A loud bang echoed through the house from one of the upper floors. Lupin looked at Hazel and said, "Now."
Chapter 18: Percy's P.O.V.
As we all sprinted up the stairs to confront imminent danger and supreme evil, I wondered if I had jinxed us. I knew it was odd that we hadn't had a monster attack yet. Everyone was downstairs at the meeting, so it wasn't Fred and George blowing something up. We raced up to a room that now had smoke seeping through the space around the door. Wouldn't you know it, that room happened to be the boys' room, which contained all of my possessions, or at least all of the ones in England.
I kicked down the door and rushed in, sword at the ready to find–
Kreature. It was just Kreature. Granted, he had set the house on fire, but he was already in the house. That meant that no charm had been breached and Grimmauld Place was still secure. It also meant that I had likely jinxed us again by acknowledging the distinct lack of monster attacks. Excellent. I waved my hand and put out the fire with a sigh. "False alarm, everyone. It was just Kreature trying to burn the house to the ground," I said with an eye roll.
Harry pushed through the crowd around the door. "Kreature, what in the Merlin's name did you think you were doing?"
"Mistress said that the house had been tainted by uneven blood," Kreature muttered creepily. "She wanted me to rid her house of impurity, to scorch the earth so nothing can grow here."
"You are never to set this house on fire again, do you hear me?" Harry said angrily.
"Yes, Master. Kreature lives to serve the noble house of Black," Kreature replied, and headed slowly off to Zeus knows where to do Hera knows what other destructive, rebellious thing.
I surveyed the damage. Nothing seemed too burnt, except for whatever Kreature had used to start the fire…I gave a shout and leapt over to the blackened remains of my second Panda Pillow Pet®. Jason had given it to me as a joke after I complained about Octavian slaughtering my first one. Now I had lost two, and I knew I must be cursed. Which god's sacred animal was a panda anyway? What did she or he have against me?
I cradled the soft black and white fabric (which was now mostly black and made of ash) in my arms and turned to Jason. He looked grim as he realized what I was holding. "Dude, you weren't kidding. You really do have bad luck with those things."
I gazed solemnly at my fallen furry friend and vowed to give him a proper burial. Stoically, I marched out of the room, panda in arms, and went down the stairs. Annabeth caught sight of what I was holding and rolled her eyes, then made a face of mock pity. I stuck my tongue out at her, then walked past her down the remainder of the stairs and into the sitting room.
Harry approached me hesitantly. "I'm sorry Kreature burnt your…"
"Perry," I said resolutely.
He looked momentarily confused, but continued, "I'm sorry Kreature burnt Perry. I think I can fix him, if you'd like."
My eyebrows shot up. Of course! I was living in a house full of wizards! What was I thinking? They can fix pandas! I think so…or Harry thinks so…maybe…I thrust the pile of soot into Harry's arms and sat expectantly. For a moment he just looked at me, but shook his head a little bit and placed the panda on the coffee table. "Curamus saginati corocottas," he said, waving his wand in a strange combination of overlapping loops that would've looked like he was just making it up if he hadn't been so clearly focused.
Perry started floating in the air, surrounded by a golden glow. And then, a miracle happened. The pieces and ashes put themselves back together into my stuffed panda, the same Perry that had burned to a crisp only minutes before. The stuffing filled out and he was as good as new. I jumped up and bro-hugged Harry (which confused him, but never mind that) and excitedly clutched my reformed friend to my chest.
"I think he's Perry the Phoenix now," Hermione said slyly.
Annabeth chuckled, "Reborn from the ashes…I think that is an accurate nickname. What do you say, Perce?"
I frowned in concentration. Phoenix Perry, the Panda Pillow Pet? No…Perry the Panda Phoenix Pillow Pet? That didn't sound right either…"Perry the Panda Pillow Pet Phoenix! It's perfect! Thanks you guys," I said, then scampered back upstairs to go put Perry back in the room. As I was heading back to the door, I slipped on a pair of pants I had left on the floor. My hand landed on the back pocket, and I felt something there that I had forgotten I still had. I grasped Voldemort's wand in my hand and stood up. I wondered if anyone knew anything about it, or even what I should do with it. Just as I stepped back through the door, I heard a loud bang from down below.
