Um... I'm not dead. So... yeah. Anyways, now that there are virtually no distractions, I will update again. Hooray? *backs away slowly* ENJOY THE STORY! *disapparates*

Chapter 9

The Yule Ball

Percy sighed as he looked around for Annabeth. The first thing he had done when the Yule Ball had announced was look for Annabeth. And he couldn't find her?

How come she could always find him, but he could never find her unless he wasn't looking for her?

He growled to himself as he rounded yet another corner. He had checked the grounds, asked if she was in the Ravenclaw common room, checked to see if she was in the Gryffindor common room, and then paced various halls angrily to try and think of other places Annabeth might be.

Until he remembered that Hogwarts had a library. A very big library that Annabeth was almost certainly in.

So now he was inventing new curse words as he tried to remember where the library was without asking.

Suddenly he passed a secret passageway, and an amused voice emerged from it. "The library is down the hall, turn right on first opportunity, turn left at third opportunity, turn left to library."

Percy crossed his arms and turned to Thalia defiantly. "I knew that!"

Thalia smirked infuriatingly. "Sure you did, Kelp Head. Sure you did."

Percy nearly pouted, then thought better of it when he realized that Thalia would tease him relentlessly if he did so. "So who are you going with, Pinecone Face? All the Champions have to go with a partner."

Thalia scoffed. "As if I'd tell you. You'll just have to wait and see, Barnacle Breath."

"Thunder pants."

"Sea snail."






Thalia rolled her eyes. "Seaweed brain."

"Hey, that's Annabeth's name for me. Call me something else if Percy is too hard for you to say."

Following this general path of conversation, Percy had been thoroughly distracted from his original goal to find Annabeth, and both Percy and Thalia jumped when Annabeth broke in to their name calling session.

"Nico told me you were looking for me, Seaweed Brain. Apparently he was wrong."

Percy smiled sheepishly. "Sorry, Annabeth, I got distracted."

"You have the attention span of a minnow."

"Why a minnow?"

"See what I mean? Now, why were you looking for me?"

"Oh, yeah!" Percy remembered. "I wanted to ask you to go to the Yule Ball with me."

Annabeth rolled her eyes with a half smile. "You went looking for me to ask me that? Do you even need to ask?"

"What would you have said if I hadn't?"

Annabeth smirked. "Hades if you do, Hades if you don't is my specialty, Seaweed Brain."

Percy groaned.

"So, we've worked out that it involves mermaids and therefore involved the lake," Nico summed up their quarter hour discussion. Then he scowled. "That doesn't really tell us much."

Percy shrugged, then frowned. "Didn't someone say something about there being a giant squid?"

Thalia nodded. "Think you can talk to it?" she asked, catching on.

Percy nodded slowly. "I think so. I can talk to pretty much any water creature. But what are the odds it'll know about the task?"

Nico shrugged. "Couldn't hurt to ask either way."

"True," Percy and Thalia said together.

Less than fifteen minutes later, they were outside and at the edge of the lake, with Percy crouched beside it, talking very one-sidedly – at least to the two non-Sea-God-children present.

From Percy's point of view, however, the conversation went something like this.

Hi, giant squid.

Um… hi, my lord.

Don't call me your lord. That's my dad.

OK, boss.

No, I- ugh! Fine. Anyway, has anything weird happened in the lake recently?

Yes, my lord. The man-with-tail-on-face came and struck a deal with the merpeople.

Dumbledore? Do you know what the deal was?

Yes, my lord. The merpeople would allow five humans to be present in their village for a day and the man-with-tail-on-face would allow them more room in the lake.

They have limited space?

Yes, my lord. But it is not the fault of man-with-tail-on-face. The fudge-man-with-no-brains does not let him give the merpeople much space.

Percy scowled. Well, at least it wasn't Dumbledore's fault. He also decided not to mention the giant squid's name for Dumbledore to anyone. For now.

Can you tell me where the merpeople's village is?

It is in the very center of the lake at the bottom, my lord.

Thank you.

Percy turned away from the squid with a grin and looked at the other two Big Three children.

"I know what to do now."

Percy squirmed uncomfortably outside the Ravenclaw common room, waiting for Annabeth. If he thought suits were uncomfortable, they were bliss compared to this abomination known as dress robes. But all thoughts of discomfort vanished as soon as he saw Annabeth.

