Harry Potter, Squatter
AN: I had some time off from work, so I was able to get this chapter done quicker than usual - so I held off on chapter 35 to give you a double dose today. Enjoy!
Harry slowly felt his mind drag itself out of the dark morass that had enveloped it. At the same time, he became aware that he wasn't alone, that he was in an unfamiliar room with people he knew, and people he didn't know.
He opened his eyes, finding himself in the kind of whitish room that could only be located in a hospital. For a moment, he frowned, wondering what he had done to land himself in a hospital.
"He's awake!" Someone said, and suddenly his vision was filled with a tearful-looking Luna. Before he could utter a word, the blonde witch had thrown herself at him, hugging him tightly.
"You saved her," the girl sobbed. "You saved my Mommy. The healers said she wouldn't have been alive if it wasn't for you. Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!"
Harry hugged her back. Oh, yeah. He'd exhausted himself with that heart-lung magic. Apparently, not everyone had that licorice-drink that Marduk had, so he had to sleep to regain his energy.
"You're welcome, Luna," he said, feeling a bit uncomfortable with the excessive gratitude. "You're my friend. Friends help each other when they can."
Luna lifted her head off his chest and looked straight at him. "You saved her life," she repeated. "If you ever need anything, you just have to ask."
Harry grinned at her. "Isn't that how friendship works?" he asked. "I mean, I was able to help, so I helped. If I need help, and you can help me, I'm sure you'll be there."
Luna stared at him for a moment, then nodded seriously. "Of course," she said, as if it were a vow.
"You may want to let your young man breathe, sweetheart," a male voice said from behind Luna, who slowly and reluctantly let him go. Now that Luna had released him, Harry was able to look over her shoulder and look at the man who had breezed through earlier; the man who could only be Luna's father.
He had shoulder-length white hair that seemed like it was candyfloss. His robes had a bright, sunny color, and he looked slightly cross-eyed. Enthusiastically, the man thrust a hand out towards Harry.
"Xenophilius Lovegood, editor, contributor, and owner of The Quibbler, at your service, Mister Potter," the man said as Harry hesitantly took the man's outstretched hand, to find it gripped and shaken quite strongly. "You saved my Pandora, at risk to yourself. I, we, are in your debt. If you ever need anything, you have only to ask."
Harry blinked. Honestly, he'd helped because he could and because Hestia told him to always help those who need it. He managed a smile at the enthusiastic wizard, and said, "Like I told Luna, Mister Lovegood, we're friends. And there aren't debts between friends for helping each other, right?"
The older man looked startled, then looked over his shoulder, before looking back at Harry. "Luckily, my father, who is Mister Lovegood, isn't here. I am just Xenophilius – or Xeno, if you prefer," Xeno said with a straight-up expression that was too straight-up to actually be serious.
"Xeno," Harry said, grinning; he could see where Luna got her attitude from. Despite his usual reticence and mistrust of adults, he found that he liked Xeno Lovegood.
"And you are quite right, of course," Xeno went on. "No debts exist between friends. Therefore, from this moment on, you are to be known as a friend of our family."
Harry's grin widened. That definitely sounded just like Luna had sounded earlier. "Thank you, Sir."
"Xeno," Xeno corrected him with a grin.
"Xeno," Harry repeated.
"Now, I am glad to see that you made a quick recovery," Luna's father went on to say. "The Senior Healer did state that you would need only a short rest to recover from your case of magical exhaustion, but it is always nice to see confirmation, eh?"
Harry grinned. "Exactly," he said, pushing himself to sit upright in the bed. Now that he was seated, he could see more of the strange room he was in.
The walls and ceiling and floor were all of the same white material, but one wall had a huge fireplace set in it that was burning merrily. Right next to his bed were a couple of seats, both of which were occupied by Annabeth and Silena – who hadn't had a chance to talk to him before the Lovegoods had monopolized his time.
Silena just grinned at him. "Good job, Harry," she said. "It's never dull to go somewhere with you." Harry grinned at her, not really knowing how to reply.
Annabeth, on the other hand, crossed her arms. "You have to stop scaring me like that, Harry. I'll turn gray before I hit puberty if you keep this up!"
Harry's smile turned a bit brittle. "Sorry, Annabeth?" he offered, hoping that a contrite apology was what she was going for.
The Daughter of Athena huffed. "And I can't even be angry with you, because you saved Luna's mom." She sighed theatrically. "I guess it's like Silena said, it's never dull with you around."
Harry gave another chuckle, and continued his survey of the room.
A second bed was situated on the same side of the room as his, but nearer to the door and on the opposite side where Silena and Annabeth were sitting. In that bed was Pandora, looking pale and drawn, but seemingly resting peacefully.
Seeing where his gaze went, Xeno looked serious. "She is alive and resting, Mister Potter," Xeno said. "The Healers have confirmed that the treatment is going well; they were able to repair most of the damage to her internal organs, and seal most of the wounds. The rest will be handled via a potions regimen. It might take a few months, but she will be fine."
Harry looked at Xeno. "I could make a joke about 'Mister Potter' being my father, but I have never known the man," he said. "I'm Harry to my friends, Xeno."
