Yeah... pretty late in September, guys. Let's just leave it at school sucks. I'm on holidays, but they have us pegged for a science exam in the first week back, and on everything we've learned in the past two years too! I can't even remember what I did last term. We've then got a maths test in the third week, and a history assignment on Gough Whitlam (The only Australian Prime Minister who was sacked) and according to just about everything his only failure was that he got sacked. Which I highly doubt.

Thank you to everyone for reviewing/favoriting/following the story even though I feel like a zombie, my brain has been destroyed trawling through Google search. To the Guest who pointed out that Hermione shouldn't have been with them... yeah, I noticed that a few days after posting. My bad. Don't worry, Hermione now explains it all in this chapter...

Again, you guys are awesome. Here, have a cookie. (::) You can only see one because you're only supposed to eat one... but it's okay, your teeth won't rot much. *whispers* here have some more (::) (::) (::) (::) (::)

Disclaimer: Ooh, the Blood of Olympus is coming out soon! Of course I wrote that! Duh! And I also take sadistic pleasure in leaving readers at cliffhangers... (the dedication in HoH comes to mind...) Yes, of course I'm RR. Absolutely. (I wish)


Chapter Twenty-Five

Hermione

After our Firewhiskey drinking scandal – dear Merlin did I wish Mrs Weasley hadn't been around to see the results – the holidays seemed fairly mild. I had to send a letter to my parents explaining why I couldn't go on their ski trip, which was a shame, and we did all miss out on a bit of school. Ron was quite cheery about that and he tried to persuade me too. I eventually conceded after checking our timetable to realise that we wouldn't have learned all that much in that last week anyways.

I was glad when the holidays had finally properly begun. It meant that Ginny – who Mrs Weasley had insisted attend the last week of school – could get back, and it was nice to have another female to talk to. The demigods were, well, still a bit imposing despite all the occasionally stupid things they did.

Of course, once the holidays had begun, we also starting cleaning the house again. There was a bit of cleaning done in the summer, yes, but the house still required a lot of work. Either that, or Doxies had re-infested the drawing room. Both seemed quite likely in a place like Sirius' home.

The results, however, allowed me to learn quite a bit more about the demigods. When we found an ornate golden locket, Nico promptly vanished into the shadows with the locket in tow. His sister, Hazel, did the same. The Stolls seemed to take perverse pleasure battling cursed curtains, slicing them into trillions of scraps with the demigods' bronze weaponry. Clarisse, on the other hand, had a particular fondness for dismembering Doxies, who wailed loudly as they dissolved into dust. Apparently Doxies were, as Malcolm put it, 'Wizarding Monsters' – as in, mutants. But whether or not they were mutants didn't matter, he'd then added. As long as they dissolved upon contact with Celestial bronze, they were fully-fledged monsters.

I learned that Annabeth was interested in architecture after seeing her sketch out miniature scaled versions of the bedrooms, that Percy and Jason had a bromance thing going on, and that Leo enjoyed burning down gardens… or rather, weeds. The garden itself stayed fine, only the weeds were burned down. He seemed to have a tentative fear of Katie, who was literally the definition of green thumb.

The two children of Athena were also afraid of spiders – Malcolm more so than Annabeth. With Annabeth, she would fling the heaviest thing nearby – usually an old dusty dictionary from the Black libraries – at the spider before giving a creepy smile of satisfaction when it lay squashed into a spot on the floor. Malcolm simply ran pell-mell as soon as he saw one, and wouldn't stop until he was well away in a clean, spiderless place.

The other demigods all had their own quirks, but the oddest demigod was definitely still Nico. It probably wasn't fair for me to judge, but unlike the others, Nico was the hardest to definitely pin down. He didn't seem particularly interested in the same things the others did, he didn't appear to have the unique quirks associated with the other demigods, and as far as I was aware, he brooded a lot. I didn't know if he was normally like this or if I was just unlucky, but to me Nico seemed like the anti-social person of their boisterous late-teens-to-early-twenties group.

I was trying my hardest not to judge, but it was difficult to not create impressions of the demigods, being around them so often. And Nico was the hardest to gauge – as well as reclusive – making it ridiculously difficult to decide whether he was an antisocial brooder or something else entirely.

The only quirk I could pick up for him was his interest in the ornate locket. After nearly every dinner he would take it out and spin it between his fingers, frowning as if staring at it would unlock the mysteries of the universe.

