better," a familiar, cultured, easter-European voice said from his side.

"Oh, hi, Vlad," Harry said. "Yeah, I feel loads better. A good night's sleep and a solid breakfast did the trick."

"Glad to see it," the man said with a grin. "Did you ever reconnect with your lady friend?"

"No, I haven't," the demigod answered honestly. "I don't think she came back to the suite last night, so she may have just gone through the night."

Vlad nodded thoughtfully. "Well, this is Vegas, after all."

"So she kept saying," Harry replied with good humor. "Still, I think I will go explore and see if I can find her. Unless you happen to know where she is, Vlad?"

Vlad shrugged. "If you could tell me about her, I might."

"Her name's Mel," Harry replied. "About yay tall, black hair."

"Doesn't ring any bells, I'm afraid," Vlad answered honestly. "Does she wield power or influence of some sort?"

"Oh, yeah!" Harry said. "She's the Goddess of Ghosts!"

Vlad seemed to choke on something, before catching himself. "Melinoe, Goddess of Ghosts of the Greek Pantheon?" he asked, to clarify.

"That's her!" Harry chirped.

"Ballsy, calling her with an affectionate nickname," Vlad commented. "I think I respect you for it, even. I think I know where your… lady friend… is located. Will you follow me?"

"Sure," Harry said, legging it after the man. Somehow, without seeming to, Vlad was fast and Harry really had to push to keep up.

They traced a route through the various groups of people gambling, arriving finally in one of the side rooms. Various people had gathered there, standing around a pool table.

Mel was lining up her shot, and Harry knew better than to interrupt so her waited for her to finish. The ball dropped in the pocket, and various spectators cheered. Others groaned. A Hispanic man carrying a pool cue, obviously the other player, looked like her was vacillating between respect and anger.

"That's her," he told Vlad. "Thanks for finding her for me!"

"My pleasure," Vlad replied with a small yet courtly kind of bow.

"Hey, Mel!" Harry said, turning to his friend and drawing the attention of her and her opponent.

"Oh, you know this one?" the Hispanic man said, no longer leaning on his cue. "She's good, this one," he went on. "She was fifty million up before I made my move."

"You were trying to hustle me," Mel replied casually. "Too bad for you I was only allowed out of my cave at night, so I spent more than a few nights learning the tricks of the trade."

Vlad's smile went wider and wider. "You attempted to hustle me, woman!" the Hispanic man snapped.

"And succeeded, it seems," Vlad interjected. "Don't get mad at your own tactics being used against you, Mac. You're a hornswoggler, but it seems you finally met your match." The onlookers laughed while Mac glowered.

"Yes, yes," the Hispanic man grunted. "I'm a sore loser, I know it."

"Could've been worse," Mel said. "You could have bet your True Name or something."

"Don't even think about it," Mac muttered.

Mel laughed again. "Anyway, Harry, meet Macuilxochitl, Aztec deity of Music, Dance, Flowers, and Gambling Games. Mac, this is Harry, Son of Tyche, the kid that got me out of my Father's iron grip."

"Ballsy, going up against a Death God," Mac commented. "Hey kid, wanna shoot some pool?"

"I've never played pool before," Harry deferred.

"Even better, no bad habits to unlearn. Let's start easy, One gold coin buy-in and one gold coin per ball potted," the Aztec deity said.

"Nu-huh, you're not hustling Harry," Mel said, interjecting herself. "I owe the kid."

"Call it tuition," Mac said with a grin.

"It's alright, Mel," Harry said. "I need to learn to play sometime."

"I can teach you for free!" Mel said, her voice louder. "You don't need to pay this ass for it!"

"Hey, I'm offended by that!" Mac protested, not sounding or looking offended in the least.

Harry shrugged. "I may as well learn sometime," he repeated. "Besides, Mom said I should come down here."

"Yeah, but not to get hustled!" Mel protested.

"Maybe this will put your mind at ease," Mac offered. "Three to one odds. I'll pay triple for each ball the kid pots."

"Ten to one," Mel snapped.

Mac snorted. "Five to one."

"Deal," Mel said, sticking her hand out.

Harry looked between the two of them. "What just happened?" he asked Mel. "Because it sounds like something happened that I should be angry about."

