So... it's August. And I didn't get this one out in time for July... But July was so hectic! My beloved holidays ended, and I developed an odd love to football (watching, not playing. I can't play to save my life. Literally - if someone pointed a gun at me and told me to shoot, I'd die on the spot.) Then there was a game called Diplomacy which I urge you to check out because it's surprisingly good (if you're a fan of logic, otherwise you'll have a 'WTF?' face on.) Then there was school, and school, and school, and school... wait, did I mention school?

Disclaimer: We're twenty-four chapters in, guys. If you still think I'm RR or JKR, I'm honored.

Chapter Twenty-Four


Waking up in the middle of the night to be dragged to the Headmaster's office was not my idea of 'good night'.

Because in general, people being dragged off to see old-man-with-too-twinkly-eyes in the middle of the night – or was it morning? All I knew was that normal people did not wake up at this time of day-night-whatever. This was not good. Being dragged off after a particularly nasty dream did not help matters.

And if said people were demigods on caffeine… well, as Hazel might put it, schist was about to hit the fan.

McGonagall – who I had dubbed 'Fierce Cat Woman' ages ago – led us up to a statue of a pretty ugly dude before telling it to 'Liquorice Wand'. Whatever that was meant to mean. The statue leapt aside – I really wished I could discover how the damn thing worked, it was like the Athena Parthenos, no parts and all magic and that was just uncomfortable – and we stepped into a moving staircase. Again, all magic and no parts.

When we entered Great-Beard's office – full of machines that really made me wish there was a way to take magic apart – there was a pretty odd reception waiting for us. As in, Potter was sitting in a chair talking fervently to Great-Beard. Well, if that wasn't odd, I was a harpy.

We filed in, completely exhausted because demigod dreams were always exhausting. I glanced at some of the portraits as we dragged our feet past the doorframe. They were sleeping – that had to be the creepiest part of Hogwarts, moving pictures – and dear gods, was one of them picking their nose? Gross.

Harry gave us a startled look as we trudged in, probably looking like a bunch of dishevelled criminals. He'd better get used to it – demigods weren't tidy by a long, long shot. Well, unless you were Beauty Queen, but I digress.

Anyway, we sat down, at which point Percy promptly dozed off with Annabeth on his shoulder. Malcolm poked Annabeth in the shoulder. She swatted at him.

Result: Malcolm backed off. Smart guy. Annabeth really could punch even in sleep.

Harry finished his urgent conversation with Great-Beard, and Fierce Cat Woman just sighed. We sat there a little awkwardly, but we were too tired to really notice. Well, duh. It was the middle of the freaking night, and even caffeine couldn't power ADHD up. Yet.

There was about a ninety-nine percent chance that we would be fiddling ten minutes later.

Great-Beard rambled about something being dangerous and all that, and I successfully stifled a yawn. Then I started paying notice as he spoke to one of the portraits. Yeah. Half his words I didn't catch, but the gist was something like 'A guy got bitten, go alert the hospital and send some dude to find him.' How enchanting.

Great-Beard talked to another portrait – basically with the same message – then said something to Potter. By this time, I was starting to feel awake – or rather, feeling the wonderful power of pins and needles. Half of my arm was numb. The other half felt like it had tiny spiders performing the tango on it.

It wasn't too pleasant. But the office was warm enough, and I had been in the same position for over ten minutes – which just did not happen for ADHD demigods. So it was probably natural that I'd started slightly drifting off before waking again, and the lovely dead feeling was also probably natural.

Natural sucks. Note to self: buy only artificial from now on. Except food. There wasn't really any artificial food. Well, maybe there was in some remote part of the Arctic or somewhere, but that was irrelevant.

Okay, now I was awake. Nothing like having random thoughts about artificial Arctic food to know that your ADHD has completely and utterly kicked in. Apparently this was the ADHD-minute, because I noticed everybody else start shifting as well. Frank muttered something in Latin – probably not complimentary, judging by the tone – as he shifted his arm. Yup, everybody was getting the beloved pins and needles. Gotta love pins and needles. Not.

Finally, Great-Beard finished talking to the portraits – gods, if this was in the mortal world, he would be in the mental asylum now – but so would we for rambling about ancient gods and killer earth. Ugh, Old Potty Face sucked. But hey, she's asleep now… which is more than what I can say for myself. I wondered if Dirt Queen had ever tried to be a demigod for a day. Probably not. An ancient earth goddess becoming a hyperactive sixteen-year-old? Nah, she'd go crazy.

