Harry Potter, Squatter
Over the next few weeks, Harry's life went through a drastic change. When he woke up after that first night, he found the storage containers Hestia had left, and had not been able to read any of the post-its she had attached to them. Left without instructions on how to heat the meals the goddess had prepared for him in advance, Harry had taken a guess, based on his experience preparing meals for the Dursleys. The results were fine, in his opinion.
When he explained it to Hestia, the goddess had decided she would educate him on everything she felt he needed to know – reading, writing, maths, history (both mortal and divine), geography, and various sciences.
Then, she had taken him shopping for more clothes, soap, and various other necessities.
That was when Harry explained how he had gotten that loaf of bread she had caught him eating that first evening.
Apologizing to the merchant was difficult, but the fact that the man didn't seem that upset made him feel a lot better. Hestia had explained that there were various capricious gods around that would just take things that struck their fancy, so the merchant was likely used to it.
After bringing him back to Helios' temple, Hestia gave him a few hours' worth of instruction on how to read, then left him with a few 'my first book' books that would help him learn to read faster.
Every day, Hestia came to visit, sometimes at odd hours during the day, sometimes after nightfall. She explained that she had various duties that would sometimes take her time, and that she would always try and make it to a place she called 'camp' to maintain their campfire.
Harry didn't want to pry about this 'camp' that Hestia didn't seem inclined to talk about, so he didn't ask about it. In his imagination, it was something of a Native American tent village, complete with totem pole and tipis. He enjoyed the thought of Hestia going there every night to light a large bonfire.
As the weeks turned, nearly a month had passed, and Harry was getting pretty good, if he said so himself, at deciphering some of the easier words in some of the more complex books that Hestia had given him. He still wasn't fluent, but every day Hestia came and helped him, and he got a little better.
One day, he was flipping through one of the 'encyclopedias for the youth' that was in his stack of literature, not reading the text but enjoying the pictures.
"Hello Harry," his favorite goddess said, having emerged silently from the fire, and seeing him engrossed.
"Hi Hestia!" Harry greeted back with enthusiasm.
She gave him that smile he had come to associate with her, the kind of smile that warmed him the way no fire ever did. "You seem to be enjoying your books," Hestia said, sitting down next to him and glancing at it.
He nodded enthusiastically. "It's got all kinds of pictures about forests and nature and things. And dinosaurs!"
Hestia laughed softly. "You remind me of some of my relatives, when the subject of dinosaurs comes up." she said. "All excitement."
Harry grinned. "Well, they're dinosaurs, Hestia. They're cool!" he told her, as if it was one great truth of the world.
The young-looking goddess smiled tolerantly. "It's hard to argue against that logic," she admitted, not that she wanted to. "Are you ready for your reading lesson?"
The young boy nodded. He loved learning to read and write and to do math. His old school had treated him as if he were dumb because their stupid books had stupid letters that wouldn't stay still, but Hestia had books that he could read and she was helping him learn!
He pointed to the open book. "Can we read about forests?" he asked. "And maybe dinosaurs?"
Hestia laughed again. "Yes, Harry, we can read about nature. I think reading about dinosaurs will have to wait, though."
He looked disappointed. "But why?" he asked, whining as only a seven-year-old could.
Hestia looked on with tolerance. "Because, Harry, dinosaurs have complicated names that are just a bit too hard for you to read yet. Like that one, it's called a Tyrannosaurus Rex."
He looked at the picture, trying to mouth the name to himself. "If you work hard enough, you'll be reading about dinosaurs in no time. For now, let's pick something to read that's easier for you to learn," Hestia suggested, looking at the picture book, and flipping a few pages until she got to an article that she thought would work.
"Like this article," Hestia said. "It's about the rainforest."
Harry nodded, but Hestia could see that he was still a little disappointed. She smiled slightly. How typical of a mortal, even a demigod, to want to run before they could walk. "If you do your best today and tomorrow, I'll take you to see a real forest on Saturday. How does that sound?" she asked, enticing him.
Suddenly, Harry was anything but disappointed. Hestia had to smile at his enthusiasm, before settling in and helping him sound out the ancient Greek words. She enjoyed teaching him, her endless patience and kind and gentle nature being ideally suited for it.
