Harry Potter, Squatter
Harry casually strolled from the fire at Camp half-Blood, whistling something that sounded like it might have been Ode an die Freude – if one were as tonally challenged as Harry was.
Immediately after arrival, the next note stuck to his lips as the young demigod looked around curiously. Where was everyone?
For a few minutes, he strolled through the abandoned camp, finding nobody. If this were a spaghetti western, there would have been tumbleweeds.
The sound of a conch shell perked him up, stopping him from strolling up to the Big House and asking Mister D what was going on.
The sound of the conch told him every answer he needed – there was a Capture the Flag game going on!
Since he hadn't been invited to join, nor asked to be a member of a team, Harry decided that he was therefore an 'independent agent' and that he was going to have some fun. Conjuring himself the traditional Greek armor worn by the campers while engaging in Capture the Flag, Harry reminded himself that the team colors were blue and red.
So he made his armor set black and yellow – because Hufflepuff forever – and strolled into the woods.
He brought out his shield and Hestia's Lasso, determined not to kill anybody, and casually strolled into the forest as if going to the corner store for a bottle of milk.
He'd been trained well enough by Zoë to pick up on hidden campers; he'd also been in Hestia's favor long enough to not attack anybody who didn't attack him first.
Strangely enough, he heard plenty of campers. None engaged him, however.
He looked around, curiously. Will Solace, the Son of Apollo that the twins had once introduced him to, poked his head out the bushes, saw Harry, then ducked back.
Harry snorted, and shrugged. If they wanted to play hide and seek instead of Capture the Flag, that was fine by him. Less violence that way.
He reached the stream and started following it, soon arriving at a scene that made him pause.
Clarisse, and four of her older, meaner, uglier brothers, had seemingly jumped Percy. There was some shouting back and forth, and while insults were exchanged they did seem to be in good nature.
"Hey! No maiming!" Percy yelled, taking three steps back to inspect his injured arm.
"Guess I lost my dessert privileges," the mean-looking Son of Ares chuckled.
"Hey! Prissy might be prissy, but this is still meant to be good fun," Clarisse admonished her brother. "Ya need to learn to duck, Prissy," she said as she turned to Percy.
"Yeah, yeah," Percy muttered.
"I think I hear whining," one of Clarisse's brothers said.
"I think I do, too," Clarisse confirmed and shoved Percy. Windmilling, the Son of Poseidon staggered backward and fell into the creek. As he surfaced, he looked like he'd just been injected with pure adrenaline; Percy was wide-awake, seemed to not care about his injuries, and the blood on his arm had washed away only to show a rapidly closing wound.
Harry grinned; the gifts Percy had inherited from Poseidon were awesome!
"Strategic mistake," Clarisse said, loud enough for Harry to hear. "Still. Get him, boys. He can't take five on one."
Harry would put good money on the fact that yes, Percy very much could take all five of them.
He grinned when Percy then proceeded to validate Harry's trust in him, as he clocked the first Son of Ares over the head and through the helm, hard enough to knock him out with one blow.
He then proceeded to hit the second boy with his shield and swiped his sword at number three, cleaving off the horse-hair plume on the boy's helmet.
Clarisse was the next one to reach the supercharged Son of Poseidon, and attacked him with the spear that had been a surprise from Ares, its tip wreathed with blood-red lightning. Percy dodged the first strike, caught the spear between his shield and his sword and made a wrenching motion that would have broken the weapon, had he not pulled the strike at the last moment.
"Nice one, Prissy," Clarisse complimented, stepping back. "Looks like he can take all of us," she said, waving her last brother off.
Harry heard yelling, and saw Luke charging across the stream, carrying Ares' flag. "And of course it was a setup," Clarisse grumbled. "Stupid Athena cabin and their stupid plans," she grouched.
The red flag turned silver, and showed the symbol of Cabin Eleven as Luke finished crossing the stream; people started cheering and carrying him around on their shoulders. Harry grinned; this was what he liked most – a nice, friendly game.
"Not bad, hero," Annabeth's voice said from nearby, as she shimmered into being when she took the baseball cap of invisibility from her head. Harry grinned, remembering that particular gift from Athena even if he hadn't seen it very often.
"Fighting a Son of Poseidon in the water isn't a good idea," Harry said as he stepped up. "You're awesome, Percy." Nobody seemed to question his presence or his garb, so he went with it.
"Yeah, no kidding. I knew it was a mistake the moment I did it," Clarisse admitted, grabbing Percy into a friendly headlock with one arm, removed his helmet with her other, before proceeding to give him a friendly noogie. "Ya did well, Prissy."
"Thanks," Percy muttered, seemingly not that put out with the noogie and therefore not trying that hard to escape. Apparently, he had decided that the best thing to do was to let her get it out of her system.
There was a canine growl; it was close enough for Harry to realize it was no ordinary canine growl. It was followed by a ferocious howl, making Harry put the Lasso of Truth back into a ring before pulling out his sword. He wasn't alone, from the corner of his eye he saw Clarisse releasing Percy before grabbing her spear, and Annabeth unsheathed her sword.
Chiron yelled in Ancient Greek. Stand ready! My bow!