"No, it's not something to be angry about," the Goddess of Ghosts answered. "Mac agreed to pay five gold for each ball you pot versus the one gold you pay for each ball he pots. He's betting you're bad enough that he'll pot more than five for each ball you're potting."

Harry nodded slowly. "All…right," he replied, drawing the word out. "That sounds like it's offensive."

"It's a handicap, be glad for it, whelp," Mac said, chalking his cue. "Shall we?"

Harry shrugged and grabbed Mel's cue, and taking a good look at Mac, smeared some chalk on the tip.

Mac grinned widely at the sight of the young boy putting way too much chalk on the cue's tip.

"I'll let you take the first shot," Mac said grandiosely, motioning for the table and the perfectly racked balls.

Harry grabbed the cue by its handle the way one would a baseball bat and approached the table.

Mel sighed. "No, like this," she said, adjusting his grip and showing him how to aim in the right direction.

"I'll allow it, but only because it's the kid's first shot," Mac grunted. "It wouldn't be any fun if he sucks that badly. But no more helping from now on!"

Harry pouted, hoping it would move this Aztec god as much as it did some of the Greek gods.

It didn't. It just made him laugh.

"Now, break," Mac said.

Harry nodded, and the tip of his cue slipped over the top of the white ball as he stroked at it, causing it to just roll languidly and thump into the other balls – which barely moved.

"Tough luck, kid," Mac said, and making to take his shot.

"That's not a legal break," Melinoe interjected. "Stop trying to swindle the kid!"

The Aztec god gave a horrific kind of smile. "Just checking to see if you're paying attention," he said, although Harry was sure that the god wasn't doing any sort of 'checking'.

Melinoe gave Mac an unimpressed look, then turned to Harry. "Since that's not a legal break, you'll can try again, Harry," she said, kindly. "You need to have at least four balls touch the sides, or pot on, for it to be a legal break."

The young demigod nodded, and tried again after Mel showed him how to re-rack the balls.

This time, he managed it well enough and the balls scattered. None went into any pockets, though.

Mac grinned, leaned on the table and took his shot. Balls careened around the table, but none went in. The Aztec god had managed to scatter the balls in a complex mess that made it harder for Harry.

The demigod, however, was staring at the table, and the moving balls, and the rather intricate way in which they bounded off the sides.

Then, he blinked. "Oh, for the love of…!"

"Harry?" Melinoe asked.

Harry sighed. "This is a conspiracy, I just know it," he said.

Melinoe and Macuilxochitl stared at him. He sighed again, and pointed to the table. "It's a geometry and physics problem," he replied to their very loudly unasked question. "I can never tell this to Miss Athena, she's be so smug."

Mac laughed, while Melinoe shook her head. Harry's adversity to all things mathematics had become well known to her.

"Kid, if you can calculate your way through this, I'll pay that ten to one the wench wanted," the Aztec god chortled.

"Hey!" Melinoe protested.

Mac ignored her. Harry shrugged and looked at the table. I wonder if this is like that game of 'predict the dummy', he thought to himself.

He leaned on the table and aimed through the cue ball with his cue. In his mind the dozens of hours of lessons drilled into him by the Goddess Athena, goddess of Wisdom, exploded in a bizarre cacophony of thoughts and ideas.

As he aimed, a line of movement superimposed itself on his vision, and suddenly, Harry knew the angles and the physics involved.

"One ball, corner pocket," Harry called, motioning to the corner pocket he had in mind with his cue.

Mac raised an eyebrow and made a universal 'get at it' motion with his hand.

Harry grinned, And took his shot. The white ball bounced off a rail, and kissed the one ball, causing it to roll slowly into the corner pocket.

Mac whistled. "Kid, you're a total newbie. You hold your cue like a club, and wield it like one, too. That was an impressive shot to make at your level."

"Thanks," Harry said, not looking all that pleased. "Five degrees out of my prediction, Miss Athena would be upset, no doubt."

Mac looked like he didn't know what to think, but Melinoe had turned and her shoulders were shaking with repressed laughter.

"Alright, let's try this again," the demigod announced. "Since this means I have the solids – two ball, middle pocket," he motioned to the pocket he had in mind.

He aimed carefully, as apparently hitting the cue ball required a lot of precision, and took the shot. The white ball hit one rail, then a second, then hit the two ball right where he'd aimed it, putting it into the pocket indicated.