"What does that plant do?" Harry asked, pointing to a large bush with lots of leaves; a plant that Harry thought looked very useful. Harry had indeed done his best, and so Hestia kept her promise to take him to a real forest the following Saturday.
Unfortunately for her, she was the Goddess of the Home and the Hearth, not of plants and shrubs. As she looked at the plant, she was forced to do something no god or goddess enjoyed doing – admitting ignorance. "I'm afraid I don't know," she replied, smiling gently. "After all, I'm not the goddess of the forest, so this lies outside my domain."
"Oh," Harry answered, a little disappointed. That plant looked useful for something. As they walked further, he pointed to a tree. "How about that tree?"
Hestia kept her smile up; even if she realized that she was in for a very uncomfortable afternoon. It was hardly Harry's fault that he was inquisitive. She should have seen this coming.
"How about that flower?" Harry asked.
Hestia's smile grew slightly. "That's a dandelion, and it is completely edible. It's also very good in salads," she explained. If only all plants were edible, then she could answer Harry's questions.
Hmm… that gave her an idea. "How about I introduce you to my niece?" the young-looking goddess offered. "She's the goddess of the Hunt, she is an expert on plants and trees, and knows all there is to know about surviving in the wild."
Harry looked at her, and was about to jump at the chance, when he sobered. Hestia was glad to see it, it meant that Harry was starting to use his mind a bit more, and not taking every chance offered to him. Finally, the young boy said, "But don't we need to keep it a secret I live on Olympus?"
"Artie is trustworthy, I'm sure I can convince her to keep the secret," Hestia said, smiling wider.
For a moment, Harry looked at her, thinking things over as well as he could for his age. "Okay," he finally said. "I trust you, Hestia. I'd love to learn more about plants and trees for when I ever have to run again."
Hestia felt her shoulders drop slightly. It wasn't a surprise that Harry would worry about being on his own and having to make it, not after the life he had experienced so far. She hoped his former relatives were having a ghastly time. If she ever ran into them again, she'd make sure her curse held.
She plastered her smile back on her face. "Then I'll have a chat with Artie and see if she's willing to teach you. Just keep in mind, she will likely be a strict teacher, so if I do this, and Artie agrees, I want you to promise me that you will continue to do your best, like you have been doing so far."
Harry nodded. "Of course, Hestia!"
She smiled wider, and put her hand on his shoulder. "Then it's agreed. Come, let's enjoy our walk through the woods."
Harry grinned. "Okay!" He pointed to a shrub. "Does that plant do anything?"
Hestia wanted to sigh. Ah, the exuberance of young mortals. She resigned herself to admitting lots of ignorance, interspersed with edible plants.
A week later, Hestia emerged out of the fire in Helios' temple to find Harry avidly reading one of the books she had gotten him. She smiled at the sight and reiterated to herself that she'd have to do something nice for Athena for all the help she gave with picking them out. That large chocolate cake she had baked for the Goddess of Wisdom didn't seem like enough, even if said Goddess of Wisdom had been exceedingly happy with it.
"Harry," Hestia said, bringing his attention to her.
"Hi, Hestia!" Harry said, dropping himself off the couch in a kind of boneless maneuver that small children were very good at. He eagerly stepped towards her, and gave her a big hug.
Hestia hugged him back. Ever since she had 'taught' the boy about hugging, he'd been greeting her with one, and she didn't have the heart to stop him. Not that she wanted to stop him, mind you.
"I have some good news," she said, stepping away from Harry. "Artie has agreed to teach you about plants and animals, but only if you try very hard."
"That's awesome!" Harry screamed, a wide smile on his face, actually vibrating in place.
Hestia returned the smile; it was so easy to be happy when Harry was so excited about something. It wasn't that big of a deal, either. Artie was happy to spend a few hours teaching a mortal about her domain, even if she was slightly less happy a few minutes later when she found out said mortal was a boy.
Sitting down on the couch, the Goddess of the Hearth said, "There are a few conditions, though, Harry."
Harry nodded, and sat down with her on the couch, suddenly looking serious. "What kind of conditions?" he asked, sounding suspicious. Hestia felt a familiar pang in her heart at the sight. What kind of life had Harry lived, that he was so used to being suspicious at his age?
