Several things happened very quickly.
Nico dove in front of Luna, attempting to shield her from the doorway.
Voldemort flicked his wand, sending out a green flash, as Luna stuck her arm under Nico's shoulder, palm splayed.
There was a sound very much like 20 balloons popping in quick secession.
Nico opened his eyes, very surprised that he was not currently dead. He was confused, and became even more confused when he saw what appeared to be a small animal rush at his legs and begin batting at them.
"Luna," He began calmly, "what just happened?"
Luna leaned over his shoulder, and Nico felt his heart pause for a moment as he took in her closeness. "Oh... I didn't think that would work."
"You didn't think what would-" Nico stopped as a piece of the puzzle clicked into place.
Slowly, he moved his gaze back to the thing now attempting to gnaw at his leg, staring into the eyes of a very angry, extremely scrawny hare.
Nico looked at the hare. The hare glared at Nico.
"You just... turned the most powerful dark wizard ever... into a hare."
Luna wrapped her arms around his stomach and hugged him lightly. Nico suddenly forgot how to breathe. "I was trying for a rabbit, but close enough, I suppose. Thank you for trying to protect me!"
She moved around him to face him. "It was very gallant of you. Why are you staring at me?"
Nico blinked, then laughed nervously. "It's nothing. We need to get out of here." He paused for a moment, gauging his strength. "I think I have enough strength to do one shadow trip, but I may fall unconscious when we get there. Promise to catch me?"
"Yes," Luna replied, "but go where?"
"Camp." Nico said. "It should be safe, I think, at least from wizards. Here, take my arm, and whatever you do, don't let go."
Nico pulled her weakly outside the ring of light and together they dove into the shadows.
The last month of camp always seemed to make the campers more enthusiastic, like they were trying to cram in as many adventres as possible. Apollo cabin had performed a fully-fledged rock concert in the ampetheater, where the Stolls had made the unfortunate decision to pour itching powder into all of Ares cabins' drinks and light the stage on fire at the climax of the show. Somehow, they had managed to make both cabins believe that the other had committed the prank. This lead to Ares cabin declaring paintball war against Apollo. Athena cabin had joined the game after it became clear that everyone in camp was fair game for splattering (after a campfire massacre), and the camp had devolved into all out warfare. Clarisse, Annabeth, and Will Solace were perpetually splattered with paint, and Hermes cabin was acting as an arms distributor through Hephaestus. Percy had sided almost immediately with Athena(to no one's surprise), but Nike had joined up with Ares and Nemesis had declared all out war against Hermes for starting the whole thing. The battles had been raging for weeks with no sign of relief.
The dining pavilion was designated a neutral zone, which was why everyone not wishing to be splattered with paint was taking cover there.
Chiron sighed. "You know, Mr. D, this situation has really gotten seriously out of hand. Don't you think it would be a good idea to do something about it?"
Mr. D took a long sip of his diet coke. "What, and stop all the fun? We haven't had to do any work in days! They're practically training themselves." He carefully checked his hand. "I'll raise you ten chips."
Chiron raised an eyebrow. "You only have twenty left. Are you sure that's a good idea?"
Dionysius' response was interrupted by two figures suddenly and violently crashing down onto their card table, sending cards, chips, and empty cans of diet coke flying everywhere.
Chiron, Mr. D, and all of the other people in the pavilion stared down at the two figures on the floor.
Luna opened her eyes and found that her face was pressed against the smooth skin of Nico's shoulder. She had been holding on to him as tightly as she could through the crazed shadow world, but now she unwrapped her arms and quickly checked his face. Nico's eyes were shut, but he was groaning and mumbling something about height miscalculation.
"Nico!" She said, a note of worry entering her voice. "Are you all right, Nico?"
Nico blinked, and then slowly opened his eyes. "Ow."
"Excuse me, Des Andres, but why have you so rudely flattened our card table?"
Luna glanced up and realized that they were surrounded by a large crowd of young people, a centaur, and a very angry looking man holding a diet coke.
"And who," the man continued, "are you?" he pointed at Luna.
Luna blinked. "Did you notice that there are grapes in your hair, or is that a fashion choice?"
"Luna... could you... help me up?" Nico mumbled.
Luna quickly scrambled off of him and carefully brought him up to a sitting position. Nico made eye contact with Dionysius. "Mr. D, can we speak somewhere privately?"
Dionysius thought for a moment. "Fine, but you're paying for that table, Nathan Dolario."
Luna helped Nico up, and supported him as they began to walk towards the big house, accompanied by Mr. D and Chiron.
