Harry Potter, Squatter
AN: thank you to those who pointed out that Hades' name was being used after Hestia arrived. I've since corrected that and added some explanations.
Harry focused deeply as he peered at his Mythomagic cards. His opponent was a master of the game, there was no doubting that fact. While Harry could hold his own against most opponents, only Annabeth came even close to the level of mastery that his opponent so casually displayed.
Then again, Harry realized, the nine-year-old boy had been stuck in the Lotus Casino for over seventy years. That meant a lot of time to learn a game and master it, even if you did not age and did not feel like time passed.
Slowly, Harry reached out and took the next card from his deck. Please be good, please be good, please be good, he asked silently.
"I am playing Hestia in defensive mode," Harry said, immediately putting his absolute favorite card in his entire deck down on the table.
Nico Di Angelo, Son of Hades, looked surprised and impressed. "Whoa, you have Hestia?" he asked rhetorically. "She's mega-rare! Rarer than that Hades figure, even!"
Harry grinned at the boy's enthusiasm, and glanced at the figure of Hades that sat on the table. Having some experience with retrieving demigods, and knowing how mistrusting they could be of strangers, Harry had asked if Hades could provide him with something to help ease the way.
The Lord of the Underworld had seemed equally surprised and impressed with the question, thought for a moment, and conjured the small statuette, claiming his son enjoyed the game.
Apparently, 'enjoyed' was an understatement, as Nico was casually and effortlessly pounding him into the ground. Until the timely arrival of the Hestia card, that was.
"Wanna call it a draw?" Nico offered. "Hestia makes it really hard for you to lose. I'd need to find a way around her, before being able to target your life points, and I don't have that many subterfuge cards in my deck. I never imagined you had Hestia, you need to build your entire deck around beating her."
Harry grinned, and stuck out his hand. "Thanks," he said. "Good game."
Nico grinned and shook the offered hand. "You too," he acknowledged.
A waiter offered them both a tray with lotus flowers. Harry picked one, then pretended to eat it while using his magic to make it disappear. He didn't want to be trapped here, after all, and eating the lotus flowers turned your mind numb.
He looked up to see Hades' lawyer talking with Bianca, Hades' 12-year-old daughter. The girl was nodding at something.
Harry, instead, eyed the lawyer. He'd been subtly doing that ever since meeting the man – something about him just didn't sit right with Harry. He'd been around enough beings of power to know when a being had power… and that lawyer had power. Lots of it.
After gathering his Mythomagic cards, and his statuettes, Nico got up and joined them. Harry stayed back, continuing his ruse of being just another patron of the Lotus Hotel and Casino. His job was to stay in the background and intervene if something went wrong.
Befriending Nico was a good side-effect, in his opinion.
The children were apparently easy to convince, and they trudged after Hades' lawyer with no discussion. Harry wondered if there were something wrong with him, personally, considering that when he tried to get demigods to follow him, they didn't trust him.
Or maybe it was just Hades' children.
Harry surreptitiously followed the group, and watched them leave the Lotus and stepping into a car. For a moment, he wondered how he was to follow them and help out if there was trouble.
Then, he noticed a gentleman dressed all in black, holding up a placard that simply read 'H. Potter'.
Harry grinned; Hades thought of everything.
"Good afternoon, Sir," the gentleman said politely as Harry stepped up to him. "Shall we make haste?"
Harry nodded politely. "Good afternoon," he replied. "And let's, thank you."
The driver had him bundled into a car, and within moments they were tailing the car of the lawyer containing the two children.
What happened next was the most boring time Harry had ever experienced. The driver was a man of few words, and Harry failed to engage him in conversation. At the same time, the car trip took forever.
Despite his training and everything he had gone through, Harry was still a demigod. And that meant that his reflexes and his mind worked on a different timescale to normal people – to the point where demigods were regularly, and erroneously, diagnosed as having ADD.
Unfortunately, this also meant that being locked up in a car in motion, with nothing to do, was a special kind of hell for them.
In the end, Harry had no other choice but to close his eyes and play with his magic just to keep himself from going absolutely insane. He wondered how Hades' children were doing with the lawyer; that lawyer hadn't seemed like the friendliest sort, either.
He didn't know how long the trip lasted; at regular schedule they stopped for something to eat, or drink, or go to the bathroom. The drive was long, from Las Vegas all the way to Maine. Eventually, however, the lawyer's car stopped at a large school.
Harry's driver pulled passed the school, turned around, and pulled up to the school's parking lot from the other side to throw off suspicion.
"Westover Hall," the driver said, the first words he had said in a long time. "We've arrived, Sir. I believe your job is now finished."
Harry nodded, instantly awake despite having been asleep for some time. "Thanks for the drive," he said, getting out of the car.
"You're welcome, Sir," the driver said, before he, and the car, vanished into smoke.