"Nothing too bad," Hestia said with a small smile. "Artie is the Goddess of the Hunt, as I've said before. She's also the Goddess of the Moon, the Goddess of Childbirth, and the Goddess of Maidens."
Harry frowned. "What's a maiden? Is that like a maid?"
Hestia laughed softly. "Please don't say that to Artie, she would be most upset," the goddess told Harry, who nodded seriously. "A maiden is a young girl, Harry. Artie is the Goddess of young girls who haven't had relations with a man yet."
Harry frowned, trying to work that out. "Is that like kissy-face?"
Hestia had to smother her laugh. "A bit like that, yes," she said, not wanting to open that particular can of worms yet.
Harry nodded again. "Okay, that's good. Kissy-face is gross."
Hestia looked amused. "One day you may feel differently, Harry."
The young boy shook his head. "Nu-uh. No way. Kissy-face is gross!"
The young-looking goddess laughed again. "If you say so, Harry," she said, humoring him. "It is related to the conditions, though. Artie, being the Goddess of young girls, doesn't like boys or men all that much. So she may take a while to get used to you, and be nice to you."
Harry's enthusiasm dimmed. "Will she be like Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon?"
"No! Absolutely not!" Hestia said. Loudly. She drew a breath, and calmed herself, as Harry had jumped half a seat away from her when she shouted. She had to remember that Harry did not like shouting as it reminded him of his horrendous home. "Artie is perfectly nice, and she won't harm you unless you harm her, or anyone under her protection, first. No, what I mean is that she was be very business-like. It may take her a bit to become more personable."
"Oh," Harry said, thinking it over. Finally, he just said, "OK." Then he frowned again. "What does 'personable' mean?"
Hestia smiled at him, and reminded herself that Harry was still a very young mortal. "It means 'friendly'. It may take her a bit of time to become friendly."
"Oh," Harry repeated. "Ok."
Hestia nodded, pleased that she'd gotten him to understand. "Also, Artie has said she would give you a lesson, but she'd decide on whether she'd give you more after she saw how that first lesson went. She's quite busy, as she has multiple domains, so she doesn't want to waste her time."
Harry nodded. "You told me to do my very best, and I will," he answered her.
Hestia smiled. "I'm glad to hear it. For that reason, I got you these." she reached into a pocket that seemed a lot larger on the inside. She handed him a book, a pen, and a small roll of tape. "I want you to keep these with you when Artie comes and takes you to the forest for your lesson. When she explains something, you can write it down, and when she shows you a plant, you can take a leaf or a flower, and paste it in the book and write down the description. It'll help your reading and writing at the same time, and it'll make it easier for you to learn what Artie's teaching you."
Harry accepted the item, and smiled widely. "That's so awesome," he said. "I never would have thought of that. You're so smart, Hestia!"
Hestia smiled at him. It was just a book and some supplies, and seeing him so happy with them made her feel sad that Harry never had gotten any kind of help with schoolwork before. Sad, and angry. Once again, she hoped the Dursleys were getting their just deserts.
Harry was puttering around in the kitchen area of Helios' temple. Hestia always left plenty of food, and now he was trying to cook something for himself. The Dursleys had trained him rather well, and it took him very little time to adapt the Dursleys' fatty, canned-produce recipes to recipes using Hestia's fresh produce.
But some things were new to him.
Like this recipe for macaroni and cheese. Following Hestia's written instructions, he turned off the stove and lifted the pot off the fire, turning it over so the cheesy noodles would pour onto a plate.
"Hello, Harry," he heard from behind him.
Not turning, he continued what he was doing by rasping a small amount of raw ambrosia over the dish. "Hi, Hestia!" he greeted her as exuberantly as usual. "I've tried the macaroni and cheese sauce recipe. Do you want to try?"
He became aware of the young-looking goddess stepping next to him as he put the rasp and chunk of raw ambrosia away.
"Of course," Hestia said, conjuring a fork, and trying some. He looked at her as she chewed thoughtfully. "Very well done, Harry. You have a gift for cooking."
He smiled widely. "Thanks, Hestia!" he said, grabbing the fork and trying some for himself. Suddenly he became aware that there was a third person in his kitchen, one that had remained at the 'door' leading to the 'living area'.
