Harry Potter, Squatter

By Enterprise1701_d

Chapter 73

The group emerged from a bonfire that was burning on the beach. Obviously there had been some kind of party going on, as there were discarded beer bottles and food containers everywhere.

The party-goers themselves, however, were nowhere to be seen. A quick look at the horizon told the three demigods and their Satyr partner the reason why – the Los Angeles skyline showed the aftereffects of a major earthquake, plumes of smoke rising from the various neighborhoods, emergency sirens clanging and people shouting.

"Sheesh, Mister Hades," Harry muttered. "Temper, much?"

The others ignored him, instead looking at each other. "I can't believe we went all that way," Annabeth started to say, only to get interrupted by Percy.

"It was a trick," Percy stated unequivocally. "A strategy worthy of Athena herself."

"Hey," Annabeth protested, but there was no heat to it.

"You get it, right?" the Son of Poseidon asked. Annabeth nodded weakly.

"Well, I don't," Grover protested. "Would somebody please explain?"

It seemed Annabeth wasn't yet ready to explain things to Grover; instead she looked mournfully at Percy. "I'm sorry about your mom," she said, softly.

Harry opened his mouth to add his own apology, to explain that Sally had been out of his reach and if he had grabbed for her, they wouldn't have made it out before Hades' temper got the better of him.

Instead, before he was able to do so, Percy changed the subject. It seemed like the Son of Poseidon didn't want to discuss his mother, at all. From the look of him, it was likely because he wouldn't be able to keep it together if he did.

"The prophecy was right," the Son of Poseidon said, instead. " 'You shall go west and face the god who has turned', and we faced him. Only it wasn't Hades. It was someone else who stole Zeus' Master Bolt and Hades' Helm, and then framed me because I'm the Son of Poseidon. Dad will get blamed by both sides, and by the time of the Solstice, there will be a three-way war, and it'll be my fault."

Harry sighed. "We need to find Mister Hades' Helm and return it to him, and then get back to Olympus and give Mister Zeus his toy back."

Two demigods and one Satyr gave a small smile at Harry's attempt at levity.

"Still, who would be that sneaky, and want war that badly?" Grover asked.

"Him," Percy said, pointing to a figure leaning against a huge Harley that hadn't been there moments earlier.

Dressed in a black leather duster, with a baseball bat over his shoulder, and leaning against his rumbling motorcycle with a blood-red front light, Ares, the God of War, made an imposing sight.

Even if Harry had to think it himself.

"Howdy," the God of War greeting, seemingly pleased to see them. "You were supposed to die," he added, just as cheerfully.

Harry opened his mouth to express his disappointment in the God of War, but once again, Percy beat him to it. Harry grinned at his fellow demigod; Percy really was stepping up as the leader of this quest.

"You tricked me," Percy said, angrily. "You stole the Helm and the Master Bolt!"

Ares grinned, and Harry recognized the grin as one the God of War often used when doing mischief. Or throwing birthday surprises his way. Harry tensed up. This wasn't going to end well, and he needed to be ready.

"Well, now. I didn't steal them myself, of course. Gods taking each other's symbols of power is a huge no-no. Ancient Laws and all that rot. But! You're not the only hero in the world that can run errands, aren't you?"

"So you sent Clarisse or something?" Percy demanded, causing Harry to frown. Clarisse wouldn't do this.

Then again, if Ares demanded it?

Yes. Yes, she would have.

Luckily for her, though, Harry had cleared her himself using the Lasso of Truth, back in December.

Ares, however, was clearly amused at Percy blaming his daughter. "Doesn't matter," he deflected. "Point is, kid, you're impeding the war effort. See – you had to die in the Underworld. Then Old Seaweed will be mad at Hades for killing you. Corpse Breath will have Zeus' Master Bolt, so Zeus'll be mad at him. And Hades is still looking for this…"

His voice trailed off as he pulled a ski mask from his pocket; the kind of ski mask used by bank robbers the world over, and placed it on the seat of his bike. It immediately transformed into a bronze war helmet.

"Mister Hades' helm," Harry grunted.

"Exactly," Ares said with a wide grin. "Now, where was I?" He hemmed for a few moments, then continued, "Hades will be mad at both Zeus and Poseidon, because he doesn't know who took… his toy," he said, obviously changing his wording and grinning at Harry. "So, pretty soon, we'll have a nice little three-way slugfest going."

"But we're family!" Harry protested vehemently. "Think of what Hestia will say!"

For a moment, Ares looked uncomfortable, and a shadow appeared over his face, as if he were thinking to himself, listening to something other than his own voice. It cleared, and he grinned blood-thirstily at Harry. "That's the best kind kind of war, Brat!" he told the Son of Tyche. "Always the bloodiest. Nothing like watching your relatives duke it out, I always say."

Harry grunted. "And Hestia?" he demanded.

For a moment, Ares looked uncomfortable again, before shaking his head. "She'll forgive. She always does," he said, although he didn't sound as confident as he obviously intended.

"You gave me the backpack at The Overlook," Percy said. "Did it always have the Master Bolt in it?"

"Yes and no," the God of War replied, obviously relieved at no longer speaking about Hestia and perfectly happy to continue monologuing. Obviously Ares had never read the Evil Overlord list. When they got through this, Harry was never going to let him live it down. "The backpack is the Master Bolt's sheath, just changed a little. Like your sword, always returns to your pocket, doesn't it?"

Percy looked uncomfortable. "Anyway," Ares said, "I tinkered with the magic a bit, so the Bolt would only return to the sheath once you reached the Underworld; you get close to Hades, you've got mail." He looked at Harry, "And it took me no small amount of effort to get it to you, too. The Brat is way too good at transporting people. The only saving grace was Hades locking down the Underworld – if he hadn't, the Brat would have transported you straight there, without me having a chance to slip the thing to you. It's ironic that Old Corpse Breath actually helped the entire thing come together."

