Harry visits the Temple twice.
The denizens of Hogwarts went through the rest of the late winter and early spring on egg shells, not quite trusting that something bad was not going to happen. For the second years, however, the main problem as Easter loomed turned out to be deciding what electives to add the following year.
Hermione wanted to take all five of the new classes, even if three was the maximum. Harry managed to argue her out of taking Muggle Studies, while Luna convinced her she would not get much out of divination. In return, Harry did have to agree to taking Care of Magical Creatures, as well as Arithmancy and 'Runes'. He already was operating at the post-O.W.L. level in Runes, but could not reveal that.
The second years got together several times to discuss their choices, mostly to help Neville, who was totally undecided, and the Muggleborn Dean, who had never even heard of two of the subjects and had little idea about what any of them were really about. Parvati and Lavender were convinced they had 'spiritual natures'and would be naturals in Divination, and that Magical Creatures only meant animals like unicorns, crups, puffskeins, and kneazles.
Perhaps unfairly, Hermione was subtly encouraging that belief.
The two girls and Seamus refused to take three classes (Seamus was also taking Care and Divination). Neville wavered, but finally only took two electives, Care and, after Hermione, Dean, and Harry agreed to help him, Muggle Studies. Dean was taking the same classes as Hermione and Harry, who were currently first and third in their class that year.
For some reason, Percy really was encouraging Ron to do Divination, and Ron would have settled for Divination and Care. When Dean, Harry, and Hermione agreed to help Neville, however, Ron reluctantly agreed to add Muggle Studies as well, knowing it would also please his father. He was secretly planning on dropping one class after his third year.
Behind the scenes, things were going smoothly, but not very successfully. The castle had been searched repeatedly, but no clue was found as to the diadem's location. The cave had been investigated, and numerous inferi had been destroyed. However, the locket had already been exchanged for a fake. The Druids, the Brotherhood, and Dumbledore had no idea who R.A.B. might have been, or if he might have destroyed the locket.
Harry had gone off for Easter with the Brotherhood to the Hidden Temple, and had assisted the Brotherhood in destroying the diary Horcrux. He had used the opportunity to work out his next summer with Osiris, Tutmoses, Jason, and the others. He would spend the end of June and all of July training with the Brotherhood, with no time travel. He would spend his birthday and a few other days in London with Sirius and Remus, who had promised him a birthday party, where he could invite his friends. He would split August between training with the Druids and Brotherhood, and spending time with Sirius and Remus, or at the Grangers. Part of the time, he might be at Hogwarts, helping in the search for the Ravenclaw diadem.
After the Easter break, Harry noticed the pace of things picking up. He had to laugh when the Hufflepuff Seeker humiliated Malfoy in the first spring game. Flint had tried, to Malfoy's shock, to throw Malfoy off of the team at that point. With his father in South America and no longer on the Board of Governers, Draco was lucky to be retained as Reserve Seeker. As the new Seeker was aSeventh year, Malfoy could try and win his position back the next year.
Harry flew well in both of his games, trouncing the Ravenclaw Seeker and just narrowly beating the Hufflepuff. Gryffindor won both games, 390-120 over Ravenclaw and a hardfought 300-120 over Hyfflepuff. As the only undefeated team, Gryffindor won the Quidditch Cup.
After his humiliation on the Quidditch pitch, Draco Malfoy spent the rest of the school year sulking. Not even Crabbe's de-petrification helped Malfoy's mood. The fact that he still could not see Harry or Hermione did not lighten Malfoy's spirits in any way. Students from all Houses were constantly greeting Harry or Hermione in Malfoy's vicinity, especially when neither was near by. Fred and George invented a pair of clever little devices which covered the mouth. By speaking through one or the other, you could'speak' in either Harry or Hermione's voice. So, by the time Crabbe was revived in early June, Malfoy was acting like a cat trying to thread its way through a carpet covered with invisible tacks.
Crabbe was just happy he was exempt from the final examinations.
When it was time to leave, Hermione was almost as happy that Harry had placed third in their class that year as she was to have placed first two years in a row. Overall, that moved Harry up to sixth in the class.