Xeno's smile returned, although it was a bit tight. "Harry," he said with a nod. "I don't know what I would have done had she… had she… "
Harry put one hand over Xenophilius' larger one. "You would have done what you could, and would have done what you had to do," he said, trying to comfort the man.
Xeno nodded. "That I would," he said. "That I would."
Luna glided over and perched herself on his bed. "This turned depressing rather quickly," she said. "Harry saved Mommy, Daddy, we should be happy, not sad."
Xeno nodded and gave his daughter a soft smile. "Quite right, Buttercup. Quite right."
Luna gave him a nod, as if saying 'good boy', then turned to Harry. "So, Harry, what kind of spell were you using? You were glowing, and the Healers said they never saw anything like it."
"If you wouldn't mind, that is a question that I would like answered as well," a new voice said from the door to the room. Harry looked over, to find an elderly gentleman dressed in lime-green robes. Over his breast was a wand crossed with a bone, kind of like a gruesome insignia. "Forgive my interruption," he added, when he realized that he was being rather rude. "I was coming to check up on my patients when I overheard the young lady ask a question that I would very dearly like an answer to, as well."
The demigod stared at the man; who was entirely unfamiliar to him except for the voice. He knew that voice, but didn't recall from where. "Your voice sounds familiar," Harry said.
The strange man smiled faintly. "You were rather busy when we met earlier, Mister Potter," he answered. "Senior Healer Abraham Isaacs, at your service," he added, introducing himself. "I was Healer-in-charge when we were able to save Mrs Lovegood."
Harry nodded. "That's where I knew the voice from," he said, half to himself. "I couldn't focus on anything but the spell, so I had to let go of listening," he explained, louder.
Healer Isaacs grinned as he entered the room. He waved his wand at Pandora, examined the results for a few moments, then nodded to himself. "Good, good," he said, before turning to Xeno. "Your wife is making a swift recovery, Mister Lovegood," he told the man. "Her vitals are already stabilizing."
Xeno nodded. "I'm relieved to hear it, Healer," he answered. Luna just smiled widely and threw Harry another grateful look.
"Now, for my younger patient," the Healer said, nearing Harry and waving his wand. "Remarkable recovery rate, young man. Truly remarkable. After exhaustion like that, I would have expected you to be knocked out for quite a bit longer, with risk of permanent damage to your magic. Instead, I find you awake within a few hours, with no signs of trauma at all."
Harry grinned. "I have a very good teacher," he replied. When he saw the Healer start to ask, Harry held up a hand. "He also values his privacy."
The old man smiled. "You can't blame someone for trying."
"Of course not," Harry answered. He shifted in the bed, seating himself more comfortably.
"Is he the one who taught you that spell?" the Healer asked, trying to bring the subject back around.
Harry shook his head. "Nobody taught me that spell," he answered, honestly. "I made it up."
Luna and Xeno blinked, looked faintly surprised, and then seemed to shrug. Healer Isaacs, on the other hand, stared at Harry with open mouth.
"You made it up?" he asked, incredulously.
Harry nodded. "I saw that Mrs Lovegood-"
"Pandora," Xeno interrupted. "Or Pan."
Harry grinned and nodded at the man. "I saw that Pandora was heavily injured, but the only healing I'd been taught was advanced first aid, you know? How to handle simple breaks, sprains, bruises, wounds, burns, that sort of thing. This was far beyond me, which is why I told Luna to get a Doc-" he stopped, caught himself, and said, "erm… Healer."
The Healer grinned wider, ignoring the slip of the tongue, and nodded. "That's when I recalled lessons from other teachers I have," Harry went on. "The brain is the most important organ in the body, and as long as it stays alive, a person can be helped, you know?"
The Healer nodded again, like an obedient schoolboy, despite being old enough to be Harry's grandfather. "That's when I recalled a device called a Heart-Lung Machine."
"A what?" Healer Isaacs asked, while Luna and Xeno shuffled closer, curious about this device as well.
"A Heart-Lung Machine," Harry repeated. "The non-magical doctors use it when they need to operate on a person's heart or lungs. Basically, the machine in connected to a person's bloodstream, and it takes over all the functions of the heart and the lungs, it oxygenates the blood and pumps it back."
"Ingenious," the Healer said with wonder. "What will they think of next?" he asked himself.
"Basically, that's what I was trying to do, keep Pandora's brain alive by taking the blood, oxygenating it, and pumping it back to her brain," Harry explained.
The Healer nodded. "Quite an ingenious solution to keeping a patient alive until the Healers can arrive," he said. "Your spell was quite crude and inefficient, but that is to be expected for something one made up on the spot. You had to use quantity instead of quality, which is why you had a case of magical exhaustion."
Harry refrained from explaining how he drew in outside magic, and how it quite likely had saved him from the damage the Healer was talking about. Instead, he replied, "At least quantity has a quality of its own."
The Healer looked surprised for a moment, then barked a laugh. "Quite right, Mister Potter; quite right. Glad to see that the classics aren't lost on the younger generation." The old man turned to Pandora's bed once more. "Thank you for assuaging an old man's curiosity."
"You're welcome, Sir," Harry answered.
"In the interest of fairness, I should tell you that you were recognized. Luckily, I was able to keep your presence here under patient-Healer confidentiality. However, when enough gold passes hands, I'm afraid others don't hold as tightly to their oaths as I do."