Harry balled his fists. He wouldn't let Hades live this down, either. If he'd just been allowed to travel straight to the Underworld the whole thing could have been avoided!

"But…" Percy said, drawing attention again, forcing Ares to look away from an increasingly furious Harry. "Why not just keep it, then? Why send it to Hades?"

Ares' jaw twitched, and for a moment Harry expected the volatile God of War to charge, right there and then. Instead, his face clouded over again, once more appearing to listen to a different voice. "Why didn't I… ?" Ares wondered, out loud. "With that kind of firepower… "

Everyone held their breath as the God of War pondered deep thoughts; the kind of thoughts Harry would have liked to tease him with if this has been a better moment. Suddenly, Ares' face cleared. "I didn't want the trouble," he finally announced as if it were the secrets to Life, the Universe, and Everything. "Better to have you caught while holding the thing."

"That wasn't your idea, was it?" Harry asked, feeling worried for his teacher. Obviously, something or someone was influencing him. "It sounds like you didn't want to do it."

"Of course it was my idea, Brat!" Ares shouted, and to many people it would have sounded scary and angry. To Harry, who was used to Ares, it sounded like bluster, as if the god were trying to cover his own insecurity. Something was seriously wrong here, and it only added to Harry's worry.

"You didn't order the theft," Percy said, taking over again now that Harry seemed to be lost in thoughts. "Someone else sent a hero to steal those two items, and when Zeus sent you to hunt him down, you caught the thief. Only, you didn't turn him over. Something convinced you to let him go. And then you kept both Zeus' toy and Mister Hades' helm, until some unsuspecting hero came along to complete the delivery. That thing in the pit is ordering you around!"

Harry wondered what Percy was talking about, before realizing that his friend was likely speaking about the booming shout coming from Tartarus. Had Percy been hearing more of it? Why hadn't he said something?

"I am the God of War!" Ares shouted, but it sounded like more bluster to Harry. "I take orders from no-one! I certainly don't have dreams!"

Harry blinked. Dreams? "Who said anything about dreams?" Harry asked.

Ares definitely looked like he was covering his instability with bluster now. "Brat, you need to leave, and you need to leave right now. I need to kill this hard-headed idiot," he said, pointing at Percy, "because he's hard-headed enough to get that bolt to Olympus and get the idiots to listen to him." He looked at Percy. "Nothing personal," he said, before looking back at Harry. "You, I rather like. Leave, so I don't get in trouble with Aunt Hestia."

Harry pouted. "I can make them listen, too," he sulked, feeling somewhat hurt by Ares' apparent lack of faith in him.

"Not your quest, Brat," Ares grunted. "Now, leave, before I have to kill you, too, and get on Aunt Hestia's bad side for killing her first son."

Harry had the distinct impression that Ares' concern was more about Hestia than it was about him.

Which was reasonable, Harry supposed. Unfortunately, he was also hard-headed enough to stick around to help his friends.

Ares grunted something under his breath when he realized the same thing, and snapped his fingers.

At his feet, the sand exploded; out of the storm of sand charged a wild boar, large and wild and ugly and with glowing red eyes. For a moment, Harry imagined it would breathe fire as it glared at the group with lowered tusks that looked sharp as razors.

"You guys get the boar. I'll take Ares," Harry said, bringing forth his divine equipment. Godslayer glinted as it appeared in the form of an arming sword.

"Sure," Percy muttered from behind him, sounding relieved that he only had to deal with a giant wild animal and not some crazy god that may-or-may-not be possessed by something.

"Oh? You'll take me, Brat?" Ares taunted. "Getting big for our britches, are we?"

"Please, Ares, I don't want to do this," Harry pleaded. "Just give up the helm. We'll return it to Hades, return Zeus' toy, and this can all go away."

Ares snorted, and materialized a bastard sword. "You'll need to take them after you beat me, Brat," the God of War said. "Remember – you keep what you kill."

Harry snorted. "You've seen too many movies, Ares," he replied. But, he did take a fighting stance. This was it, he realized. The culmination of his training. He would have to fight his combat teacher, and he would have to win. Using Athena's training, he tried to think his way through the upcoming fight.

Employ magical thrust to create distance; begin powering plasma-bolt. Enemy will counter using magic, turning me into a roach, then stepping on me. Combat logic not viable.

Employ lightning strike to stun enemy; enemy will retaliate using magical abilities. Combat logic not viable.

Supposition – enemy is deity. Unable to defeat deity using mystical means at this point in time. Change combat logic, employ sword.

Employ plasma-state. Enemy will strike two-handedly from above. Employ overhead block and brace sword with left bracer to mitigate impact. Enemy's sword will disintegrate due to plasma-state. Enemy will create new sword. Enraged, will attack horizontally from the left. Employ vertical block. Will attack from above, employ horizontal block. Will attack from the right, employ vertical block. Enraged beyond reason, will swing wildly in upwards slanted motion from left hip to right shoulder. Employ deflection, attempt to force enemy out of position. Enemy will attack from the right, slanted upwards, from right hip to left shoulder. Employ counter-swing to imbalance enemy; minuscule target of opportunity will be created – employ straight thrust through heart. Combat logic viable – if reliant on luck.

Behind him, he heard Percy stumble into the surf, which made him grin. The Son of Poseidon would be all but unbeatable when in water.

"Wave!" he heard Percy yell, which widened his grin and made Ares scowl deeper. It was followed by splashing water and the terrified squeal of a wild boar about to drown – before the squeal cut off suddenly. "Die, motherf-"

"Perseus Jackson!" Annabeth scolded.