I dropped Perry, slid the wand in my pocket, and rushed back down the stairs to find thick clouds of black smoke filling every space and making visibility near impossible. "Annabeth!" I called out into the darkness that was creeping up the stairs. "Annabeth!" I plunged into the hazy fog, feeling around for everyone and anyone.
There was coughing coming from every direction, including my own. From somewhere behind me and to the right, I heard someone shout, "BOYS!" and then a lot of shuffling. Two voices echoed back, "Sorry," and then started switching off phrases separated by coughs:
"We were experimenting-"
"-with a new recipe-"
"-Peruvian darkness powder-"
"Percy!" I heard a voice in the darkness shouting my name. I felt around blindly in that direction, like a game of Marco Polo.
"Annabeth!" I shouted back, and bumped into someone, a very solid someone. "Frank?"
"Percy?" he responded, then quickly followed with, "Have you found Hazel?"
"No," I said. "Have you found Annabeth?"
"No, sorry Perce," he replied, and we went opposite directions. I heard shouts of everyone else's names around me, but I had one purpose as I searched through the darkness. I had to find Annabeth. I hadn't heard her in a while, and I was starting to worry. For a split second, I was reminded of Tartarus. The smoke, the toxic air, the darkness, all making me feel claustrophobic even though it was an open space. But it passed so quickly, I wasn't even sure it really happened.
Before I could decide one way or another, I heard someone scream, "Percy!" and I surged forward. I followed the sound to a corner and felt a hand reaching out.
"Annabeth? Is that you?" I grabbed the hand and pulled her forward into my chest. I felt her wrap her arms around me tightly, as if someone was going to try to pull us apart. She was shaking, and I felt my shirt start to dampen where her face was buried in it. I scooped her up and shouldered my way through the mass of people, making my way to the front door. I stepped outside, carrying her bridal style across the threshold. The door swung shut behind me and disappeared, as per the charms. The first relief was just the sensation of fresh air. I knew I needed to put some distance between us and the house, so I started walking, happy just to be outside.
Annabeth was still shaking in my arms, but at least she had stopped coughing. I saw a park a little ways down the road, so I headed there and sat down on a bench in the middle. We had gotten a few strange looks, but when I stared back with a hint of my wolf glare, every single person looked the other way. The park seemed nice; it was quiet and peaceful, and there was a lot of shade from the trees. As a cool breeze blew through the foliage, Annabeth's erratic breaths began to even out and she stopped shaking. The calm of the park was contagious. For a while, we just sat there, breathing. I never realized how seldom we got to just…stop. We were always saving the world, or running the camps, or navigating the mortal world under cover. It felt nice to just be for a minute, not thinking about the looming war or the wizards or any of it.
As we sat in silence, Annabeth relaxed in my arms. After a while, she started talking in this distant, contemplative tone. "It felt the same…back there in that smoke. It reminded me of…"
"I know," I said. "Tartarus. What were you remembering?"
"Do you remember when the Arai attacked us?" she asked. Of course I remembered; it was the closest I had ever come to death, closer than when I shook hands with Thanatos himself. But then again, she knew that. "I was thinking about how similar it was in the smoke to when I was blind and I couldn't find you. I panicked. I didn't know where you were, I couldn't see anything, there was nowhere to go, and I just…I couldn't get it out of my head."
My heart sunk. Of all the time we spent down there, the day with the Arai was arguably the worst. There were other arguments to be made, but I often find that there is no right answer when it comes to pain. You can't rank your pain against the pain of others, and more surprisingly, you can't rank your own pain because you never have a clear perspective of it. But I knew that this caused Annabeth a lot of pain, and I knew that remembering it was painful too. It was comforting to know that she needed me; I wanted to be there for her. That's love.
"Everything is going to be okay now," I said to her quietly. "We're safe, our friends are safe, and we're never going back there. I'm going to take care of you, and you're going to take care of me, and we're going to take care of each other. Sound good?"
"That was redundant, Seaweed Brain," she replied as though she was half-asleep, "but yeah, that sounds nice."
