Harry's third year ends, and the summer begins.
Two hours after Marcus Flint stabbed Remus Lupin and then blew himself up with a hand grenade he had been told was a portkey, avery concerned Hermione was waiting for Harry in the suite. She looked up, and then stood as Harry, still in his Quidditch robes and partially covered with dried blood, staggered in.
The two looked at each other for a moment, and then Harry said, his voice filled with anguish, "He's dead!"
Harry looked at Hermione, and her heart broke seeing the look of stunned confusion on his face. Harry took a step towards her, and then fell to his knees. Hermione moved towards him and pressed his cheek against her stomach. Harry clutched Hermione around the waist and started to cry.
Then Hermione blinked in confusion. She had never seen Harry like this. "Harry? Who died?" Her voice caught for a moment. "Ron?"
The face pressed against her signaled a 'no.' Harry looked up, and although his shoulders had been heaving and he had sounded like he had been in tears, his red eyes were dry. "Remus," he rasped. "Just . . . just before he died, he looked over my shoulder, and said .. . and said, 'I'm sorry, James. I failed you'."
Harry swallowed nervously, and said, "Then he looked at me and said, 'I'm sorry, Harry', and then he was gone."
"I'm so sorry, Harry."
Harry roped in his emotions for a moment, and swore, "I'm tired of reacting, Hermione. There's nothing I can do right now, but if Iever get a chance, I will get justice."
"We will," Hermione corrected.
Harry looked Hermione in the eye and said, "I understand now why the Brothers made mummies and then vampires. I don't want to live without you." Harry clutched Hermione around the waist, and started to cry in earnest.
Marcus Flint had absorbed most of the shrapnel, and was therefore the only one killed by the explosion. Eighteen students, besides Ron, had been injured by the blast, and of course Ron's knife wound was serious. All would survive, though.
Dean Thomas was docked one point for his use of bad language, and rewarded fifty points for his quick thinking. This pushed Gryffindor into the House Cup over Slytherin by twenty-one points, which made Dean even more popular in his own House.
Considering the glares many of the Slytherins were now often getting from the rest of the students, they did not begrudge the Cup, and many made a point of congratulating Dean despite the grumbling of Draco and a few others.
While the Hogwarts term was winding down, a very different meeting was occurring in the north African desert. Merenre had been startled to be summoned to the Temple from the cave complex he occupied just a few miles west of the Temple. He wondered if it was just a coincidence that this was the first time in several weeks none of his followers were staying with him at his tiny oasis.
When he saw that he was meeting not just with his friend and ally the First Acolyte, but with his Lord, Tutmoses, Cobra, and Zara, Merenre decided that it had not been a coincidence. Still, he was a very senior Brother, and had served three terms as High Priest over the millennia. "What is this about?" he asked Tutmoses.
"We have uncovered information about some of your followers,"Tutmoses stated. "We would know if their activities, as opposed to their underlying beliefs, were sanctioned by you."
"It is not their beliefs you question?" Merenre demanded.
"Their basic beliefs, no," Tutmoses said. "Three of us have opposed them for centuries. One of us here still believes in them. Still, actions are not beliefs."
"Let us sit, and have some beer made the true way," Osiris said.
The group sat, and Merenre relaxed just a bit. This was a ritual ancient even when Osiris had been young. It was a gesture of friendship, meaning that whatever the problem was, they were honestly concerned about him, or at least Osiris was, and Merenre was warmed by that thought. "What has happened?" he asked.
It was still Tutmoses who answered. "As you know as well as we, basic knowledge of our ceremonies, of what are now called Horcruxes, has never been totally suppressed. Therefore, we never thought to question how Tom Riddle discovered the idea of Horcruxes. We long thought, or perhaps were even led to believe, that he created a ceremony which led to something similar to our soul boxes, but which were not exactly the same."
"This isn't true?" Merenre asked, startled.