Ares looked like he couldn't decide between outraged at the quick dispatch of his attack-boar, or sniggering at Percy being scolded for his language use.

Instead, he focused on Harry.

Harry, knowing that they were about to thrown down, ignited Godslayer's plasma-state.

"Nice," Ares grunted, and charged before Harry had a chance to reply. The young Son of Tyche lifted his plasma-sword in an attempt to ward off the overhead slash, but instead found himself bracing the back of his double-edge sword with the bracer of his left wrist.

Never before had he encountered a sword strike that was so heavy. Especially not since Godslayer achieved a plasma state able to melt through anything.

Ares grunted as his strike was deflected by the slanted sword of his demigod opponent, and scowled when he pulled back for a follow-up strike and noticed his sword had melted. Throwing the useless weapon away, he conjured another and struck again, going for Harry's left side; Godslayer came up in a vertical block, which caused Ares to scowl and basically spin his sword around and attack from the other side.

Harry scrambled to get Godslayer into position, but managed to block that strike as well. Ares growled; each time his weapon made contact with Godslayer, it healed itself, but it was obvious that the God of War was getting really tired of having to renew his weapon constantly.

The growl intensified and the God started swinging, going for a strike from Harry's left hip to right shoulder in an attempt to strike the demigod in twain – instead, Harry managed to angle Godslayer so the god's strike was deflected.

Ares didn't even halt and swung from the other side, basically going for Harry's right hip toward his left shoulder. Harry stepped into the strike, and swung Godslayer at the same time. The combined force repelled Ares' sword with a dull gonging sound, and for just a fraction of time, there was an opening.

It was tiny, and it was closing fast. Harry strike out, thrusting straight for Ares' chest with the speed of an angry cobra.

Dropping his sword for extra speed, Ares clamped his hands over the striking sword, halting it mere centimeters in front of his chest – where it had been aiming straight for his heart. The sound of sizzling celestial flesh was accompanied by the smell of cooking pork.

Harry wrenched on his sword for a moment or two, but found it locked immovably in Ares's vice-like grip.

"Nice try, Brat," Ares said, actually sounding as if it were a compliment. "But. Not good enough. You missed by a fraction of a second."

"Rapier," the Son of Tyche intoned instead.

The arming sword shrunk in width and lengthened at the same time – it slid forward several centimeters before Ares' grip reasserted itself, but it had grown sufficiently long to penetrate all the way through Ares' chest despite his grip.

The God of War coughed as golden ichor dripped from the chest wound and golden smoke of broiling ichor wafted up from where he was still holding on to a plasma sword.

He looked down at his wound. For a moment, it looked like he was about to smite Harry, but then it felt and looked as if reality itself quivered; as if a nonexistent cloud covered the sun, light and color faded – it felt like being in an old color photograph where the colors were just a tad off. At the same time, a cold and heavy presence slithered over the beach like a fog.

Time itself seemed to slow, the waters of the ocean appeared to freeze. Harry swallowed; life suddenly felt hopeless, useless, the best he could do was lie down right there and fade into oblivion.

As sudden as it came on, the feeling broke. Ares blinked, looking stunned for a moment, before looking down at his wound once more.

"Nice one, Brat," Ares said, actually complimenting Harry and sounding like he meant it this time. "You graduated from intermediate fighting."

"It felt like a cheat," Harry admitted.

"Only cheating if the other guy does it, Brat," Ares stated. "You got into a fight with a god and would have killed him if your blade could actually kill gods. As your teacher, I'll deny to the end of days I said I was proud of you."

Harry snorted and pulled his sword back. The wound on Ares' chest closed immediately. "Gotta go, Brat," Ares said, vanishing, taking his motorcycle with him and dropping Hades' Helm of Darkness to the ground.

Harry picked it up gently and turned to face his friends.

All three were staring at him with open mouths.

Before he could say anything, however, the beating of leathery wings drew his attention. He looked up, only to be met by the sight of all three Furies dropping from the sky facing him.

"Miss Alecto!" Harry said, happily, recognizing the middle Fury. "Good to see you again."

Alecto cocked her head slightly. "Still oddly respectful and friendly," she noted, partly to herself and partly to her sisters. She shook her head as if to clear it and focused on Harry instead.

"We saw the whole thing," she finally said, addressing him. "So. You and your…" she glanced at Percy, Annabeth, and Grover. Especially on Percy. Her eyes narrowed, and Harry recalled Percy stating that Alecto had once attacked him and he'd been forced to 'kill' her. "… friends," Alecto decided and focused back on Harry, "really weren't responsible for this."

Harry grinned, ignoring the byplay between Alecto and Percy, who was glaring back at the Fury as fiercely as she had been glaring at him. At the same time, he also ignored the fact that the three Furies had simply watched while he had to fight Ares.

He realized just then that them getting involved likely would have let to a lot more problems.

"Just like I said," he answered at last, approaching her and handing her the helm.

Apparently, she hadn't counted on him simply handing it over, and the look of surprise on her face was something that made Harry snicker.

Later. In private. Where she wouldn't hear or see it.

"Please return this to Mister Hades," he said, instead. "Please tell him the truth. We need to return to Olympus and prevent the war."

Alecto nodded. "It shall be so, young hero," she stated. "If there is to be war, it will not be because of us in the Underworld."

Harry smiled widely. "Hopefully Mister Hades agrees."

Alecto looked amused. "He does, young hero. Do not doubt it." She glared at Percy one final time and then took wing.

Harry turned to his friends, ready to go back to Olympus to return Zeus' Master Bolt, when he found them staring at him in amazement.

"That was incredible," Percy declared.

"Incredibly terrifying," Annabeth added.