"Kid, you're a pool shark," Mac accused. "You overplayed your hand. Stop holding your cue that badly and play normally."

"But I really haven't played before," Harry protested.

Mac loomed closer. "Child, I am the God of Gambling. You can't swindle me!"

"Oh? Do I hear Mac reneged on a bet?" Vlad asked, reminding everyone he was still lurking in the background.

"I damn well do when someone tries to hustle me!" Mac shouted.

"But I'm not trying to hustle you!" Harry protested.

"Silence!" Mac hurled at the young demigod. "You gave yourself away, at least have the grace to admit to it!"

"Is something the matter?" a smooth female voice asked. She wielded a slight accent that Harry couldn't place, and when he looked over he had to use everything he'd learn about dealing with deities to prevent himself from gaping.

The new arrival was definitely female. She was garbed in a long red dress, had coppery-golden skin and four arms, one hand was holding a lotus flower.

Harry blinked. The four arms told him the goddess was of the Hindu pantheon.

"Lady Lakshmi," Vlad said with an elegant bow. Harry shot the man a grateful look for the identity of the mysterious new goddess. "It seems Mac is protesting his imminent loss."

"The kid is a shark, trying to swindle me," Mac said, pointing at his chest. "ME!"

"I'm not trying to swindle anyone," Harry muttered sullenly, trying not to stare at the Hindu goddess. Like most female deities, she was an inhumanly beautiful woman, but he also finally realized why Marduk had warned him.

The Hindu pantheon was still incredibly active, with a huge amount of active worshippers, making their deities some of the most powerful on the planet. Lakshmi's power definitely slammed against every sense Harry had – she felt as far above the Greek deities as they themselves were above ordinary mortals.

All in all, he definitely didn't want to end up on this goddess' bad side.

"The kid pretends to wield a cue like a mace, but made two high-level shots, one after another," Mac told Lakshmi. "I've been around enough pool sharks – heck, I've been the pool shark – to know when someone's trying to swindle me."

Lakshmi stared at Harry, who shifted uncomfortably. "I'm still learning to play," he finally said. "But the game's about geometry and stuff, and Miss Athena drilled me in enough geometry that I can solve the problem."

Lakshmi smiled at him, and Harry suddenly felt as it fortune itself was smiling upon him. The ever-changing odds in Espoir suddenly seemed to coagulate, and for a few moments he could read them again.

It didn't last long.

"So, while you are new to the game, training you have received is allowing you to play above your level," Lakshmi stated.

"I… guess?" Harry asked. "This really is my first game of pool, though."

Lakshmi smiled again. "Then you definitely are playing above your level."

"But!" Mac protested.

"You made a gamble against a mortal child who had never played before," Lakshmi said, sounding as if she did not care for that course of action. "And now that you find out that your helpless target isn't as helpless as you thought, you complain."

Mac crossed his arms and looked like a storm was brewing.

"Am I not correct?" Lakshmi asked, on a tone that definitely implied there was but one answer, and that answer was 'yes'.

Despite him not being the target, Harry swallowed. The strength and power implied in her voice definitely reminded him that there were beings out there with power that dwarfed any he'd known so far.

Mac grunted, tossed some gold on the table, and turned. "Fine. My loss. Here." He started to walk away, then stopped and looked over his shoulder. "One day, you're not going to have someone there to protect you, you little bastard. And when that happens-"

"You will do nothing," a familiar voice stated.

Harry looked up at the sound of that voice. He knew that voice! "Mister Kukulkan!" he shouted, happily.

The Feathered Serpent, in the guise of a Central American human dressed in a tuxedo of the best quality, emerged from the crowd and stared at Macuilxochitl.

"Quetzalcoatl?" Mac asked. "What are you doing here? I thought you had faded!"

Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec incarnation of Kukulcan, stared loathingly at Mac. "This young mortal helped me regain some strength and power – in essence, saving my existence. And now that I have regained the use of my Human Suit, I find you lambasting the very mortal to whom I owe this good fortune."

A drop of sweat rolled down Mac's cheek. "He tried to swindle me!" the god protested feebly.

