As ironic as it may be, the day of the funeral service was a beautiful day – probably the most beautiful ever since everything started. The sky was clear, with only a few sparse clouds that looked like cotton candy as decoration. The sun was warm and its golden light touched Harry's skin softly, as if telling him everything was going to be alright from now on. The birds sung and the breeze was gentle – and Harry hated it all. It wasn't going to be alright, he knew it. He'd lost his only family once again, as if Destiny found it funny to give him hope only to take it away from him, the most painful way possible. Was it even fair? He looked around him, to the people with sorrow in their faces and suddenly he felt angry. Why were they so upset? Why were they crying? They weren't the ones who lost everything – twice. They didn't feel the pain, they didn't understand. How could they?
Harry felt the tears run through his cheeks for the first time ever since Sirius had died and that was a relief. He hadn't cried when he saw his dead body laid beside him, but not because he didn't want to. He just couldn't. All that was left for him was a deep void, suffocating and intense, and in the next days he was afraid he'd lost all his emotions, for he didn't respond to anything. He couldn't. People tapped his back and said they were so sorry, people hugged him and told him he would be alright, and he just couldn't say anything. Perhaps there was nothing to say, anyway – but what he feared was that his heart had died, and that there was nothing anyone could do about it.
But then he cried as the sunlight touched his skin, he cried as Nico's voice rose in the silence, saying things he didn't understand, and the wet tears washed his soul and filled his heart once again.
Hermione grabbed his hand and Ron touched his shoulder, as if to say they were there for him, and Harry couldn't help but cry a little longer. He lowered his head, thanking God – or the gods, for he knew nothing anymore – for having his friends, and preparing himself for another turn, for Voldemort was still alive and well, which meant there would be more casualties, more pain, and he had to be strong for it when the time came.
Nico's voice was grave and clear and his words were deep and meaningful, though most people wouldn't understand what he was saying - his prayers were in Ancient Greek, for his words, which asked for kindness and mercy for the dead, were meant to the gods, not to the mortals.
The funeral was crowded – there were the students and the professors, there were the three kids who had come running from the giant mountain, there were girls in silver camouflage suits who called themselves "Hunters of Artemis" and came in the most inappropriate moment.
"Good timing," had said Nico at the time, half angry and half intrigued. They had arrived in the middle of the night, bows in hand and with the expression of people who were ready for a good fight. By then, the fields in which the battle had occurred were almost clean, the monster's ashes washed away by the rain together with the blood, the corpses of the allies removed and taken care of appropriately.
Now they were all with their heads lowered, respectful expressions in their faces and maintaining a safe distance from any boys.
Beside Nico, stood Dumbledore, Thor and Emil and, on the borders of the Forbidden Forest, the centaurs observed everything with a distant expression on their faces.
In the center of the crowd, two pyres richly adorned with flowers and leaves held Sirius and Amanda. As far as Harry understood, the other soldiers who answered to Thor were already dead in the first place, so they just got dismissed from their duties and that was enough for their rest.
The other two, however, needed a proper service. Over their eyes, golden Drachmas had been disposed. There was oil covering their skin and beautiful handmade shrouds covered their bodies.
Nico finished his speech and the silence that followed was dense and gloomy. He glanced at Emil, who lit the torch and stepped forward. There was hesitation in his movements and suffering in his eyes.
The fire that came from the pyres was spread quickly and was bright and golden, its flames licking the timber in beautiful swirls as it ascended to heaven. Wasn't it so sad, it would have turned out to be a lovely spectacle. Emil turned back to his place and put away the fire from the torch. His eyes were fixed in Amanda's pyre, the sorrow in them almost unbearable to look at. He'd been lonely for most of his life – he was a difficult person to deal with, and he knew it. And yet that girl had broken all his barriers as if they were nothing. They had become good friends in that short period of time, in a way he'd never experienced before, and now it had been take away from him.
"Goodbye," said he, under his breath, his eyes burning with the effort for not crying. "And I'm sorry."