"Not really," Harry said, feeling like a cheat and a hack. "He was toying with me. Also, didn't you feel that cold thing? It was mind-controlling Ares. If he had been in his right mind, he'd had flattened me in seconds."

Percy and Annabeth shared a look. Harry frowned at the obvious way his friends were hiding stuff from him. It rankled. They were his friends, weren't they? He supposed he pulled some comfort from the fact that Grover, too, looked out of the loop.

"Alright, what are you guys not telling me?" Harry asked, hands on his hips.

Percy looked reluctant, then sighed, and said, "I've been having these dreams," he explained.

"Like Ares said?" Harry asked.

"Probably," the Son of Poseidon replied. "Anyway, in these dreams, there is this voice. Cold, dark, ageless. It comes from a pit. Tartarus. Giving orders. At first, it tried to tempt me – it used my mom, and told me to bring it the Bolt, to help it rise. When I told it no, it tried to use me to pull itself out."

Harry turned pale, that sounded bad.

"When it got the point that I wasn't going to help it, it started involving a helper – they were invisible, I couldn't see them, but the voice was making sure I suspected nothing. The helper called the voice 'The Crooked One'."

Harry felt a shiver go down his spine. That was really bad. When things in Greek Mythology got names, they meant something. And a name like 'The Crooked One' did not bode well.

"I listened in on their conversation, it was the helper who stole the Bolt," Percy explained. "But, the Crooked One had to intervene somehow, preventing the helper from getting the Bolt to him directly."

"Which is why they used you as a mule," Harry muttered, still lost in thought. Where had he heard that name before? It sounded familiar.

"Luckily, I'm my father's son," Percy said, sounding proud of that fact. "I was able to bring myself to their conversation and listen in before the Crooked One discovered me and kicked me out."

"Nasty," Harry said. "Very nasty." Annabeth nodded in agreement, looking as worried as Harry was.

"Tell me about it, I had to live it," Percy said.

Grover, silently listening, looked from one to the other.

"I had so hoped it would be Hades," Annabeth muttered, getting a betrayed look from Harry.

"He's a nice guy, really," the Son of Tyche protested and defended.

"Because the alternative…" the Daughter of Athena trailed off, as if not hearing Harry.

"Something more powerful than the gods," Percy said. "Something older. More evil."

Harry sighed, and shared a concerned look with Annabeth. "Kronos?" he offered, finally connecting the title 'The Crooked One' with a name.

"Kronos," Annabeth agreed. "Father of the Gods. King of the Titans. Lord Zeus carved him into a thousand pieces, just as the Titans had done with their father, Ouranos, before casting him into Tartarus."

"If he's carved up-" Percy said.

"He's a Titan. Titans can't die anymore than gods can," Harry said. "He still lives. In agony. Trying to reform, free himself, gain back what he lost."

"So that's what he meant when he said to help him reform," Percy said, half to himself.

"Exactly," Harry confirmed with a nod.

The quartet was silent for a few moments, lost in thought.

"Still, we better get the Bolt back to Zeus," Percy said. "Thanks to Superman here, we've got plenty of time to get back before the solstice."

"I'm hardly Superman," Harry protested weakly.

"Harry, you just kicked the ass of the God of War. Hell yeah, you're Superman," Percy said with a wide grin.

"He was being mind-controlled," Harry protested, now more strongly. "He wasn't in his right mind for one, and he was toying with me, for two. He can kick my ass while blindfolded, with both arms tied behind his back, and hopping on one leg normally. I landed a cheap shot, that's all."

"Uh-huh," Percy agreed, sounding like he did anything but agree, but was humoring Harry instead.

The Son of Tyche gave the Son of Poseidon a foul look.

"Anyway, Olympus," Annabeth said, trying to deflect the conversation back on topic.

"Sure," Harry said, stopping his foul look at Percy and turned instead to the half-faded bonfire on the beach they had used to arrive. "Let's go. We're going to Hestia's temple, first."

"Harry, before we go," Percy said, stepping close to Harry. "What if the gods don't believe me? Maybe we should send Grover and Annabeth to camp," he added with a whisper in the hope that said Daughter of Athena and said Satyr wouldn't overhear. Unfortunately, the cloudy looks of doom on both faces showed that they had very much overheard the statement.

"Nothing will happen and nobody will be hurt," Harry stated with conviction. "That's why we're going to Hestia's temple, first. She'll gather the gods, and we'll be going under her protection. Nobody's going to as much as lift a finger in our direction while we're under her protection. They wouldn't dare."

"Oh. Okay," Percy said, will to agree with Harry's greater knowledge of the gods.

"Perseus Jackson," Annabeth stated, showing that the conversation was not over.

Percy shuddered.

Harry grinned; Percy's heart may be in the right place but he had to learn that people could take care of themselves.

0000

The group tumbled out of the hearth in the center of Hestia's temple. Immediately, Harry felt his shoulders relax as the mystical structure welcomed him home.

A quick look at his three friends showed Harry that they, too, felt the powerful feeling of being 'safe' that a good home should bring.

"Well now," Hestia said, appearing from the door leading to the kitchen. "I wasn't expecting company," she added with a teasing smile.

"Hi Hestia!" Harry said, immediately rushing over and giving his all-time favorite goddess, and adopted mother, a big hug.

"Welcome home, Harry," the kindly goddess said, hugging him back before releasing him. She looked at the others, and smile welcomingly at them. "Welcome to my temple, Perseus Jackson, Annabeth Chase, and Grover Underwood."

If they thought they felt safe before, then being welcomed into the home of the Goddess of the Home showed them otherwise. "Thank you, Lady Hestia," Annabeth spoke for the three of them, being the first to gather her wits.

