Disclaimers: The characters do not belong to me, no matter how hard I wish. *sighs* To actually own Harry and Draco... XDDD Well, that would be the day, wouldn't it? Arrg!! *wishes very, very hard*

Definately AU. Slash! You should know that by now. Plenty of angst factor, and fluffy romance. Continued from Into the Cold Fire- Harry returns home to a world different from that which he left. The wizarding world is falling apart due to Voldemort's last curse, and the people he love is dying. Can he find a counter-curse before everything is lost?

Vigilae Mortuorum
Chapter 5: Theories and Discoveries

Lost in a dying world I reach for something more,
I have grown so weary of this lie I live.
I've woken now to find myself
in the shadows of all I have created
I'm longing to be lost in you...
(away from this place I have made)
Won't you take me away from me?

-Evanescence, "Away From Me"

It was the next day before Draco could convince Harry to let Hermione examine his elemental skills. The ex-Gryffindor boy had been most reluctant about showing his increased magic to anyone but Draco, but had made an exception for Hermione when she basically threatened to strangle him if he continued to be so difficult. The three of them had settled down into the back room that was usually used for flooing or intercepting things from the Ministry.

Draco had drawn the curtains over the windows so that there would be no one looking in, as he could tell Harry was nervous enough just showing his magic to one more person. Hermione had laid out several anti-spying spells, and had cast a reinforced silencing spell to ensure that no one would 'accidentally' overhear.

"You've never told me that you could control two elements." Hermione was saying, lighting up a candle so that it wouldn't be pitch dark in the room. Her voice held nothing but curiosity, for which Harry was very glad. He didn't know if he could have handled Hermione being mad at him for holding back information.

"Well, it's a recent discovery." Harry replied quite dryly. He was nervously playing around with his wand, knowing all too well that the wand wouldn't be able to help him without its phoenix core. It was quite a nervous habit, but the dark haired boy figured that he had gotten too used to using the fake wand in the other universe, and that he was more used to the wand motions even though his magic at the moment was completely wandless.

"But that's still not too surprising." Hermione comment, making the other two boys in the room blink at her with surprise. "I mean, you've always been exceptional, Harry, despite not doing too well in classes."

Harry wrinkled his nose. "Quite a compliment, Miss Granger."

Draco rolled his eyes, having just returned to his seat next to Harry. "Well, it's true that you haven't been the best of students…"

"What is this?" Harry grumbled, leaning against the armrests of the chair. "'Pick on Harry' day?"

"Isn't that everyday?" Draco asked with amusement.

Hermione settled herself into her chair quite comfortably while the two boys exchanged barbs back and forth. She had a small smile despite herself, knowing that it had been awhile before the two of them had playfully insulted each other like that. It had been the two of them against the world the last few years, and they hadn't had the time nor strength to exchange such banter with each other.

"I thought you wanted to show me something?" Hermione asked cheekily after a few minutes of relaxing and watching the two boys bickering with each other for a while. She saw Harry draw back slightly with embarrassment, and Draco grin at the light blush that soon covered Harry's cheeks.

"Yes." The raven-haired boy said. "I discovered this yesterday, when I was showing Draco the elements… it seems that the two elements just sort of… combined, I guess. It was different than either one that I originally had."

"Two elements… combined? Like… creating a new element?"

Harry shrugged. "I'm not too sure. It certainly doesn't look like any element that I've ever seen. And if I remember correctly, I think it might have been what sent me to the other dimension in the first place."

Upon hearing that piece of information, Draco tensed where he had been sitting, looking like he was ready to protest to Harry giving Hermione a demonstration if there was the risk that the dark haired boy would sudden by transported off somewhere where they might not be able to reach him again. Even Hermione tensed slightly, not knowing whether she now wanted to know, despite the gnawing curiosity in the back of her mind. She could always do with an explanation rather than a missing best friend.