The moment they stepped outside, however, they were splattered with a paintball crossfire. Luna immediately created a shield around their small group, avoiding the mainstay of the bullets, but outside the bubble the air was thick with red and blue streaks.
A figure in green camouflage, toting a shotgun and wearing face paint dove behind their bubble for cover, and it took a few moments for Nico to realize it was Percy.
"Hey, cousin." He called out, weakly. Percy looked up, startled.
"Hey, Nico! I didn't realize you were ba-" His sentence ended abruptly as he took several paintballs directly to the head and was flung to the side.
"Serves you right, Jackson!" Clarisse had snuck up along the other side of the shield. "Conversation gets you killed!" She glanced inside the shield, and nodded a greeting. "S'up, death boy."
She popped out the clip of what appeared to be an AK-47 and was grabbing for another when she was slammed up against the shield by the power of another paintball shot.
"Serves you right for shooting my boyfriend!" Annabeth said, appearing right next to Percy, holding a very large looking sniper rifle. "You okay, seaweed brain?"
Percy sat up with a groan. "Ow."
"Yeah, you're okay. Hi, Nico." Annabeth focused in on Luna. "Who is this?"
Luna opened her mouth to reply, but Nico hurriedly said "Sorry, I'll fill you in later, but right now we need to get to the big house."
Annabeth nodded. "All right, I'll get you an honor guard." She pulled out a walkie-talkie from a bandolier across her chest. "Blue team Gamma, pull off left flank and guard VIP convoy, Pavillion to Big house, copy."
"We copy, General."
Annabeth returned the walkie-talkie to its former place. "Alright, just wait here until they arrive." She pulled up on his arm. "Get up, you big baby," she said affectionately, "let's get you to the respawn point.
Luna and Nico watched them limp off, strangely mirroring their own situation.
"They're nice." Luna said. "Are those your friends?"
Nico nodded. "Yeah. They're good people."
They stood there in comfortable silence, waiting for the rescue team.
When they finally arrived at the big house, passing through a thick hedge wall manned by children of Demeter, Luna helped Nico down onto a porch bench.
"Why have you returned from from your mission, Di Angelo?" Dionysius' wore a serious expression.
Nico opened his mouth and found nothing to say. "I...uh..."
It was in that moment that Nico realized what he had done.
He had completely failed in his mission.
The most powerful evil wizard in existence now knew of gods and demigods(even if he was currently a hare), and he had completely blown his cover as a spy.
To top it all off, he had brought one of them directly to Camp Half-Blood and told her everything.
His father would never forgive him, let alone the was probably going to be brought before the council and vaporized.
How in Hades had things gone so wrong?
Then he looked at Luna, and remembered why he had blown his cover...
and that even if he was executed, it was worth it. She was worth it.
Nico leveled his gaze with Dionysius's. "It's over. I've failed."
Standing in front of the collective council of the gods was usually like standing near a nuclear reactor, Nico thought.
Now it was more like standing inside one.
The gods had listened very "Let me get this straight." Zeus thundered. "You abandoned your mission and eliminated a large portion of wizards, and let yourself be captured by a fanatical and powerful wizard terrorist, because of your affection for a girl?"
Nico felt his knees shaking, but he did not let his gaze falter. He was about to speak when he was interrupted by another god.
"To be fair, Zeus, haven't you had a lot of problematic 'affection' in the past?"
Everyone stared at Hera, who was smiling cockily. "Hera... you dare-" Zeus spluttered.
"I apologize, my lord, I meant no offense. I just think that the fault is not entirely his." She looked pointedly at Aphrodite.
Aphrodite threw up her hands. "They looked cute together, honestly! Why does everybody choose to give me grief on this one couple! No one even cared this much about Helen and Paris!"
Athena cleared her throat. "That aside, we were not informed of Hecate's level of involvement in this mission, or of this girl, who appears to have magical powers near to Hecate's herself, which were initiated because of this entire venture. I personally think that there may be more to this than it appears."
Zeus groaned. "Regardless, we must punish this son of Hades for his failure. Due to his actions, we might be at risk of a direct attack. I see no reason not to vaporize him on the spot. All in favor?"
"Wait!" The double doors opened slightly, and Luna sprinted through, coming to a stop right next to Nico. "Please, don't hurt him!" She stepped in front of Nico, shielding him with her body.
"Luna, wait! These are the gods!" Nico whispered anxiously.
"I can't let them kill you," she whispered back, "I won't!"
Zeus blinked. "This is the girl, then?"
Ares, to everyone's surprise, spoke up. "She's pretty brave. I like that."
Athena rolled her eyes. "You say that about almost every mortal who comes in here."
Aphrodite was watching the two intently, like someone admiring a work of art.