Kukulcan – Quetzalcoatl – looked unimpressed. Instead, he grabbed Mac's ear, causing the other god to yelp. "Perhaps a discussion on your behavior is necessary, as well as a reminder that, while you may have retained use of a human guise, you are not as powerful as you portray yourself."

Mac simply yelped again when Kukulcan, without relinquishing his hold on the other god's ear, turned to leave. Before he did, however, he turned to Harry. "I'll take care of this one, but you may want to try and avoid angering gods in the future."

"Thanks, Mister Kukulkan!" Harry said, gratefully.

Kukulkan, looking amused, dipped his head shallowly and vanished in the crowd, dragging Mac behind him – by the ear. The Aztec deity was still yelping.

"Well…" Harry said, trailing off, before finally finding the words. "That was interesting?"

Melinoe was still holding in laughter.

Lakshmi was shaking her head slowly, obviously amused, but kept her gaze focused on Harry. "What an unusual mortal you are," she spoke at last.

The Son of Tyche did his best to look innocent. "Unusual how, Lady Lakshmi?" he asked respectfully, still feeling the thrum of her power at the edge of his senses.

"You carry the gift of Luck of Fortune, a sense of the probabilities presented in front of you. It is a gift that could make you wealthy and powerful, and yet you seek neither," the Hindu Goddess said.

Harry nodded. "Hestia says that friends and family are what's important, and I try to live up to her example," he explained. "I have friends, and a family of sorts, as well as a roof over my head, food, drink, and clothes. What would I need money or power for?"

"Indeed," Lakshmi said with a wide smile. "I would prefer it if more mortals felt as you do. Alas, for many mortals, plenty is still not enough."

Harry nodded sadly.

"It was good meeting you, young demigod," Lakshmi said after the shared moment. "Perhaps we will meet again, and perhaps you will still feel as you feel now."

Harry grinned. "I hope so, Lady Lakshmi," he answered. "It was nice meeting you, too."

The Hindu goddess nodded, then strode away in a regal manner.

"Things are never boring around you, Harry," Melinoe said with a giggle.

"Maybe, but I think I'd rather go to the regular casino and play some regular poker," Harry replied. "I don't think this place is good for my nerves."

Vlad, in the background, snorted. "Enjoy yourself," the Eastern European gentleman said, seemingly vanishing into thin air.

"I don't know who or what he is, but he's cool," Harry declared with all the authority of a ten, soon to be eleven-year-old.

Melinoe shrugged. "You see all types and kinds at sanctuaries like this. It's about the only places where deities can safely interact with each other."

"Oh, yeah, because Mister Zeus is a grinch about that," Harry said as they rode the elevator back to the ground level.

The Goddess of Ghosts valiantly tried to repress the laugh bubbling up from her chest. "Not just Lord Zeus, Harry," she said.

"I bet he started it anyway," Harry said petulantly.

Melinoe shook her head, repressing her amusement to the best of her ability. When they finally reached ground level, she navigated them to the mortal side of the Fortuna Casino.

There was security everywhere, and the nearest guard gave them an obvious look-over, but didn't bother them.

Melinoe grinned; she knew under-aged people weren't allowed to gamble, but she suspected Fortuna – or Tyche – had done some magic to ensure nobody bothered Harry.

"There! A poker table!" Harry said, excitedly. Melinoe grabbed his shoulder and stopped him. "We'd better get some chips first, Sport. They're going to pull big eyes if you start throwing real gold drachmas on the table."

"Oh, yeah," Harry said, following her. "I still just treat them as nicely colored poker chips anyway," he admitted as they went to exchange some money.

Melinoe snickered. "Lady Lakshmi's right. You really have no concept of the value of money."

Harry shrugged. "When you have a roof over your head, clothes on your body, and food in your belly, you pretty much don't need money." He frowned slightly. "Although the kick-ass entertainment system's great, I suppose," he finally admitted. "I could do without it, though."

Melinoe snickered again, and accepted the box of high-value chips from the cashier, before immediately putting said box in Harry's hands. "Here, go have fun," she said. "Don't lose it all in one place."

Harry made a face, then theatrically turned around, sticking his nose in the air and flouncing off to the poker table he'd seen earlier.

The players didn't see him as underage, but somehow did recognize him as young. Unfortunately for them, 'young' translated as 'inexperienced' and 'fresh meat' to them so they eagerly allowed him to join their game. Harry grinned at the offer of one of the players to 'teach him how to play'.