Harry snorted; gods were so silly sometimes. He wondered what his driver had been – he'd definitely not been human, that was sure.
He wandered about for a bit, examining the school building and wondering why Hades didn't have his children go to Camp Half-blood. Then he remembered, there was no cabin for Hades at Camp.
Grumping to himself about some of his favorite gods like Hades and Hestia not having a cabin, he waited around for the lawyer. He wanted to make sure that everything went alright.
The lawyer exited the school half an hour later, and looked surprised when he saw Harry standing next to the car he'd been using.
"Did everything go alright?" Harry asked. "I know the driver said the job was done, but I wanted to make sure with you. I wouldn't want to leave a job half-finished."
The lawyer eyed him for a moment, then nodded. "Everything went well," the man said. Harry felt the power laced in the words – yeah, this definitely wasn't an ordinary lawyer. In fact, it felt like a god pretending to be a lawyer. "Your task is now finished. You can go."
Maybe it was Hades himself?
"Alright," Harry said with a grin. If the lawyer was Hades, he didn't want to call the god out on it here in public. "I'm glad everything went well. I guess I'll just go home now."
The lawyer gave a sharp nod. Harry grinned, conjured a ball of fire, and used Hestia's Boon to connect it to the hearth in Helios' temple. The next moment, he fire-traveled. Time for something other than road-side food and catnaps in a car.
Nemmy swished his tail and continued staring at his human. A human who was, at the moment, deep in thought and pacing back and forth in front of the fireplace.
The Nemean Cat looked as cattily amused as a feline was capable of looking, his head tracking left and right as Harry paced.
His tail swished again. Maybe he should pounce? It might be a good source of entertainment. His human would be upset, of course, but that would be half the fun of the pounce.
The hearth flared green, and Nemmy quickly tucked his tail in. No pouncing when the Goddess of the Home was around; he knew he'd be back out in the cold and the dark and the rain and the grime, looking for his own food, if he did.
"Good afternoon, Harry," Hestia said, right before Harry hugged her and returned her greeting.
"You seem unusually worried," she said when he pulled back. "I could practically feel you pacing through my hearth."
She seemed amused, but Harry simply nodded. "You know how my luck is, right, Hestia?" he asked.
The Goddess of the Home nodded calmly, and waited him out.
"Something always goes wrong," the demigod went on to explain. "No matter what, when I do something, things go wrong. I can't even visit a tourist site without bumping into a Mayan deity."
Hestia nodded again, definitely amused now.
"But this time, nothing happened," Harry complained. "Mister Hades asked me for something, and I helped him. And nothing happened. At all."
"I think you're being a bit paranoid, Harry," Hestia consoled. "Not everything goes wrong."
"There was plenty of time and there were a lot of opportunities," Harry said, as if he hadn't heard Hestia trying to reassure him. "But still, nothing happened. I don't understand it. And that worries me, you know?"
Hestia nodded softly. "Did Hades hold up his promise?" she asked, trying to somewhat change the subject.
Harry nodded enthusiastically. "Yeah, he did!" he said. "And that's part of what worries me. He's invited me over tomorrow, and he's going to show me around. But the thing is, nothing went wrong when I made sure nothing happened to his kids. So, that means something is going to happen tomorrow, right?"
Hestia softly pulled him into a hug. "Not necessarily, Harry. Like I said, your luck does not always strike poorly. Everything went well on your minor quest, and I am sure that everything will go well tomorrow as well. After all, Hades is Lord of the Underworld. It literally is his domain – he'll ensure everything goes smoothly. It would be an affront should something happen to you while under his care."
Harry nodded; he could see the reasoning. And yet, he felt as if something was going to go wrong. It wasn't a warning from his instincts, not the kind of warning he'd had in the past. This time, it was just the voice of experience speaking. His luck tended to bounce up and down at the best of times, and it would usually result in him getting in trouble – and then getting out of it.
Hestia laughed softly, drawing his attention away from his thoughts. "I think it may also be nerves," she said.
Harry blinked. "Nerves?" he asked, confused.
Hestia nodded gently. "Usually, things pop up and you simply forge ahead. Whether it is going to see a god or getting dragged somewhere by one, you usually don't have time to think about it."
The young demigod thought that through. That certainly made sense; he didn't usually get invited somewhere. He was usually told to be somewhere. Well… other than Hermes' Maths Parties. And that first time Athena told him she'd tutor him.
He'd been nervous, then, too, he reckoned, but it hadn't been this bad. Maybe because he already knew Hermes and Athena? Or rather, he'd met them more than he'd met Hades, in any case.
The next day, Harry casually, or as casually as any mortal could, strolled out of the fire. He emerged in a lavish sitting room, with several ornate chairs sitting next to a table, facing the large stone hearth. On one wall hung a red guitar, which Harry found rather odd.