Harry blinked. "I was recognized?" he asked, not understanding.
Luna giggled slightly. "Mommy told you last time, Harry. You're quite famous."
Healer Isaacs grinned. "The young lady downplays things, Mister Potter. 'Quite' famous doesn't really cover it. I would advise you to make an escape as soon as you feel able. I will do my best to keep your presence here under wraps, but again, if enough gold greases the wheels..."
Harry nodded; "I understand," he replied. "Thank you, Sir."
The Healer, happy with the results he was getting from a second scan of Pandora, winked at the boy. "Call it professional courtesy." he turned and left without another word.
"I like him," Harry said, grinning.
"Maybe we should go," Annabeth said. "We've been gone a bit longer than expected, and apparently Harry has a fan club."
Harry gave her a filthy look, causing her to giggle.
"Maybe it would help if Daddy published an article in The Quibbler," Luna suggested.
"Capital idea!" Xeno interjected. "We should sit down and do an interview for a proper work-up, of course, but I can definitely publish an article on the recent events."
Harry didn't really know how to respond to that, and it took him a few moments to come up with a proper reply. "If you think people are interested, Xeno," he finally said, modestly. Really, he'd only done what any decent person would have done in his position.
"It'll have to be on page two, though," Xeno said. "That article on the duck-billed platypus, and that hazy photograph of it in South America, does need to go out as quickly as possible."
"South America?" Annabeth asked. "But platypi are from Australia!"
Xeno looked at her with large, unblinking eyes. "Really? But that informant seemed so well-informed," he answered, suddenly sounding as if someone had told him Christmas had been canceled.
Annabeth nodded. "I'm sure, Mister Lovegood."
"Xeno, please," Xeno replied. "Are you an expert on mythical creatures, to have such knowledge?"
The Daughter of Athena looked surprised. "Mythical?" she asked. "But we've known about platypi for ages!"
"Hear that, Daddy? The non-magicals know about some of our creatures!" Luna said, excitedly. "Oh, this is ever so wonderful!"
Xeno nodded enthusiastically. "What more can you tell me about them?" he asked, shifting closer, and suddenly materializing an old-fashioned feather quill and a small notebook.
"Ehm..." Annabeth replied, rather surprised at this turn of events.
"It's a creature that looks designed by committee," Harry replied instead, grinning. "It has the bill of a duck, the tail of an otter, the pelt of a beaver, poisonous spurs on its hind feet, and despite being a mammal, it lays eggs."
Xeno gaped at Harry. "Phenomenal," the reported whispered. "Absolutely extra-ordinary."
"How about I bring over some copies of books on platypi?" Harry offered, before thinking of something. "Luna, are we still on for this weekend? With your mom and all, I would understand if you preferred not to come. Otherwise, I could drop those copies off when I come and get you," he said.
"Oh? Going on a trip, Buttercup?" Xeno asked Luna.
"Harry invited me to tour some of the Mayan Pyramids," the blonde witch replied.
"Excellent idea, that could prove informative," her father answered without a second thought, before turning to Harry. "And I would be most grateful for that information, Harry."
Harry smiled; he loved the Lovegoods. "Then I'll make some copies, including some pictures, Xeno." He thought of something. "Oh, and maybe this can help. This is what one looks like."
He focused on the image of a platypus, then threw some Shen at it to make it an illusion. It hurt a little, and he had to push a bit harder than usual; his energy was still low.
Xeno stared at the image that suddenly appeared in the boy's hand. "Designed by committee, indeed," he muttered, quill dancing over the notebook at high speed. "What an unusual creature."
All three demigods laughed. "You're not the first to think that, nor will you be the last," Annabeth commented.
"I do believe you are right about that," Xeno commented with a smile.
A loud voice drifted in from outside the room. "Where is he!? I know my godson is here! I was told he was here!"
Xeno blinked. "Oh my, that sounds like Stubby Boardman. Maybe I should go and ask if he is planning on getting the Hobglobins back together. Harry, maybe it is time that you and your friends made good your escape," he said, standing up and striding towards the door.
Harry gaped at the stream of consciousness from Xeno, before the older man threw open the door, strode out, and closed it firmly behind him. From outside, Xeno's voice could be heard drifting in. "Mister Boardman! How delightful to meet you!"
"What…?" Harry managed.
Luna, meanwhile, had started to shuffle Harry out of the bed. "You heard Daddy, Harry. You maybe want to escape now. There are plenty of do-gooders who would try and keep you here, 'for your own good', of course."
"Right," Harry managed, already halfway to the fireplace with no idea of how he got there. "Shall we?" he asked Silena and Annabeth, who both nodded.
"I so prefer your form of fire-travel," Annabeth said as Harry waved at the fire to turn it green. "The magical version involves spinning and movement, like Luna said."
"Happy to oblige," Harry said as he and his two friends stepped through to Camp Half-Blood. Harry was paranoid enough to forcefully pull the connection closed behind him, basically turning off the fire in the fireplace he had just traveled from.
Despite everything, he wasn't really aware of the cacophony his appearance, and subsequent disappearance, had kicked off.