And then, the strangest thing happened. The light from the pyres got brighter, almost glaring and, for an instant, it looked like it would get away from the fire and where the flames should be there would be only heat left. A chilly wind howled around them, as if one thousand ghosts had decided to haunt the funeral – but they didn't scream or cry or mourn; they sung, and their song was delicate and kind and soft and extremely sad, all at the same time.
The flames suddenly became incorporeal, moving swiftly around them, as if dancing – not to celebrate, nor to mourn. They were there to lead, Harry suddenly knew, as if the knowledge had always been there in the back of his mind, and they could only be seen because they wanted to.
And then, when Harry thought that it couldn't get any weirder, a man simply appeared out of the thin air, and he glimmered and glinted. His face was beautiful, thought Harry, without really thinking, it was beautiful in an elfish kind of way, but it was also sad – the saddest expression he'd ever seen and that he would ever see in his life – and it was wise and young and old, and the oddest thing was that it actually made sense. The man had winged shoes, Harry saw, and his feet didn't touch the ground. In his hand there was a staff and two golden snakes were tangled together in it.
He was a god, Harry suddenly realized, and he couldn't stop himself from being amazed by his presence.
For a few moments, it seemed as if time had stopped. No one could move, or breathe, and the air was still and the birds had stopped singing. The man moved to one pyre and extended his hand toward it, as if the fire didn't bother him at all. When he got it out, he held a hand, translucent and silvery. He helped Sirius' spirit getting up and floating beside him, and then he moved to the other pyre, but the other ghost was already up and staring at him, the blue eyes turned pale and the once caramel hair moving around her head as if there was no gravity to keep it down.
"Dad?" said Amanda. Her voice faltered softly, as if carried by the wind.
"Yes, dear?" answered the god, sweetly.
"Are you proud of me?"
The god extended his hand to his deceased daughter, a sad smile on his face.
"I'm very proud of you, sweetie."
"Then I'm glad." She smiled back, and she looked glad.
Then she took her father's hand and everything faded away. It all simply vanished – the god, the ghosts, the swift lights and the song – and all that was left was the sad reality. For some moments, Harry doubted what he'd seen, as if he'd just gotten out of a dream, but everyone around him had the same amazedly confused expression on their faces, and so he guessed everyone saw the same things.
Besides, he knew enough about dreams not to doubt their reality.
They all left the funeral service without saying a word, feeling that talking about what had happened would only maculate their memories. For the first time in the last days Harry felt in peace about Sirius' death. The pain was still there, that was for sure, but after what he'd seen a certainty that his godfather would be alright took over him and he felt glad. Sirius would be fine, which was more than he could say about himself.
And right then that was all that mattered.
His tea was getting cold, but he didn't care. He hadn't come for tea, after all. He'd come for answers. It seemed, however, that answers were the last thing he would have that day.
In the dimly lit room, the strangest set of people were grouped together, drinking the tea and eating the cookies as if that was the only thing they had come for, which Harry found annoying. Still, no one ventured small talks, for they also knew that it would have been trespassing a limit.
Seeing himself with nothing to do but wait, Harry observed the people around him, more or less like a kid observes animals in the zoo, with a lot of interest but no method or objective.
First, there were his friends, his mates, since Dumbledore knew better than to leave them out of this. Ron and Hermione would know all that was discussed afterwards, whether they were allowed to or not. They had sat by his side, looking a little intimidated by the Viking God who was sat just beside them, which is absolutely understandable; He had his hammer clinging satisfyingly by the side of his hip, and they knew what it was capable of.
Thor, on the other hand, seemed as satisfied as anyone could possibly be with the current situation. It was sort of funny to watch him hold the delicate porcelain cup with his huge hand and sip like a lady, humming in the interval between sips a song that reminded Harry of taverns and old battle myths, and that buzzed in his ears leaving the feeling that an upcoming thunder was hovering just around his head.