Hades stood up from the most ornate chair in the room, pulled himself to his full three-meter-height, and theatrically stated, "Welcome… to the underworld!"
Harry grinned, the only thing missing was ominous background music and a thunderclap. "Thanks, Mister Hades!" he said enthusiastically. "Thanks for showing me around."
The Lord of the Underworld, who obviously had expected a different reaction, motioned to one of the doors. "A bargain made is a bargain honored," he stated confidently. "This way."
The young demigod grinned, nodded, and followed.
They left the sitting room, only to emerge into a lavishly decorated hallway; it seemed to have been built out of pure silver and gold and decorated with bouquets of flowers made out of other precious metals and studded with jewels.
"Whoa, awesome hallway," Harry commented as he stared at a bouquet of faux-roses that looked better than the real deal.
"Besides the Underworld, I am also the God of Wealth," Hades commented breezily, as if it were no big deal. "All metals and gems under the earth are in my domain."
"Whoa," Harry said, impressed.
The hallway wasn't very long, but they traversed it in silence. Hades stopped in front of a door, then turned to eye Harry. "No request for riches?" he asked.
Harry blinked, he hadn't even thought about that. He shook his head. "I have everything I need, Mister Hades," he said.
The God of the Dead smiled. "Good. You are wise beyond your years," he stated and turned to push the door open. "Wealth confers a curse," he stated. "Watch out for greed."
Harry nodded appreciatively at the lesson. "Thanks, Mister Hades," he said gratefully.
They emerged into a huge room; centered around a huge onyx throne decorated with human skulls. The rest of the room was filled with hellhounds, and dead soldiers of various nationalities – Harry could make out British Redcoats, ancient Greek warriors, modern American soldiers, and everything in between.
Other than the zombie-skeleton soldiers, the huge throne was definitely the most eye-catching. "Awesome throne," Harry said, like any young boy would for anything creepy.
"Thank you," Hades answered, shaking his head. "That is not the reaction I usually get to it."
"Most people are weird," the young demigod replied with all the authority of a ten-year-old. "Because that is an awesome throne." He approached it.
"We look with our eyes, not with our hands," Hades warned.
Harry's hands flew behind his back, where he gripped them, just to make sure. He eyed some of the skulls and noticed they were real human skulls and not just carvings. "More bad people?" he asked.
"The worst," Hades answered immediately, sounding amused for some reason. "Come, there is more to see."
Harry nodded and turned, releasing his hands from behind his back. He knew gods were protective of their thrones, and hadn't wanted to give any inadvertent offense.
They walked through yet another extremely precious hallway, and Harry couldn't help but gawk at another faux-bouquet of imitation flowers as he walked by. Hades' palace was awesome – if a bit hard on the eyes, with the glitter from the precious metals.
They stepped up to a set of large double doors, which swung open on their own. As god and demigod stepped out, Harry saw two large marine skeletons – of the United States variety, Harry noticed – flanking said doors, carrying rocket-propelled grenade launchers. He knew those because Ares had taken great relish in demonstrating one.
The entry hall they were now in had a solid bronze floor, black marble portico, and no roof whatsoever; high above them towered the cavern roof of the Underworld.
Apparently, Zeus couldn't make it rain down here. Remembering how often his camping trips ended up with rainfall due to the Greek God of Thunder's pettiness, Harry felt somewhat jealous.
There were other doors, all of them guarded by skeletons, which Harry found really cool, especially since each guardian skeleton was dressed as a soldier from a different era. The guards didn't move, but their hollow eye sockets did track the both of them.
They walked down a set of stairs and suddenly they were outside the palace itself; around the opulent palace was the strangest garden Harry had ever seen. Strangely colored mushrooms, shrubs that looked poisonous, weird bio-luminescent plants, and various other strange flora grew without direct sunlight.
Precious gems made up for the lack of flowering plants: piles of rubies; clumps of raw diamonds, emeralds stacked together.
But the thing that drew Harry's attention were the statues. Strange statues, incredibly life-like, each sculpture representing its subject in a moment of stark terror. Children, satyrs, centaurs, all of them frozen in a horrified rigor.
Seeing where his guest's attention had wandered to, Hades explained, "my wife has the most unusual taste in garden ornaments. Why she insists on buying Medusa's victims, I will never understand. However, love means ignoring each other's little foibles."
Harry gaped. Those weren't just statues, but victims of Medusa?
The creepiness factor suddenly jumped from 'having fun with a scary movie' to 'maybe this wasn't the best idea'.
He pulled himself away, not wanting to give offense to a god he liked. But he did promise himself that one day, he'd find a way to stop Medusa. Then there would be no more victims to turn into statues.
He took another three steps, following Hades, when the most enchanting smell reached him. Almost overwhelming his senses, he found that he had already turned to the source of it and taken a step before managing to catch himself.