The goddess' smile widened slightly at the stupefaction displayed by her three visitors, before turning to Harry. "As much as I would like to think so, I don't believe this is a social visit," she said.

Harry grinned, and pointed to the backpack slung over Percy's shoulder. "We found Mister Zeus' toy, but I thought it would be best if we gave it back in front of the other gods. I mean, he kicked up enough fuss over it and needs to apologize to Mister Poseidon for calling him a thief and all that." Now that he thought about it, Hades needed to apologize to Poseidon, too.

He'd need to talk with Hades about that at some point.

Hestia's smile turning teasing. "And you thought the gods would be more disposed to gathering when it's me asking them, plus you would feel safer when appearing before Zeus while under my auspices" she said, showing once and for all that Hestia could walk the walk of divine politics.

He didn't even bother being embarrassed and nodded. "Yup."

Hestia laughed softly. "Let me make a few calls, and then we'll have dinner to wait until they gather. Young children shouldn't skip meals."

Harry grinned. "That'd be awesome. Thanks, Hestia!"

"You're welcome," the goddess replied amicably, and vanished. Harry turned to his friends, who were looking surprised.

"How did she know we skipped a meal?" Percy asked.

"She is Goddess of the Home, and meals are a big part of that," Harry replied. "Besides, you'll love her food. It's the best."

"My meals merely taste like a good home-cooked meal should," Hestia deferred as she reappeared. "Please have a seat at the table, I will be right out with dinner."

"Thanks, Hestia," Harry said, softly, but heart-felt. It felt so good to be home again.

The meal, if one could call it that, was fairly simple in appearance. From the first bite however, the taste was far from simple.

Harry, more or less used to his adopted mother's meals, ate without losing his manners.

HIs friends, however, weren't so lucky.

Hestia smiled motherly as two demigods and one satyr attacked the meal like a pack of starving wolves. "While I do enjoy seeing people enjoying a good meal, I would like to remind everyone of their good manners," the kindly Goddess of the Home said.

Despite her kind and gentle tone, all three swallowed and started eating more sedately.

"Good, isn't it?" Harry asked on a teasing tone, which earned him a small look from Hestia that implored him not to tease his friends.

"It's great!" Percy enthused. "Never tasted anything like it."

"Please don't speak with your mouth full," Hestia admonished gently. Percy swallowed and looked nervously at his aunt at his second faux-pas in as many minutes. "No, I am not angry, merely reminding you of your manners," she told him. "Please, eat."

"Yes, ma'am," Percy whispered, returning to his meal.

Hestia gave her a nephew a small smile at the way he addressed her, then turned to Harry. "I have felt some strange fire-travel destinations in the last couple of days," she told him. "Can you tell me about the quest so far?"

"Sure," Harry said, enthusiastically retelling what he knew of the quest.

"- after that Mister Asclepius, with the help of Uncle Ferdinand, started creating more potion to help the rest of Medusa's victims," Harry said, seeing Grover develop a wide grin at having his cool uncle back.

"I am very proud of you," Hestia said, before looking at the others. "All of you. That was very nice work. Medusa has been rampaging for far too long, and the fact that nobody did anything about it is a crime in itself."

"Miss Persephone bought some of her victims, too," Harry tattled, not feeling too charitable toward the Goddess of Spring over how she tried to bully poor Mel, back after he'd rescued her.

Hestia gave him a look that told him she knew exactly what he was doing, and that it wasn't going to work. "I felt a rather interesting destination in the Rocky Mountains after that," she said, obviously deciding on hearing the rest of the story.

Harry nodded. "Percy and Annabeth explained that the destination of the quest was the Underworld," he said. "So I tried fire-calling, but Mister Hades had his fires set to 'Do Not Disturb' so nobody answered."

"Did he now?" Hestia asked, a note of displeasure entering her voice.

"He thought Percy had stolen the Bolt and his Helm, so I can't blame him, really," Harry said, trying to placate Hestia's displeasure and helping out one of his favorite gods.

"His Helm of Darkness?" Hestia asked in confirmation.

Harry nodded. "But that comes later. So, I couldn't get everyone to the Underworld, which made me think about Mel. I mean, if anyone can get us in, it'd be Mel, right?"

Hestia hemmed in a rather unappreciative manner. "I do hope Melinoe was on her best behavior."

"She's running an incredibly cool hotel in the Rockies, called The Overlook," Harry said. "It scares people, and there is a six month waiting list for people to test their bravery against it."

Hestia seemed to mull that over. "I am pleased she found a wholesome activity to do with her domain," she finally said, sounding as if it displeased her to have to admit it.

"It's the scariest place ever," Percy admitted, jumping into the conversation when he felt like Harry was glossing over just how scary the place was. "And Harry asked for us to have a normal room, even. I can't imagine how scary it is normally."

Harry chuckled. "I stepped into my room to find a zombie in the bathtub. It was hilarious."

The looks on the faces of Percy, Annabeth, and Grover said otherwise. Hestia, too, looked like she disagreed. "That sounds more like a deathtrap than a prank," she said.

Harry nodded. "I took care of it quickly. I mean, demigod reflexes and being trained by Miss Athena and Mister Ares, so one zombie, even if it jump-scares me, isn't much a challenge. So, I think had a bit of a chat with the hotel."

"You had a chat with the hotel," Hestia said, flatly.

He nodded again. "Mel haunted it, so it has a presence. Like Christine. I explained to it that, while I can take zombies in the bathtub, most mortals can't, and that killing off your customers is bad business practice. It means less repeat business."

Hestia looked like she had a headache. Percy snorted, as if trying to keep in laughter. Annabeth and Grover looked like they couldn't believe he just said that. "It listened to me," the Son of Tyche went on blithely. "So, from then on, it's lethal deathtraps were illusionary rather than physical. It still scares people but it no longer tries to kill them."