Harry was just happy that he was going to have an interesting summer, with no Dursleys. He and Hermione hugged tightly, and then Harry hugged Luna more briefly and exchanged hearty slaps on the shoulder with Ron, the twins, and Neville. Then, after giving Hermione another hug, Jason transported him away for the summer.
Hermione and Luna exchanged a sisterly embrace and went their separate ways, each feeling secure knowing that her sister would be safe that summer. Brother Oz had assured them that members of the Druids or the Brotherhood would never be far away. In addition, he and Brother Cobra had spent some time charming a slightly larger copy of the little silver pot charm Harry had given them for Christmas. This was to be worn on a very fine necklace, and worn at all times. If either was injured, Harry would know instantly, and the Brotherhood would move to investigate.
Harry spent the end of June on Jason's island, with Jason, Scorpion, and Cobra training him in more advanced fighting techniques. The three made certain that Harry was in peak physical condition. Cobra also introduced Harry to Arithmancy, so he would have a decent head start in the autumn.
Harry then spent three days with Cobra in the redoubt in Antarctic, working on his Parsel-magic. This was followed by five days in the Atlas mountains, with Brother Zara and some of the brothers from the Tibetan temples, working on Harry's meditation and Occlumency, plus more Arithmancy. None of the brothers active in Harry's training wanted to turn him into a purely magical warrior. They hoped to help him become a balanced individual who just happened to be a well-trained warrior as well.
Harry was next scheduled to spend six days at the Great Hidden Temple, where some of the brothers would help teach Harry how to more easily identify a Horcrux, and, if he had a real feel for the magic, perhaps even identify objects which might have been in long contact with one, or living beings under a Horcrux's influence.
No one wanted to risk another Ginny Weasley.
It was on the evening of Harry's fourth day at the Hidden Temple that he saw five brothers approaching him as he watched the sun set. He did not recognize them, despite now knowing nearly a third of the brothers.
Something felt wrong, and Harry clasped the ankh Osiris had enchanted for him. He didn't know if it would send out anything like a distress signal, but he hoped it would. He also backed up against the western defensive wall of the temple complex, so they couldn't surround him. They already had any escape routes cut off.
As they got close, Harry saw that three of the men looked like the ancient Egyptian brothers he knew, one looked more Greek, while the fifth could be from anywhere from northern Egypt through the rest of the eastern Mediterranean.
"You do not have to be afraid, little fish," one of the Egyptians said with contempt. "We do not like that you are here, but you are safe. Here, that is."
The Greek was invading Harry's space, and he didn't like it. There was really no place to go, so he didn't back off. He just glared, however.
"Not a particularly attractive fish," the Greek said in a bored tone.
Harry ignored the Greek and looked the Egyptian eye to eye. "I've never met any of you."
"I am Merenre."
"Ah," Harry said. This was the leader of the group which disapproved of interactions with the greater magical world. "And is one of you Khafra?" This was the other recent High Priest from the faction.
"I am Lord Khafra," the haughtiest of the group said solemnly.
"Uh-uh," Harry said. The man reminded Harry of some of the haughty wizards he had seen in Diagon Alley.
"We just wanted to see the delicious young man who so fascinates Tutmoses," the Greek said with a sneer.
"Let me guess, you're Agathon," Harry said with disgust.
"That's not a very friendly tone," Agathon complained.
"I don't think any of you want to be friends with me," Harry pointed out.
"True," Merenre agreed. He turned to the nondescript brother."Ahri?"
"His heart is racing. He is frightened, and Agathon makes him nervous." Harry scowled. "I don't believe he thinks much more of us than we do him." That made the others frown.
"What's going on here?"
The group saw Jason striding towards them.
"Keep to your place!" Khafra commanded.
"We are all brothers," Jason pointed out. "None of you have any appointments or offices right now."
"But seniority counts for something," Khafra said with a sneer.
"Is that so?" The new voice took them all by surprise, coming from the direction of the sunset. They had not known he was in the area. "Then who is senior here?"
It was Cobra. "Agathon, if you move your hand any closer to Harry's buttocks, I shall remove it. From your arm."