"No," Zara answered. "We have now finished studying the echoes of his Horcruxes thoroughly, and the shells even more so. In all cases, they were created by our methods." He paused and then added,"Precisely our methods."
"How . . . how is that possible?"
"Who did you and Khafra both use as your observer in Europe, in that recent century and a half the two of you were high priests?"Tutmoses asked simply.
The answer was easy. Still, Merenre thought a moment, and then demanded, "Do you just suspect Agathon betrayed us, or you have proof?"
"We now have proof that Riddle and Agathon conducted an affair, off-and-on from the summer of 1941 through the autumn of 1947,"Cobra almost snarled. "We also know that Riddle created at least two Horcruxes during that time period. Yet Riddle was not reported to have made any Horcruxes until the 1960s, and when it was reported that was NOT reported by Agathon. After over two thousand years, he should recognize one of us, even with one soul box, let alone two!"
Merenre realized that it was only the respect he was held in that had made this a friendly meeting. They were all being open with him. He could not dodge the truth. "Agathon has always been very foolish in his actions, but now it seems, for the first time, Imust consider him also either a complete fool or a traitor, if not both," Merenre acknowledged.
Zara continued. "There is more. Do you remember the group you led, searching for new ways of rejoining soul fragments to a totally recreated body?"
"Of course," Merenre said with contempt.
"And of course you remember the idea your group came up with, for dealing with any of us who might be long separated from our bodies?"
"Your suggested ceremony was the one the diary-Riddle was setting up," Cobra said dangerously. "Agathon was not part of the group, nor has he ever consulted the records so far as we can see. Where did he learn of it? And if he did not directly betray us a second time, who informed Riddle?"
"Are you saying I did one or the other?" Merenre demanded dangerously.
"I am suggesting it," Cobra acknowledged. "It is possible, if not the most likely scenario."
"You've been associating with Jason too much. His Greek logic is rubbing off on you, rather than your native common sense being at the forefront," Merenre sneered.
"I do not believe you gave the information to Riddle. However, you understand this ceremony best. Did you ever share this ceremony with Agathon?" the First Acolyte asked.
"No, I did not, nor do I know of anyone who has." He looked at the First Acolyte. "You are suggesting we have two traitors?"
"In your group," Cobra pointed out.
Merenre winced at that.
"Agathon must be a traitor of some kind. We do not know if he is the only one," Zara pointed out in turn.
"Do you know who Lucius Malfoy is?" Cobra asked.
Merenre frowned. "No."
"He is the wizard who planted the diary soul box on Harry's young friend," Cobra informed the confused man. "He had been very high in Voldemort's service. He has exiled himself to South America. Agathon met with him, and set up a vampire contact -- one loyal to Agathon, rather than to any of the Vampire Clans. All the information from Hogwarts that Malfoy gets, and he receives a fair amount, is passed on to Agathon. Agathon meets often with Khafra and Salemin, but no others that we can discover. Khafra often meets with you, along with others, and Salemin just spent five days with you." These were the two most militant of Merenre's group.
"My Lord!" Merenre fell to his knees. "Please believe me! I have nothing to do with any conspiracy!" When the fiery eye appeared over Osiris' head, Merenre prostrated himself, trembling. Osiris, Lord of Death, was sitting in judgement. Merenre was thankful he had told no lies.
"I believe you," Osiris said quietly, "for which I am grateful. You have been a loyal brother, and have served the Brotherhood often and well. I do not believe your way is the way we must tread at the moment, but we must be watchful, for our path may become too slippery with little notice."
"I . . . with your permission, I would like to announce that I am withdrawing to my cave for the next fifty years, for solitary meditation," Merenre begged.
"I would prefer you withdraw for . . . seven years," Osiris said simply. "And, if it would not disturb your meditation, I would ask Brother Tuamon to visit you with information, and to receive any advice, every tenth day. He shall also bring supplies, unless you plan to fast often."
"I shall reserve every tenth afternoon for his visit," Merenre answered, getting up on his knees. "May I know why?"