As Annabeth cozied up to my chest, I felt all the hair on my arms stand straight up. A chill went down my spine, like the time I heard that hellhound in the woods during my first game of Capture the Flag but didn't know what it was or where it was. My hands started drifting to the pocket where my sword was hidden. I felt something else there too: Voldemort's wand. I had no idea whether or not it would work for a demigod, but having it there couldn't hurt. At least, I didn't think it could.
I felt Annabeth tense in my arms. Neither of us moved, but we were on high alert. I noticed that all of the pedestrians passing through the park had vanished inexplicably, and it was way too quiet. Annabeth's fingers closed around a dagger in a hidden sheath. I closed my eyes to get a better sense of the water in the area. The ground was still a bit wet from the massive storm that I was partially responsible for, and I felt around for anyone in the puddles. I sensed eight people in positions behind the trees in direct contact with water. I bent close to Annabeth's ear and breathed, "Two behind a tree to your left, four behind us, and two to your right." In case they were watching, I planted a kiss on Annabeth's head and resumed my position. Our standard plan was five seconds, then turn and fight. So I counted five, four, three, two…
One. Annabeth and I jumped up and ran in opposite directions. I pulled out my sword and started deflecting the colored shots of spells coming my direction. Annabeth had climbed a tree and was throwing knives from above. I started slowly working my way forward, my reflexes and instincts working overtime to avoid being hit by Zeus knows what spells. I knew that if I used my powers, I risked exposing the existence of the entire demigod race, so that option was out. I didn't have enough time in between spells to grab the wand in my pocket and pretend like I was using magic. But I was making progress. I was past the tree line when I heard the crackle of sparks. One of the assailants was about to shoot a beam of fire at the tree Annabeth had climbed. I made the split second decision to throw Riptide and intercept the shot, then dove behind a tree as all manner of spells hit it.
Time slowed down. Not the way it had when Kronos showed up on that beach all those years ago, but the way it does when you know something is about to happen that will change your life forever. Annabeth told me that time had slowed for her when she jumped in front of Ethan Nakamura's knife to save me. I peeked around the tree and saw a man about to shoot a spell at Annabeth with deadly aim. Riptide wouldn't reappear for a while, and we were out of options. I shot out from behind the tree and grabbed Voldemort's wand from my pocket. I sprinted across the few meters that separated Annabeth and I, dodging spells and branches. Our lives together flashed before my eyes. I remembered passing out on the Big House steps, Annabeth nursing me back to health, and the first time she told me she was my friend. I remembered the stupid fight we got into about the chariot races, and seeing her dreams. I remembered the sinking feeling I got when I saw her plunge off the side of that cliff with the manticore, and the dance we shared on Olympus. I remembered when she held out her arms to me for support, and the time she kissed me in Mount Saint Helens. I remembered her making bad jokes as she was dying from the poison she had saved me from, and the panic I felt when she collapsed in the throne room. I remembered the look in her eyes when I gave up immortality, and our first underwater kiss. I stood in front of the tree, held up Voldemort's wand, and let those memories fly, demanding that they not be made in vain. I willed that wand to save her.
Bright white light flooded out of the wand's tip and hit the attackers like waves crashing on the shore. It surged and swept across the ground and through the trees, pushing back the dark wizards. Memories continued to fill my mind. I remembered being reunited with Annabeth after months of separation, and how she judo-flipped me in front of the entire Roman army. I remembered sitting in the stables, just talking, able to just exist for a moment or two. I remembered going through hell together, and how much stronger we are now because of it. I thought about the day I proposed, properly that time, not in the middle of a battle. I gave one final push and white light filled the park, forcing the dark wizards to flee. I didn't stop until I saw every single one of them leave.
Eventually, I lowered the wand. I was a little light-headed and propped myself up against the tree. I heard Annabeth jump down from the branches and felt her hand on my arm. "Percy, are you alright?"
I looked at Annabeth. She had an odd look in her eyes, half disbelieving, half dreading. I knew she was already thinking of the implications this would have. Her mind was going a million miles an hour, but I didn't know where it would lead her. I looked myself over and decided that I seemed to be intact. "I'm fine," I said, "but that was really weird."
"Where did you even get a wand?" she asked curiously.