It barged from the treeline, a monster dog the size of a rhinoceros with red-glowing eyes.
And not just any hellhound – one of the bigger ones that Harry had seen in the Fields of Punishment in the underworld.
Plasma, Harry requested of Godslayer.
Plasma! The preternatural weapon agreed. Glad I get to play too, boss!
Harry pushed Shen as hard as he could, and basically intercepted the monster as it jumped for Percy. The creature dodged in mid-air, releasing another howl as Godslayer, instead of taking off its head, took off its right front paw instead.
"Begone," Harry said. "Begone or I will kill you."
It howled again, and tried to jump over Harry to get to Percy. It was a tactical mistake on the monster's part as Harry thrust upward, uncoiling all the strength his perfectly trained body's core could produce as he plunged his plasma sword into its belly. The monster let out a loud yip like an injured dog, before falling to the ground where it started to slowly dissolve.
"A Hellhound from the Fields of Punishment," Annabeth said, proving once and for all that she was in Athena cabin and didn't need to have first-hand experience with monsters in order to be able to identify them.
Chiron trotted from the treeline, his bow lowered but at the ready. "Well done, lad," he told Harry, before looking at the slowly dissolving monster. "Someone must have summoned it. Someone inside the camp. It could not have crossed the barrier otherwise."
Clarisse bumped shoulders with Percy and winked at him. "Prissy did it," she teased.
"Not funny, Clarisse," Percy replied with a tired sort of smile.
"Still made you smile," the Daughter of Ares grinned.
"This is no laughing matter," Chiron admonished the two, silencing them. "Someone summoned this monster inside the barrier. It bears investigation."
The post-game celebration wasn't much of one, everyone was too much on edge. Harry did his best, but not even he could change what had just happened – a monster had invaded the safe space of the demigods, a camp that was protected by a barrier maintained by Athena herself.
Harry reined in Bucephalus at the base of a small hill; a small hill with a good view of the nearby Khentii mountain range.
He needed an escape from camp, to be honest. After the hellhound's appearance, the tone at camp had changed considerably; everyone now realized there was a traitor among them. While nobody outright blamed Percy, there was enough speculation to make Harry's teeth ache.
When some miscreant, probably the same one that let in the hellhound, left a paper for Percy at Poseidon's cabin, Harry knew he needed a break.
The newspaper had been opened to an article related to Percy and Mrs Jackson's disappearance, and basically tried to blame Percy for the tragedy. Apparently Percy's stepfather, Gabe Ugliano, had given an interview that put Percy in the worst possible light.
Yes, Percy had frequented quite a few schools, but that was due to his demigodly dyslexia and reflexes, not because Percy was a thug the way Gabe tried to frame it.
To Harry, it merely confirmed that one should never trust an adult. After Percy's stories about the man, Harry would gladly introduce Gabe to Godslayer – tip first.
As such, feeling his own temper rising and realizing he wasn't of any use at the moment, the young demigod took a break and gave Bucephalus some exercise on the plains of Mongolia. They were, after all, the birthplace of horsemanship.
Having found the small hill with perfect view of the mountains, he pulled in the reins and dismounted. Taking the ghostly tack of his equally ghostly horse, Harry grinned when the saddle vanished.
Bucephalus neighed, jostled his shoulder with his nose, then pretended to graze.
Harry chuckled and took a lunchbox out of his Hammerspace pocket. As he munched on his sandwiches, he made his way to the top of the hill. It was sparsely forested but there was a clearing near the top that gave him a panoramic view of the Khentii mountain range. At the center of the clearing was an ancient stone structure of some kind; it was definitely old as it had crumbled and was overgrown with plant-life to the point where it was barely visible.
Harry circled the ancient stonework, turning to the mountains instead. He drew in a breath of clean, fresh, Mongolian Steppe air through his nose, before slowly releasing it. With it went a lot of his stress and anxiety.
Finishing his lunch, he put the container back in Hammerspace and just… sat down. He needed time to himself, time to get his bearings back.
Hestia hadn't made progress on finding Percy's mother, not for lack of trying, but it seemed that most people were busy with the missing Lightning Bolt, too busy to look for a mortal woman.
It was telling, Harry mused. Whatever happened had to have something to do with the Lightning Bolt mess.
He sighed, and laid back, folding his arms underneath his head so he could keep staring at the mountains. There was something incredibly relaxing about being the only human around for hundreds of kilometers in either direction. Especially when one was the only human around while enjoying a truly spectacular view of some very impressive mountains.
He suddenly became aware that, despite his inner dialogue, he wasn't alone.
Looking up, he found himself staring at a Mongolian Warrior, dressed in armor that suited the Mongolian Hordes hundreds of years ago. The man looked fierce, with a strong face and an expression that would have pierced him physically, had it been able to do so.
"Hi!" Harry said, smiling as he sat up and got to his feet. As usual, he wasn't intimidated in the least when faced with someone's displeasure. "I'm Harry."
The warrior spoke, and Harry understood not one word. Apparently, his new friend didn't speak English, and Harry didn't speak Mongolian. Harry pointed to his chest. "Harry," he repeated, before pointing at the man.