"Or at least," Harry continued cautiously, noting his friends' discomfort. "it was a part of it. The other part had been a magical item that had been activated simultaneously in the other universe. But I have that item with me now, so it won't be activated again."

Hermione swallowed thickly, forcing herself to steady as Harry looked at her with worry evident in his large green eyes. She nodded a reassurance to him, also telling him with that gesture that she wanted to see what he was talking about.

Harry smiled weakly, before lifting both hands to his lips and blowing a breath out, lighting up a blue flame that hovered barely an inch above his palm. Another breath and there was a layer of glistening liquid that appeared around the flames, surrounding it in a globe of water.

Hermione couldn't help a wave of awe that came over her with the sight of those two elements, so different in nature and yet so similar… both obeying Harry's commands and coexisting like they belonged together. Was this what Harry had wanted her to see? But it didn't seem so… mythical now that she saw it. In fact, it looked quite peaceful, and although she knew it didn't exist together in nature, the fire and water looked to have belonged together.

"Is this it?" she asked tentatively. "Is this the new element?"

Draco quirked a grin at her from where he was sitting to her left. "That's just the beginning, Granger. You're just looking at the two elements that Harry can control."

Oh. Well, she felt faintly humiliated to not have realized that. Of course it was something a lot more special than that.

Harry smiled at her reassuringly. "Don't worry, 'Mione. Even though Draco talks big, he didn't know when he first saw it either."

There was a noise of protest coming from Draco's direction, but it was immediately halted when Harry used his powers to merge both the water element and the fire element together, creating something that Hermione had never seen in her life.

It was beautiful.

The entire room was lit with the reddish-gold color, flickering like the reflection of water against a wall. The brown-haired ex-Gryffindor protégé sucked in a sharp breath, unconsciously reaching out a hand to touch the glowing sphere, only drawing back at the last moment when she came to her senses, and looked at her best friend sharply. But Harry's eyes were focused on the glowing globe as well, as if concentrating on making sure that they stayed together and not fall apart within a moment's time.

"I think it's alright to touch it." Harry informed her distractedly. "It might feel a little… strange, though."

Hermione extended her hand again, her fingers hovering millimeters above the surface of the globe. Taking a deep breath, she finally dared to touch to glowing surface, fully expecting to be burned by the fire inside. But she was pleasantly shocked when her fingers went through a silky coldness, the feeling and texture of what she imagined fire would feel like (softer than silk on the skin) and the shocking coldness of water in a fresh brook.

There was a sticky residue on her fingers when she pulled them back out, one that continued glowing and rained from her skin like water from the sky.

"What… is this?" she breathed quietly, not wanting to disturb the reverent silence that seemed to pervade the room.

"That's what we were hoping you would be able to tell us." Draco commented from the side.

Harry willed the elements to disappear, and watched as the substance on Hermione's fingers faded. "I don't think it's natural… and I don't know if it has a purpose or not… but it certainly is very strange."

Hermione remained staring at her clean fingers for a moment, touching the skin together to confirm that the gel-like substance really was gone. "It didn't just feel strange," she commented softly. "It felt… very different. I don't know how to explain it, but it almost felt like I was touching something… somewhere else."

"Somewhere else?" Draco echoed.

Hermione tried to clear her thoughts. "You said that it was this element that pulled you into the alternate dimension last time, right, Harry?"

The dark haired boy appeared baffled. "Well… it played a part. But it was my mother's talisman that actually pulled me there…"

"Maybe your mother's talisman did pull you there." Hermione reassured him, taking note of the confusion on the two boys' faces. "But this element… there something very strange about it. When I touched it… it felt like I was feeling infinite, open space." She pursed her lips. "I really don't know how to phrase this."

"You think that this new element of Harry's can actually open the idea of alternate universes?" Draco questioned, comprehension starting to dawn on him. "It was this element that opened up the pathway to where Harry was pulled, and it was his mother's talisman that actually pulled him there."