Agathon moved a few inches away from Harry, and Harry moved a bit further away as well.
"Your time in the land of ice has diminished your knowledge of protocol as well as your manners," Khafra snapped.
"I am not the one trying to touch a fourteen year old boy under the full protection of Our Lord, not to mention myself, Jason, Zara, and Scorpion."
Ahri and the Egyptian who had said nothing look startled at the information that Harry was under Osiris' full protection -- meaning Harry was a possible candidate for their Brotherhood, under the sponsorship of the others. The latter Brother turned to Harry, bowed, and walked away. Ahri thought for a moment and did the same.
"We had agreed on what to do about Riddle," Merenre snapped, ignoring their leaving. "We would watch, and only if Voldemort seriously threatened the line between the magical and the mundane would we consider interfering. The fact that this urchin was left on our door step should be irrelevant."
"Tutmoses had no right to change directions," Khafra agreed.
"Tutmoses did not do it on his own," Jason argued.
"They all know this, Jason," Cobra said coldly.
"If they still pay attention to truth," came a third voice.
Agathon sneered, and then looked at Harry. "You are thought by some to be the Chosen One of Light," he pointed out. "Yet here you are, under the protection of the Darkest of our members."
Scorpion flushed slightly.
"Some of the magic he practices might be considered Dark," Harry agreed. "That's still better than being just plain dirty."
Agathon tried to lunge at Harry, who easily threw the fleshy man against the complex wall, with Harry ending up in a defensive position.
"Agathon!" Merenre snapped. "Whatever else the boy is, he is not one of your mundane toys." He looked back at Harry. "I disagree with the new course the Brotherhood is taking. We are exposed, and that carries risk. Be worthy of the risks, Harry Potter."
Merenre bowed to the group in general and left. Khafra did not; he just left. Agathon glared at each of them as he left.
"Khafra is an arrogant ass," Scorpion said. "Merenre still has abit of sense and honor left. Agathon is scum. I doubt Khafra will cause trouble on his own. Merenre will work through our rules. We should keep an eye out for Agathon."
"Agathon has long been a disgrace," Osiris said, making everyone jump from the shock of his sudden presence. "If he interferes, Iwill deal with him."
The three brothers and Harry all bowed.
That night, just after midnight, Osiris found Harry atop the observation platform which formed the highest point of the temple."What troubles you, Harry?" he asked simply.
"I'm sorry I'm causing trouble in the Brotherhood," Harry started, but Osiris merely smiled and held his hands up.
"No, Harry. The brothers were well-split on the idea of interfering with the general magical world long before even Dumbledore was born. I suspect Tutmoses and his faction were very carefully interfering, by supplying intelligence if nothing else, in the struggle against Grindelwald. I know they were gathering information against Voldemort."
"But if I. . . ."
"There is no way to tell what would have happened if Dobby had not brought you to our attention. Well, unless you died, of course, which is very possible. Even if your uncle had not so seriously injured you; even if your aunt had continued to miss with her frying pan; even if your cousin had never again tried to damage you, who can say with certainty what would have happened? All Ican say is, if Voldemort had succeeded in doing more than temporarily controlling magical Britain, there would first have been an international alliance against him, and if the barriers between the magical and what you would call the Muggle worlds had started to break down. . . ."
Osiris paused and then shrugged. "There are powers in this world, Harry. The Brotherhood is one such power. The Druids are another. There are a few more, made of wizards. There are other powers as well." He smiled. "Have you ever met a sphinx?"
Harry shook his head.
"They are solitary creatures, for the most part. They warned us long ago about the powers of the mundane world, which we all, in our arrogance, ignored." He shuddered in a theatrical and put-on way. "Trust me, Harry, we do not want the sphinxes to come together. We do not want the manticores coming out of their caves. Worse, there are powers asleep, hoping to wait out the Muggles --snow dragons, the remaining gorgons, kraken, and worse. There are also powers that went into hiding long before my time."
Harry's eyebrows went up at that.