"Oh, hello," Harry said, suddenly feeling a bit embarrassed at not having seen her before. The new girl was about twelve, had deep silver-colored eyes, and was dressed in a white shirt, a silver jacket, silvery camouflage pants and black combat boots.
"Harry, this is Artie, Goddess of the Hunt," Hestia introduced them. "Artie, this is Harry, who I told you about."
"Hello, Artie," Harry said, before looking rather surprised as the girl narrowed her eyes. She looked angry.
She glanced at Hestia, before looking back at Harry. "Hello Harry," she responded flatly.
Hoping to get on her good side, Harry raised the plate with the cheese noodles. "Would you like some? I just made them," he offered, before realizing something, and saying on a softer level, "Obviously, as you just saw me finish them."
Again, Artie glanced at Hestia, before looking back to Harry. She shrugged, finally. "Why not? It has been a while since I had Mac and Cheese."
"Great!" Harry said, putting the large plate down on the kitchen table, and diving into his cupboard. "Hestia, do you want some too? I think I made too much for just me." He didn't add that he had planned on leftovers, but if he could use them to get in good with his new teacher, that would be time well spent.
"No, thank you, Harry. I've already eaten," Hestia said.
"Alright," Harry agreed, retrieving just a single plate, and serving utensils. He divided the dish between its original plate and the new one, and he offered the new plate to Artie, as well as regular utensils.
Artie tried the food while Harry took his own place, before blinking and staring at the noodles. "This is very good," she said, sounding as surprised as she looked.
"Thanks, Artie!" Harry said, grinning widely. "It's a recipe Hestia gave me, but I haven't had a chance to try it yet."
Hestia held her customary gentle smile as she took place at the table, taking enjoyment at seeing Harry and Artie share a meal. This was how a home should be.
"So, Harry," Artie finally said, after finishing half of the mac and cheese on her plate. "Aunt Hestia said you wanted to learn about nature and about survival."
Harry nodded, remembering one of the first lessons Hestia taught him – never speak with your mouth full. After chewing, he swallowed. "That's right," he said.
"May I ask what for?" Artie asked. "There are plenty of books that will teach you the basics." Her tone had some kind of tone to it that Harry didn't know. It set him on edge, though.
"I just wanted to know what the different plants do, and which ones are edible, and which ones are useful. So that, when I'm alone, I can take care of myself. Sometimes there's nothing in the skip to eat, and you need to know these things."
Artie looked surprised, and studied him for a moment. "You ate out of a dumpster?" she queried, just making sure that got the British word correct.
Harry nodded. "It's not so bad. Aunt Petunia said I could eat food with fuzz on it, but I don't like those bits and just scrape them off. It tastes a little funny, that's all. When you haven't eaten in a few days, and start being hungry enough to dream about food, you don't even notice the funny taste. So, I thought, if I knew which plants are edible, and which plants are useful for shelter and other stuff, I wouldn't have to go hungry when the skips are emptied."
Artie was quiet, but her gaze was intense. Harry felt uncomfortable with how she was studying him, but kept quiet, finishing his food. It really was good, he was glad he'd made it. Artie's plate was empty by now, and he felt a bit sad he wouldn't have any leftovers.
On the other hand, he had an excuse to cook more of the dish.
"Your… aunt… made you eat moldy food?" Artie asked, as if asking for confirmation.
Harry nodded. "Hestia said it wasn't fit to eat, but when you're hungry, you've got no choice."
Artie fell silent again, and Harry finished the rest of his mac and cheese. Yum.
"Very well," Artie said. "I will give you one lesson. After this lesson, we will see how much you have learned. If you have learned to my satisfaction, I will continue the lessons. If you have not, then it will be the only lesson."
Harry nodded, smiling widely. "Thanks, Artie!"
The goddess of the hunt seemed amused. "You may want to wait until the lesson is over to thank me."
Harry didn't like the sound of that, but tried bravely to hide it. Hestia had gone through the effort of getting him a teacher for something that really interested him, and he wasn't going to let her effort go to waste.
Trying to find something to occupy himself with, he gathered the empty plates and utensils and took them over to the sink and started washing them.