He took a few minutes to say goodbye to his friends before fire-traveling back to Olympus. After everything that happened, he was still tired and could use a good nap.
Remembering that Marduk always gave him that energy drink, he realized that he could probably do with some food, too. Heating up some spaghetti took only a few minutes, and after sharing a plate with Helios, he was finally able to fall into bed.
Quite literally; he didn't even have the energy to take his shoes off. The moment he saw his bed, he was so tired that he face-planted into the mattress and was out like a light.
He woke up some indeterminable amount of time later, to find himself on his back rather than his stomach, and dressed in a set of those too-comfortable-to-be-true pajamas that Arachne had been kind enough to include in her package.
"Huh?" Harry managed eloquently as he looked at the pajamas, realizing that he hadn't changed and should have been sleeping in his street clothes.
With a groan, he sat upright, seeing his clothes neatly cleaned, ironed, and folded, sitting on top of his dresser.
He groaned again when he got out of the bed; it felt like his entire body was hurting. That magical exhaustion was no joke, when you didn't have the ultimate mage around to feed you condensed energy to replenish yourself. Maybe he should ask Marduk for a supply.
His stomach rumbled, and Harry ignored thoughts about strangely exotic drinks of condensed energy and went to the kitchen to cook up some breakfast.
Suddenly becoming aware that the smell of breakfast was reaching out to meet him, his brain finally engaged first gear, rather than idling in neutral.
"Hestia!" he said, the source of the clothes change becoming obvious in hindsight. He must be really out of it if he hadn't realized that from the start!
His all-time favorite goddess must have come over, found him asleep in his street clothes, and changed him with that magic thing she did so very well, then stayed to cook him breakfast.
Suddenly, it was like his heart was glowing. He loved Hestia.
His step increased and with quick double-pace he arrived in the kitchen, to indeed find his number one goddess humming softly to herself as she stirred a pot that smelled delicious.
"Hi Hestia!" Harry greeted, allowing her time to turn around and smile at him before grabbing her into a tight hug.
"Hello, Harry," the kind Goddess of the Home greeted back. "Sleep well?"
"I was out like a light," he replied, releasing her.
"I noticed," she said with a small laugh, before turning back to her pot and stirring. "I also noticed that you traveled from camp to Great Britain with two of your friends. And then you used mortal means to travel to a magical hospital – a hospital from which you then traveled, a few hours later, back to camp."
Harry had seated himself at the kitchen table. "I really should thank Mister Apollo for looking out for me," he answered. "I saved a woman's life thanks to some of the lessons he's been giving me, and from what I pulled off, he must have been looking out for me."
Hestia turned back from her pot to look at him, looking extremely proud all of a sudden. She quickly went over and hugged him. "I'm so very proud of you," she said, making his heart swell again. "And that was nice of Apollo to look out for you. Can you tell me what happened?" she asked, when she released him and took a seat at the table, next to him.
"Maybe we should invite Mister Apollo as well? To thank him for his help?" Harry asked.
Hestia nodded thoughtfully, before cocking her head. "I've invited him, but told him to come only if he has-" she was interrupted by knocking on the door. "-time," she finished.
Harry grinned. "I'll get it!" he said, getting up and quickly going to the front door. His body was still a bit stiff, so he wasn't able to race with his usual abundant energy.
"Hi, Mister Apollo!" Harry greeted the God of the Sun as he pulled the door open. "Please, come in!"
"Don't mind if I do," the jovial deity replied with his usual sunny smile. "Howdy, Helios!" he greeted the statue. Helios' presence seemed to give a hearty welcome to his successor as Sun God.
"We're in the kitchen," Harry said, showing Apollo in. "I just wanted to say thanks, you know?"
"You're welcome," Apollo replied casually. "Wait, what am I being thanked for?" he asked, suddenly surprised.
Harry turned to enter the cooking area, when the blinked up at the god. "Ehm… for yesterday?" he asked, venturing. "Please, have a seat," he said, motioning to the table and taking his earlier seat.
Hestia had been smiling at the God of Healing, widely and proudly, but suddenly her smile had lost some of its shine. Apollo found he didn't like it. Slowly, he sat down. "Sorry, Kiddo, still don't really know what you're talking about," he replied.
Harry looked surprised. "I saved a woman's life yesterday," he said. "She was injured in an accident – she's a spell researcher and something went wrong, and it blew her up. I saved her by using my magic to act like a sort of Heart-Lung Machine and keep her brain alive until the Healers could get to her and save her."
Apollo beamed at him. Harry squinted and conjured a pair of sunglasses; when the God of the Sun beams at you, you need them. The god laughed at the sight of Harry casually conjuring sunglasses. "It sounds like you had quite an adventure," Apollo said. "Again."
Harry shrugged. "Silena says there's never a dull moment with me around. Annabeth basically blames my mom, but won't admit it out loud."
Apollo laughed again. "That's usually a good idea, for mortals. Gods can take offense to that sort of thing."
Harry pouted at him. He didn't like to be reminded that gods could be petty and cruel. He much preferred to think of the gods as good people.
"So, what am I being thanked for again?" Apollo asked, bringing the conversation back on topic.
"I… eh… asked you to look out for me while I did it?" Harry said-slash-asked.