"Only you, Harry. Only you," Hestia said with a chuckle and a shake of her head.

Harry felt a bit uncomfortable, so continued with the story.

"-Mel dropped us off outside her old cave and held the way open-"

"-only there was no Cerberus, which was strange-"

"-and that's when Mister Hades shouts that Percy stole his Helm-"

"-so I took your Lasso and proved Percy didn't do it-"

"And that is when you made a vow, on my name and on your mother's name," Hestia said, interrupting the story. "I felt it all the way over here. I am sure your mother felt it, too."

Harry tried to look helpless and innocent. "Yes?" he offered.

"Please be careful when making vows," Hestia said, kindly. "This time, you vowed to your innocence, and I can understand your reasoning. However, had you even been tangentially guilty, your vow would have killed you."

Harry nodded softly.

"Alright, so what happened next?" The Goddess of the Home asked, clearly willing to move past.

When Harry finished, with the interjection of Percy here and there, Hestia looked displeased once more. "It sounds like I will need to have a conversation with Ares, as well," she sighed.

"He was brainwashed," Harry said.

"I know. That doesn't make it better," Hestia replied.

"Actually, it does," he protested. "Normally, Ares can smite me in an instant, even without his powers. I think that, because he was brainwashed, he was barely operating above human normal. I mean, I would never have been able to land a cheap shot normally."

"I suppose," Hestia said, not sounding convinced, but willing to let it go. She looked to one side, as if glancing at something unseen. "They are in the Throne Room," she spoke. "Shall we? Unless someone wants desert, of course."

Harry was honestly tempted to ask for desert, because Hestia's deserts were even more fabulous than her meals were, but his three companions were already agreeing and pushing their chairs back.

The empty dishes vanished. "Thank you for the meal, Lady Hestia," Grover said, politely, drawing startled looks from Annabeth and Percy. They hastily added their own thanks; suddenly aware that manners mattered when it came to Hestia.

"You're quite welcome, children," Hestia said, kindly. "Now, let us return Zeus' property and hopefully be done with this business."

Harry, Percy, and Annabeth shared an uncomfortable look. As they started to leave the temple, Harry explained their suspicions and reasonings regarding Kronos.

Hestia's face looked like it were carved out of marble as she listened, quietly and intently, to their explanation. "That sounds like something Father might do," she finally said as they reached the huge central building. "However, I would recommend against divulging it in front of Zeus; he's quite stubborn and would not take the news well, especially in a public setting. I will bring it up later, in private."

"Okay, Hestia," Harry agreed for all of them. If Hestia thought it best not to speak of it, then he wouldn't speak of it. The others nodded quietly.

As the Goddess of the Home motioned for the huge double doors, and they started to open, she fixed Harry with a look. "I invited only Poseidon and Zeus, as they are the primary agents in this whole affair. I know you wanted everyone here, but having a public spectacle would only drive Zeus further on the defensive."

Harry resisted the urge to pout. Then he resisted the urge to sulk. Instead, he just nodded and tried to leverage a look of disappointment at Hestia for her not saying anything earlier.

The kindly goddess offered him a reassuring smile as answer. The doors finished opening – gods loved their theatrics – and the questing quartet could finally step inside.

They emerged into the large room that Harry knew so well, both in his dreams and his nightmares. This was the throne room he had been dragged into by the guards when he had first been discovered, and where Zeus had tried to throw him from the mountain. This was where Hestia had first stood up for him, saved him from the wrath of the gods, where she had introduced him to some of his favorite people.

Right now, the room was virtually empty; the majority of the thrones were devoid of occupants. At the back of the inverted U, only two thrones were occupied.

Zeus and Poseidon.

Despite it being a huge open space, the air of the throne room stank of ozone, like the air after a lightning storm. It felt heavy and moist, as if the storm had abated only momentarily and was ready to explode once more at any moment.

They walked softly and quietly to the two hulking gods, both in their preferred three-meter-tall forms.

"Father," Percy spoke, approaching his father.

"Mister Zeus, Mister Poseidon," Harry greetd, knowing that it would please the King of the Gods to be addressed first and knowing he had to greet them both anyway so he may as well.

"Lord Zeus, Lord Poseidon," Annabeth and Grover greeted in turn.

"Hmpf, at least some had manners enough to greet the master of the house first," Zeus grunted, shooting a dark look in Percy's direction.

"Peace, brother," Poseidon defended. "He defers to his father, that is only right."

"Hmpf," Zeus huffed again. "You still claim him, then?" the King of the Gods then asked, nastily. "This child, whom you sired against our sacred oath?"

"Thalia," Harry coughed. Zeus' nasty looked shifted immediately to Harry.

Hestia let out a displeased sound. "As… insolent… as Harry's response was, he does ultimately have a point," the Goddess of the Home stated.

Harry risked a look at Poseidon. The God of the Seas seemed to be struggling to keep a smile from his lips. His sea-green eyes crinkled with laughter, however. He winked at Harry, managing to do so without anyone noticing.

"This is true," Poseidon said, drawing attention to himself before Harry could respond to the wink. "Isn't it, brother?"

Zeus looked even more disgruntled and upset than he usually did. "Fine," he grunted. "Far be it for the King of the Gods to be called a hypocrite."

Harry resisted the urge to add to his face, but apparently he didn't do a good enough job to keep the thought from his face as Hestia gave him another looked of obvious tolerance mixed with warning.

He looked at the tips of his shoes, trying not to give anything away.

"We should listen to what my son has to say," Poseidon said, once more drawing attention.