"They went into hiding as agriculture spread, and civilizations developed. That was thousands of years before my time. If I am to believe the tales, there were even creatures which went into hiding as humanity spread and became magical." He shrugged again."Voldemort believes he is the most important thing in the universe. He is but a slight moment in the history of magic on this little obscure planet. Even I am but a slight moment. I would say that you should remember that, Harry, but I suspect you know it instinctively. It is the egomaniacal Tom Riddles, the overly-proud Khafras who forget, just as it is the Merenres and Dumbledores who often allow their knowledge to freeze their actions."
"And the Agathons?"
"He was one of our errors," Osiris acknowledged. "He was an Athenian. As a teen, he was sent to study with Aristotle. Do you know the name Epicurus?" Harry shook his head. "He was a Greek philosopher, only a few years younger than Agathon. He developed an interesting materialist philosophy, which some people have deliberately simplified into a pursuit of pleasure." He smiled grimly. "I believe Agathon was the first to pervert the message. He pursues pleasure with a determinism and single-mindedness that is remarkable. Like Riddle, he views the soul as something purely material, and is determined never to test that theory."
"Voldemort is Dark," Osiris stated. "He is a totally self-centered sadist. He cannot imagine that anyone or anything exists which does not exist in relation to his ego. Agathon is well-aware that there are powers greater than his, something that Voldemort does not consciously acknowledge. Agathon should not trouble you."
"Should not or will not?" Harry asked.
"I have made it clear to the entire Brotherhood that they are to steer well-clear of Europe for the time being unless I give them permission. Agathon and Jason are the only two who live nearby, and Agathon knows that he should stay away from the mainland. If anyone catches him there, they will disembody him." Osiris smiled grimly. "I don't think any, even his allies, would really care to help Agathon reembody himself in the short-term."
Seeing Harry looked a little puzzled, Osiris reminded him, "Like all of us, Agathon cannot really be killed, at least without first finding and destroying his Horcruxes. If he were disembodied in Britain, say, we would bring his body back here to the Temple, and his spirit would have to make its way here on its own. Then the acolytes here would perform the reanimation ceremony. Should Agathon be more than nosing about, they might even destroy his body. We all have the basis for reanimation here, but his spirit would still have to make its way here."
"I see," Harry said, feeling a bit out of his depths.
"You were going to leave tomorrow evening," Osiris mused. "I think you should leave after dawn instead."
"Will I be going back to Scorpion's?" Harry asked.
"Yes. He and Jason will continue your training, while Cobra works on your Parsel-magic and Arthimancy. You can also fly in your free time. A week there, a week on Jason's island, and you should be ready to visit London."
Harry smiled briefly, happy with the plan, but then he frowned.
Osiris read the thought. "One thing you will be taught is a spell to divorce a spirit from its body or a Horcrux, provided it has already riven itself. You are the only person not in the highest reaches of the Brotherhood ever to be taught this spell. Cobra will lock it deep into your mind, so that none can ever discover it, nor will you ever be able to teach it to another. The language it is in is long dead, and merely saying the words would avail no one. You will need to understand it to use it."
Osiris placed his hand on Harry's shoulder. "You will be able to destroy a Horcrux, or turn Voldemort back into a spirit, should he occupy a body. If all his Horcruxes are destroyed, then it will kill him. The spell can also be used on any of the Brotherhood."Harry looked a bit troubled.
"I trust you to use it only for good. Harry, if you feel yourself endangered, you have my permission to use it on any of the Brotherhood who try to harm you."
Harry looked like he knew how much responsibility this was.
"The spell will also work on others. Vampires are in many ways dead bodies animated by magic and most of their soul. However, asmall shred of their soul has been sent on. The servants you would call mummies are an earlier attempt to produce the same result. Much larger sections of their soul were sent into the beyond. Too much, and they lose parts of their personality and will. Zombies, or inferi if you prefer, are created with very different magic but with similar results. The spell may also be used against them. You must learn the spell so well that you can use it without vocalizing it, or at least not beyond a breathless mutter. Do you understand?"
Harry merely nodded as he thought hard.
"What is it?" Osiris asked.
Harry steeled himself, and then bowed. "I am honored by your trust, my lord."