"I took it from Voldemort when I broke out of that house. I forgot I had it, to be honest. But I was about to ask what to do with it when that thing went off downstairs. I guess it's a good thing I grabbed it, huh?" She still looked far away, but answers would have to wait. "We need to get out of here. They could come back, and we can't lead them to the safe house."
"We'll have to lose their trail, that's all," she replied, snapping out of her train of thought and starting to plan. "We should keep walking diagonally, then see if you can call Mrs. O'Leary. We can shadow travel a few places because they won't be able to trace that, and then we can go back to tell the others." Annabeth glanced around. "Let's start…that way." And she took off, knowing I would follow. I shook my head and walked next to her, replacing the wand in my pocket and feeling the comforting presence of Riptide, which had returned.
An hour or so later, we showed up at the front door of Grimmauld Place. I knocked at the door, knowing that stepping inside would again bring great change to our lives. Immediately it swung open, and we were ushered in by Jason and Frank. It appeared they had been waiting by the door. I looked up and saw everyone in the house crowded in the hallway. "Annabeth!" Piper shouted, and ran up to hug her.
"Percy!" Hazel called, and wrapped me in a hug that was more like a death grip. "Where were you two? We thought something happened to you before the smoke cleared. Are you okay?"
"Wait," Lupin said, pushing his way through the crowd. "We need to make sure it's really them. Ask each of them a question, something small they would know."
"Percy, what was my mother's name?" Hazel asked.
"Queen Marie," I said, and Hazel smiled.
"Annabeth, what color do I want to paint the Aphrodite Cabin?" Piper asked.
"A soft yellow, like a sunset," Annabeth said, smirking at the prospect of how that would go over with the cabin's other occupants.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Jason frowned and asked, "Seriously though, where were you guys? We couldn't find you anywhere in the house; we didn't know what to think."
I looked at Annabeth. This was always a tricky thing for us to explain. It didn't happen often that we needed some space because of memories of Tartarus, but when we did, it was sort of awkward. Our friends wanted to help us, but they couldn't, and that bothered them. I gave Jason a pointed look and he raised his eyebrows in understanding. I gave him the quick explanation in Latin that the smoke had triggered some memories and we needed to get out. He nodded, but most of the others looked confused.
I turned back to Annabeth. I didn't know how to breach the subject of what happened after we left, with the dark wizards and the wand. She cleared her throat. "Why doesn't everybody just sit down at the table and we can talk about what happened."
Immediately our friends moved down the hall toward the dining room, and soon the wizards followed. As everyone took their seats, Annabeth and I remained standing at the head of the table. Once everyone was settled, I took a deep breath and started. "We left the house to get away from the smoke. We went to this little park down the road and sat for a while. Then all these dark wizards-"
"Death Eaters?" Harry asked suddenly.
"Yeah, those guys again," I said. "A bunch of Death Eaters ambushed us from the trees."
"How did you get away? You didn't fight them with that sword, did you?" Mr. Weasley asked.
I grimaced. "We were fighting with regular weapons, yeah. It was working for a while. Then…" I stopped talking. What would they say? How would they react?
Annabeth took over. "Show them the wand, Percy." Numbly, I pulled it out of my pocket.
Harry shot up. "That's Voldemort's wand! Where the bloody hell did you get that? Was he there?"
Annabeth cut in, saving me from trying to explain. "Percy took the wand from Voldemort when he escaped from Malfoy Manner. But that's not the point."
"And what is the point?" Ron asked a bit aggressively.
Annabeth then looked to me. This was my story to tell. "I threw my sword to block a spell. I pulled the wand out and…I don't know exactly. It just sort of…worked? The tip started overflowing with this white light stuff and it made the Death Eaters leave."
Hermione got the same look that Annabeth gets when she's trying to figure something out, totally focused and engaged with the task at hand. "Are you suggesting that demigods can use wands? This changes everything."
This was the tricky part, the part we couldn't quite explain. Demigods possessing the ability to use magic would have been the easiest explanation, but that was not the case. "When Annabeth and I were making sure we lost the Death Eaters, Annabeth tried to use the wand, to see if all demigods can channel magic."
"And?" Harry asked.
"And it didn't work," Annabeth finished. "I couldn't use the wand. Which means…"
"Which means that Percy is a wizard," Hermione breathed with an intense look in her eyes.