Zeus drew a deep breath and seemed to wrestle control from somewhere. "I shall listen," he decided, as if it were some great favor he was doing. "And then I shall make up my mind whether or not to cast this boy down from Olympus."

Harry's face twisted. It took everything he had to step up to defend Percy, but in the end, he didn't have to.

"Zeus!" Hestia said, voice equal measures disappointment and anger. "That's enough. Young Perseus has done no wrong, and it doesn't behoove the King of the Gods to behave so unjustly."

Zeus' face looked like he'd bitten into an especially sour lemon.

"Please tell us your story, dear," Hestia said kindly to Percy when it became obvious Zeus wasn't going to respond.

"T-thank you, Lady Hestia," the Son of Poseidon managed, before turning to look at Zeus' thunderous face once more, and recounting the whole affair. He ended by opening the blue backpack Ares had given him, taking out the long metal cylinder that was the Master Bolt, and putting it down on the floor in front of Zeus' throne.

The King of the Gods opened his hand, and the bolt flew into it. As he grabbed it, the metallic end-caps flared with power and electricity, the points of which extended until he was holding a classic thunderbolt like a javelin of arcing and hissing energy that filled the gigantic room with menace.

"I sense the truth in you, boy," Zeus stated. "But that Ares would do such a thing. It is most unlike him."

"He is proud and impulsive," Poseidon said, coming to his son's defense. "It does tend to run in the family."

Zeus gave a 'you are not funny' look at Poseidon.

Percy shared a look with Harry. Harry shrugged, then nodded. He knew what coming, and he knew that Hestia had recommended against it, but now that they were here…

Drawing a breath, Percy said, "My Lord?"

"Yes?" both the King of the Gods and the God of the Seas said simultaneously. Hestia bit back a laugh.

"Ares," Percy said, "he didn't act alone. Someone… something… else… came up with the idea." He proceeded to explain the dreams he had been having, and the thing that happened on the beach, where some kind of mind-control had become apparent.

"In the dreams," Percy finished, "the voice told me to bring the Bolt to the Underworld. Ares hinted that he'd been having dreams, too. I think he was used, like me, to start a war."

"So you are accusing Hades, after all?" Zeus demanded, dangerously.

"I think this is where we need Mister Hades," Harry interjected. Before Zeus could snap at him, the Son of Tyche clapped his hands, which erupted in fire. Fire that turned green moments later, before the young demigod pulled his hands apart and made a wide, sweeping circle with outstretched arms.

A circle of green fire hung in mid-air, the center of which coalesced in the surprised-looking face of the Lord of the Underworld.

"Hi Mister Hades," Harry chirped as he moved the circle so everyone could see everyone else. "Percy returned Mister Zeus' Master Bolt, and we were just talking about you, so I thought you should be present."

Hades was many things, but easily surprised wasn't one of them. Despite his obvious surprise, however, the Lord of the Underworld composed himself remarkably quickly, and nodded. "Thank you, Harry," he said. "The item you and your companions recovered was delivered to me, safe and sound."

"I'm glad to hear that," Harry said with a wide grin.

Meanwhile, Hestia gave Harry a proud smile. "Your skills at fire-manipulation continue to increase," she said with pride.

"Thanks, Hestia," Harry said, grinning back at her. "You should've seen the trick I pulled to leave the Underworld when there wasn't a fire nearby. It was-"

"Ahem," Zeus coughed, not at all trying to hide his rising annoyance.

"-beautiful," Harry finished with a whisper. "Sorry." Hades, Poseidon, and Hestia looked amused. Zeus looked anything but. His mortal friends looked horrified at his casual attitude in front of the major gods.

In other words, business as usual, Harry supposed. "Anyway, Mister Hades, I thought you should be here, because there are some things you should hear." He looked at Percy.

Percy looked at Harry.

Harry waited just a tad longer, to see if his friend was going to recount what happened.

When that didn't happen, he looked at all three male gods and told them what had happened in the underworld, the cursed shoes, and Tartarus trying to swallow them.

Three gods looked stone-faced as he told his tale.

Percy finished by recounting his dreams for Hades. "The feeling on that beach," he finished. "It was the same feeling as coming from Tartarus. Something powerful and evil is stirring down there. Something old. Older than the gods."

"We think it's Kronos," Harry said. It seemed that the throne room, like the gods, had a good sense of drama as the room darkened and the fires from Hestia's hearth felt less warm and gave off less light.

There followed a quick and angry discussion in some ancient dialect of ancient greek that Harry wasn't able to follow. It seemed there really was a difference between having a language as your mother tongue and coming in it as a second language.

"We will speak of this no more," Zeus decided, angrily cutting off the other three. He brandished his restored Master Bolt. "I must go personally purify this thunderbolt in the Waters of Lemnos to remove the human taint from its metal."

"Zeus," Hestia breathed, disappointedly.

The King of the Gods looked momentarily uncomfortable in the fact of Hestia's condemnation, but gathered himself and made to leave.

"You're welcome!" Harry chirped, earning himself one of Hestia's looks, lip-twitches from Poseidon and Hades, and a truly thunderous look from Zeus.

"What did you say, you arrogant little-" the King of the Gods started thundering.

"Zeus!" Hestia snapped.

The King of the Gods bit off the rest of his comment.

"I'm sure you said 'thank you', but I didn't hear it," Harry said. "So I said 'you're welcome', because that's the polite thing to do."

More twitching lips from Hades and Poseidon, and a sigh from Hestia. "Besides," Harry went on. "You should also tell Poseidon you're sorry for accusing him. Like I keep saying, thievery isn't his style. That's Hermes' thing."

Zeus actually starting raising his bolt. "I should vaporize you-"

"ZEUS!" Hestia suddenly was three meters tall, her eyes glowing with blue fire and her hair waving as if in the invisible grip of hot updrafts. "SIT DOWN!"