"Since you two seem friendly, I will be on my way," Hestia said, getting up from the table, and walking to the living area to vanish in the fireplace.
Harry suddenly realized he was alone with Artie; a goddess that Hestia had said didn't like boys or men. He'd seen her look at Hestia a few times, and he wasn't sure how this was going to go without Hestia here.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw something move. Looking over, and noticed that Artie was suddenly right there, looking at him doing the dishes. For a moment, Harry felt like an insect under study.
"So, Harry," Artie said, still looking at him. "You said that you wanted to learn how to survive in the wild. Before I take you to a forest and start pumping botany and zoology into you, we will need to cover the basics of survival. And doing your dishes isn't going to distract me."
Harry hoped that was a joke, and carefully smiled at her. She didn't seem to mind the same, and continued to stare. "That's great," he said, putting the last plate out to dry. After drying his hands, he said, "One moment, though."
With a child's energy, he ran to the living area, to return with the empty book and the pen that Hestia had given him.
"Taking notes?" Artie asked, curiously.
Harry nodded enthusiastically as he sat down at the kitchen table, Artie taking the same seat she had taken before. "Hestia gave it to me!"
"Good, preparations matter in survival as much as they do in life. Now, let's get started. Imagine you are in a forest. What do you do first?"
Harry blinked, not having expected her to start with a test of all things. His first reaction was to say something about finding either food or water. From experience, he knew he could do without food for a while, but he needed water every day or he'd get headaches.
He frowned. "Where am I?" he asked. "I mean; what forest? Are there people I can ask for help?"
Artie seemed surprised, before a smile broke out. It was the first genuine smile he had seen on her face, and Harry thought it made her look pretty. Maybe she'd smile to him more often if he kept answering?
"Harry," she said, looking business-like again. "If you keep this up, I can make you capable of surviving anywhere. What you said is exactly right. The heart of the matter is, when you enter an unknown situation, when something happens, when you run into problems… the first thing to do is determine where you are. Where you are, what you have with you, what are your immediate problems. We call this, taking stock. Most people in such a situation will panic. They will do something stupid. If you take stock, take just five minutes to determine your current situation and what you need to do, you already have a leg up on most other people."
Harry grinned, and started writing in his book. Being new, he couldn't write very fast, but Artie seemed happy to wait for him to finish.
When he looked up, she went on, "Now, you know where you are. There are no other people around. You are wearing just what you are wearing now. What is the next thing you do?"
Harry looked at the tunic he was wearing. It was one of the outfits Hestia had given him, and it worked fine for Olympus, where the temperatures were always balmy. Having been on the streets of New York, he knew how cold it could get. And even without food or water, temperatures could get nasty, fast.
"Ehm… How warm is it?" Harry asked. "And is it raining or snowing or windy?"
Artie smiled at him, and he found that he liked that smile very much. It meant he did something right. "I know what you are asking, Harry. That is the first priority of a survival situation – shelter. In some cases, not having a shelter can kill you in hours."
Harry started writing again. "So the first thing to do is shelter," Harry said. "First, take stock. Then, make a shelter?"
"In most situations, yes," Artie said. "Now, you've built a shelter; you are out of the wind and the rain. What do you do next?"
Harry thoughts to his time on the streets. Water or food? He could go longer without food. "Find water?" he asked.
"Are you asking, or saying?" the goddess asked, sounding vaguely amused.
"Saying," Harry said. "Water next."
"Exactly right," she replied. Harry wrote that down. "And then?"
"Food, I think," Harry said.
Artie shook her head, and Harry felt oddly disappointed that he hadn't gotten the question right. "You have a shelter, and you have water. However, water in the wild isn't always safe to drink – it's not tap water. In order to make water safe, we need to boil it."
"So we need fire first?" Harry asked. Artie nodded gently, and Harry started writing. "And then food?"
"Yes," Artie said. "Food comes last. There is a rule of threes that you may find handy. If you panic, you can die in three seconds. If you don't have a shelter, you can die in three hours. If you don't have water, you can die in three days. If you don't have food you can die in three weeks. Always make sure that you are taking care of the most urgent things first. Don't panic, build a shelter, get water, get the water drinkable, and get food, in that order."
Harry kept writing. When he finished, he looked up from the book, as Artie had stopped talking. She wasn't looking at him, but seemed to be thinking about something.