By the other side of the Norse God, Nico looked impatient at the door, and then at Thor, making it very clear that he just couldn't stand the humming anymore and that he didn't like being locked in that room just for giving some satisfactions to people who, in his opinion, didn't really need them. Just like Harry, he hadn't touched his tea or his cookies yet and for his expression what he really wanted to do was to smash them at someone's face and then leave. That made Harry smile. No matter how heroic the guy was, Harry still couldn't stand looking for too long at his face without wanting to break his nose. It wasn't because he didn't trust him – by then, Harry knew Nico was a person of good intentions. In fact, he wasn't sure where all this indisposition had come from; all he knew was that he found the guy so unbelievably annoying.
There were the other halfbloods, then: Emil, the tall guy with frank sea-green eyes, the smart-looking stormy-eyed girl and the punk girl with silver camouflage clothes and sparky eyes, who was told to be immortal. Beside them, the kid with hooves and horns and beside him, sat Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall. In the back of the room there was also a white-blond centaur called Firenze and, making him company, some of the ghosts observed the meeting with great interest.
They were all, Harry realized, drinking and eating as a way of passing the time. Everyone actually seemed to be as nervous about the silence as Harry himself – except for Thor, who as mentioned before seemed to be having a great time -, and he suddenly understood that all of them were expecting for someone else to speak first.
Well, if no one is going to start this, then I shall do it myself, he thought, not without mentally sighing.
"So, what are we waiting for?" before Harry could think of what exactly he should say, Nico di Angelo spoke impatiently. "If we're supposed to just sit in silence here, drinking and eating like in a tea party, then I'm leaving. Honestly, I got more to do than this."
Just so bloody annoying, thought Harry, not without a bit of satisfaction. After all, the silence had been broken.
"Then perhaps you should start telling us how all that happened, from the beginning," said Dumbledore, calmly. "And then the others could complement along the way. After all, as far as I can tell you are the most involved in the events that led to the battle. How's that for you?"
Nico frowned, as if considering. Then he sighed, like an old person would do before telling a long, long story.
He went to the Underworld a lot these days, if not to help his father to deal with the dead, to find out a thing or two for himself, for he liked enigmas better when he could solve them.
And then there was that day. It would have been an absolutely normal day – he had gone down to gather some info about Gaea, wondering if he could try finding Hecate along the way so that they could talk and thinking the best way to get his revenge against Persephone, who'd decided last time he'd come to visit that he would look great with bouquets of flowers instead of hands. And everything was going on well, thank you very much, until Alecto came and changed his plans.
"Your father needs to see you. Now." Said the Fury before leaving.
And so Nico went, for his father's requests were orders and his temper was short. As he arrived, they talked. His father looked worried and worn out, but behind those unexpressive feelings Nico knew there was anger burning.
Hades told his son one of his keys had been stolen – one of the golden ones, those which can bring the dead back to life and make the living instantly dead. He said he was with an acquaintance, a woman with kind eyes and beautiful lips, and so his guard was taken down. But he also said that whoever took the key took only one out of many, which meant the thief knew that this was a burden that was heavy to carry.
"A mortal soul," said Hades, "By carrying all of those keys would have his life slowly taken away. Not you, of course, for you are my son. But anyone else…"
He sent his son on a quest, then, to find his Lost Key and return it before too much damage had been done. And so Nico went, gathering information about the thief, tracking down souls that might've been brought back to life. At first, the leads were hard to follow and seemed to take him nowhere. It felt useless, and he was sure he would never have anything concrete to work on when things changed.
He had a dream.
It was a fuzzy dream, confusing and frustrating. Still, it was important, and Nico knew that. He could feel it.
There was a castle, a reptilian man and a winter goddess. They weren't together, but they were connected somehow. And then there were kids in black robes holding stupid sticks – and then there was darkness.
Summing up, with just that Nico was able to find out about Hogwarts and Tom Riddle. The winter goddess was still a mystery though, but she was a mystery that could wait.