For all I knew about the demigods, maybe it did.

~OoOoOoO~

The first end to the 'mild' period of the holidays came on Christmas Day. Just as I was about to go downstairs for breakfast – having decided to unwrap my gifts until breakfast was over for some extra suspense – a bucket of neon paint upended itself directly onto me.

I admit I screamed. Very loudly. I probably looked ridiculous, with still-bushy hair dripping with neon green, but the scream had dragged nearly everyone out of their rooms.

Where the exact same things happened to them. I watched in a horrified slow-motion as buckets of pink, yellow, red and blue paint poured down on their heads, pooling around their feet.

There was a second of shocked silence before Harry slowly raised a hand to pat his hair. The sound of paint dripping into the floor was the only noise present.

Then we all bolted back into our rooms. I sprinted into the bathroom at top speed, heading straight for the shower. The pipes gave a deafening groan as I wrestled with the knob. Apparently even magical pipes couldn't cope the pressure of sending copious amounts of water to dozens of different people at the same time.

It was only after I got out that I realised that I could have just used an Evanesco, or even a Tergeo. Oops.

After I got dressed, I cautiously poked my head out again. No paint. I glanced upwards. No paint.

It had to be either the Weasley twins, or the two Stolls. There was nobody else in the house that would pull off this kind of stunt. Then again, there was a former Marauder in the house – Sirius could have pulled this off just as easily. Of course, that was assuming Sirius would dump neon pink paint on himself, since he was one of those that got the Umbridge colour. Unlikely. So either the Weasleys or the Stolls.

I slowly made my way to the kitchen, where Mrs Weasley had already set out the table. "Are you alright, Hermione?" she asked. "I heard screaming, but when I went out to check there was nothing there."

"Er, yeah. It was just a prank. Paint buckets."

Mrs Weasley frowned. "I'll have a word with Fred and George, dear. Eat up, you're the first here and the early Fwooper gets the Flobberworm."

"Actually, I don't even know if it was Fred and George," I told her as I sat down. "It could have been the Stolls – you know, the demigod children of Hermes."

"What was that about a demigod child of Hermes?" Percy walked in, followed by Annabeth. "Oh, wow, this food is great. Not as great as my mom's, of course, but still pretty darn good."

"Percy, mind your manners," chided Annabeth. "And don't talk with your mouth full. But yeah, your mom's cooking is great. Anyway, what was that about a child of Hermes?"

"We got paint bucketed this morning," Ron grumbled as he walked in, snagging a pancake as he went. "Either the twins or the Stolls did it. Mmm, this pancake's good."

"Ronald, don't talk with your mouth full." I noticed Annabeth's mouth twitch before she sat down, spreading honey on her toast. Percy was still busy with the cereal.

"Probably the Stolls. They always make the first move. Well, most of the time, but if this turns into prank war then yeah, probably the Stolls."

We were interrupted by severe grumbling before Will came into the room, hair a vivid shade of Slytherin green. "Don't you dare laugh," he grumbled as he went to get breakfast. "Damn the Stolls. Remind me to put a curse on them later, won't you?"

"If you say so," replied Annabeth.

The rest of the house eventually filed in, with a particularly disgruntled Sirius who had apparently been unable to style his hair. We had a good laugh at the sight of his expression – it was alarmingly similar to that of a kicked puppy when the Stolls claimed credit.

I wasn't really sure it was a good idea, though, because from the looks on the twins' faces, prank war had just been declared.

Merlin help us.

~OoOoOoO~

Sure enough, the house dissolved into a state of war within the week. It stopped when the Order held their meetings, but otherwise – well, everywhere was fair game. Once a live toad had popped out of Fred's pudding. In retaliation the Stolls found themselves with ridiculously spiked hair after George used a Switching Spell to replace their shampoo with toothpaste.

We were fair game as well if we happened to be within range – Ron found himself looking like a replica of Crabbe one day – and Harry suddenly had a shade of blonde hair that clashed horribly with his green eyes. The walls of the house turned vivid shades of neon, Mrs Black screamed herself hoarse, and Moody's 'Constant Vigilance' became everyone's favourite phrase as we all attempted to not find ourselves at the mercy of a well-planted prank.