The warrior grunted something, then pointed to himself. "Temüjin," he identified himself, before pointing at Harry, glowering, and demanding something in Mongolian while pointing at the ground.
Getting the point, that his new friend wanted to know what he was doing here, Harry nodded, turned to the mountains and spread his arms – wordlessly expressing 'look at that view!'.
The man looked, grunted, but seemed mollified. For close to ten minutes, warrior and demigod stood and looked at the mountains together. For most people the silence and presence would have been incredibly uncomfortable. For Harry, who had become immune to glares over the years at the Dursleys and the years of Athena's tutelage, it was just another day.
Feeling more relaxed now, and knowing that he had quite a run ahead of him before Bucephalus was able to get him back to New York – because hypersonic or not, the earth was a large place – Harry nodded respectfully at the warrior, turned, and walked down the hill.
"What a nice man," Harry thought to himself. "Obviously, I was trespassing, somehow, but he still let me watch the mountains. He even joined me."
As he stepped from the hill onto the plains, he whistled for Bucephalus; the ghost horse had pretend-grazed over some distance.
"His name sounded familiar, though," Harry muttered to himself as Bucephalus nudged him again. The saddle and tack had mysteriously appeared on his ghostly companion again, making Harry chuckle.
As he hefted himself into the saddle, he looked back at the hill.
A hill that was no longer there.
Harry blinked. "Looks like I really was trespassing," the young demigod muttered himself at the sight of the owner mysteriously vanishing the hill. "What was his name again? It sounded fami-"
The young demigod stared for a few moments. "Oh. Oh, that explains a lot. Temujin. Genghis Khan. Who said his burial site should never be discovered. Oops."
Harry threw another look at the empty space. "Better not tell anyone about this, or it'll get back to Miss Athena. Who'll then glare at me for not recognizing Genghis Khan when I see him."
Bucephalus neighed. "Yes, it'll be our little secret, right, Bucephalus?" Harry conspired with his ghost horse.
Because if you couldn't trust your own ghost horse, who could you trust, right?
Harry laughed loudly as his ghostly horse crossed vast distances, and he was still chuckling when he arrived back at Olympus. The night had fallen, even with all the time-lag from crossing timezones, and Harry's body had no clue to what timezone it was in and had completely given up.
"Hi Hestia, I'm home!" he greeted as he entered Hestia's temple. The merrily burning hearth flared almost immediately, discharging the Goddess of the Home.
"Hello, Harry," Hestia said, wearing her usual kind smile and accepting a hug from him. "Did you enjoy your ride?"
"I did!" Harry affirmed with a wide smile. "There's something relaxing about spending hours on horseback, especially when your horse doesn't get tired or hungry."
"Did you go anywhere in particular?" Hestia asked as she made her way to the kitchen, obviously aiming to start cooking. Harry followed like a loyal puppy, as eager to learn her tips, tricks, and secrets as she was to cook for him.
"The Mongolian Steppe," Harry replied. "Because where better to go for a ride then on the endless plains where people basically invented horse-riding."
Hestia nodded thoughtfully. "That is a good point," she said, looking at him for just a moment before returning to her preparations. "Did anything happen?"
"No, not really," Harry answered.
Hestia looked amused. The young demigod sighed. "If I tell you, will you promise me you won't tell Miss Athena? She'll think I'm stupid. Even more than usual, I think."
"That depends on how stupid you were," Hestia replied almost immediately. "You're obviously unhurt, and other than needing a shower, you don't look like you were in a fight."
Harry blinked, smelled his t-shirt, recoiled, and agreed with Hestia's assessment about needing a shower. "Well, I kinda-sorta-maybe stumbled across this hill I wasn't supposed to stumble across," he prevaricated, before sighing. "A hill that contained Genghis Khan's grave, the one that shouldn't be found. He showed up, we exchanged names, he motioned to demand what I was doing there, I motioned that I was there for the view of the mountains, he let me watch said mountains for ten minutes or so, and when I left, the hill vanished."
Hestia laughed softly. "You can't even take your horse for a ride without turning it into an adventure," she said, shaking her head. "At least this time, it was no more dangerous than explaining to an ancient violent warlord's ghost that you meant no harm. Go, have your shower. I'll have dinner ready by the time you're done."
"Alright, Hestia," Harry said, giving her another hug. "Love you!" he said, before turning and going to get said shower.
"I love you too, you rascal," Hestia said, softly, while shaking her head.
Forty-five minutes later, Harry and Hestia had shared a meal; the Goddess of the Home and her adopted son were relaxing in front of the hearth. Harry was reading one of his homework-books from Athena while Hestia seemed to be staring off into space, her attention obviously on something else yet physically still present.
It was homely in a way that Harry hadn't often experienced.
Suddenly, Hestia frowned, her attention pulling back. "Harry, I think you need to contact your friends," she said. "It feels like they're in trouble."
Harry blinked, already marking his spot in the book and putting it on the coffee table. "Which friends, Hestia?" he asked.
"Annabeth, Percy, and… it feels like Grover," the Goddess of the Home said. "They're not near a fire, but Annabeth is thinking very loudly about both you and I. I don't have a real connection with her, and it doesn't constitute a prayer, so I only get some vague impressions. I do know they're not at camp, which is worrying."