In the center of the garden stood an orchard, multiple pomegranate trees spreading branches filled with orange blossoms to the half-lit skies of the Underworld.
"Careful," Hades counseled, although he sounded vaguely relaxed about the whole affair. "Eat the fruit and you will never get to leave." The God of the Underworld didn't sound all that upset at the prospect, but Harry suddenly realized he'd never get to see Hestia again.
And no matter how much he liked Hades and wanted to see that zombie-versus-terminator fight, he wasn't willing to give up seeing Hestia for them.
He forced his arm down, which had risen on its own account, and he exerted a force of will to turn himself around and walk back to Hades.
"I can't tempt you with a piece of fruit?" Hades asked, amused.
"Not right now, thank you, Mister Hades," Harry replied politely.
The Lord of the Underworld laughed, and continued moving. The young demigod followed, forcing himself to keep his eyes straight lest they wander off to those pomegranate trees. He knew it was their job to tempt visitors, but he wished they weren't so good at it.
They reached the outer walls, and the path they were on ran through a set of two-story-tall bronze gates, which stood open.
Harry stopped and gaped at them; each gate had carvings of scenes of death on them. Some were modern, like the atomic bombs on Japan, others were historic, like the trench filled with WW1 soldiers wearing gas masks, and others were just plain heartbreaking, like the line of African famine victims holding out empty bowls.
Harry stared at the starving people, then wrenched his eyes away. "I think Miss Athena would be interested in seeing these," he said, trying to take his mind off of the famine victims. That one was going to stick with him, he just knew it. He'd been there himself.
"Oh?" Hades asked, his voice that careful blend of 'be careful what you say next'.
"She has given me a bookcase in her library, filled with books that she says form the basic education of a proper young demigod. A lot of them are about history," Harry started rambling.
"Oh?" Hades asked again, his tone now wondering where this was going.
Harry looked left and right, as if to make sure nobody were listening in, then made the universal 'come a bit closer' signal with his right index finger. The Lord of the Underworld, taken completely by surprise, actually did as requested and leaned closer.
"Some of those books are really boring, but please don't tell Miss Athena or she'll glare at me," Harry confided.
Haded boomed a laugh, before straightening up and putting on a poker face. "Anyway," Harry said, as if he hadn't just made the god laugh, "she's really into history, and I think these doors would be of interest to her, maybe as a more involved way of teaching some historic events."
Hades looked at his doors again. "I see," he said, noncommittally. "Let us continue."
Harry nodded sharply and followed the large god. He was going to have trouble sleeping tonight, he just knew it.
"We shall go this way," Hades said, motioning. "If I take you that way," he added, motioning in another direction, "Hestia would be most upset."
"Why? What's that way?" Harry asked, following obediently, yet looking in the direction Hades had indicated.
"Tartarus," the Lord of the Underworld said succinctly.
"Oh," the young demigod answered softly. Yeah, best stay away from that direction, then.
"These are the Asphodel fields," the god said, stopping to let Harry catch up and get a good look. "Most people just live ordinary lives, neither very good nor very bad, and those end up here."
Harry did indeed get a good look. Huge crowds milled about, trampling the grass. There was no excitement, no noise or anything of the sort. The crowd simply was, existing in silence. Poplars grew in clumps here and there, providing some distraction from the endless crowd.
"Oh," Harry said again, feeling sad for these deceased. He couldn't make out their faces, the dead spirits shimmered when he tried to get a good look; they chattered to each other yet Harry didn't understand a word they said.
Yes, sad seemed the appropriate description for these spirits.
"For them," Hades said, "they are standing in a wheat field in Kansas. It is peaceful and tranquil."
"Oh," Harry said, perking up. That did sound peaceful.
"Of course, this isn't Kansas and wheat doesn't grow down here, so we're having to make do with some mental trickery, but the end results are the same. An endless peaceful wheat field for the deceased."
Harry nodded in understanding. "That's very nice," he said. "It sounds very relaxing and peaceful."
"It is," Hades told him. "Come, there is much more to see."
Their next stop was Elysium, and while Harry wasn't allowed inside, Hades did take him to a conveniently located hill from where he could get a pretty decent look.
"Whoa," Harry breathed when he looked over the wall and caught a glimpse of Greek Heaven. It was gorgeous. "Are those the Isles of the Blest?" he asked, pointing to a couple of far-away islands located in a huge lake at the center of Elysium.
"Yes, they are," Hades said, proudly.
Harry made a promise to himself to make sure he ended up in Elysium – if Odin didn't have his Valkyries grab him first, that is. Elysium seemed like a nice place to spend eternity if you couldn't get into Valhalla.
Hades let Harry have a good and long look, but eventually he did steer the demigod away. The Underworld was quite large, and there was more to see.