"Woah," Leo said. "Wait, are we sure? I mean, I don't want to be a jerk or anything, but Annabeth wouldn't be my first choice for testing physical powers and stuff…"
Leo stopped talking when Annabeth glared at him, but I handed him the wand. "Don't set it on fire Leo."
He waved the wand, but nothing happened. He passed it to Jason, who did the same. Again, nothing happened. The wand went down the line of demigods until it got to Hazel. When Hazel grabbed the wand, she immediately dropped it, as though it was scalding hot. A long, red mark showed up on her palm, but it faded quickly to nothing.
"Hazel, are you okay?" Frank asked, and she nodded.
"I felt something, but it wasn't good. This is a different type of magic than mine. Whatever Hecate taught me, it's not the same. This magic…it isn't from the gods. It's almost as though it's – naturally occurring, if that makes sense. The gods give gifts of magic straight from their own divine supply. This magic is more mundane, but not any less powerful. Both types just aren't compatible," Hazel finished, rubbing her hand subconsciously as she continued to think it over.
I picked up the wand again. The tip of it turned blue, like the Empire State Building after the Battle of Manhattan. I felt it vibrating in my hand, almost like it was purring. It was really weird, but not in a bad way. It felt natural, like being in the water.
"So…" I said. "This means…"
"You're a wizard, Percy," Harry said with a slight smirk. He had the same expression Thalia, Grover, and I did when we talked about dams.
I took another deep breath. "Wow. Okay. So…why didn't I know that before?"
Hermione looked thoughtful. "Has anything ever happened that you couldn't explain? Something not even your powers could explain?"
I thought back to when I was little. I had assumed that everything weird that happened had just been because of my unpredictable powers. But there must have been something, some sort of sign…My vision tunneled. I thought back. Back to before I went to camp, before I knew I was a demigod. Back to the day my mom and I left for Montauk. I had seen Grover make a three-fingered claw earlier that day, and on a whim I had done the same toward Gabe. The door shut on him so hard that he went flying up the steps, and I had told my mom to step on it before he had time to react. That had nothing to do with water, or earth, or storms, or horses, or anything that my powers would have caused. That was magic.
Hermione must have seen the recognition in my eyes, because she just nodded affirmatively and continued, "What I don't understand is why you didn't get a letter. Is your mother a witch?"
"I don't think so. I mean, she knew I was a demigod and didn't tell me to protect me, but there was really no reason not to tell me that I was a wizard, right? I mean, I would have been little when Tom was being freaky-death-dark-lord-guy, but after that…wouldn't I have noticed if she was a witch?" I was really confused. I couldn't recall anything that would have tipped me off to my mom being a witch.
"She could be a squib," Lupin said, looking contemplative. "That would explain both her lack of powers and your manifestation of them. Or you could simply be Muggle born, like Hermione. That would mean that somewhere in your mother's family line, someone was a squib, and their connection to magic resurfaced in you."
"Oh, okay, that makes sense," I said, concentrating. But there was just one portion of that explanation I didn't understand. "Lupin?" He looked at me expectantly. "What's a squib?"
For a moment he looked surprised, and then remembered that it had been approximately ninety seconds since I found out I was a wizard and he was treating me as if all of a sudden I had this wealth of knowledge at my fingertips about every aspect of the wizarding world. "Certain wizard scenarios produce certain outcomes. When two wizards have a child, the child is pureblooded, because both of his or her parents are wizards. When a wizard and a Muggle have a child, that child is a half-blooded wizard. When two Muggles have a child and that child is a wizard, the child is Muggle born. Occasionally, when a wizard has a child with another wizard or a Muggle, that child might not receive the magical lineage of his family and will be born without magic. That child is a squib. But there is no guarantee that all children of wizards will be wizards, or that all children of Muggles will be Muggles. Additionally, the concept of being a 'pureblood' is not necessarily as straightforward as having two wizard parents. A line of pureblood families is considered to only be 'pure' if all of the members of that family have only borne children with other pureblooded wizards. This has led to blood status discrimination and other unsavory cultural practices like name-calling and scorn."
"Oh," I said, remembering all the times I had been teased in school, and finding it unfortunate that wizarding school would be no different. "So I'm a half-blood? Twice? That's punny."