The only time the somewhat-cheery atmosphere of the house dimmed was when we went to visit Mr Weasley. On that day, all the pranks stopped. Harry and I stayed outside while the Weasleys went into his ward, but when Fred, George and Ron were shooed out, we wasted no time getting Extendable Ears and using them to listen to the adults.

"…after a weapon." That was Mr Weasley. "Kept where I was patrolling."

"What sort of weapon, though?" Moody. "They wouldn't keep it in the ministry, those snot-nosed brats don't have the experience or guts to do it."

"I'm not sure, but I think it was stolen," Mr Weasley answered. "The snake retreated after it bit me. I would have expected it to keep moving onwards."

"Well, whatever this weapon might be, we should concentrate now on keeping Harry secure…"

We all dropped the Extendable Ears in shock.

~OoOoOoO~

After that, the atmosphere between us turned a little awkward. Harry continuously avoided us, apparently under the belief that he was 'dangerous'. Which was the biggest lie I'd heard all year, including the Prophet junk, and we – Ron, Ginny and I – dragged him for a long, furious yell-out after which the atmosphere relaxed considerably. Although the pranks still kept coming.

The only other thing of interest after that was Katie Gardner somehow obtaining a new plant. It was definitely familiar looking – an identical version of the one the guy next to Mr Weasley had obtained for Christmas. Maybe it was the one the guy had received for Christmas, though I couldn't figure out why exactly Katie would steal a plant from anyone. The plant was definitely magical, although whether or not it was dangerous was beyond me for now.

January turned into a wet-and-wild month – quite literally. Rain constantly pelted London, which was apparently delightful to both Jason and Percy. They took it all out on the poor back garden, which came out with a whole host of new scorch marks. Maybe it was me, but thunderstorms seemed to gravitate to us. Thunder, lightning and rain became our daily wake up call.

Well, that and a bucket of icy cold water, courtesy of Moody. The only person the water didn't wake up was Percy, who dried instantly before the water could even make him vaguely cold. With spells bouncing off due to the demigods' natural ability, Moody was left to just glare at him as he told us to run laps around the back yard. Apparently the Order had decided that, even if we weren't old enough to fight, we could learn to not die.

A useful lesson in my opinion. Still, it was a little galling to see just how out of shape I was. While the demigods did their twelfth lap, I was gasping for breath near the wall, rain soaking me to the bone. Oh, yeah. The rain did not let up one bit. And Moody's barks of 'Constant Vigilance' made my head spin.

Afterwards, we were told to dodge the first-year spells Moody would throw. He wasted no time in informing us that in a real battle, these would be Avada Kedavras. Considering that I was hit by a Leg-Locker several times, I was quite glad that this wasn't a real battle.

Percy turned up at around one o'clock, munching on one of Mrs Weasley's cookies. Moody hadn't even glanced his way before sending an Incarcerous. Percy hadn't so much as blinked either when his sword appeared in his hand and he slashed it into dust.

Well.

We were given a break at two, at which point I promptly seized the nearest plate of food and scarfed it down in two seconds flat. On the other hand, Ron and Harry were doing the same, which made me feel a bit less guilty.

I couldn't believe that I hadn't actually thought of this for our fledgling DADA group. Even the strongest spell in the world would make no difference if it didn't hit. Why weren't we ever taught about dodging manoeuvres in any class? Surely it was a lot more reliable than Shield Charms.

Afterwards we got a chance to actually be on the firing side instead of the run-like-rabbits side. Harry picked up on the curses and hexes first, which was pretty unsurprising considering that he'd probably need them to save his life someday. They weren't pretty curses, but they were curses that would keep you alive and that was all that mattered, according to Moody.

I had to agree on that one. Maybe there were some things worth dying for, but surely it would be much better to live and use the rest of your time to change things instead of dying for it? And I was pretty sure that dying at the hands of You-Know-Who wouldn't change much – it would just inspire more fear instead of actually getting people to fight back.

Either way, by the time the day ended, I was pretty much ready to drop dead on the bed and stay out for the rest of eternity.

~OoOoOoO~

After that, the holidays went by in a blur. Every two days Moody got us into the yard to try not to die – and I was pretty sure that, if he had his way, it would be every day instead of every two days. On the other hand, I did notice improvements in Ron, Harry and I. We were – slowly but surely – able to run more laps without falling over, as well as dodge more spells.