Apollo blinked, frowned, thought for a moment, then shook his head. "If you did, I didn't hear it. Where were you when this happened?"
"Great Britain," Harry answered promptly.
"That must be why," Apollo said, thoughtfully. "You were quite far from our center here in the US. What prayer did you use exactly? Normally, a poem or something that rhymes grabs my attention quicker."
"Oh Apollo," Hestia said, sounding disappointed.
"God of the Arts! God of the Arts!" Apollo protested vehemently. "It's not like I ignore people on purpose!" he added desperately, hoping that his aunt would stop looking at him like that.
Harry, meanwhile, was thinking. What exactly had he said? "I… I think I thought something about hoping that you were looking out for me," he finally replied, almost at a whisper. "I don't think it constitutes as a prayer. Sorry, Mister Apollo."
Apollo grinned and ruffled Harry's notoriously messy hair. "No worries, Kiddo. Being thanked for something I didn't do is a lot better than being blamed for something I didn't do," he said with a laugh.
"Still, thanks for the lessons, Mister Apollo. I saved someone's life because of them," he replied. "And I'm surprised that I was able to pull that stunt off without outside help."
Apollo nodded gravely. "A Heart-Lung Machine is simple in concept, but the execution is difficult. The details matter; heartbeat, blood-pressure, constant monitoring, and so on. I'm surprised you were able to improvise one, even using magic, on short notice. And not fry the poor woman's brain in the process, now that I think about it."
Harry nodded in agreement. The more he thought about it, the more impossible it sounded. "I think magic took care of the details for me," he admitted, although he had no clue how that could have happened.
"Very nice work, Kiddo," Apollo praised with a grin.
"The food should be ready by now," Hestia said. "Apollo, will you stay for breakfast?"
"I will never say no to your cooking, Aunt Hestia," the Sun God replied with a wide smile.
Early that Saturday morning, Harry arrived at Camp Half-Blood to pick up his friends. He was wearing a backpack, stuffed with water and food for him and his friends, and that dossier on platypi he had promised Luna's father.
His demigodly friends were all ready, and Chiron was there to once more tell them to be careful and wish them a good trip.
Strangely enough, Clarisse trotted up as the centaur was making his usual speech about safety and being back by nightfall.
"Hey Clarisse," Harry greeted.
"Hiya, Newbie," Ares' daughter replied. "Still got a spot open?"
He shrugged in response. "Sure, if you want to come, feel free. What made you change your mind? I thought old buildings weren't your style?"
Clarisse grinned bloodthirstily in a manner that reminded him of the God of War, once more demonstrating her parentage. "Central America has loads of violence, Newbie! Drugs, gangs, guerrilla's, you name it, they have it. I'm hoping your luck holds true and we get into a major fight!"
Chiron looked disapproving. "I certainly hope not. Besides, Harry promised to call Lady Hestia should something untoward happen." The centaur changed his glare from Clarisse to Harry. "And I will be holding him to that promise."
Harry swallowed and nodded nervously. He didn't want to give the Trainer of Heroes any reasons whatsoever to forbid him from ever again going on a trip with his friends from camp.
"Besides," Harry said, turning to Clarisse and doing his best to shrug off the sudden worry. "We're going to the Coba Ruins, which are in Mexico, and they're completely safe for tourists and stuff. No drugs lords, gang violence, or guerrilla's."
Clarisse looked incredibly disappointed. "Well that blows all kinds of suck," she said disgustedly, ignoring Chiron's look of disapproval. "Well, looks like I'm off. See ya and all that crap!" she said, already turned and walking away by the time she finished, waving over her shoulder.
"Some other time, Clarisse!" Harry hollered after her; causing the girl to just give him a single wave over her shoulder before she ducked into the Ares Cabin.
"For a moment there, I was worried," one of the twins said. "Having Clarisse around for a trip to an archaeological site would probably give Lord Hades inspiration."
Harry chuckled. "She's not that bad, really," he said, turning to look at all his friends, ignoring their shocked looks and him calling Clarisse 'not that bad'. Suddenly, he felt really grateful that he had them. Swallowing the sudden bout of emotions, he asked, "Everybody ready?"
Getting positive replies from everyone, he said he goodbyes to Chiron before turning to the fire. After everyone had made their goodbyes as well, Harry said, "We'll stop by Britain first, and pick up Luna."
Silena and Annabeth were somewhat accustomed to intercontinental fire-travel by now, but the twins burst out laughing.
Harry eyed them curiously. "What's wrong?" he asked.
The first twin to recover his breath wads the one to answer. "You should hear how absurd it sounds," he said, chortling merrily. "I mean, we're going from the US to a site in Southern Mexico, by way of Great Britain, and you bring it up as if it's no big deal."
Harry nodded thoughtfully. "That's because it isn't a big deal," he said.
"Most people would lose a day of travel," the second twin commented.
"If not more," the first twin added.
Harry nodded agreeably, he remembered the plane ride over to the US. "Most people should be nicer to Hestia, and maybe she'd let them use fire-travel too."
The first twin nodded gravely and put a hand on Harry's shoulder. Affecting the airs of a wise old man, he said, "There is much truth in what you say, Young Harry. However, things are rarely as simple as they appear on the surface."