"It's not punny, Seaweed Brain, it's ironic. There's a difference," Annabeth corrected, a little uncomfortable with the whole situation.
"So what do we do now?" I asked, looking around as if someone would have the answer written on their forehead.
"We adjust," Lupin said, standing up to pace around the room. "The teams of demigods will have to be altered to exclude Percy. We'll reorganize, make new plans, and take a slightly different course of action going forward." He turned to me. "This is not a setback. Percy, you are a valuable asset to our pursuit of defeating the Dark Lord. With you, our chances are greatly improved. That is, if you choose to fight with us."
"What do you mean if he chooses to fight with us? Why wouldn't he?" Ron asked, aggravated.
Lupin gave Ron a hard look, one that reminded me that he had seen what war can do to the ones we love. "Joining a battle should always be a choice, Ron. We can't force him to defend people he only just found out existed, that's absurd. Forcing him to fight would make us more like the one we are fighting, and we must keep our practices as far from those of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named as possible."
"What exactly would change, now that I'm a wizard?" I asked, a bit nervous about the answer.
"We would send you to Hogwarts, to learn what it means to be a part of the magical community," Lupin said. "You would keep an eye out for Harry and the others, and you would receive a magical education. You would learn to perform spells and to make potions, among other things. Being a wizard is your birthright, and since you were deprived of that heritage for seventeen years, it seems only right to grant it to you now."
I swallowed hard. "And Annabeth?"
Lupin grimaced. "To attend Hogwarts as a student, one has to be a wizard. Unfortunately, that is non-negotiable." He paused. "I'm sorry, Percy."
I didn't want to spend any more time away from Annabeth than I had to, but this was important. I couldn't leave these wizards when I was one of them. They needed my help, and if I ever wanted a place in their world, this was the time to defend it. Just the same, I needed to talk it over with Annabeth first.
"Can I have a moment, Lupin?" I asked. He nodded, and I took Annabeth's hand. We walked into the adjacent room, where I had almost died on the couch. We sat down next to each other. For a while we didn't say anything, we just sat there, thinking. I turned to Annabeth. "Annabeth," I started, but she cut me off.
"You want to go."
It wasn't a question, it was a statement, and one that she knew was true. The situation definitely wasn't ideal, but we would make it work. "I have to, Wise Girl."
"No you don't," she said quickly. "Lupin was right, Percy, it is a choice. It may not ever have been a choice for us before, but this time is different. We could go home. We could be together. We could stay with your mom for a while. We could go to college in New Rome. And even if we stay here, we could still be together." She turned to face me. "You don't have to go off and fight with the wizards, just stay with us and be a demigod, do what we're going to do. You'll still be helping them, but you won't have to have direct confrontation with other wizards. You don't know any spells, but you can use a sword better than anyone; you should play to your strengths."
"Harry would be a lot safer if I was there to protect him, and from the way things sound, we're going to need him to stop the Dark Lord. If we lose Harry, we might lose the war and then all of it will have been for nothing. I can't risk anyone dying because I made a selfish choice."
"It's not selfish, it's rational. You don't always have to sacrifice your happiness and well-being to be helpful! You can still contribute beneath the surface, I just don't want to see you in the line of fire alone."
"We both know I'll end up there anyway. Voldemort has had a price on my head ever since I broke out of that house, he'll come after me no matter what. If I can learn some spells to prepare for when that time comes, it might be a good thing. I'll IM you every day, twice a day, four times a day, eight, sixteen, whatever you want. But I have to do this. I can't leave them, abandon them to fight this war with me on the sidelines. I can't, Wise Girl, I can't–"
And she kissed me, long and hard. Both of us knew that a decision had been made. When we broke apart, she looked at me with understanding in her eyes, and said with a sad grin, "Loyalty. That always was your downfall, why would it be any different now? You're too loyal, Percy. I knew that when I agreed to marry you. Now I have to stand by your decision. I love you, Seaweed Brain. Just don't do anything stupid without asking me first."
I smirked. "Can I have a kiss for good luck? It's tradition, after all."
Annabeth hit my shoulder and grinned. "Come back alive, Seaweed Brain. Then we'll see."