He demurred and explained that he'd learned to play from a few 'family friends', which apparently the gamblers found 'cute'.

Five minutes later, Harry casually piled his chips after his first win. A drink was put down next to him, causing him to look up.

"Mel?"

"Just the one, I remember," the Goddess of Ghosts teased with a wink.

"A vodka martini, shaken, but not stirred, really?" he asked.

"Might as well go with a classic," she replied grinningly. "Now focus, the next round's about to start, and I want you to clean these guys out."

Harry shrugged, sipped the drink, ate one of the olives, and glanced at his two hold cards before focusing on the community cards. He wasn't a fan of Texas Hold 'Em poker, but it seemed to be the most prevalent type of poker played here in Vegas, so he went with it.

He casually threw in a couple of chips worth a thousand dollars – each – and sipped his drink again. Seriously, when you were used to playing with solid gold against gods, playing with plastic chips against some mortals was almost boring.

He grinned when everyone grumbled at his next win. He took another sip of his drink and focused on the new cards being dealt.

Taking another sip, he pushed in a small stack of coins. "Let's pick it up a notch," he challenged, before taking a big swallow from his glass.

The other players seemed to debate his confidence, and some of them swapped out, letting others take their place.

More than a few hours later, enough money was changing hands to ensure that only the really big whales, those players with deep pockets and large appetites, were left.

Taking a large sip from his drink, Harry closed one eye and focused on pushing two stacks of chips into the pot. The stupid things had minds of their own, seemingly dancing on the table. He wondered what was up with that.

He almost lost that round, amid much grumbling from the players he had just fleeced.

Suddenly, his bladder made itself known. Accompanied by cheers from the other players, he gathered his chips – messily – and tried to stand up. The floor wavered underneath his feet and he had to hold himself up by his chair.

"Come on, Harry, time to go back to the suite," Melinoe said, suddenly at his side.

"Ya sure?" he slurred.

"Yes, I'm sure," the Goddess of Ghosts said.

"Owkay," he slurred, leaning on her more than he wanted to admit as she guided him to the elevator banks.

The trip up to the suite was calm and quiet, but Harry frowned at the floor regardless.

"What's wrong?" Melinoe asked.

"Stupid el'vator 's spinning," the young demigod declared. "Eye swear, eye can f'l th' earth move."

Melinoe snorted a giggle and kept quiet. Soon, she was guiding him into the suite.

"Well now, it seems you two have been having fun," Hestia said, standing up from where she had been sitting on one of the couches.

Melinoe froze at the sight. Harry, on the other hand, was delighted.

"Hessia!" he slurred, waggling over to his all-time favorite goddess and giving her a big hug. The aura of alcohol that surrounded him made her scrunch her nose. "Yer the alltime bestest goddess ever!" he declared with his arms still around her.

"Harry," Hestia said. "You're drunk."

"Eye'm not!" Harry protested, pulled back just enough to be able to see her face but not releasing the hug. The waft of alcohol coming from his mouth made Hestia pulled back further than that. "Eye jus' had da wan drink, 'coz ya told me eye could just have da one drink, so that's what I had because that's what ya told me," Harry drunkenly ranted.

"Just the one drink?" Hestia asked, sounding maximally disappointed – a full ten out of ten on the Hestia Disappointment scale. Ironically, his drunken situation which caused that disappointment also shielded him from its fallout.

So, rather than recoiling or feeling guilty at being hit with maximum disappointment, Harry nodded proudly. "Yup! Jus da wan drink, 'coz that's what ya told me eye could… have…" he frowned then. "Eye jus' had da one drink," he repeated, but thinking about something. "But eye woz sippin' from it all day. And eye dinna realize."

Hestia, on the other hand, paled. "You drank from one drink all day?" she asked.

Harry nodded. "Yup. Weird. Dinna realize. Or think abou' it. Just da one drink. But it lasted…"

"Harry," Hestia said, taking his hand. "I think someone altered your drink, and then cast a geas so you wouldn't think about it."

"Oh," Harry said. "That's bad. Ya shouldna mess with people's drinks."

"Indeed," Hestia said. "But first, let's get you to bed." his clothes changed for his favorite pajamas.