"As I said, I believe you wrong on our course for the past hundred and fifty years, but you had good reasons for following such acourse. We cannot integrate into magical culture. We may even have to tighten our withdrawal more than you did." Here Tutmoses made a face. "We must still learn more about these times, both magical and mundane. Only then shall we have the information needed for a better decision. Your opinions and thoughts are needed for balance."
"I thank you, Lord," Merenre said, rising. He turned to Tutmoses."You do remember that some of your most ardent followers were also in my study group. Could any of them have supplied information to Voldemort, to cause a situation where we would have to intervene?"
"I would hope not," the startled Tutmoses said. "If so, I was not part of it, and I will treat such a traitor just as I would if he is from your group, or any other."
Merenre bowed and took his leave.
"I am glad he was not involved," Cobra said with a sigh of relief.
"As am I," the First Acolyte agreed. "We must discover if there is another traitor. You are leaving Agathon free as bait?"
"Is there anything else?" the First Acolyte asked his Lord.
"Not at this time, old friend."
The First Acolyte bowed out.
"Maybe I've been around Scorpion and Jason too much, but is there any chance the First Acolyte is involved?" Tutmoses asked. Cobra looked startled at the very idea.
"I have verified he is not," Osiris answered.
"Good," Cobra growled, glaring at Tutmoses.
"Nonsense," Osiris stated to Cobra. "Anyone could have a motive for helping Riddle, even me." He smiled at their shocked faces. "I swear, it wasn't I. What else was there that you wanted to talk about, Cobra?"
"Dumbledore has refused to hire one of us or one of the Druids for the Defense teacher next year. He has hired a friend of his, aretired and crippled auror named Moody. With your permission, Iand the Druids will send the ghost Binns on, and we'll see if that will encourage Dumbledore to hire one of us as a history instructor."
"I can just see you or Jason as a history teacher," Osiris teased.
"I would volunteer," Zara stated. They looked at him in surprise. The Median was probably the only member of the Brotherhood who was universally liked, as well as respected, by all the Brothers."Remove Binns, and I will speak with Dumbledore. It is time I saw the far north."
"Let it be so," Osiris agreed. "You will spend time with Harry this summer?"
"I will. I think it best if he and his new consort spend some time alone on Jason's island first, however."
"I will speak with Harry and Hermione about it," Cobra agreed."They leave school in the morning."
The five Weasleys sat in one compartment of the train, silent. Finally, Fred said, "Hell of a year."
"Two years," Ginny whispered.
"Five years," Percy growled, glaring at Fred and then George.
The twins glared back, and then the three oldest Weasleys laughed.
"Glad you lot are bloody happy," Ron whined.
"Take your pain potion," Percy commanded. Ron made a face, but did as he was told. Meanwhile, Percy frowned. "I'm going to be worried about you lot next year."
"No, you won't," Fred said.
"You won't have time," George added, before Percy exploded. "That job you're taking at the Ministry. . . ."
"I haven't taken it yet!" Percy protested.
"All you ever wanted to do was work in the Ministry!" Ginny protested.
"I know," Percy said. "But those people around Hogwarts and Hogsmeade -- the Druids and ones dressed like Druids. . . ."
"They aren't all Druids?" Ron demanded.
"Not unless they've been heavily recruiting in the Middle East,"Percy retorted.
"Dad has said most of the Ministry is working so much better now that Fudge is gone," George pointed out.
Fred jumped in, "We wouldn't want to work there. . . ."
"But you might be able to make a real difference there now," George concluded.
Percy nodded, but frowned at Ron and Ginny. "I'll still be worried."
The other four said nothing, but silently agreed.
Draco Malfoy, typically, had given his mother's pregnancy little thought. He had no idea how long such things took for witches, and as his family had said nothing to him, he had ignored it.
It therefore came as a shock when he was Portkeyed off the Platform and taken, not to Paraguay or to Malfoy Manor, but to a small cottage in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere.