"Then learn, and become victorious, my son." Osiris watched Harry as he left the platform, and then said, "Come forth, my sons."
From two directions, two Brothers came out of the shadows, each slightly surprised they had not been aware of the other. One was Cobra, the other was the man known simply as the First Acolyte, the first member initiated by Osiris.
"You summoned me, my lord?" the high priest of the Temple asked.
"I summoned you both," Osiris said. "You still doubt our new course?"
"I do, my lord," the First Acolyte acknowledged. "Still, I am impressed by the young man, and while I still am inclined towards Khafra's position, I must admit I am becoming disillusioned with some of his adherents." He shrugged. "That does not negate their arguments."
"True," Osiris agreed. "Let us see what his adherents might be up to. Cobra?"
"We have finished our research," Cobra said. "We always wondered how Riddle learned how to make a Horcrux. From some clues Scorpion wrung from the diary, we now know. We also have evidence of how he came up with the unique rejoining ceremony."
Osiris nodded. Learning there such things as Horcruxes was one thing, learning how to make one was quite another. The Brotherhood tried very hard to make that information difficult to find."Proceed."
"Riddle was still in the orphanage the summer before his fifth year, but he ran into someone who was scouting the conditions for Merenre." The Acolyte and Osiris nodded, of course knowing that Merenre had been the High Priest at the time. Merenre and his group had kept an eye on the world even as they tried to widen the separation. "Would it help if I say that Tom Riddle was a very handsome young wizard?"
"Agathon?" the Acolyte demanded, his lip curling in disgust.
"We know for certain that Riddle created all the Horcruxes we examined with the Brotherhood's ritual. The magical signatures are exact matches. Twelve different Brothers have now done independent studies, and all agree. We know that Riddle and Agathon had an affair. Not absolute proof, but more than suggestive."
"True," the First Acolyte agreed.
"Brother Tolfu finished going through the archives two days ago. He matched parts of Riddle's attempted ceremony to ours, but also to a Hindu ceremony . . . and to a set of theoretical improvements suggested by Merenre and his study group just over four hundred years ago -- which included Agathon."
The First Acolyte shook his head. "We must take steps to keep more than an eye on them. Some one associated with their group has more than seriously overstepped the boundries."
Osiris looked his most loyal follower. "When I created the Brotherhood, I gave up some of my freedom of action. Do you agree I should take steps?"
"Yes, my lord. I take it you have Tutmoses' agreement already?"
"I do." Osiris placed his palms together. The First Acolyte and Cobra prostrated themselves. When separated his hands, an eye was outlined in fire. "The Eye of Osiris has returned. It shall see and judge."
Hermione Granger, only two months shy of fourteen, did NOT frolic in the surf. She did however allow herself to enjoy the feel of walking on the Mediterranean beach, the sand between her toes, the waves washing over her feet and part-way up her calves. She was well-aware of the surreptitious glances she was getting as she beach-walked wearing only a thong bikini bottom.
Part of her dearly wished Harry was here with her, and part of her was terrified at the prospect. There would of course be no unclad walking about at Hogwarts, but she hoped she and Harry might walk to Hogsmeade together. Harry had actually asked her, for he wrote to her every morning, and she responded every night before going to sleep.
Neither Ron nor Ginny had written either of them, although Harry had written them and the twins once each and she had written to Ron twice and Ginny one time. Only the twins had responded, letting Harry know that the family was off to Egypt to visit Bill, having come into some money.
Neville had written to them both twice so far, and Luna sent letters every day, alternating between Harry and Hermione. She and her father was off on a 'zoological journey', looking for one of his largely unproven creatures. This summer, they were in Iceland, hoping to find a species of magical penguin called the Northern Opal, which Mister Lovegood claimed showed itself often enough to make Muggles believe penguins were common in the Artic, while being magical enough not to be captured.
Hermione hoped that this next year would be more interesting, but less exciting, than the one previous.
No, I do not think Tom Riddle was gay. I think he did what he had to in order to get the information he wanted. He certainly didn't find the information about Horcruxes at Hogwarts or his orphanage!