Well, Gaea was crazy anyways, but the gist is there. Whatever. Great-Beard turned back to Harry and said something else, about something that was 'seriously black'. I really hoped he wasn't trying to be insulting. Or racist. Did wizards have that problem? Ugh, where were my thoughts going…

After they talked about the 'seriously black' problem, Great-Beard sent Harry and Fierce Cat Woman off for some reason or the other. I wasn't listening, okay? The tinkly machines were nearly driving me mad, and I really, really wanted to take them apart to figure out how it worked.

I'd also wanted to do that to the Athena Parthenos too, but, uh, yeah… That didn't turn out too well. Just thinking about it made my head go 'Oh, yeah! Phantom pains! They sucked!' and that was something I was trying to avoid.

"As you just heard," wait, we were meant to be listening? Oops. Oh well. I forced myself to snap out of my new daze and look at Dumbledore. "blah blah blah blah."

Well, he probably didn't say that, but I missed it… yeah. Focus, Mr The Flaming Awesome Leo!

"…so you will all be staying in Grimmauld Place for the holidays, if you all have no objections?"

The words barely registered in my brain – of course, asking for objections at weird-time-o'clock was always going to get no answer. I stared blankly at him.

He apparently took our silence for a 'no', and stood up. "That's wonderful. We'll make arrangements for you to go to Grimmauld Place now – ah, Mr Potter, Mr Weasley, Ms Granger. Mr Weasley and Weasley."

I half-turned my head to see the aforementioned people come in, shepherded by McGonagall – who promptly left half an instant later. "As you may have heard," what was it with him and that phrase? "Mr Weasley" too many Weasleys "has been injured. He should currently be at St Mungos, and I do believe you should leave Hogwarts for the Order for this Christmas. The Floo Network in this office is untracked, if you leave your belongings – we can get them later – yes, Mr Weasley, thank you," Ron had taken down a… snuffbox? Brits were weird. Well, that would be true if wizards could be counted as British, because I was pretty sure even the English didn't use snuffboxes any more. Maybe wizard was the secret term for 'Middle-Ages person with powers?'

He took something out of the snuffbox and threw it into the fire. It promptly turned green. Well, I wasn't expecting that.

Then he stepped into the green fire, with a shout of, '12 Grimmauld Place!'

That was unexpected. What was even more unexpected was his disappearance. Considering that the wizards were behaving normally, I decided that he hadn't been burnt into a crisp yet.

There were plenty of us who looked a bit more freaked out – well, they didn't have the powers I, The Flaming Valdez, had. Too bad. The other two Weasleys, Potter, and Granger stepped through the flames as well, the flames swirling luminous green with their departure.

Dumbledore turned to us, holding out the snuffbox and a piece of parchment. "Floo Powder is quite simple, all you have to do is throw a pinch into the fire and say 12 Grimmauld Place clearly. Any takers?" He handed the parchment to Lou, who read it, shrugged and passed it on.

All the parchment said was 'The Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix is at 12 Grimmauld Place.' After all that, I was expecting the parchment to reveal the secret cure for cancer, not something so mundane.

Well, I suppose Apollo could be the cure for cancer, but he didn't really count. Oh, gods, that was a horrible image. Get healed by the hot sun god! Only one drachma! All mortal diseases and (most) mythological or magical diseases cured! Dial 1304-20-OLYMPUS to book your session today! No. Just. No.

I was officially scarred for life. It wasn't the giants, or Queen Dirt Face, or an old man with far-too-bright robes. No, it was the image of Apollo advertising. That seemed rather ironic.

Lou took a pinch of the powder and threw it into the fire. "12 Grimmauld Place," she said clearly. Green flashed, and the fire swirled down into a calm dancing amber, with no Lou in sight.

Everyone automatically turned to me. Thanks a lot. Of course, I was the one with awesome fire powers, so that might be excusable. At least I wouldn't become Extra-Crispy-Leo. That was always good.

The magical fire barely tickled – nothing like Greek fire – as I stepped in. "12 Grimmauld Place."


Floo Powder travel is horrible. Probably worse than what Jason described wind-travel as, and definitely way worse than shadow travel. I was spun around so many times I barely knew which way was up, and the thousand flashes of different homes didn't help.

By the time I was spat out of the system, my brain was trying to process a thousand different traumatic images, including one of some bald old guy putting on his pants. Seriously, who does that in front of a fireplace? And did he really have to have tomato-print pants? Maybe Apollo wasn't so scarring as I'd thought.

Of course, there was also the lady replacing a fake eyeball, the girl singing into a hairbrush as house elves scampered around with their ears flat against their heads, another old man cramming food into his toothless mouth, and – urgh. No more.

After the dizzying sensations stopped – note to self, travel with eyes closed next time – I found myself being pulled up from a dusty carpet. A dusty green carpet. Lots of dust. Lost of duts. Lots of dust. Lost of duts. What?