They walked in silence for a few minutes. "That is the judgment pavilion," Hades said, pointing to the building question. "It is where the souls go to be judged, you can see the lines waiting."
Harry looked over and found indeed two waiting lines of freshly dead, waiting for their judgment.
In fact, there were three lines, but one went directly to the Asphodel fields. It was marked, with huge glowing letters, as EZ DEATH. The two lines going into the judgment pavilion were marked with ATTENDANT ON DUTY and moved much slower.
"Those not willing to risk judgment can go straight to Asphodel," Hades explained. "Except for the really bad ones, those we can pick out among the queue."
As he was speaking, several ghouls grabbed a spirit from the EZ DEATH line, and wrangled him away. "That one liked to-" Hades started to say, then looked at Harry and apparently realized that there were some things he shouldn't say around a young mortal. "Let's just say he liked to do bad things to little girls."
Harry blinked, looked up at Hades, looked at the spirit being wrestled away by ghouls, and remembered the first time he killed someone; that someone being a man who wanted to do bad things to Annabeth.
"I hope he suffers," Harry said, half to himself and half to Hades. "Badly."
Hades smiled, but there was no humor in it. "He will. For eternity," the God of the Underworld reassured him. "Come, let us move on."
Harry nodded and silently followed his guide. As they walked, reality seemed to assert itself, lifting the fog of whatever-it-was that gods used to veil reality from mortal eyes.
A huge three-headed dog blurred into view; It was half-invisible, as if it, too, were dead. Its three jaws, however, were plenty real and solid to Harry's eyes. It looked like it was the size of a tall building, and appeared to be three massive Rottweilers blended together.
"That's Cerberus!" he shouted, excitedly. The growling dog, at hearing its name, looked up. Six eyes focused on Harry and his guide. "He's so awesome!"
Hades grinned. "He makes a good guard," he stated.
Cerberus, at seeing his master, bounded over in excitement, crushing various spirits without regard.
The god of the Underworld palmed his face. "He's also a bit excitable," he muttered as the three-headed dog raced up.
Harry grinned, and reassessed Cerberus' size. He'd originally believed him to be huge, but that seemed to be an understatement. When the massive hound was upon them, Cerberus looked like it was easily twice as tall as a mammoth.
"ARF!" Cerberus barked.
"He's awesome," Harry repeated, extending a hand to the truly massive creature. Before Hades could say something, Cerberus' three heads leaned down and gave the tiny appendage a sniff. Then another.
The guardian hound of the underworld gave another bark, eyed Hades, saw that the God of the Underworld had no problem with this living mortal, and gave Harry's hand yet another sniff.
"He's such a good dog," Harry cooed. "Aren't you, boy?"
"ARF!" Cerberus agreed, giving Harry a lick.
Unfortunately for Harry, when a three-headed hound twice the size of a mammoth gives you a lick, you end up with a full-body wash.
The demigod laughed, and waved his hand in an effort to clean himself off. It took a bit more energy than he had anticipated – either the underworld dampened his powers, or Cerberus' saliva was resistant to magic. Or both.
Laughing, he ignored the whole thing and stood on his tippy-toes in an effort to pet one of the hound's huge muzzles.
"Such a good boy, aren't you?" Harry cooed again. "Who's a good boy? You are! Yes, you are!"
To his immense surprise, Cerberus seemed to shrink, until he was only the size of a large cow. It certainly made it easier for Harry to pet him, and to scratch behind his ears – all six of them – or roughhouse with the dog's three heads.
Hades simply stared as, within five minutes, Harry was laughing and playing with the most feared dog in existence, culminating in Cerberus rolled onto his back and panting happily when Harry roughly rubbed the massive Rottweiler's tummy. "Good boy! Such a good boy!" the demigod encouraged the beast.
Demigod and guardian hound looked up, the first realizing that perhaps it hadn't been a good idea to play with Cerberus like this, and the latter realizing he was supposed to be a guard dog and not a lap dog.
"Ehm," Harry managed.
"Arf?" Cerberus added, rolling to his feet and giving his master a baleful look.
"Why am I not surprised?" Hades muttered.
"I… eh… have a thing with canines and felines," Harry admitted. "It's how I have Nemmy as a guard cat."
"Nemmy?" Hades asked, deciding on ignoring how Hestia's favorite mortal had turned his fearsome guard into his panting pet.
Harry nodded. "The Nemean Lion. He's a good boy, too," the demigod said cheerfully, feeling relieved that Hades wasn't about to burst into anger.
Hades eyed him for a few moments. "I think I am rather happy that you are Hestia's headache instead of mine," he said.
Harry pouted. That wasn't very nice. He wasn't a headache! He just had a few misadventures her and there. And got into a few tough spots. And his luck went up and down like a yoyo. And… alright, maybe Hades had a point. But he tried his best to live up to Hestia's example and her lessons! That had to count for something, right?