Finally, she focused back on him. "Enough theory. Time for some practice, which I'm sure will interest you a lot more."
Harry shook his head, and pointed at the book. "This is really interesting too, Artie!"
She gave him a tiny smile, but stood up anyway. Closing the book, Harry stood up as well, curious as to what Artie meant with 'practice'.
The goddess motioned for the door. "We're going to take my chariot. I hope you're not afraid of heights," she said.
Grabbing his book with his left hand, Harry followed her. Hestia teleported the two of them, but she used fire to do so. They always emerged from some kind of fire that was burning where Hestia wanted to teleport them to. Harry assumed that she always went ahead of time to set those fires.
Since Hestia was Goddess of Fire in a way, she could probably do stuff like that, which was why Artie was taking them somewhere in her chariot. He knew Hestia could teleport by herself, without the use of fire, but when she took him somewhere, they always went through the hearth.
Maybe Gods couldn't teleport people?
Right outside the temple that Harry had come to call 'home' for the last couple of months stood a magnificent silver chariot, pulled by a quartet of golden reindeer with silver antlers.
"Whoa," Harry said at the sight of it.
Artie gave him a small grin, but didn't halt in her stride. He legged it to catch up, and jumped into the chariot after her.
Taking the silver reins, Artie spurred her reindeer and soon they had left Olympus behind.
They flew high through the sky, and Harry leaned over the edge of the chariot to see better. Excitement filled him, loving the feel of freedom.
"Where are we going?" he asked, trying to hide his excitement.
Artie gave him an amused look. Apparently he hadn't succeeded at hiding his emotions. "We're going to a forest that I know," she said mysteriously.
Harry nodded, and leaned back over the edge of the chariot.
"I am not going to catch you if you fall," Artie noted calmly. "So try to maintain your balance. Auntie Hestia would be rather upset if I returned you as flat as a pancake."
Harry leaned back so he wasn't folded double over the edge. "But this is so awesome!" he protested.
Artie shook her head, and muttered something about 'boys'. "Remember my warning."
"Yes, Artie," Harry muttered, a little bit more composed. He remembered how Hestia had said Artie didn't like boys, and he was sure she would let him fall, too. He was pretty sure the fall would be fun, but the sudden impact at the end would be far less so.
He still did his best to look over the edge of the chariot, though.
Suddenly, they started descending and before he knew it, they were in a thick forest somewhere. He had no idea where he was not, having had a lot of geography lessons while he was still in school – and those lessons had been about Great Britain, not the United States in any case.
Artie gave a motion, and the reindeer pulled her chariot away, where it disappeared far quicker than a chariot pulled by four golden reindeer had any business to.
"So, time for some practice," Artie declared. "if I left you here, what would you do first?"
Harry blinked, the knowledge that Artie didn't like boys and Artie would have let him fall from the chariot spooking through his mind. Was she really going to leave him here?
He swallowed, suddenly feeling very nervous. He tensed up, suddenly feeling the book Hestia had given him, still clenched by his left arm.
He remembered the lesson.
"Ehm..." he swallowed, and drew a deep breath. "Try not to panic," he said, cracking the book open. The writings in his childishly scrawled Greek letters (for easier reading!) calmed his nerves. He looked up and around. "I don't know where I am. It's rather cool, but not cold. According to the list you gave me, I should build or find a shelter."
Artie smiled. "Good. You didn't panic when you thought I was going to abandon you."
He liked smiling Artie a lot more than cold Artie who would let him fall or abandon him in some forest. She motioned, and suddenly a large backpack appeared next to them. "Since you are a beginner, we will begin with 'easy' level survival."
Harry let out a breath, and felt the final nerves flow away. "What's easy level?" he asked, curiously looking over the large backpack. It was as tall as he was, and probably weighed half as much as he did from the looks of it. He wasn't sure he could lift it, let alone carry it somewhere.
"Easy is where you have all the tools necessary for survival," Artie explained. "This is a standard pack that my Hunters are expected to carry. It has all the tools necessary for survival," she said, motioning to the pack. "We will be going through it, and I will being by teaching you how to put up the tent, and how to break it down and repack it."