Harry shook his head and twisted his shoulder out of the older boy's grip. "And that's why I get to play international taxi and lose no time doing so," he said calmly, waving at the fire while thinking about Luna.
The fire started 'ringing' again, before it flashed green. "Hello, if you're a vampire looking for a meal, we use lots of garlic in our food so will probably taste really badly."
Harry chortled to himself, while his friends gave each other questioning looks. "Hi Luna. It's Harry and company," Harry announced to the fire.
"Harry!" Luna said happily, yet quietly. "Please, come through!"
"Here we go," Harry told his friends, grinning, as they all trooped through the fire.
They emerged into the Lovegoods' living room, and while Annabeth and Silena had seen it all before, the twins didn't hesitate to look around.
"Hi Luna," Harry repeated, giving his witchy friend a hug.
"Hi Harry," Luna said, squeezing him just a bit harder. "Mommy's doing great, and the Healers released her yesterday. She's resting right now, which is why we're all being really quiet."
"Is he here?" Xeno's voice came from the kitchen floor, right before the man stuck his head in by way of the spiraling staircase. "Harry!" he added, smiling widely, yet staying quiet, and hurriedly mounted said staircase.
Once more, his hand was shaken enthusiastically by the journalist. "Pandora is sleeping," he repeated Luna's statement. "Although she did express a desire to see you, we didn't think it would be beneficial for her health to wake her up when she is asleep."
Harry grinned. "We'll be back sometime this evening, British time," he said. "Maybe she will be awake then."
"Capital idea," Xeno said.
"Oh, right, before I forget," Harry said, removing his backpack and diving into it. He extracted the folder. "This is information on the duck-billed Platypus, copied straight from books in Miss Athena's library."
Xeno's eyes grew bigger as he flipped through the information. "How extraordinary that the muggles knew about this creature for this long," he said with admiration. He snapped the folder shut and shook Harry's hand again. "Simply outstanding, my young friend. This will revolutionize the understanding of animals in the magical world, mark my words!"
"Daddy, Mommy's sleeping," Luna admonished quietly when her father's voice rose.
"Thank you for the reminder, Buttercup," the man said contritely. "I shall put this information to good use, Harry. Have no doubt." He nodded amicably to the others, then descended the stairs back to the kitchen.
"You've made Daddy a very happy man, Harry," Luna said with a grin. "I think we should go, though, before Mommy wakes up."
Harry nodded agreeably. "Sure," he said, turning to the fire.
"Do you have a fire you can connect to?" Annabeth suddenly asked, sidling up to him. "I mean, you need a fire at the destination, right?"
Harry grinned, then leaned closer. Excited about hearing a secret, she leaned in as well. "I asked Hestia for a tiny little favor," he confided.
Annabeth giggled slightly. "And what are you two lovebirds whispering and giggling about?" One of the twins asked seriously. "Does Harry have a giiiirrrlfrie-iend?"
Harry frowned at the boy, not sure he liked the insinuation. Because of his quick turn, he didn't notice Annabeth's blush. "Annabeth is my friend who's a girl, yes," he answered, coolly. "Are you being a pervert like your dad?"
The boy choked at the candid dig at both him and his father, while his brother chuckled quietly. "You know Harry," the second twin told his choking brother. "Stop trying to stir up trouble," he added, before turning to Harry. "Ignore this lump, Harry. He's being an idiot."
The younger boy nodded seriously. "Gotcha," he replied with a tiny grin, before turning and waving at the fire. It turned green immediately. "Alright, everyone, we're off to see the Coba Ruins."
They emerged from a small fire that was burning inside of an old stone brazier, somewhere under the dense cover of jungle trees.
Annabeth and the twins looked curiously at Harry. Silena was grinning and took the chance to examine the tropical vegetation, while Luna looked like she was just taking a stroll in the park.
The sun was slowly climbing, its rays shining through the dense jungle canopy.
"We're going that way, I suppose," Luna said, pointing straight ahead. Harry nodded amicably and started trekking alongside her. Silena started walking as well, giggling at the put out looks Annabeth and the twins were sporting. They looked like they really wanted to know where they were or where they were going, but neither wanted to be the first to ask. Their perturbed looks were incredibly amusing to the Daughter of Aphrodite.
Despite the early morning, the sextet immediately felt the heat and humidity of the environment press down like a heavy blanket. Within minutes of them starting to walk, they were already sweating, right as they broke through the tree line.
They went from gentle shadow to bright sunlight, a large clearing having been cut in the dense jungle, right at the bottom of the huge pyramid; the steps up it had been cleared of growth as well, but its sides had not. All in all, it gave the excellent impression of them being intrepid explorers who had just discovered the massive building, rather than tourists simply here for a visit.
"We're already at the pyramid?" Annabeth asked in wonder, cutting straight to the chase, staring up at the ancient building.
Harry grinned. "When Hestia grants a favor, she grants a favor," he said with emphasis. He unfolded a map. "We're here, at Nohoch Mul," he said, pointing to the roadmap, which looked like a giant Y-shape. The pyramid was at the end of one of the arms of the Y. "I suggest we climb the pyramid, then slowly walk to the intersection to see what else there is to see, before taking the other leg and see the rest of the ruins."