"Cerberus. Back to work," the Lord of the Underworld snapped at the dog, who whined softly at the end of playtime, before bounding back to his post, growing to his former size as he did. He stomped a few deceased spirits, obviously out of spite, before resuming his post.
Suddenly, there seemed to be a commotion at the back of the lines of waiting spirits. Hades' eyes narrowed and a frown appeared on his face. Harry, knowing that gods could be volatile, remained silent.
"Lord Hades! Lord Hades! Lord Hades!" a demon shouted as it raced up. 'Demon' was the best way to describe the creature in Harry's mind, it having horns, red skin, and actually carrying a pitchfork.
"Demiurgus," Hades said with a sigh. "Playing with the dead's preconceptions again?"
The demon looked at himself, and actually managed to get a purple blush on his red cheeks. "Ehm, sorry, Lord Hades. But there is a bit of an emergency!"
Hades looked at the back of the lines again, where more commotion was being seeing and heard. "What happened?"
"There's been a-" the demon cut itself off and looked at Harry, before looking back at Hades. "Something in Madrid. Over a hundred and fifty died."
Hades sighed. "Open a third line. I'll be right there. I need to arrange supervision for our… guest."
Demiurgus nodded, turned, and ran.
"Pay no attention to him, he enjoys playing to mortal's preset notions of demons," Hades said. "I need to go. Alecto!"
Harry nodded, he could understand that the Lord of the Underworld was extremely busy, with all these dead people. And considering the ruckus the dead were kicking up, he could understand the urgency. When Hades shouted, he looked up; Harry immediately followed the gaze.
Three winged beings were circling the tallest tower of Hades' palace. Hades' palace which, now that Harry got a good look at it from outside, looked like Olympus. It caused him to grin; if poor Hades couldn't visit, he definitely could rebuild it down here. He silently congratulated the God of the Dead for the idea – not noticing how Hades, next to him, blinked with surprise.
One of the winged beings fell out of formation and barreled down towards them. At the last moment, she – for she was definitely female – spread her wings and touched down next to them.
The creature had the gnarled face of an old lady, but she had the shriveled, leathery brown body of a hag, with a pair of bat's wings and hands and feet shaped like claws.
"My Lord? One for me?" she asked, eying Harry the way Harry eyed Hestia's cooking. He shivered.
"Not in the traditional sense," Hades said. "I must go and deal with that," he said, pointing to the ruckus that was starting to get out of hand. "Guide this one around, show him the arena in the Fields of Punishment, the lad's the one who had the idea for that Zombie versus Automaton entertainment we've been having. Make sure it's age-appropriate, alright?"
Alecto looked… surprised? Shocked? Flabbergasted? One of them would do, Harry decided. As fearsome as she looked, the surprise showed she had emotions – and somehow, that made her relatable to Harry. He remembered Hestia's lesson to always treat a person by their actions rather than their looks.
"Of course, My Lord," she answered.
Hades gave a sharp nod. "Harry, Alecto is one of my most trusted. She will look after you and guide you around. Try not to anger her, as a Fury she can be quite dangerous when provoked."
Harry barely had a chance to nod before the god vanished. He swallowed, turned to his new guide, and offered her a smile. "Hi, Miss Alecto," he said.
Alecto still eyed him. "No screams?" she asked. "Barely a shiver out of you, and no screams, no obvious fear, nothing?"
Harry blinked. "Well, Mister Hades said not to make you angry," he said. "But he also said that you are one of his most trusted. If Mister Hades trusts you, then so do I."
Seriously, did Alecto never blink?
"You are definitely an intriguing mortal," she said. "I can see why My Lord granted you this privilege." That next moment, she… shifted… into a different form, taking on a human appearance. Suddenly, she looked like a regular little old lady.
"Come on, dear, let us go on tour," she said, her voice taking on the cracking tones of an old woman's voice to match her appearance.
"Okay, Miss Alecto!" Harry said happily, stepping next to her. Despite her new looks, old-lady Alecto was able to keep a rapid pace and Harry grinned as he legged it to keep up.
There was power in her. Lots of power.
Wait a minute, this felt familiar.
"You're the lawyer!" Harry suddenly shouted, pointing at her.
Alecto stopped, and eyed him again. "Perceptive, too," she noted after a moment, as if to herself. "Interesting. Very interesting. Come along, little one."
Harry simply grinned and caught up.
"These are the fields of punishment," Alecto said as she opened the lock on a metal door set into a barbed-wire fence. They emerged into a blackened field of scorched earth. Not far away, a stream of lava snaked its way through, providing some relief from the endless black.
Harry swallowed. "The arena is not far," Alecto said with a horrific grin.
"Mister Hades said only the bad people end up here, so they all deserve this, right?" Harry asked.