"Right," Harry said. "Thanks, Hestia. I'll leave immediately." He pulled the drakon-hide coat out of his Hammerspace pocket, and pulled it on before going to the fire and trying to find his friends.
"I did tell you they were not at camp and nowhere near a fire," Hestia reminded him.
"Oh. Right," Harry said. "It's a habit," he defended. "Let's see if Bucephalus is up for another run."
Hestia nodded at him, and graced him with a gentle smile. "Be careful," she told him.
"Thanks, Hestia, I will," he answered as he left the temple and called his ghost horse once more. Bucephalus, being a ghostly horse, didn't need rest or even food, so was more than ready to go for another run.
As they left Olympus, and Harry started to wonder how to best locate his friends. As he did so, his probability senses went absolutely nuts in a way they hadn't done since he made Mandrake Draught at Hogwarts.
He angled Bucephalus and the ghostly horse shot off.
He landed in the woods alongside the New Jersey riverbank within just a few minutes. Rain was falling steadily, and in the dark of night, with the New York lights behind him, the entire setup felt like one of those old cartoons where they tried to show just how low the main character had fallen.
All he needed now was to lower his head, drop a few tears, and look mournfully behind him.
He patted Bucephalus on the flank, and the ghostly horse went back to the Ghost Lands while Harry trekked deeper into the woods to find his friends.
It took him only a few more minutes to find Annabeth, Percy, and Grover, just as Hestia said. All three had their heads low, looking mournful. Honestly, the only thing missing were the tears.
"Hi guys!" Harry greeted cheerfully, hoping to cheer them up.
"Harry!" Percy shouted, sounding honestly happy to see him. "We could've used you, man!"
Harry dismissed his immediate question on what the trio was doing out of camp, and instead put a hand on Percy's shoulder. "Well, I'm here now. What happened?"
"I got a quest," Percy said, but said no more, obviously struggling to put everything to words. The three did seem like they'd gone through a dishwasher, considering the rain.
Annabeth shuffled uncomfortably. "Percy got a quest, and I kind of convinced him to take me," she admitted.
Harry felt hurt they didn't think to include him, but tried to dismiss it. This wasn't the time, he supposed.
"You weren't at camp, and Annabeth said we'd better start immediately," Percy tattled on the Daughter of Athena, which earned him a glare to the back. "Where were you, anyway?"
"Mongolia," Harry replied, honestly, doing his best to ignore the second jab of pain at the thought they didn't want him around. Not the time, Harry. Not the time.
"So what happened?" he asked, instead.
"Argus drove us to the Greyhound Station," Percy said. "And we took the bus. That's when we got attacked by all three Furies."
"Kindly Ones," Annabeth and Grover corrected immediately.
"THAT's where I knew that term from," Harry said. "Furies!" He blinked. "Wait, you got attacked by the Furies? Why?"
"Do we need a reason?" Annabeth asked. "Because Lord Hades hates us and wants us dead, maybe?"
Percy flinched, realizing that he was the target, not the entire group. He looked grateful that Annabeth didn't point that out, though.
"Mister Hades is a cool guy, he wouldn't just kill someone for the heck of it," Harry dismissed. "Oh, and you got to see Miss Alecto, then. Was she doing well?" he asked, remembering how that particular Fury had once shown him around the Underworld.
His three friends stared at him as if he had lost his head and replaced it with a carved pumpkin.
"What?" Annabeth asked.
"I know Miss Alecto. She's awesome, but I haven't seen her since that one time," Harry explained.
"Harry, she attacked us," Annabeth stated.
"That's not very nice of her. Still, she must've had her reasons," Harry deflected.
"Mrs. Dodds is just evil, that's all the reason she needs," Percy snapped coldly. "That's twice she came after me!"
"Wait, she impersonated your maths teacher?" Harry asked with a snort, remembering Percy telling that particular story when he first came to camp. "Oh, I'm so going to tease her with that should I ever see her again."
More staring ensued. "I told you we should have brought superman," Percy muttered. "He could've distracted them."
Annabeth pursed her lips and looked shifty again; Harry recognized when her Fatal Flaw of Hubris prevented her from admitting she was wrong.
"It's alright, I'm here now," Harry said with a grin. "So, a quest, huh? What does it say?"
"It said I would go west and face a god who was turned," Percy said. "And that I would find what was stolen and see it safely returned."
Harry nodded, then kept looking at Percy, sensing there was more. "That's it," the Son of Poseidon said, looking kind of… squirrelly.
"Really?" Harry asked.
Percy nodded. Harry looked at him. Percy shifted, looking away. "That I would be betrayed by one I call friend," the Son of Poseidon finally admitted. "And that I would fail to save what matters most."
"Ouch," Harry said, ignoring how Annabeth and Grover were staring at Percy; apparently the last two lines were news to them, too. Harry ignored them, and squeezed Percy's shoulder again. "I, for one, never betray a friend," he said. "And wording in a prophecy is important. If it says you fail to save what's important, it may just mean that I do it, instead." he looked away. "It wouldn't be the first time I broke a prophecy to save a friend. No matter how much trouble it gets me into."
Percy looked incredibly grateful. "Thanks, man," he said, sounding as relieved as he looked grateful.