"Cool!" Harry said, grinning widely. He thought of something, and then asked, "what are the other levels?"
Artie smiled. "Intermediate level is where I take the tent, and the sleeping bag, and the cooking utensils, and leave you with a knife, some rope, and basic implements. You'll be expected to build your own shelter, and build your own utensils from what you find in the forest."
Her smile developed a nasty edge. "Hard level is where I give you a knife and you're expected to make do."
Harry swallowed. "So that's the toughest?"
Artie laughed. "If you're really interested, I can strip you to your underwear and drop you in a forest filled with bears. You'll be expected to walk out two weeks later, well fed, and dressed in bear skin."
Harry gaped at her. "Really?"
Artie remained stoic and motioned to the backpack. "Let's begin by pitching the tent. Killing bears with your bare hands can come later."
Over the next few hours, Harry learned many things he had never thought about. He learned how to pitch a tent. He learned that there were different kinds of tents, from tents that were good in summer and were very light, to tents that were good year-round, but weighed a lot more. He learned about sleeping bags. He learned how to look at the terrain to make sure that his tent wouldn't get flooded, and would be protected by trees to be out of the wind.
Finally, after his mind was stuffed with details on tents, Artie took him on a short walk through the forest and taught him about some of the plants and flowers and what their uses were.
His book was used extensively, and each plant and flower got one of its leaves pasted on its own page, along with details on what that particular plant's usefulness was.
By the time Artie took him back to Helios' temple, Harry was exhausted and could barely keep his eyes open. This time, he didn't lean over the edge of the chariot to look at the world below; instead he leaned against the edge and tried to rest a bit.
By the time Artie landed the chariot at the temple, Harry was feeling a bit more awake, the short rest having worked wonders.
"You did well, for a boy," Artie said as they dismounted the chariot. She stopped, forcing Harry to stop as well and look at her. "I will come back next week for your next lesson. I expect the same level of dedication and attention to detail."
Harry, remembering Hestia's warning about Artie only willing to do one lesson before making a decision, smiled at her. "Thanks, Artie."
"I will see you next week," Artie said, dipping her head in a short kind of nod that Harry took as a goodbye, before she walked to the chariot, and disappeared.
Smiling widely, Harry entered the temple he called 'home'.
After stoking the fire in the living area, he went to the kitchen and started making himself dinner.
He used to hate cooking for the Dursleys, since he never got to eat anything he made, but ever since he met Hestia he had learned to love it. Now it was just a relaxing way to end the day, making food for himself and ensuring leftovers for either breakfast or lunch the next day.
As he cooked, he became aware of the fire in the living area flaring up, a tell-tale sign that Hestia had arrived.
As the goddess entered the kitchen, he turned to her, and gave her a hug. "Hi Hestia!"
"Hello Harry," the kind goddess replied, her usual smile on her lips. "You seem to be in a good mood."
Harry nodded eagerly. "Artie is awesome!" he shouted exuberantly. "She knows so much about camping and surviving! She taught me how to pitch a tent, and what plants are good for what, and what to do first when you're surviving. It's great!"
Hestia's smile grew wider at his excitement. "I'm glad to hear you two get along. Will she be back?"
Harry nodded rapidly once more. "She said I did well for a boy and that she would be back for another lesson next week!"
"I'm glad to hear it," Hestia said. She stopped closer to the pots. "What are you making?"
Harry turned to his stove, and showed her the recipe he was following; ready to start learning about his new favorite hobby.
Harry eyed the target that Artie had conjured for him. Over the course of the last few months, he had gotten used to the way Artie taught him.
They no longer had 'theory' lessons at Helios' Temple. Instead, Harry would be waiting outside when Artie arrived in her chariot, and give her a hug. She used to freeze up when he did so, which made Harry think she had an Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon of her own. He never asked, because he didn't like talking about the Dursleys either, and just gave her a hug when she came to collect him, and another when she dropped him off.
Apparently, she'd gotten used to them because she now hugged him back. Slightly, and not as deeply as a Hestia Hug, but it was progress.
After the customary hug, she would take him to some random forest – a different one each time – where she would begin by having him set up and break down the tent a couple of times.
After a few lessons, she had given him a hunting knife, and started teaching him how to use it to gather plants, saw off branches, sharpen sticks, and so forth.