Harry blanched. "That's… a very far-fetched idea, Hermione."

"It could have been something like that." Hermione admitted. "I'm not sure if you'd be able to follow my train of thought. I'm not too sure that I follow it myself, except for the fact that you, Harry, have always taught me to trust my instincts."

She took a moment to consider what she was saying, her hands wrung together as the only outlet of her frustration at her inability to explain what she just knew. "I was thinking about how elemental powers… wind, water, earth, and fire… they all have the ability to wear things away. Wooden structures destroyed by fires, large canyons started by tiny streams, movements of the earth separating all the continents, and even steel giving in and rusting under the persistence of the wind. All the elements erode and destroy each other, but there's one thing that's not an element which is persistent in all areas of erosion which could not be connected. Can either of you guess what it is?"

Draco shook his head, while Harry blinked for a moment- trying to recall his muggle science classes.

"Rust… canyons… plate tectonics… fires…." Harry's brow furrowed as he remembered those old days when he was mercilessly teased by the other children. The most important factor which can destroy anything…

The green-eyed boy blinked several times. "Time." He concluded. "Nothing can be destroyed without time."

Hermione nodded, started to get excited now that she was on the verge of something big. "Yes… but that doesn't make sense, does it? All the elements can destroy… but at the same time, it would be destroyed by its fellow elements. But time isn't an element. It can't be destroyed." Hermione was now sitting on the edge of her seat, eyes wide and gleaming with something that Harry hadn't seen since Hogwarts and before the war began.

"I studied up on the theories behind time-turners in third year." She informed them, her face growing pensive. "It was amazing how magic can coincide with muggle scientific theories. It's almost as if magic is an advanced form of technology that would always remain elusive to muggles. Since you might not understand this, Draco…" she turned to her best friend. "What do you know about quantum physics, Harry?"

Harry's mind was spinning. Hermione was right. He certainly didn't understand how her thought process jumped from one thing to another. He understood her half-explained idea of elements… but what did that have to do with muggle science?

"Ehh… isn't it what allowed us to have desktop computers? Something about small computers…"

"Not that." She brushed that topic aside. "I'm sure you've read science fiction stories as a child. There are so many stories nowadays about the theories of quantum physics…"

"Is it the idea of time travel?" Draco asked from where he was sitting. "The idea that every point in the universe… or multi-verse, is connected to each other and is equal distance from each other?" he was frowning. "It was that idea which spawned the idea for instant transportation."

The other two in the room gaped at him.

Draco sniffed. "What? I can read as well. Books aren't limited to muggles, you know."

Hermione rubbed her forehead. "You're right. I just… didn't expect you to know that." She pushed her fingers through her tangled hair. "But I remember reading… that it was how apparation works, as well as time turners. The muggles came up with theories for instantaneous travel, and the idea that there were an infinite number of universes in which each universe is slightly different from the one that we live in. One universe where the wizard-like never went into hiding from the muggles… one where the Second Great War was won by Hitler, one where Harry might not have won against Voldemort… or even one where I forgot to brush my teeth this morning." She scowled, as if she was trying to comprehend the entire idea.

"Or… a universe where Voldemort never targeted my parents… so they lived and I died as a child after being kidnapped by Death Eaters." Harry provided quietly. His eyes were slightly dazed with memories.

The bushy haired ex-Gryffindor nodded. "Yes. That provides the thought for alternate universes. But there's one theory that the muggles haven't discovered yet. They think that time travel would mean going to another universe rather than going back in time. It would just be a universe in which time traveled a few seconds, or years, slower than their present universe. Anything they did in that universe would not affect the universe in which they lived, because it was, in fact, somewhere else." She gave a faint smile. "They're a little too logical to understand it, I guess.