"Sounds good to me, Tour Leader!" The first twin said with a jaunty salute. Harry eyed him, not yet having forgiven him for the 'girlfriend' remark earlier.
The others just nodded, eager to go exploring. "So, who wants to climb the pyramid?" Harry asked enthusiastically while he folder and stowed his map.
"Oh! Oh! Me! Me!" Luna said, thrusting her hand in the air and bouncing excitedly. Harry chuckled, and her antics drew smiles and laughter from the rest of the group as well.
"Then off we go!" Harry declared with a wave of an outstretched arm, as if he were a general marshaling his troops.
"Yay!" Luna cheered. She took two steps up the tall and uneven steps. "Be careful, the steps are tall and uneven!" she shouted to the others. The steps were tall even for an adult, so for a bunch of children, they were even more of a challenge.
"Thanks for the warning!" Harry said back as he took his first step. "There's a rope in the middle we can use if things get tough."
"It may be a problem to get back down," Luna said from ahead, climbing rapidly.
"Is that girl part mountain goat?" The second twin asked. "I barely climbed ten steps and I can already feel it!"
"She's just Luna," Harry answered with a shrug, trying to ignore the fact that he, too, was starting to feel his breath increase. There were 120 steps to the top, it was going to be a fun climb.
"I wonder… who this… is dedicated to," Annabeth said, regulating her breath. "Mayan pyramids were… temples, right?"
Harry stopped and grabbed his map. "It says here, Ah Mucen Cab, the Mayan God of Honeybees."
"Neat," Silena answered from his other side, studying his map and using it as an excuse to catch her breath. Annabeth, on his other side, was studiously staring at his map as well, probably doing the same.
Harry chuckled. "Ready?" he asked. The two girls nodded, and he quickly re-folded the map and put it in his backpack before starting to climb one more.
They reached the top of the pyramid with much sweating and panting of breath. The twins, being older, and therefore had longer legs, were merely sweating. Luna, despite being the youngest out of all of them, appeared to have just been taking an early morning stroll in the park.
They all looked enviously at the blonde, who dangled her feet over the edge of the platform at the top of the pyramid, idly kicking her legs up and enjoying the scenery.
Since Luna was, apparently, blithely ignoring their looks, the quintet of demigods gave up and joined her.
"This is a brilliant view," Annabeth noted eventually.
Harry nodded and hummed consentingly.
"This was a great idea, Harry," one of the twins noted. "The climb is a bit brisk, but the view makes up for it."
"Thanks," Harry replied honestly, feeling glad that his friends were enjoying things.
They stayed up there for at least half an hour, talking, chit-chatting, and enjoying the scenery. The ancient temple built on top of the pyramid was roped off, and nobody felt like being contrary. If the temple was roped off, they weren't about to go exploring and get themselves killed.
Not even when the twins teasingly asked Harry whether or not he was getting any 'feelings' about the temple.
By the time the first tourists started to arrive, Harry and the others carefully made their way down. The steps were even more tricky going down than they had been going up, and in the end they bum-shuffled from step to step, laughing at each other as they did so.
They laughed and joked as they trekked in the opposite direction to the tourists; most of whom had chosen to ride bikes. As they walked, the cool shade of the trees shielding them from the harsh sunlight, they encountered ruin after ruin. Due to the way the site had been excavated, each ruin they came across felt like a discovery, like they were budding archaeologists just coming across an ancient building in the jungle.
It was great fun, and by the time they reached the actual entrance to the site, it was high noon and they were all ravenously hungry.
"Do we order something to eat?" Annabeth asked, motioning to a stall right next to the entrance of the site, which sold drinks and snacks.
"No need," Harry said, dropping his backpack. "I got up early and made boxed lunches for everybody. I tried something new and tried to adapt traditional Japanese lunch dishes to the Anglo-Saxon palate."
They all accepted the lunch boxes. "Avant-garde fusion cooking, I like it," one of the twins joked.
"True. Most people would pay good money to be test subjects for things like this," he brother quipped.
"If you're going to make fun of my cooking, maybe someone else would like to take yours off your hands," Harry retaliated jokingly.
The twins, who had barely gotten the first bite in their mouths, suddenly cradled the boxes against their chests. "First one to try and take this from me has a fight on their hands," one of them threatened. His brother nodded. "That goes double for me. Seriously, Harry, this stuff is awesome."
"Thanks, Guys," Harry told the twins, making them laugh at their nickname. "Honestly, I've been thinking. I think I want to be a chef. Have my own restaurant and stuff."
Annabeth, who had cleared her box definitely faster than was polite, said, "If you cook food like this, I'm eating there every day."
The others nodded agreeably. "I'm sure we can get the old-friend discount," Silena joked.
Harry pretended to be an arrogant chef, and stuck his nose in the air. "Even with the good-friend discount, you may not be able to afford my prices," he said. "I could be charging an arm and a leg for all you know."
Luna nodded thoughtfully. "Then we'd be able to eat at your restaurant only twice," she replied. "That doesn't sound like a good business strategy."
Everyone stared at her. She shrugged. "Most people have two arms and two legs, so charging one arm and one leg means people can come only twice. Not having repeat business sounds like a bad business decision to me."