The King of the Gods sat. And then realized what he had done, and gave Hestia a baleful look. "As impolite as Harry may have been, he does have a point!" Hestia stated, shrinking back down to her usual size. "These young mortals did you a favor and you did not even bother thanking them. And you do owe your brother an apology."

"In front of people?" Zeus asked, before realizing what he had asked, and looking away with a grumble.

Harry knew how difficult it was to properly apologize; it always felt fake to him, and he always had the suspicion that it sounded disingenuous. Instead, he remembered how he'd talking things through with his friends over a good meal, after they had defeated Medusa.

Maybe the same thing could help here?

"How about over a nice meal?" Harry asked. "Things always seem lighter and less bad when you're sitting at a nice table, with good food." Hestia shot him a proud smile for the suggestion; it went to the heart of her domain, after all.

Hades, always quick on the uptake, saw an opportunity to help out the demigod that had defended him and hadn't lost faith in him during this whole debacle. "It has been some time since we shared a meal."

Poseidon was many things, but he wasn't an idiot. Seeing a bandwagon he could get behind, he jumped on it. "Agreed," he said, nodding at Hades and studiously ignoring Zeus' increasing ire. Harry had stood up for them, and if Zeus blew this off, they'd be the good guys in Hestia's eyes.

"That's because the last time, we ended up destroying the place in our argument, if you recall," Zeus snarled.

"Zeus, indoor voice, please," Hestia reminded him gently. "And perhaps you will behave more gentlemanly if I were the one hosting the meal?"

Three brothers shared uncomfortable looks, all three thinking the same thing.

Finally, Hades, as the oldest brother, sighed. "Hestia. Sister. As much as we all love you, perhaps you aren't the best choice for host?"

Hestia looked rather displeased. "After all," Poseidon ventured, "we all know how much you dislike conflict."

Harry looked like he had another epiphany, and rushed over to Hestia and whispered in her ear.

The Goddess of Home and Hearth hugged him. "Oh, Harry," she said. "She will love you forever."

Harry hugged Hestia back – because one should always take the opportunity to hug the ones one loved – and then turned to the three gods, who looked surprised at Hestia's reaction.

"How about Granny Rhea? I'm sure she'd love to host you for a meal."

AN: I have started cross-posting to AO3 - the reason this chapter was delayed by more than a week was because I had to wait to be allowed to create an account there and I wanted this chapter to go up on both sites...

Squatter is now completely uploaded on AO3, though - so if you want, check it out there. Unfortunately, they only allow copy-paste uploading, which generates problems... hopefully they create a file upload feature in the near future so I can just point it at my openoffice documents, the way I do on FF dot net. :)

0000

Omake – because I watched too much 'Assassination Classroom' back in the day…

What if Harry didn't want to fight Ares, but instead just kill him?

Harry stared at Ares, knowing he could never defeat him. Not in a straight battle.

But then he realized… I don't have to FIGHT him. I just have to KILL him.

So, he let out a breath, and released his desire to fight. With a small smile on his face, as if he were simply taking a stroll through the market on Olympus, he started walking toward Ares.

"What are you doing, Brat?" the God of War demanded, staring at his erstwhile student, approaching casually as if taking a simple stroll.

In fact, he didn't even appear to see Ares. The God of War stared, dumbfounded, unable to believe what was happening in front of him. "Are you going for a suicide by god, Brat?" he demanded, unsure of himself and what was happening.

Until Harry bumped into Ares' chest.

In a flash, Harry drew the hunter's knife on his belt, the one given to him by Zoë years earlier, the one he never took off unless he absolutely had to.

Ares, God of War, recoiled at the sudden violent motion for his neck, and startled backward. With his opponent's center of gravity no longer above his feet, Harry grabbed the god, and bore him down to the ground.

Even then, the God of War would be able to defend against an attack from the front. So, using his opponent's distraction and bulk as a focal point, Harry shifted around Ares like an angry serpent's strike, and basically came from behind.

And jammed the hunting knife through the god's throat. Ares gurgled as golden ichor spilt from his ruined neck.

0000

Omake 2 – overpowered Harry

Harry looked at Ares, and came to the conclusion that he would never be able to beat the god in a fair fight. Even with cheap shots, there was no way he could ever hope to beat a being that was the very incarnation of war.

Then, he remembered Marduk's explanation on gods and their very existence.

Gods drew power from belief, from their followers and the depth of their devotion.

So what if…

Harry raised one hand. "Surrender, Ares. You cannot win this."

The God of War blinked in surprise at the sheer balsiness of the statement, before bursting into laughter. "As if, Brat. Take your best shot!"

Harry closed his eyes, and built the spellform in his mind.

He threw Shen at it.

And then threw some more Shen at it.

And finally, he opened himself up to the surrounding magic, and then threw that at it.

The power requirements were enormous. But then again, so was the result of the spell.

Ares vanished.

"Harry?" Percy asked. "Weren't you fighting…" he trailed off. "Someone?" he finally asked, confused. "I thought you were fighting… someone…"

Harry nodded, and was about to reply, when suddenly, as if taking simply a stroll along the beach, Marduk appeared next to him. "Harry? What did you do?" he asked, deceptively easy-going, but Harry could hear the undercurrent of 'you are in trouble, young man' present in said statement.

"I had to fight Ares, God of War," Harry said. "There was no way I could beat him, so I used magic."

"Against a god?" Marduk asked, that same undercurrent still present.

"The magic-users have a spell called a Fidelius," Harry started to explain.

Yeah, killing Ares completely by removing all knowledge of him from the world? Insta-fade for the God of War, definitely OverPowered with two capital letters…