"So, what happened with Miss Alecto?" Harry asked, finding it hilarious how the trio glared at him for being respectful of her.
"She and her two sisters boarded the bus at the next stop," Annabeth recounted.
"She definitely didn't stay dead long," Percy muttered, obviously having grouched about it before.
"She wouldn't have," Harry agreed. "She's a Fury-"
"Kindly one!" Annabeth interjected.
Harry continued as if he hadn't been interrupted, "She's a minor goddess of vengeance in her own right, subject to Mister Hades, Lord of the Underworld. If you got in a strike and killed her, it's next to no effort on Mister Hades' part – or even her own part, for that matter – to come back."
"She becomes more terrifying by the minute," Percy muttered.
"So, Miss Alecto, Miss Megaera, and Miss Tisiphone boarded the bus," Harry said, in an effort to hear the rest of the story.
He was the recipient of three more foul looks, before Annabeth continued. "We couldn't slip out the windows, as they were locked tight, and two of the Kindly Ones sat down at the front and crossed their legs over the isle to show nobody would be leaving."
Harry nodded, probably some small bit of magic on their part to lock the windows, and backing your prey into a corner and preventing it from leaving was a good tactic in his mind. He just wished the Furies hadn't been after his friends, that's all.
"That's when we hit the Lincoln Tunnel, and we only had the small lights along the isle on the bus to see by," the Daughter of Athena said. "And that's when they got up and made some ridiculous excuse about needing the bathroom."
Harry nodded again. "They probably confounded the other people using magic to think there was a bathroom on the bus."
"Mortals can only see what they perceive through the Mist," Annabeth agreed with a nod. "I hid Percy by giving him my baseball cap."
Harry looked at Percy. "That was a gift from her mother, I hope you were careful with it."
"I was!" Percy shouted.
"And thanked her properly," Harry added with a grin.
"I felt like a grade-A coward when I put it on," Percy admitted. "I didn't want to go and hide and leave them in trouble."
Harry nodded softly and squeezed Percy's shoulder again. "It's called a tactical regrouping, not a retreat," he said. "So, what did you do?"
"I made it to the front of the bus, and I was about to hit the emergency stop, when they… transformed… I guess?" Percy said, looking at Annabeth and Grover. The Satyr shrunk further in on himself.
"They were shouting and cracking their whips," Annabeth recounted. "Demanding to know where it was, and when we informed them that Percy was gone, they were going to attack us."
"That's when I noticed that the driver was distracted," Percy took up the story. "He was trying to see what was happening at the back of the bus, so I grabbed the steering wheel and jerked it."
Harry laughed. "That's something I'd do, too! Did it work?"
"Like a charm," Percy said with a grin now that he found a kindred spirit. "I heard the unmistakable sound of three Furies-"
"-For the last time, Kindly Ones!" Annabeth interjected.
" - hitting the side of the bus," Percy finished, taking a page from Harry's book and ignoring her. "The driver and I wrestled over the wheel for a bit, then the bus hit the side of the tunnel, and suddenly we weren't in the tunnel anymore."
"We were tossed around like bowling pins," Annabeth said. "The driver found an exit off the highway, and blew through some intersections before landing us on some rural roads."
"That's when I hit the emergency brake," Percy admitted.
"Did it work?" Harry asked, curious.
"He crashed us into the trees," Annabeth said with an Athena-glare at Percy. "The driver was the first off, never even looked back. The mortals did the same."
"It was just us and the Kindly Ones," Grover said, shaking. "I threw tin cans at them."
"We killed two of them," Percy said, proudly. "When Riptide struck the first one's neck, she exploded into dust, the second one split like a pinata, and we tied Mrs Dodds up with her own whip."
"That's when we felt the air charge and we made a run for it right before a bolt of lightning vaporized the bus," Annabeth said.
Harry whistled. "Nice work, you three," he complimented. "Also, who – or what – is Riptide?"
"My sword!" Percy said, enthusiastically, retrieving a pen from his pocket. Clicking it made it elongate into a medium-sized sword. "Its name is Anaklusmos."
"Riptide," Harry translated with a nod before whistling at the sight of the blade. "That's a very nice looking sword," he complimented, ignoring the jealous twinge coming from Godslayer.
"It's a gift from my father," Percy said, softly. "Forged by the Cyclopes in the fires of Mount Etna, quenched in the River Lethe."
"Nice," Harry complimented, knowing enough to admire the blade from a distance, and not be rude enough to actually ask Percy if he could hold it. Focusing back on the story, the Son of Tyche then asked, "So, after the bus got blasted by lightning, you made a run for it?"
"Mrs Dodds wasn't dead yet," Percy said. "We could hear her screaming, Annabeth said it was for reinforcements, so yeah, we made a run for it."
"Our bags were on the bus," Grover added mournfully. "We lost everything. Food, money, clothes, everything."
"We had to get as far away as we could," Annabeth said. Then, less sure of herself, she looked away. "That's when I was thinking that maybe we should have brought you, and about how I could reach out to Lady Hestia."