Last week, she had started teaching him how to use a bow. It was a rather straightforward training bow, but he still liked it.
He took an arrow from the quiver on his back, nocked it, and drew a breath as he pulled back the string. Contrary to modern bows and their pulley system, the bow Artie had given him was an old-fashioned bow-and-string configuration. This meant that Harry had to maintain the full draw strength of the bow himself when he had pulled the string fully back.
This meant that he had to fire quickly, as the bow was quite heavy for his young body.
He aimed as carefully as he could, and released the string before his muscles could start twitching at the strain.
The arrow thwack-ed into the target, slightly off-center. Harry smiled; it was his best shot yet.
He repeated the motions. A second arrow lodged itself next to the first one. The next one did as well. And the next.
"I have the curious impression that you are not aiming for the center of the target," Artie noted from next to him.
Harry grinned at her. "I read in a book about a guy who could split an arrow by shooting another arrow at its back," he answered the implied question.
Artie seemed amused. "Unfortunately, unless you are shooting an arrow made of bamboo with an arrow tipped with a hunting tip, you're not going to be able to split an arrow," the goddess said.
Harry looked disappointed. "So not even a god can split an arrow?"
Artie stared at him. "That sounded like a challenge," she stated coolly.
Harry rapidly shook his head. "Just a statement. You said it wasn't possible."
Artie sighed. Her bow appeared in her left hand. She brought it up, not even bringing it to eye level or in its proper vertical position, and drew back the string with her right hand. With the bow horizontal, she couldn't draw it back further than halfway, before an arrow appeared, nocked and ready.
She didn't even bother aiming, and just let loose despite her not even being directly in front of the target.
Her arrow split Harry's first arrow right down the middle. "It just takes a bit of Godly power," she amended her earlier statement.
Harry stared in slack-jawed awe at the skill and power implied by Artie's shot, before looking at her. "That was incredible!"
Artie shrugged. "I am the Goddess of the Hunt, Harry."
He pouted at her. "You didn't even try to make it look difficult."
Said goddess shrugged again. "That's because it wasn't. For a goddess." She pointed to the target. "Back to practice," she instructed.
"Yes, Artie," Harry said, raising his bow. He nocked his next arrow. Before he drew the string back, he turned to look at his instructor. "Can I ever be as good as that?"
Artie didn't look amused. "You would think yourself as good as a goddess?" she asked, angrily.
Harry hurriedly shook his head. "I know I'm not that good yet! I just want to know if it's possible, that's all!"
She eyed him, displeased, for just a few moments. "No. Mortals can never be as good as Gods. Not without help."
Harry just nodded, and rapidly focused himself on his target practice. Sometimes, Artie could get really mad over things he asked, even if he never ever meant to make her angry. He was just curious, that's all.
His arrow was way off center.
"Release your breath halfway and calm your heart. Release between heartbeats if you can," Artie instructed.
His next arrow was closer to his original grouping, but was still off.
The goddess sighed, apparently recognizing why his aim was off. "Never think yourself as good as a god," she said. "It never ends well. You're lucky I didn't change you into a jackalope for that question."
Harry seemed to shrink. "I was just curious, I didn't mean it as a challenge," he muttered.
"You're progressing decently. For a boy. Unfortunately, you have a boy's tendencies to open your mouth and spew idiocy, too."
"Sorry," Harry whispered quietly, hoping that this didn't mean the end of their lessons.
Artie sighed deeply. "Fine, let's forget about it." She grinned at a sudden thought. "Unless you want me to turn you into a girl. In a few years, I could bestow my blessing upon you and you could be one of my Hunters. You'd be as good as humanly possible with a bow then."
Harry blinked, and stared at her. Artie stared back, looking serious.
He thought it over for a few moments. "I don't know what it's like being a girl," he answered. "If I say yes, will you change me back if I change my mind?"
The goddess of the hunt looked amused. "I am the Goddess of Maidens," she answered. "I can change you into a girl. I can't change you into a boy."
Harry thought that over a while longer. "In that case, I think I'll stick to being a boy."
Artie shrugged. "Your loss." She motioned for the target. "Next shot, please."
His next shot fell into place with his earlier grouping.