Of course, none of us could match up to the demigods, who seemed to revel in the brutal 'exercise'. Being resistant to magic probably helped, since they didn't need to care about the spells and the dodging as much as us, but from what I saw they seemed to naturally get the dodging idea. That I decided to attribute to the fact that monsters supposedly hunted them daily.

On the bright side, us being locked into that regime meant that we didn't need to do more housework. Ginny wasn't too pleased with that, pointing out that it meant she had to help Mrs Weasley with all the work. But being away from the Doxies for any period of time was so relieving that I found myself glad I wasn't in Ginny's shoes.

A little bit stark and worrying, but there were other issues afoot too.

The Black house elf, Kreacher, had disappeared sometime around New Year's. Sirius wasn't even worried, although I couldn't help but wonder just where he was. He couldn't betray the Order, but he could still be used in a way to benefit You-Know-Who.

I'd found the locket Nico had taken from the cleanings in Kreacher's lair, utterly destroyed. The locket was hanging open, with the little mirror inside shattered and the doors bent. I wasn't sure why it was broken or even why Kreacher had it in the first place, but maybe it explained his sudden animosity to Nico. At least, I thought it was animosity. Kreacher was sometimes a little difficult to understand, even though he definitely deserved to be treated better.

And the book I had borrowed from the library – May Dia's book – I was now strongly suspicious of it. It didn't write back like the way Riddle's diary had done, but even so I couldn't help but feel something was wrong about it. After Sirius had given me permission to trawl through the Black libraries, I'd found an exact copy of the book hidden amongst a pile of parchment on politics. Only this copy was stained with ink and had some of the drawings slashed in half, and it didn't have the names on the back cover. The books looked like they had been printed at the same time, so why did one have extra writing and another not? It wasn't Riddle's diary, certainly, but the books gave me the same hair-raising chills.

Finally, of course, there was Sirius himself. Not being allowed outside was all but driving him crazy, and not only once did I wish Harry had never been so lenient on Pettigrew. It would have stopped Sirius' constant pacing around. Frustration literally bled out of the walls.

Mrs Black didn't help, insulting all of us at every possible opportunity with every possible swear word in the world. The insults lasted until when we were moving the umbrella stand further inside to stop Tonks from knocking it over; when Mrs Black started screaming, Nico flung a midnight-black knife at her. Just looking at it made me feel like the light was draining away from the room. It wasn't a nice feeling. The knife lodged in the corner of the portrait frame; Nico said nothing, but we could almost hear the threat behind the action. After that, Mrs Black quieted down; or at least, quieted enough so that she wasn't constantly on our nerves.

As the holidays began to wind up, the atmosphere inside the house became tense and desperate; Sirius would disappear for hours on end into Buckbeak's room, where I guessed he probably paced like there was no tomorrow. Even when there were no Moody lessons Harry would go into the garden and blast spells at the walls. The twins and the Stolls stepped up the pranking level to a degree where Dungbombs were the norm and bubblegum-pink hair the usual, and dinner was always fraught with a tension even Dumbledore didn't manage to diffuse.

The only bright spot was that Mrs Weasley often forgot to put Impervious Charms onto the door, which meant that we could all listen in to Order meetings whenever we liked. But the topics discussed were so gloomy and there was such little progress that it only added to our own frustrated mood. Once Ginny flung her Extendable Ear at the door; thankfully nobody came out to check.

The constant rain over London helped nothing, of course. It was as if Zeus was annoyed – but if so, only mildly, because I hadn't heard of any thunderstorms yet. The rain just pattered steadily and ferociously onto the ground. Even Jason was put off by the constant pitter-patter of the rain. Considering he was a child of the sky, that was pretty impressive. I would have thought that he liked his rain. Or maybe that was Percy.

All in all, I was actually glad when it was time to return to school. Sirius could get out and accompany us to the train station, the sky cleared up, and the bustle of King's Cross Station were enough to break up the dull monotonous feeling that had settled around Grimmauld Place. Even Umbridge had to be better than that.

I had no idea just how wrong my words were.


Oh, Hermione, dearie. You have no idea how bad things can get... Although I sympathise with you for having to go through training with Moody. I notice all the HP fics that have Moody as instructor usually ends up with the trio dead on their feet XD

Until next time ~ Olympusseriesisawesome

P.S. I might be changing my username after BoO comes out (prepares for nuclear annihilation in case bombs are dropped in BoO) Just a heads up!