Harry felt the pang of hurt again, and dismissed it again. Not the time, Harry, he reminded himself once more. "Since it wasn't a prayer, Hestia couldn't hear you very clearly, but she was able to get enough of a hint to know you were in trouble, so that's when I decided to come look for you."
"And we're all grateful," Percy said, sounding and looking it. Grover nodded. Annabeth shiftily looked away, unwilling to admit to making a mistake.
"So, where are we going?" Harry asked as they continued to trek through the dark woods and the thunderstorm. Used to storms as he was, because Zeus liked to make it rain whenever he had a camping trip, Harry ignored the rain and the cold. The three others liked positively miserable.
So, he build up the image he wanted in his mind, threw some Shen at it, and had the three of them look at him with gratitude as warmth seemed into them.
"If I could remember a find-path song, we could find a way out of these woods," Grover muttered, blowing on his reed pipes and making the poor instrument sound as if he were torturing owls. Harry shivered. Being the proud owner of an owl, that sound grated on his nerves.
The satyr proceeded to try and play, but it sounded like a pop song and apparently failed to do anything.
"If you want to get out of the woods," Harry said, "we should go that way." He pointed in a direction just off to the side of where they were going. "Unless you want to go back, that is. Going back is the quickest path out of the woods."
"How do you know that?" Percy asked, going in the indicated direction.
"Percy, my friend, allow me to tell you about one of my favorite teachers. Her name's Zoë, and she's the Lieutenant of Artemis, the Goddess of the Hunt…" Harry said, throwing an arm around Percy's shoulders. He loved talking about Artie and Zoë, and he'd finally found someone who did look at him funny when he did. He ignored Annabeth rolling her eyes at his back.
Percy listened attentively as Harry explained about learning to survive in the woods, because you never knew when things would fall apart and you'd be forced to.
Considering their current situation, Percy found that a good idea.
They broke out of the woods, only to arrive at a deserted road. On the other side of the road was a small abandoned rest area, an equally abandoned gas station, a billboard that hadn't been updated in decades, and one business that seemed to still be operating.
It was a roadside curio shop, consisting of a large warehouse-like structure flanked by statuary. Lots and lots of statuary.
It had an entrance gate that held a flickering neon sign, which read to Harry demigodly dyslexia, ATNYU MES GDERAN GOMEN MEPROUIM. It lasted for just a moment, when Athena's reading tricks kicked in.
"What the heck does that read?" Percy demanded.
"Aunty Em's Garden Gnome Emporium," Harry translated, receiving looks from Percy and Annabeth and an affirmative nod from Grover, who had no problems reading English. "Miss Athena taught me a few tricks to combat demigodly dyslexia," the Son of Tyche explained, "and I've developed a little spell that translates regular characters into greek ones, which helps a lot."
A smell of greasy burgers wafted over the street, and Percy seemed to suddenly remember that he was hungry.
"The lights are on inside," Annabeth said, looking about as hungry as Percy. "Maybe it's open."
"Snackbar," Percy said, just about drooling at the idea.
"Snackbar," Annabeth agreed, looking better than Percy but sounding like it was a close-knit thing.
"Are you two crazy?" Grover snapped. "This place is weird."
Harry nodded, agreeing with the Satyr, but feeling his probability senses ping his consciousness. He kept silent, because apparently there was something he needed to do inside.
The lot in front of the warehouse-store was filled with a plethora of different statues; cement animals, cement children, a satyr playing his pipes…
That last one seemed to give Grover the creeps, but it made Harry frown, as well. How many people knew of satyrs enough to make a statue of one?
"Bla-ha-ha," Grover bleated. "That looks like my Uncle Ferdinand!"
Harry eyed the statue. Something was off about it. He drew a breath; something was off about all these statues.
"I smell monsters, don't knock," Grover pleaded as Annabeth and Percy made it to the door of the store. Harry, bringing up the rear while staring intently at the statues, stopped. He recalled Billy once making similar statements, and ignoring him had gotten them a Statue of Athena and a lot of lectures.
"Your nose is clogged up from the Furies," Annabeth said. "All I smell is burgers. Aren't you hungry?"
"Kindly Ones," Harry interjected, happy to be able to turn the tables and ignoring the filthy look the Daughter of Athena shot him.
"Meat!" Grover bleated scornfully. "I'm a vegetarian!"
Harry wanted to help the poor satyr out, but his probability senses are still pinging him, and he was at a quandary. "If you want food, I can cook something," he offered. If he could get his friends away, he could come back by himself later. There was no need to get them in trouble as well, he reasoned.
Percy looked startled, as if the concept of Harry cooking didn't compute, before looking at Grover. "You eat enchiladas and aluminum cans," the Son of Poseidon told the satyr.
"Those are vegetables," Grover defended. "Come on, let's go. These statues are looking at me!"
Harry frowned, and looked at the statues again. They hadn't moved, but now that the satyr had spoken, there definitely seemed to be something… alive… about them… He opened his mouth to agree with Grover, and try and get them away from here, when the whole point became moot.
The door creaked open; revealing a Middle-Eastern woman wearing a long black gown, and a headdress that covered her entire head and face, her eyes only visible through a thin sheet of black gauze.
Her accent sounded vaguely Middle Eastern, too. She said, "Children, it is too late to be out all alone. Where are your parents?"