"The idea behind time-turners has the basic idea of quantum physics behind it, only it applied the knowledge that not only was everyplace connected and equidistant from each other… but time was the same time. Every second and moment is connected with the same dots that connect an area. Whereas quantum physics theorize that the distance between me and the two of you is the same distance between here and Jupiter, time-turners take it to another level when it connects the moment that you flip it to the moment you end up in."

Harry was starting to understand what Hermione meant with time-turners, but… "What does time-turners have to do with elemental magic?"

"That's just the thing." Hermione beamed, despite the fact that things only made sense to her at the moment. "Time-turners were never perfected. There was always something missing, because you had to keep turning to get to when you wanted. When you connect the idea of time-turners with the relationship between elements and time… it almost makes sense."

This was making Harry's head hurt, and he rubbed the bridge of his nose under his glasses with a grimace.

"Magic has always been more advanced than anything muggles invent." Hermione continued in her explanation, making the two boys' wonder at how many things could go on inside her mind at one time. "But the connection between the elements and time… the missing thing that would perfect time-turners… it's a farfetched idea, but it's just so very possible…"

She hesitated for a moment, her hands forming shapes before her in a vain attempt to visually demonstrate what was in her head to the other two. "I don't think that you created a new element, Harry. Elemental magic is so basic that it's one of the fundamentals of this world. If you created something new… it would be like playing God- and excuse me for saying this, Harry… but I don't think you're that powerful.

"Instead, I think you discovered something that's been hidden from everyone else. With all the magic and technology that we have, we've never had the element that would allow us to break through to another universe. Even magic could only stay within our universe, even though we could travel through time. There was nothing powerful enough to break through the barrier between the universes or erode time. But if you think of time as an element as well, one that could be manipulated by concentrated magic just as elemental mages could manipulate the earth, wind, water, and fire… then maybe instead of four elements… there might be six."

Draco was the one who looked shocked, while Harry was still muddled with confusion. "That's… a very significant discovery, 'Mione."

"Yes- but think about it! The number four has rarely held significance. Only in a few religions did '4' become a holy number. That's why people always add one more to it- because we can relate with five. We can relate with three, we can relate with five. The Holy Trinity in Christian religion, the five pointed pentacle in Wiccan religion… we can also relate with six. I don't remember my history very well, but six was a Holy number a long, long time ago. It would make sense that the elements could actually amount to six."

Poor Harry, he grew even more confused. He had only been starting to grasp on what Hermione was saying with elements and time, why did she have to include numbers and religion as well?

"Then you're saying that there have always been six elements, and we classified the entire system wrong." Draco sounded like he understood what Hermione was saying. "Wind, water, fire, earth, time… and the element that Harry can control."

"Yes! We only classified four elements because we couldn't see the last two! It was a miracle we classified 'air' as well!"

"Then how come no one's seen this element before?" Harry questioned. "We've had elementals before, of every element we knew. There are even those people who could control time to a small degree. How come there's no one who's seen this element before, then?"

"Maybe because we've never been able to combine fire and water." Hermione suggested. "Every time someone tries, they cancel each other out. Maybe this new element is just the combination of the two elements that are the most obvious."

"And what does that do?" Harry continued to ask, his voice holding a slightly higher pitch as frustration at his lack to understand took a hold. "If this really is a 'hidden' element… what does time, and numbers, have to do with that?"

"If there are six elements," Hermione explained, her mind working at a furious pace. "It would form a complete circle. Wind can control the flow of water, water can change the shape of the earth, earth can be used to put out fires, fires can destroy things created with time, time could destroy your element, Harry, and your element would hold something over the air element."

"You don't even have an inkling of proof to that, 'Mione." Harry informed her.

"No, I don't." she agreed pleasantly. "So I might be completely off. In fact, I don't think I'm completely right myself. But I think I'm on the right path."

"What do you think of what Hermione said?"