"Wait- just wait a minute. How in bloody hell did you find out about us from a dream? I mean, this is just ridiculous! And how did you find out that the castle was Hogwarts? I'm sure there are plenty of castles out there." Ron stared incredulously at Nico, and then looked around in the room, hoping to find support.
"Let's say that I have my fonts," was the answer, dry and irritated. "Now if you want me to tell you every detail, we will stay here like forever. So…"
Asking around about Hogwarts and the wizards, he found out, though, that he wasn't allowed to come into the school. There was a rule, an ancient one, which split the mortal world in two pieces, so that the wizards and the demigods would never meet and therefore would never fight – it was more or less the same situation that led to the separation of the Roman and the Greek demigods.
However, Nico had to find out the connection between the key and the magicians, for the dream made clear that there was a connection. That same night, he shadow travelled to the school, in a reconnaissance trip. It was late and there was no one in the corridors except for Filch and his cat, but as soon as he stepped into the castle he knew that the rule had been broken – he was suddenly filled with the certainty that he would've never been able to enter if another halfblood wasn't already admitted inside the magical barriers.
And don't ask how he knew it. He just did.
Nico decided then to investigate. He didn't know if the halfblood – or halfbloods – were an important part of it, but he knew he needed to get in as a student. He also knew he had to look into Ton Riddle, the man who cheated Death the most despicable way possible, so he decided to take the weeks that he had left before classes begun to focus on that.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, let's just say he did his investigation, and he started frequenting the magic school. And as time passed by, he realized that there wasn't only one lost key, but three. And, on top of that, he understood that he would have to choose one of them as a priority to find.
"When the dead gods return
And all the ancient frontiers burn
The hero whose father is death
Shall think of what's lost and choose his path.
Over his head might fall the sky
- the brave hero in battle must die."
The prophecy came too late, for by the time the Oracle arrived, the son of death had already chosen which of the keys he had to look for. As a matter of fact, it was even easy. He had one of them with him; so two were left. One could bring back the dead, the other could bring war. And as he investigated Tom Riddle, he found that he had allied himself to the Norse Gods, who had died a long time ago after their Ragnarök.
After that, Nico just had to add 2+2 – everything he needed to know was right there in front of him. It took him a while, naturally, but when he saw it, everything was as clear as water.
He had discovered that there was a man who had woken up the Norse Gods from their eternal rest. He had discovered that there was an object, possibly magical, which could bring war. He assumed that the so called war was Greeks vs Norse, for the wizards would be already too busy with their own war.
Wouldn't it be logical if the wizard who'd been bringing the dead back was the one who stole his father's key? That assumed, wouldn't it be obvious that the other key would be the one he should be looking for? Each side had one key; eventually, both sides would be looking for the third one – the one to bring war. It would be wiser, then, for him to go after that third one. The other one, the one owned by his father, would come to him naturally in this course of action… or so he hoped.
But why would the wizard bring the old gods back? And how would have he known about them in the first place?
He went back to the Underworld and there he met Gaea herself. And besides her anger against the human beings who used and abused of her, it was nothing compared to the hatred and the fear she felt against the one she once loved. So she told him about her husband's plans to reunite with her, she told him how he'd been orchestrating everything, even though his consciousness was still half asleep and his efforts were still shy compared to what would come next. And then Nico understood.
Both Gaea and Uranus were born from Chaos. If they reunited, there would only be Chaos again. And wouldn't it be perfect if the Chaos was reborn from its own essence, from the chaos that the clashing of two pantheons would have caused?
Uranus, Nico thought then, in his sleep, must have felt brilliant for having this idea.
And even though he wouldn't say it was brilliant, Nico had to admit that the idea was not all that stupid. So he found out what the third key was, he looked for it and, when he found it, he decided to trade it for peace.
"And after this," said Nico, "you all know what happened."