"Oh, yes," Alecto answered with a fearsome grin. "Ah, the endless joy of punishing the wicked. My Lord spoils us."
Harry nodded. "Ever used a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire?" he asked, curious if his youthful ideas on torturing bad guys actually worked or not.
"Sometimes," Alecto answered casually, then looked down at him. He looked back, trying to pull off 'innocent', and wondering why she would stare at him again. "I don't think that's age-appropriate, as My Lord has commanded," she stated.
"Oh," Harry said. That made sense.
"Although I do have to say it is refreshing to see a youngest interested in the arts," Alecto added. "Then again, all young mortals are potential psychopaths. Just look at child soldiers."
Harry nodded as they walked up to a huge arena built out of black marble. It looked like the Colosseum in Rome, only not half-ruined and black instead of white. "That's because our brains haven't fully developed yet. Miss Athena gave a lecture on the subject, it has something to do with the region of the brain that judges good and evil, and it only develops later in life."
Alecto rubbed her chin. "So if we get to the mortals young enough, we could train them better," she said. "Maybe have the mortals torture each other."
Harry giggled, that struck him as funny for some reason. He composed himself hurriedly when Alecto stared at him again.
She kept staring at him.
"I just had this mental image of one guy beating another with a stick, a timer going off, and them politely switching roles," he explained.
Alecto's eyes crinkled in what definitely was amusement. "I am pretty sure this conversation is not age-appropriate, so we better change the subject," she said. Her tone made it an edict rather than a suggestion.
Harry nodded silently, and followed her as they entered the Underworld Colosseum. Finally, it was time to see Zombies-versus-Terminators!
They didn't have to buy any tickets, and just walked in as if they owned the place. Then again, all things considered, Alecto worked for Hades, and Hades pretty much owned the Underworld – so perhaps they COULD say they owned the place.
"Best seats in the house," Alecto said as she guided Harry up a flight of stairs, emerging into a spacious balcony area, allowing them a great view of the entire arena. Other patrons were already present, but after a single glance at Alecto, they apparently decided they'd rather sit somewhere else, leaving Harry and Alecto pretty much to themselves.
Not that Harry minded, he didn't do well in crowds.
A cheerful announcer called the next round, and immediately three zombies were released into the arena. Like with the original Roman Colosseum, trap doors had been built into the floor of the arena itself, and it was through one of those trap doors that a humanoid robot was lifted.
The crowd cheered.
"That one is very popular," Alecto said, indicating the robot. "Lord Hephaestus played with its programming, giving it a very arrogant personality."
"It has a personality?" Harry asked with wonder.
Alecto nodded. "It apparently doesn't 'do defense', according to Lord Hephaestus. It also has the tendency to do something called 'teabagging' if it defeats a zombie it takes a particular dislike to. It's very funny."
Harry wondered what teabags had to do with fights, but kept quiet when the automaton took a flying start, leaping up, and planting both its feet in the first zombie's chest. Apparently the machine was quite weighty as it plowed right through the unfortunate undead, before landing daintily on its feet.
The robot barely hesitated as it reached down, picked up the moaning zombie, and tossed it with devastating force at the second zombie. Both first and second zombies basically disintegrated.
The crowd went nuts, and Harry cheered along. After all, who didn't like seeing zombies get it?
The third zombie apparently had better things to do and tried to make a break for it. The automaton, on the other hand, had different ideas. With three powerful strides it had caught up to the fleeing undead, grabbed its head, and spun it around.
A full 360 degrees, so its face was facing the original direction but its neck fully and truly snapped. The moaning zombie fell to the ground, while the robot crouched over the corpse, rising and crouching repeatedly as if it were rubbing its testicles in the zombie's face.
The crowd hollered in appreciation.
"Teabagging?" Harry asked, finally catching on.
Alecto, who had been cheering and clapping, turning to Harry. "Yup. Amusing, isn't it?"
The young demigod nodded slowly. It wasn't sportsmanlike behavior, but then again… zombies. "Mister Hades said they deserve their fates, right?" he asked.
"Exactly," Alecto confirmed with a grin. It wasn't a nice grin, there were too many pointy teeth involved.
"Hot Dogs! Get your Hot Dogs here! Get them while they're hot!" a ghoul shouted, carrying a large tray as he passed through the stands.
Harry realized he hadn't eaten hot dogs in a while. He stood up. "Over here, please!" he called to the ghoul, while a number of attendant ghouls were released onto the field to pick up the still-moaning zombies. The ghoul trying to get the one zombie being teabagged faced a few problems as apparently the automaton had no intention of releasing its victim.
Much to the crowd's laughter.
Harry had the impression that it was a rehearsed routine being played up for the crowd's amusement, but found it funny anyway.