Harry's instincts flared and for a moment he felt himself reach for Godslayer. Whatever was going on, this woman was involved in it, he just knew it. Still, Hestia had asked him never to fight unless he was attacked first, and his teachers had tried to tell him to think first and act second, so rather than do something rash, he kept quiet until he knew more.
"They're… uh…" Annabeth said, first, but failing to come up with something.
"We're orphans," Percy lied, making them all look at the Son of Poseidon. It was about the most unconvincing lie anyone had ever told in Harry's presence.
"Orphans?" the strange woman asked. "But, my dears! Surely not!"
Harry sighed; yeah, the woman wasn't buying it either.
"We got separated from our caravan," Percy went on, ignoring Harry's very loud thought at the Son of Poseidon to stop digging the hole deeper. "Our circus caravan. The ringmaster told us to meet him at the gas station if we got lost, but he may have forgotten, or maybe he meant a different gas station. Anyway, we're lost. Is that food I smell?"
"Oh, my dears," the woman said, still sounding as if she wasn't buying the crap Percy was peddling, but sounding like she was going to play along anyway. "You must come in, poor children. I am Aunty Em. Go straight through to the back of the warehouse, please. There is a dining area."
"Circus caravan?" Annabeth whispered to the Son of Poseidon as they traipsed after Aunty Em, who still set Harry's instincts on edge.
"Always have a strategy, right?" Percy teased.
"Your head is full of kelp," Annabeth chided. Harry nodded silently, completely agreeing with her.
The inside of the warehouse, too, was filled with statues. At the back was, indeed, a dining area, but Harry stopped before reaching it. The statue that had drawn his attention was a statue of a young girl, maybe eights years old, dressed in Easter-finest clothes, carrying an Easter basket, looking utterly and mortally terrified.
"Ah," Aunty Em said sadly. "You notice some of my creations do not turn out well. They are marred. They do not sell. The face is the hardest to get right. Always the face."
Harry ignored her and kept staring at the little girl's statue. He touched its cheek, and startled. Immediately, he was beset by emotions, the most powerful of which was stark-raving terror.
Oh. Oh no. Immediately he knew what had happened, and immediately he felt pure rage at what had been done to this poor, undeserving girl.
His stare swept from from the statue to Aunty Em. "You really are a monster, aren't you?" he asked, his tone flat and dangerous. Percy and Annabeth froze. Grover bleated, sounding vindicated. The air filled itself with the force Harry's anger.
The woman froze, looked at Harry, and despite her face being covered, they could feel her narrowing her eyes.
"Oh no, I'm not at fault," she said, starting to unwrap her headdress.
Annabeth, as Daughter of Athena, looked at Harry, the statues, the woman, and put two and two together and got the correct result. "Don't look at her! That's Medusa!"
To their credit, both Percy and Grover threw themselves to the ground, resolutely staring away. Annabeth did the same, but Harry just stared at her. "Oh no, children. I am but the monster that the gods made of me," Medusa hissed, the headdress falling away. "The gray-eyed one did this to me, turning me from a beautiful woman into this."
"No," Harry said as the coverings fell away, revealing Medusa in all her hideous glory. Tiny snakes swarmed around her hideous face, as ugly as the myths had made her out to be. Harry drew a breath, and ignoring the sickening feeling deep inside himself.
"Harry! Get down!" Annabeth commanded.
"Lord Kukulkan, King of the Mayan Gods, declared that no snake will ever harm me," Harry said, throwing his shoulders back, and looking Medusa square in the eyes, startling the monster. "Miss Athena only changed your appearance. You became a monster all by yourself," he told her, giving a pointed stare to the statue of the poor little girl with her Easter basket.
The sight of it broke his heart. Deep inside himself, the little part of him that had been broken by the Dursleys, he held hatred. Hatred for those that harmed people, those that would use power or stature over others. It was a part of himself that he tried to keep locked up, out of fear it would drive Hestia away. But this monster? This monster deserved it.
Considering how the rest of the quest had been going, and how his friends initially hadn't wanted him along, Harry was having a really bad evening. And Medusa was a convenient target for his frustrations.
He opened his magic. The latent imprint of the terrified consciousness of each and every victim in this warehouse and the surrounding lots bombarded him, making the entire situation even worse. Harry was angry. And angry Harry hated.
His right arm stretched out to the side, and he called for his sword. "Godslayer, come to my hand." It was not as much a command as a statement of fact, delivered on a flat tone that lacked any and all emotion.
Godslayer appeared as commanded, in mid-air, and started to fall. With the reflexes of a demigod, Harry snatched the falling blade from the air. "Ignite," he said, mentally giving the image of what he wanted the sword to do.
Boss, I can do the fire, but the other thing…
Don't worry, Godslayer. I've got you.
The sword burst into fire, long flames casting shadows through the warehouse of Medusa's victims. Immediately, Harry constructed the mental image of what he had seen in the ancient temple beneath the nameless city, and inverted the light of the fire. Red and yellow flames became black and blacker ones, drawing in light rather than emitting it, perfectly recreating the environment of that dread place that haunted Harry's nightmares, of a place where no light would ever shine.