Harry noticed, and threw his arms around her. "You're the absolutely bestest goddess ever in the history of the universe," he declared. "Eye love you sooooooo much."

Hestia patted his back. "I care very deeply for you as well, Harry. Come on, let's get you to bed so you can sleep off your bender."

"Owkay," the young demigod agreed.

Melinoe turned. "That's a good idea. I should-"

"Sit down," Hestia interrupted, staring at the young Goddess of Ghosts.

Melinoe blinked, finding herself sitting before consciously thinking about it.

"We will talk later," the Goddess of Home and Hearth said. Melinoe nodded and sat stiffly, trying to convey a 'look how obedient I am' sensation.

Hestia ignored her and pulled Harry toward his bedroom. He fell into bed, out like a light. Frowning, she tucked him in, and studied him for a few moments.

Finally, she made a decision. "Apollo, if you have a few moments, could you take a look at something for me?"

A beam of faded sunlight, the last of the day, solidified in the bedroom, revealing the God of the Sun. "Aunt Hestia! What can this most handsome God of the Sun do…" he noticed Harry in the bed, and his status of God of Medicine revealed the boy's state. "… for you?" he finished. "Although I have a pretty good idea. That's a huge amount of alcohol, and he didn't fall into a coma. It's impressive."

"No, it is not," Hestia said.

"I meant awful, really," Apollo switched. "Someone must have slipped him a blessing, though. Because like I said, he has enough alcohol in his system to knock out most mortal adults with high resistance to alcohol."

Hestia narrowed her eyes with disapproval, she wished she knew who had slipped him that kind of blessing.

"Honestly, Aunt Hestia, whoever did it probably saved the kid's life. He'd be dead without it," Apollo said, trying to put the unknown benefactor out of the wind.

Hestia paled at that realization. "Can you help him?" she asked. "Someone altered his drink to be never-ending, then cast a geas to make him not realize either the endless alcohol or the fact that he was drinking it."

Apollo looked upset all of a sudden. "What a horrible thing to do. Quite an assassination attempt, make the kid drink himself to death without realizing it. Lucky he had that blessing."

As the God of the Sun turned to face Harry, he did not realize that behind him Hestia's anger was plainly visible. Her eyes was glowing bluish-white flames, and her hair waved on invisible fields of force. She swallowed deeply, literally swallowing her anger and forcing herself back into her preferred child-like form.

"Can you conjure me a jug of water?" Apollo asked. "Food and drink being your domain and all."

"Of course," Hestia said, conjuring the desired item.

"Thanks, Aunt Hestia," Apollo said, still not looking at her and focusing on Harry instead. He motioned to the jug with one hand, pulled the water out of it like a blob. As if in micro-gravity, the blob of water clung to his hand.

"If I just rip the alcohol out of him, it would leave him with a huge hangover due to the dehydration, so I'm going to replace the alcohol with the water," Apollo explained as his free hand pulled back the covers and pulled up Harry's pajama top. He motioned to the boy's chest with the hand encompassed by the water, and the fluid seemed to push forward, disappearing into Harry's side.

"Perhaps the hangover would be a good lesson," Hestia mused quietly, but not quietly enough.

"Blaming the victim, Aunt Hestia?" Apollo asked, deceptively mildly. The Goddess of the Home looked ashamed for a moment.

"You're quite right, Apollo," she admitted. "I let my anger speak. I should know better."

The God of the Sun winked at her, before motioning with his other hand to Harry's other side. He started pulling out a similar amount of liquid, equally clear as the water, yet behaving subtly different.

Alcohol. Apollo was pulling the alcohol out of Harry's body, Hestia realized.

Finally, he seemed to be done and let the fluid drop back into the pitcher. "That's about as much as I dare pull from him without pulling stuff straight from his cells," the God of Medicine explained. "A good night's rest and he'll be just fine."

Hestia nodded, and gave her nephew a hug. "Thank you for the prompt arrival and the help, Apollo."

Apollo grinned and hugged her back. "You're welcome, Aunt Hestia. If you find who did this, make sure you give them what-for from me, alright? I don't know if this was a deliberate assassination attempt or someone's attempt at a joke that got out of hand, but the kid could have died from this if that unknown deity hadn't slipped him a fast one."