The hot dog-ghoul had reached them by now. "What'll it be, kid?" the ghoul asked, pointing to various sausages. "Saint Bernard? Rottweiler? Pitbull? Or my personal favorite, chihuahua?"
Harry's boon from Hestia immediately supplied him with various recipes on how to turn dog into sausage, causing him to take on a distinctly green tune.
The ghoul burst out laughing. Behind him, Alecto laughed as well.
Knowing he'd been played, Harry put a faux-annoyed look on his face, before grinning. It was a good joke, he'd have to remember it. "I'll have a footlong with everything," he told the ghoul, before looking at Alecto. "Do you want something, Miss Alecto? My treat."
The Fury looked at Harry as if she couldn't fathom that anyone – let alone some mortal – would ever even consider treating her. Finally, she blinked, and nodded. "I'll have the same."
"Two footlongs with all the trimmings, coming right up!" the ghoul said as he prepared the food.
Soon after, they were eating as the announced called the next round.
"This goes on all day," Alecto said, licking some sauerkraut from her upper lip. "We pop in for some entertainment when we can. Plenty of zombies here, and Lord Hephaestus loves us testing his new creations."
"Awesome," Harry declared.
The next round apparently spiced thing up, as there were two skeletons mixed in. The new automaton that appeared didn't seem to be a crowd favorite, as the watcher apparently started cheering for 'team undead'.
"That one's an annoying fuck," Alecto said, causing Harry to giggle at the bad word. "I hope he gets his arms ripped off again."
Harry snorted at the casual description of brutality. "What's wrong with him?"
"He's an annoying fuck," Alecto repeated. "You'll see."
Apparently, the robot in question had been programmed with a voice and some kind of hero-complex. It decided that the best way to start a fight against two zombies and two skeletons was to have a speech on the light of good triumphing over the darkness of evil, and that he would vanquish the undead and release their spirits.
The zombies tackled it before it could get all the way through its speech, which apparently annoyed the android to no small amount. It was now raging about the evil unsportsmanlike behavior of the undead, and that it would vanquish all of them.
Unfortunately for the automaton in question, the skeletons jumped in, and despite its cries of good always triumphing over evil and that it was invincible as long as the Light of Goodness shone down upon it – it was soon dismembered.
The crowd loved it. Harry had to admit, that automaton was pretty annoying. Although having it continue to rage despite being just a torso and head was pretty funny.
"Is it really demanding them to come back so it can bite their ankles?" Harry asked, barely restraining from laughing.
"That part's usually pretty funny," Alecto answered.
Someone brazenly sat down next to Harry, causing him to look up and study the interloper.
"Hey, you look like an old me," Harry noted.
The unknown man grinned down at him. "And you look like a young me," he replied with a cheerful grin. "Hello Harry," he added, shyly, before looking at the Fury. "Good afternoon, Lady Alecto."
Alecto eyed him for a moment. "Yes, yes. Hello, James."
"James?" Harry asked. "My dad was called James!"
James grinned. "Strangely enough, I have a son called Harry. He's still alive, though. Living on Olympus, even – which is only the best prank ever."
Harry blinked, putting the pieces together. "Are you my dad?" the little boy asked, suddenly very small and very unsure.
James smiled sadly. "Yes, I am, Harry. Living in Elysium, I can see you and your actions – and let me just say that you have made your old man very very proud."
"Dad," Harry whispered, blinking repeatedly as the world blurred strangely. He wiped his eyes, then threw himself forward. "Dad!"
James hugged his son. "Oh, Harry," he whispered sadly, holding his boy tight. "I miss you so very much. I'm so sorry about not being able to help you." He hugged tighter. "If I ever meet the Dursleys down here…"
"Their room is reserved," Alecto interjected, obviously uncomfortable with the emotional scene. "Their screams will warn those coming after not to follow in their footsteps."
"Good," James answered. "Thank you, Lady Alecto."
"Thank Lord Hades, he made the arrangements," Alecto replied casually. "Oh, look, next round," she deflected, eager to focus on anything other than the tearful reunion.
"I'm sorry I can't be of any help," James muttered to his son. "In Elysium we can see our relatives, but we can't interfere."
Harry just nodded in James' chest. "You have made me so very proud, my son," James repeated. "So incredibly proud. Not a day goes by that I don't send a thank you to Lady Hestia for her care of you."
"Hestia's awesome," Harry stated.
"Yes, she is," James agreed wholeheartedly. "I couldn't wish for a better mother figure for you."
Harry smiled hesitantly up at his father, who smiled back unreservedly.
For the next few hours, they watched zombies (and skeletons, occasionally) engage in combat with automatons, while engaging in the age-old tradition of father and son going to a sports game together, and simply having a good talk.
It was something Harry would never forget. It was enough to make Harry reconsider Valhalla over the Greek Underworld if it meant seeing his father more often.