Lou snapped her fingers, and a loud pop sounded in my ears. "Huh? What? Where's the monster?" I asked, snapping out of my mentally-traumatising-dusty-floor thoughts.

She just rolled her eyes in return, dragging me sideways. I was confused until Percy tumbled out of the fireplace into the exact spot I had been occupying a few seconds ago.

"That sucked…" he moaned. "My poor, poor eyes… my poor, poor eyes… my poor, poor eyes. The tomatoes, they burn. The tomatoes. Gods help me, the tomatoes…"

By his incoherent rambling, I guessed he had seen the man with the tomato-print pants as well. Maybe they wouldn't have been so bad if the colours were right, but – seriously. Bright neon green pants. Bright ruby red tomato prints. Definitely a recipe for absolute disaster.

Bright green fabric and red prints! Get yours today! A guaranteed fashion disaster, will put countless opponents off by the horrific sights! Neon green + red – the guaranteed disaster that will kill countless people and leave thousands more scarred for life!

What was it with me and weird ads today? Annabeth followed after, as did Frank, Hazel, Jason and Piper. All of them had their eyes screwed shut… which definitely meant that I wasn't the only person to be forever scarred by fire travel. Thank gods. That would have been rather embarrassing.

After we had all tumbled through – I noticed that Katie, who had been after us, hadn't closed her eyes. Damn, she was lucky. The man must have moved out of range.

Katie probably had no idea how close she'd come to being permanently scarred. Or maybe not. Did Demeter kids like tomatoes? Tomato-printed clothing? Me and the Demeter cabin didn't really have the greatest of acquaintances… it wasn't really my fault half the strawberry fields burned down and Percy had to dump half the lake on it. It really wasn't! It was the squirrel!


Anyway, after we had all tumbled through the flames, we ended up trooping through the odd house. It was definitely creepy – although nothing like mythological-monster-hiding-in-the-shadows-waiting-to-kill-you creepy, just dark-old-house creepy. The heads of house elves mounted near the stairs didn't help its case. Or the locked rooms. Or the one room that was so dusty it looked like it hadn't been cleaned since the Fourth Age.

We finally ended up in the kitchen, where the five of them were talking with another man. Shrugging, we entered the room and plopped ourselves down on the armchairs. Normally we would have been fine with the floor – foldable beds were definitely available on quests, absolutely – but this floor was so dusty I was worried I'd get asthma from it. And I don't even have asthma.

Whatever they had been talking about quickly stopped when we came in. That was the signal for an awkward silence to begin, them staying silent and us doing random jiggly stuff to calm our ADHD.

Thankfully it was broken by a flash of fire, when a single note flew down. That was probably the phoenix in Dumbledore's office. Phoenixes were pretty cool. Firebirds and all that. And to top it off, they didn't think demigods were food.

Anything that didn't consider us as food or enemies was good in my book. Hades, anything that didn't hate demigods as a whole were good. I supposed that made old Tía Callida bad, but maybe Hera had started to change her mind a little about demigods. Well, there was Jason, and then the seven of us who kicked giant ass (quite literally in Frank's case – don't ask), and – yeah.

I would have just gone with 'Gods good, monsters bad, Titans bad, giants very bad', except of course Gaia was a goddess – sure, a Primordial but still a goddess – and the day Gaia stood for 'good' was the day Olympus and the Underworld decided to relocate.

Totally going to happen in the next few millennia. On the bright side, I would be dead by then, so not my problem. There was reincarnation, of course, but I was going to happily stay in Elysium. If I ended up reborn as a clueless demigod again, I'd probably jump off a cliff.

Well, no, I wouldn't, because I wouldn't be me, no I would be me but not me me, but… this wasn't making any sense. Damn internal mumblings to Hades.

Whatever the note said, the now-six of them all relaxed. "He's alive," muttered Hermione. By that, I took to mean the elder Weasley.

Once they'd relaxed, the silence stopped being so awkward. Sure, it was still cautious and hesitant and all that, but it wasn't that awkward. The Weasley twins started chatting about something with the Stolls, which of course put everyone on Red Alert.

I wasn't really sure how it ended with all of us passed out and drunk – even Harry, Ron and Hermione, all underage – but I was pretty sure spiking was involved.

And the Weasley twins. And the Stolls.

Note to self: get them back.

Well done to everyone who guessed it! And since it's near Christmas (in the book, not IRL - which is a real shame) they will also be spending Christmas, complete with Order members and house-cleaning, at Grimmauld Place.

Ah, Leo, you really shouldn't drink that much Firewhiskey... but of course Sirius isn't serious enough to ban someone from drinking unless it would cause instant death.