It was nearly sunset, and the sky was tinted with shades of golden red rays tinged with purples and blues. Harry had been staring at the sight for the last few minutes, his hand entwined with Draco's as they walked in the snow while the tiny flakes were still falling lazily from the sky. He was holding his glove in the unoccupied hand, completely bundled up in multiple layers of sweaters and a large overcoat, an old red and gold scarf circling his neck all the way up past his chin. He had forgotten his hat inside, and was constantly irritated by his glasses fogging up, but stopping wiping the lenses after a while, just taking off his spectacles and slipping them into one of the multiple pockets in his overcoat.

Draco was no less bundled up than Harry was, (and with his Slytherin scarf as well) but he somehow still managed to look elegant and slim while Harry was sure he looked like a deformed and multicolored snowman. The two of them had been walking in circles around the small house, trying to retrace their footsteps after the first round.

"About the elements, the quantum physic theories, the time stuff, the numbers, or the religion thing?" Harry asked snidely.

The grip on his hand tightened slightly to show Draco's amusement as the blonde continued walking. "You know what I'm talking about."

Harry snorted slightly against the cold air, watching his breath come back up. "Everything, then."

The sun looked wavy over the distant mountains, its fading light shining in streaks in the sky, making their shadows seem long and foreboding. Harry snuck a glance at Draco despite the fact that the blonde was a blurry shape to his without his glasses. He was nearsighted, damn it (although severely so), not colorblind. He could still enjoy the rays of light that were reflected off Draco's white-blond hair.

"I don't care about all that." Harry admitted. "I mean… sure, that's an amazing discovery, but it doesn't help our situation any. I think after everything's settled again, and then we can ponder over the ideas of alternate universes and how great magic and elements are."

Harry used his free hand to rub over his cold nose, turning his eyes to watch the growing shadows and despairing to realize that all the other shadows seemed longer than his and Draco's. But even Draco's shadow seemed longer than his. Bloody hell. Where was that growth spurt people kept talking about? If it weren't for the fact that he saw everyone else go through it, Harry might have believed that to be a myth.

"I think it's amazing." Draco admitted. He smiled tightly and turned to face Harry, catching the dark-haired boy's attention with his movement. His expression was somber as he studied the small boy. But that only lasted for a moment as Draco then broke out into a grin. "And as a Malfoy, I'd only marry an extremely powerful wizard. Adding to the family and all that."

Harry tried to suppress a smile. "And if I weren't powerful?"

"Than I wouldn't be able to marry you as a Malfoy." Draco teased. He then leaned his forehead against Harry's, bringing their faces within centimeters of each other. "I'd have to disinherit myself, and then kidnap you and we'd elope."

Harry chuckled, relishing the contact of their skin and the grainy feel of hair rubbing against his temple. "How romantic." He commented dryly. "I think I'll pass."

"A big wedding, then?" Draco mused. "I never took you for the type."

"I never said anything about that." Harry protested. "I'm just not too keen on the idea of eloping, that's all."

"Oh? Then what if I said I wanted to marry you now?"

Harry smiled. "You'd have to find someone willing to marry two sixteen year olds first, then. If you find someone… then we'll talk."

Draco smirked. "I'll hold you to your word, then."

Harry then noticed a trickle of red. He was close enough to Draco that he didn't even have to squint to see what it was. Green eyes were wide as he said, "Draco, you're bleeding!"

The ex-Slytherin pulled back immediately, and disconnected their fingers to wipe away at the blood under his nose. But more blood was replaced as soon as he wiped it away. "It's nothing." He stated, trying to wave off Harry's concern. Draco used the sleeve of his overcoat to hold it to his nose as the blood continued to trickle out in a steady pace.

"Of course it's something!" Harry snapped, trying to bat Draco's arm away so that he could see. "How can you say that it's nothing?" His eyes widened in comprehension. "How long has this been happening? You've been hiding this from me!"

Draco wiped at his nose one last time, relieved to see that the bleeding had stopped. "I'm fine, Harry. It doesn't hurt or anything."