Seeing the tell-tale signs of Luna messing with their minds, the slight crease along her eyes, the small twitch at the corner of her lips, Harry started laughing. "It'd be a highly exclusive place," he chortled.
"It would have to be," Luna replied, mock-seriously.
"The question is, though, since you're charging in body parts, would you be checking the origins?" one of the twins asked, clearly getting into the spirit of things.
Silena and Annabeth were looking a bit green at the topic, but kept quiet.
"What do you mean?" Harry asked, finishing his lunch and packing the box back in his backpack.
"Well, would people have to pay their own arms and legs, or would you accept substitutes? Because I could see some rich guy paying someone-" the second twin picked up on his brother's thoughts.
"Guys! We're eating!" Annabeth snapped.
Luna nodded. "And an enjoyable meal it is, too, but what does this have to do with the topic of conversation?" she asked with wonder.
"It makes normal people squeamish while eating," Annabeth explained.
"Oh," the blonde witch replied, as if this were new information. "We'll need to postpone the conversation on the payment options for Harry's new restaurant until after lunch, I suppose."
The twins stifled a laugh at the looks of outrage of Annabeth and Silena.
"Or perhaps not," Harry said, taking pity on them. He turned to Luna, and said, "'Paying an arm and a leg' is a figure of speech that means 'paying exorbitant prices'," he explained. "So I wouldn't really be charging body parts."
He knew perfectly well that Luna knew that, and from the small amused twitched on her face, she knew that he knew that, and was happy to just play along. "Oh," she said. "Pity. It would have meant free meat for your restaurant."
Harry couldn't help but burst out laughing. The twins joined in.
"LUNA!" Annabeth snapped, before recognizing that the witch was doing her best not to laugh, and realizing that she had been played. She shook her head and laughed. "You got us. Good one," she admitted, giggling softly.
They all returned the empty boxes in short order, and Harry stowed them in his pack for cleaning when he got home. Once more, he was glad that his friends enjoyed the food he made.
They trekked back in the direction of the large pyramid, then, at the intersection, took the right-hand arm of the Y to explore the rest of the ruins.
They actually found a lake that just… popped… out of the foliage, nobody even knew it was there until they were practically right on top of it.
These ruins hadn't been excavated as intensely as the rest of the site, and most were still half-covered with trees and jungle vegetation. Most of the temples and pyramids were also roped off; a fact which disappointed Harry especially. Still, nobody felt the need to go explore temples that had been labeled as off-limits.
Not even Harry, even after the twins once more asked him whether or not he was getting any feelings on the subject. They seemed disappointed when he declined; apparently they had been hoping to use his instincts as an excuse to break the rules.
Harry had just shrugged and told them they could be breaking said rules on their own accounts, they didn't need to use him as an excuse.
The girls had giggled at the put-out looks on the faces of the Sons of Apollo. A look which didn't last long, because there was so much to see.
They spent another couple of hours wandering the huge site, even coming across two different ballcourts for the Maya ballgame. It showed just how many people had lived here back in the day, considering they didn't have enough with just one ballcourt and needed two.
They slowly gravitated back towards the large pyramid they had climbed earlier that day, talking animatedly about the ruins and the ballgames and about anything else that caught their interest.
They re-entered the large clearing at the front of the Nohoch Mul pyramid, happy yet tired from a full day of walking and exploring. Harry was about to lead them back into the jungle, towards the ancient brazier, when something caught his eye.
It was a snake. A snake with feathers. A semi-transparent snake with feathers. That seemed to be floating.
Give me your heart, Mortal! the snake hissed, bumping its head against a tourist's chest. The tourist scratched his chest absentmindedly, as if scratching an itch, and continued on his way as if nothing had happened.
The snake, unperturbed, turned towards the next tourist. A female, this time. Give me your heart, Mortal! The woman scratched her chest idly and went on her way without second thought.
"Harry?" Annabeth asked, when he didn't move and just stared.
"Is… everybody seeing that?" Harry wondered, indicating the strange floating feather snake… thing… demanding mortal hearts, yet not getting them.
They all looked in the direction Harry was staring.
"You mean the almost-faded avatar of the Mayan God Kukulkan?" Luna asked.
"What do you-" Annabeth started to ask, before it seemed her demigodly eyes adapted to the Mesoamerican pantheon's methods of hiding itself. "You mean that flying feathered serpent bumping into people's chests?"
Harry nodded. "It's demanding human hearts, but it doesn't seem to be getting them," he explained.
Everyone, bar Luna, stared at him.
"I speak Snake, remember?" he replied.
"Only you, Harry. Only you could turn a day trip to an archaeological site into a meeting with a Mayan Deity," Annabeth said.
Harry chuckled uncomfortably.
That was the moment that his luck balanced, because, as chance would have it, the feathered serpent looked up and noticed them staring.
Your hearts, mortals! It demanded angrily, and it would have been quite intimidating if it hadn't been in Parseltongue, meaning it was hissed like a bad B-movies villain.
"He noticed us!" Luna said, happily.
"That's not a good thing! Run!" Annabeth shouted, turning to do just that, but stopping immediately.
Because there, right in front of her, was the avatar of Kukulkan, rearing up to strike at her chest…