The silence that followed was intense. Everyone in the room seemed to think deeply about what was just told – except for Nico, who just wanted to get up and leave now that his side of the story had been told.
"Still, there is something I need to know." Thor's voice was as deep as thunder, as powerful as storm. "You said you had one of the keys, which was neither the hammer nor your father's possession." He hesitated, his electric blue eyes piercing Nico's. "Do you have the Eye?"
Nico stood silent, as if trying to decide whether to trust him or not. Then he sighed and, slowly, raised his hand up to his neck. He grabbed the leather cord Harry had once noticed and picked the pendant that was at its end, hidden into the T-shirt. When he showed it, everyone in the room gasped at the same time.
It was a Greek Eye, of vivid blue and white and black. Even though it was made of stone, there was something about it that made Harry feel uncomfortable, exposed - as if he was nude. The Eye seemed alive, and it looked straight at people's souls, from the dirtiest wishes to the most secret shames.
At the same time, though, there was a strange urge that rose in Harry's chest. He looked to the pendant and he knew that he would be able of understanding Voldemort's plans with just that. He just knew it. His mind would open and he would see what was veiled before; he would be wise, he make good things. If he just had it… No more casualties, no more pain…
At that point, Nico hid it back into the shirt, not without glancing at each of the present with disapproval.
"Yes, I have the Eye of Thea… though I wish I'd never even heard of it." There was a deep sadness in his eyes, and there was also anger. It seemed that, for him, those two could only walk in pairs.
"But it sure is a wondrous gift."
Nico glared at Thor.
"It is not a gift. It is a curse." He looked away obstinately, to make clear he would say no more about the matter.
"Well, at least the Prophecy seems clear to me," the green-eyed guy spoke, trying to divert the attention to another subject. He stopped to think for some moments, trying to remember. Then the blonde girl by his side, who apparently was his girlfriend, lost her patience and spoke herself.
"Dead gods rise, check," she looked in Thor's direction. "Ancient frontiers being trespassed, check. Nico found the three keys, after all, for looking for one specifically. So, check. Then there's the thing of the falling sky, which matches with what Nico said about Uranus. And the last line…"
"…'the brave hero in battle must die'," finished Hermione, thoughtfully. "That would be Amanda, I guess. She had to die so that Thor would receive his hammer and the peace would be sealed for once and for all."
"And what about you?" asked Harry, looking towards the group of demigods and satyr. "Why did you end up here?"
"I was around here because of the new monsters that started to appear," the punk girl shrugged, "And I'm a Hunter of Artemis. I mean, if I am hunting monster, I want to at least know what they are. What about you, Annabeth? What were you guys doing here?"
Annabeth looked uncomfortably at Thor before answering.
"We were on a quest to… Hm, well, we were supposed to find out what the Norse were up to and who actually woke them up. I mean, I'm sorry…" she glanced at Thor "… but apparently the two pantheons didn't exactly get along with each other."
The god smiled.
"No, you are right. We didn't. But this is another life and I intend on using it to bring peace. Hopefully, everything will be different, this time. Even though there still are things to settle, undone businesses…"
After that, they chatted a bit longer. No important things were said, though, and Nico felt it was his leave. By the time they got tired and decided that it was time each of them should take their own path, the son of Hades had already arrived at the Underworld and handed his father the key.
Nico never crossed paths with Harry again, nor met any other wizards in his whole life.
Well, he never met any other living wizard. But this is all just details.
On the other hand, he met plenty Norse Gods – enough to get fed up with them and wish they had never been brought back to life. Then again, that is a whole different story.
And that's The End.
(Perhaps I'll write just another chapter with a prologue, but it will depend on my mood…)
Ok, I have to admit I had loads of fun writing this chapter xD
I must say that I've always tried not to tell anything in Nico's POV mainly because I like the character and didn't want to risk ruining him with my narrative. But really, he is much nicer to develop than Harry (sorry Harry, but it's the truth).
So, I hope you enjoy reading at least as much as I enjoyed writing!