She looked beautiful. No, not beautiful. Goddesslike. He would never tell Aphrodite this (lest he be blasted into oblivion) but in that moment Annabeth was twice as breathtaking as the Goddess of Love and more.

She wore her hair up in an elaborate bun. Her robes, a silver-gray color, were just a bit smaller than normal, showing off her curves just enough to make Percy want to kiss her then and there. Her hair was currently in a neat bun, which in turn had a hairstick with a silver owl on top, and she still had her customary owl earrings in, although they were now accompanied by a necklace with a silver dolphin. Rather than looking silly among all the owls, the dolphin seemed to fit in perfectly – though that was the last thing on Percy's mind as he tried to remember how to breath.

"Wow, Annabeth," he breathed. "You… you look amazing."

Annabeth smirked. "Thanks. You don't clean up too bad yourself, Seaweed Brain."

He smiled a little. "Thanks, Wise Girl."

They chatted amiably as they walked to the Entrance Hall. Not long after they arrived, McGonagall called, "Champions over here, please!"

They waited (by the instructions of the good Professor) outside the doors of the hall while everyone else went in. Percy could see Thalia in electric blue robes with Nico, in a black that surpassed even the darkest of nights, and this somehow barely surprised Percy at all. They were a nice fit. Fleur was with a boy called Roger Davies, along with Cedric and Cho, Krum and Hermione, and Harry and Parvati. Hermione waved to Harry, who looked stunned by the girl's appearance. Percy could relate; he never expected to see Thalia in something that so resembled a dress.

When the doors opened, they all walked in somewhat nervously, before they sat at the table. Ron was sulking, and Karkaroff didn't seem to be far from doing the same, but almost everyone else looked happy. A small menu sat in front of each plate, which didn't have food on them. Percy looked at Annabeth to see if she knew what they were supposed to do, but she seemed as confused as he was. Then Dumbledore (even now, days later, Percy had to suppress a snicker at the memory of the giant squid's name for him) looked carefully at his menu, then said clearly to his plate, "Pork chops." With a pop, said food appeared on his plate.

'There shall be pork chops' said the headmaster, Percy thought with amusement. And so there were pork chops.

The others took the cue to start doing the same, so Percy did as well, and soon his attention was on two things: his food, and Annabeth.

He tried to listen as she chattered on and on about how magic changed the rules for architecture, but he failed as his eyes glazed over and he started to half tune in to other conversations as well.

Then the music started playing and all the champions stood and hurried to the dance floor. Before long the champions were all dancing, and not long after that they were all dancing.

Well, almost all. Though Percy was barely paying attention to his surroundings, too preoccupied with Annabeth, he did notice that Ron Weasley was sulking rather than dancing with his rather irritated-looking partner. Even the teachers all danced at one time or another; Hagrid looked to be thoroughly enjoying himself, though he also looked drunk enough to make Mr. D proud. Dumbledore danced (very comically) with Madam Maxime, looking much like if a human tried to dance with a giant. Mad-eye Moody was dancing with Professor Sinistra, and McGonagall and Snape danced too (although Percy much suspected that it was not of his own free will, as he looked very sour about it. McGonagall looked less than pleased too, though).

Percy noticed Harry sit down with the still sulking Ron after just the first dance, and shrugged to himself. Harry must not value his friendship with Parvati; even if they were just going as friends, he doubted the girl appreciated not being able to dance at the ball.

Percy and Annabeth danced to the odd songs (wizards were so weird) all night long, chatting away, with Percy being confused about what Annabeth was saying every five seconds. But they wouldn't have it any other way. They argued at least five times over the course of the night (as did Thalia and Nico), but nothing serious happened and they didn't ever stop dancing for more than a song or two.

It was a wonderful night.

*apparates* OK. That's two cups of humor and three cups of Yule Ball, along with a side serving of solving the egg. Hope you liked it. Reviews make me happy! I'll try to update a Hades of a lot sooner next time, I just hate the Yule Ball... so... much... and for a while my muse played possum, to the point that I was convinced it was dead. Anyways... Bye! Flames will be smothered by Nico's walls of rock! Maybe he'll find some schist to smother them with!