Hestia nodded. "I believe I know the responsible party, and they will not be enjoying the conversation I will be having with them," she assured him.

The God of the Sun looked at her, and for a moment saw the ice-cold blue-white flames in her eyes. He nodded. "Alright, Aunt Hestia. I'll be out of your hair, then."

"Bye Apollo," she said, attempting her usual smile but probably failing at it. Her nephew nodded once, looked at Harry again to make sure the boy was comfortable, and then vanished along with the dying light of the day.

Hestia took another long look at the peacefully sleeping Harry, then drew a deep breath and turned. Somehow, that breath made her look taller despite not actually changing her usual mortal size.

Melinoe was still sitting on the couch in her 'look at how well behaved I am' pose. "Aunt Hes-" she started to say.

"Don't Aunt Hestia me," Hestia snapped, causing the younger goddess to shut up and her eyes to grow big. A shudder went through her body. "Tell me one thing, Melinoe. What were you thinking?"

Melinoe tried for a disarming smile, but it came out more as a painful grimace. "I thought he could use some fun," she said, quietly.

"Some fun? Some fun!?" Hestia asked, her hair moving contrary to the laws of physics and her eyes glowing a murky blood-red. Suddenly, the room felt stuffy and hot. "I called Apollo. It was a good thing I did, as the amount of alcohol in Harry's system could have – should have – killed him!"

As Hestia raged, the room's temperate kept increasing, and her eyes went from a blood-red glow to a white-hot one. Melinoe could honestly say she had never been more frightened, and had pressed herself against the cushions of the couch, wishing she could disappear into the gap between them.

Hestia drew a breath, and the room's temperature decreased slightly. "Harry received an unknown blessing from an unknown deity that increased his tolerance for alcohol. It was the only thing that saved him."

Melinoe, despite being afraid for her life, looked like she was about to cry. Hestia looked at her niece for a few moments. "It looks like you weren't trying to deliberate kill my favorite mortal."

The Goddess of Ghosts looked shocked at the very thought. "I would never…!" she started.

"And yet, you have," Hestia interrupted. "Why, Melinoe?"

The younger goddess swallowed deeply. "He's so… hard working," she finally said. "Always training or studying or practicing. So when I managed to get him here, I wanted to help him relax a bit. So I doctored his glass to be never-ending and did a little magic on his mind to not make him realize it."

Hestia looked murderous. "He drank enough to kill himself because of your 'help'," she stated. "Thankfully, Apollo was able to remove most of the alcohol from his system, and that unknown god slipping him that blessing saved his life."

"I'm sor-" Melinoe started to say, but once again was interrupted.

"Melinoe, I know that you have very little experience with mortals. And from the way you looked earlier, I know this was not a deliberate assassination attempt on your part. But still, a simply 'I'm sorry' will not cut it."

Melinoe looked devastated.

"Leave," Hestia said. "I will not – can not – trust you to be around him for extended periods of time. Go to Helios' Temple, pack your bags, and leave."

The younger goddess gaped for a few moments. "But… where will I go?"

"You should have thought of that before you almost killed my favorite mortal!" Hestia shouted, hair waving and eyes glowing and suddenly in full three-meter-tall divine form.

Melinoe crawled into a corner of the couch and wished she could burrow into it. "Now move," Hestia commanded. "I will explain things to Harry once he wakes up. I do not want to see you when I bring him to the temple."

Melinoe looked like she was about to cry, but vanished without comment.

Hestia sat down, and sighed. She hated being at odds with her family. Unfortunately, sometimes one had to teach a hard lesson – and Melinoe definitely needed a hard lesson on being careful around mortals. They were far more fragile than she thought.

She knew Harry; he would definitely not like it if she forbade contact. He'd probably agree with her, then go around her back – his upbringing had told him to agree with rules, then break them if he didn't agree with them.

So, she'd go the other way; explain to him what Melinoe had done and what the potential consequences could have been, and advise him to be careful. He was a smart boy, she was sure he'd listen to that advice.

AN: Sorry for the delay in this chapter. Recently, doctors discovered a brain tumor in my mother's head, and I spent a lot of time in hospitals. She's undergone surgery and is now recovering, but unfortunately a gliobastoma is pretty much incurable at this point in time. The best we can hope for is to stall for time.