The shadows inverted themselves, now cast by the inverse of light and dark emitting from those hideous flames.
"Holy fu-" Percy broke himself off.
Harry ignored him and glared at Medusa, who was staring at his sword with atavistic dread. "In Hestia's name, I will offer you mercy," Harry declared. "Come over here and let me kill you. Think on your crimes and do better in your next life."
Medusa stared at him incredulously, needing more than a few moments to compute the fact that he had simply demanded she surrender her life.
She shook his declaration off, and focused instead on where Percy was hiding. "Do you really want to help the gods?" she asked. "Do you understand what awaits you on this foolish quest, Percy? What will happen if you reach the Underworld? Do not be a pawn of the Olympians, my dear. You would be better off as a statue. Less pain. Less pain."
Harry ignored the questions of how she knew Percy, or how she apparently knew the destination of the quest before he did, and instead stretched his left arm out toward her. With his left index and middle fingers, he made the universal come-hither motion. "Come here," he commanded.
The monster squeaked when Harry's magic grabbed her, and squawked when it dragged her off her feet and towards him. "That was not up for debate," the young demigod declared as Medusa struggled.
When the monster came to a stop in front of him, he simply turned his still-outstretched hand over, so his fingers were now pointed at the floor instead of at her. "Kneel."
His magic dutifully increased the local gravity on an individual scale, forcing Medusa to the ground, to her knees, before forcing her to support herself on her hands as well as her knees, exposing her neck.
Harry brought the Godslayer up, and grabbed it with both hands. For a moment, he hesitated, then he looked at the little girl's statue once more and his resolve hardened.
Godslayer came down in a perfect arch. Medusa's body burst into golden motes, while her head thumped to the ground.
"Think about your crimes and do better in your next life," Harry repeated. "Don't make me come after you again."
"Don't look," Annabeth admonished, obviously at Percy. "Hang on, I'll get her headdress."
A few moments later, the Daughter of Athena had draped the black cloth over the severed head, making it safe for those who had not been under Kukulkan's protection.
"You know, you can be absolutely terrifying," Percy said as the group gathered to stare at Medusa's covered head.
"So I've been told," Harry said with a snicker. "She just made me furious, that's all." He sighed and looked at the little girl's statue.
"When you're being hunted, hope that the man hunting you is an evil man," Annabeth said, as if quoting something. "Because evil likes power, and they will want to see you in fear. They'll want you to know you're going to die. So they'll talk, and gloat, and watch you squirm. They'll put off the moment they kill you. So hope that your hunter is an evil man. A good man will simply kill you."
"That sounds familiar, somehow," Harry said.
"I bastardized a quote from Discworld," Annabeth said, eyeing him in the same way that Percy was. "It felt like it fit."
Harry nodded. "There was no need to drag it out. She needed killing, so I killed her."
"I'm just saying," Annabeth said, "you didn't do this to Arachne."
"Arachne limited herself to playing some pranks and killing those that came to kill her. She left everyone else alone. Medusa killed everyone." As a point, he looked around the warehouse and the hundreds of statues in it, and a wave of his arms included the many more hundreds of statues in the surrounding lots.
Annabeth's face twisted, and she was about to reply, when Harry said, "Arachne sent spiders to spin webs around you at night. Granted, with your extreme arachnophobia, that was a pretty traumatizing experience. Now think about this. How many poisonous spiders are there?"
"Too many," Annabeth muttered.
"How easy would it be to sneak a couple of them into a crib of every child of Athena before they reach their first birthday?" Harry asked.
The Daughter of Athena looked absolutely horrified.
"Exactly," Harry said. "She pranked children of Athena. If she wanted you all dead, you'd all be dead."
Annabeth pursed her lips, but remained silent. She hated it when he made a good point like that.
Harry grinned, patted her back, then turned back to the little girl statue, and stared at it. His hand reached out and pulled one of the Mandrake Draughts out of his Hammerspace pocket and stared at it.
"What's that?" Percy asked.
"It's a potion I learned to make at school," Harry said. "It's called Mandrake Draught and it can reverse petrifaction. Thing is, that's magical petrifaction, but these statues were made by Medusa, so I don't know if it'll work or not. Plus, I only have eight doses."
"Shit," Percy cussed, eyeing the hundreds of victims in the warehouse.
Grover sidled up, staring at the potion bottle. "What happens if it doesn't work?" he asked.
"Best case scenario, nothing happens," Harry said. "Worst case scenario? I guess the statue breaks."
Annabeth, Percy, and Grover winced. The satyr drew a breath. "Try Uncle Ferdinand," he suggested. As the demigods looked at him, he continued, "Uncle Ferdinand was the bravest man I ever knew. If he weren't a statue, he'd volunteer. His life for a chance to revive people? He'd jump at the chance."
Harry nodded. "Alright," he said. "Let's try."
They traipsed back outside, to the statue of the satyr playing the flute. Grover looked mournful now that he knew it really was his Uncle Ferdinand.
"Let's see if this works," Harry said, taking his potions bottle and spelling its contents into the stomach of the satyr's statue.
For five long seconds, nothing happened.
Then, the statue blinked.
Slowly – so very slowly – movement seeped back into Uncle Ferdinand's statue.