When he turned to the cousin who had brought him there to protest, he was shocked when he was slapped, hard, before a sound could escape his lips.
"You are in disgrace," the cousin stated. "Your foolishness has cost us a huge fortune. Since you did not inquire, I hereby inform you that your mother gave birth to triplets last March -- two sons and a daughter. All three appeared in the Great Book." That meant they were magical.
"Your father has not decided which will be the Heir, but you no longer are." That shocked Draco more than the slap had. It was because of that shock that the cousin was able to fasten a collar around Draco's neck.
"If you take the collar off, it will kill you. If you leave this area, you will also die. The boundaries are clearly marked. You are of course allowed magic. A house elf will appear every morning to bring you food and to take away the dirty dishes from the day before. Leave any clothes you want cleaned near the dishes, and they will be returned the next morning. Injure the elf, or cause her to injure yourself, and, well, you had better be good at finding your own food in the woods here, and cooking it."
"I thought I'd see Pansy!"
"Parkinson is serving Our Lord. You'll see her on your wedding day."
"But. . . ."
"Silence! You may also use your broom, but do not go higher than tree level. In many ways, your life is in your hands, Draco. Iwould suggest you study hard. You dropped a few more rankings in your class." The cousin smiled. "Remember. You will have to work for your stipend from the Malfoy Trust once you leave Hogwarts, just like the rest of us." The cousin Portkeyed away, leaving Draco standing in front of the cottage, his mouth hanging open.
Hermione walked out of the small stone house, and her eyes went wide despite the bright sunlight. "Wow!"
"It is attractive, isn't it?" Jason said proudly.
"Dare I ask how long it's been yours?" Hermione asked.
Jason paused in thought. "That's difficult to say. There was asmall group of fishermen who lived here when I was a regular wizard. They, and those on the nearby islands, were under my protection. Then, of course, I left to join the Brothers at the Temple. When I returned here, some three hundred years later, these islands were deserted."
"The so-called Greek Dark Ages, between the fall of the Mycenaeans and the start of pre-Classical Greece, correct?"
"Well, that's how you moderns might regard it," Jason said. "Living through such times . . . I hope you are both spared."
"I'm sorry," Hermione said, downcast.
Jason forced a smile through the bad memories. "None of that! The island is nearly one of your miles long, and you can see this little bit of rock gives you a nice overlook of the entire island. Harry can tell you that it is shaped a bit like an oblong shield. It is just over a third of one your miles wide here. The house is fairly modern." He smiled. "Well, it has plumbing. The water is magically freshened, otherwise it would be brackish. The food stored here is magically preserved, and Harry here is good with afishing net."
Harry nearly blushed.
"No one not allowed on the island can come here. The Muggles see this as a dangerous shallow rocky shoal, and anyone magical whom Ihave not keyed into the wards would see the same." He pulled out asmall hand bell. "If anyone except myself comes, this bell will find you and ring. Otherwise, I won't be here for exactly seven days."
Hermione smiled nervously.
"No need to be nervous," Jason said, smiling at Hermione and then turning his head to wink at Harry. "There are no magical restrictions here. If you need anything, Harry knows how to call his elf. Don't lose yourself in homework or research. You'll be working with some of the greatest magical minds in history, and we'll solve your problem one way or another."
"Thank you, Jason," Hermione said. "Cobra took most of my books, and told me I am to get as much sun and exercise as I can."
"Good," Jason answered. He looked at Harry, and the two clasped forearms. "Be well, my son." And with that, Jason took his leave.
"I'll never get used to that," Harry said after Jason left.
"I really do think some of them think of me as, well. . . ."
Hermione smiled, "You're surprised they think of you paternally? Or avuncularly?"
That threw Harry. "Av-what?"
"Like they're your uncles," Hermione explained.
"Exactly. Well," Harry considered, "sort of a mix of the two." He smiled. "Let me show you the island."