"The boy must die." Zeus said determinedly.
"No!" Luna said, tears gathering at the corners of her eyes.
Zeus seemed to be getting over his initial surprise. "Do you really presume to refuse the king of the gods, mortal?"
Hades spoke out suddenly. "Zeus... surely, there might be some other solution. We've let heroes off the hook for less before."
Nico stared at his father in surprise. Surely Hades couldn't be trying to defend him, not after he'd failed so terribly.
"Do you have some other idea, then? Some other punishment?"
Hades was silent.
"Very well." Zeus raised his hand and pointed at Nico. "Daughter of Hecate, move aside."
"Move aside or die with him."
"No!" Hecate yelled from her throne. "Luna, get out of the way!"
"I'm not leaving Nico!"
"Luna..." Nico gently placed his hand on Luna's shoulder. "Luna, you have to leave me."
Luna turned to face him, eyes full of tears. "Nico..."
For one moment, they just gazed at each other.
"Luna... if I have to die, then I want you, at least, to live."
"But... but Nico..."
"Luna, I..." He took deep breath. "I love you."
She had known it before, had thought it before, but hearing those words tumble from his mouth made the world, for one moment, perfect.
Nico leaned in, gently laying his hand on her face, and their lips met softly.
They stood that way, in the halls of Olympus, for a second of eternity.
Then Nico drew back.
"I love you, and everything you are, and I can't let death stop you from bringing life to the world."
She stood there, frozen, as he stood before Zeus once more.
"Well?" He said, arms wide. "What are you waiting for?"
Before Zeus could respond, Athena spoke up.
"Lord Zeus, I've just had an idea."
Zeus eyed her warily. "I'm sure you have several, Athena."
"For an alternative punishment."
Zeus sighed and glanced around the room. "All in favor of hearing this alternative?"
Aphrodite, Hera, Ares, Athena, Hades, Poseidon and Apollo all raised their hands.
"Very well." Zeus said.
Athena cleared her throat and began to outline her plan. "First of all, it seems that this girl, while being extremely powerful, is not yet fully able to control her powers. This is a problem because it would seem that she is necessary if we wish to actually have any control over the wizarding world."
"Hey!" Hecate said. "I can control it just fine!"
Athena raised her eyebrow. "Didn't you create this child for the express purpose of regaining control over the wizards?"
Hecate's eyelid twitched, but she said nothing.
"As I was saying, I think it would be wise to avoid alienating this girl, and by killing this hero we would be doing just that. It might even cause her to defect, and we would completely lose any chance we had of controlling the wizarding world."
"This is all very well and good, daughter," Zeus said impatiently, "But what else can we do?"
Athena sighed. "I was getting to that. As this girl is not yet fully in control of her powers, she is vulnerable to attack, and if those... Death eaters, were they? If they managed to kidnap her or control her, that would be a major problem. She must be protected, and no one seems more fitting than this young hero. I propose..." Athena appeared to debate with herself for a moment, "I propose that we grant the boy immortal protector status.
The council hall erupted in shouting.
Nico couldn't quite believe what he was hearing. Immortal protector status... a moment ago he was about to be blasted to Tartarus by Zeus.
"Nico," Luna whispered right next to his ear, "what is immortal protector status?"
Nico blinked. "It basically makes someone a minor god, on the condition that they must protect someone or something for eternity."
Luna's eyes widened. "You would be a god?"
Nico glanced at her. "You're already pretty much a god."
"Order! ORDER!" Zeus thundered. "Quiet down! Athena, you know that we need a unanimous vote for this to pass."
Athena shrugged. "It seems like the best option. I understand that we can't just hand out godliness to every demigod, but this is certainly a special case. Does anyone have an objection?"
Hecate raised her hand. "If her protector is being given immortality, shouldn't my daughter have it as well, seeing as she is so important?"
The room devolved again.
Luna and Nico stared at each other. "Both of us... immortal?" Luna whispered, her eyes shining.
"BY THE STYX, I WILL HAVE ORDER!" Zeus thundered. Immediately, the room fell silent. "This entire debate has grown tiresome. Who all votes for immortality?"
To absolutely everyone's surprise, every god and goddess raised their hand.
"Very well." Zeus sighed. Luna and Nico were suddenly enveloped in a shaft of golden light.
"Will you, Nico di Angelo, defend and protect this girl for all eternity?"
"And do you, Luna Lovegood, accept immortality?"
"Oh... yes, I do."
"Very well, it is done. Welcome to immortality. Please leave this council while we discuss other matters."
Nico and Luna walked, dazedly supporting each other, out of the hall.