Harry set his jaw, suddenly reminded of the awful truth that Draco was dying, and that this was perhaps one of the symptoms. "Why did you hide it from me?" He asked shortly.

Grey eyes gazed searchingly into his own, before Harry was forced to turn his gaze elsewhere, holding back his anger to glare daggers at a nearby fern. He tensed up, not angry at Draco himself but at the fact that this was happening- that this had to happen.

"I didn't tell you because I knew you'd react like this." Draco said softly.

Harry breathed out a breath through his nose, trying to expel the undirected anger. It just wasn't fair that this had to happen when things were supposed to go smoothly after the war. This was supposed to be the happily ever after that came after the defeat of the villain.

But things were never that simple, were they?

Draco must have seen the change in Harry's expression, for the blonde sighed and took another glance at the last rays of the sun, knowing that there was still only a few seconds of daylight left. It would get even colder after the sun was completely gone behind the distant mountains.

"Come on." He said, tugging on Harry's hand. "Let's go inside."

Harry followed the other boy numbly, allowing Draco to lead him to the tiny kitchen at sit him down on one of the chairs before rummaging for a pot to make hot chocolate. He watched as the blonde filled the pot with water before setting it on top of the stove, starting up the gas for the fire. He was hit with a pang of sadness as he realized that if not for the war, Draco wouldn't know how to make hot chocolate at all. If it weren't for the war, the people he cared about most wouldn't be dying like this on him.

A warm hand on his cheek startled Harry out of his thoughts, and he looked up to see sympathetic grey eyes.

"I know what you're thinking." Draco said, pulling up another chair. He seated himself gingerly, never losing his contact with the green eyed ex-Gryffindor. "And you shouldn't think it. None of this is your fault. The war would have happened with or without you. It would have been much worse without you; since there's no way that we would have won."

"You can't know that." Harry countered in a small voice as he used both hands to rub his eyes vigorously. He was glad at that moment that his glasses were not in the way, otherwise he would have knocked them over and broken them with his haste to try and rub away the reality of things. "Things could have happened differently." He shook his head sadly, then stated. "I wasn't there in the universe that I fell into… and things were getting on just fine there. Sure, Voldemort was still at the large… but people were content and there wasn't any real danger. The only reason everyone's suffering here is because I'm here. That was the only difference between the two universes..."

Draco grasped Harry's hands to make sure that he didn't damage his eyes, and the blonde pursed his lips, setting his jaw at a hard angle. Grey eyes looked angrily into weary green ones, and the blonde swallowed hard to make sure that he didn't yell something that he would later regret. He didn't want to fight with Harry… not when they wouldn't have enough time together.

Once the ex-Slytherin was sure that the other boy would not go for his eyes again, he dropped the slender hands and instead reached to cup both sides of Harry's face, not in a gentle embrace of love- but with a firm resolve and tightness that belayed his underlying emotions.

"I don't know how many times we've had this conversation." Draco said stiffly, staring Harry straight in the eyes. "But this is. Not. Your. Fault." Draco took a deep breath to calm himself, but didn't let Harry go. "And I swear, if I find you blaming yourself for this one more time, I will resort to physical violence and smack you into next Wednesday. And after that, I'll hex you so badly that if doesn't matter if you are an extraordinary wizard and have an absurdly high level of innate magic… you would not be able to leave bed for a month!"

With that ultimatum delivered, Draco's face softened just a bit, and he searched Harry's face to see if the message got through. He was pleased by the shock evidently displayed by the dark-haired boy, and smirked slightly to defuse some of the tension. "Of course, physical violence is not something I prefer to resort to… especially as if might mess up my appearance. I might just skip to the hexes and keep you in bed for a week straight." His smirk grew slightly leering, reminding Harry of the younger and more arrogant Draco Malfoy from before the war.

"I…" What was he supposed to say to that?

Draco was waiting for a response, and it was clear that he would not let Harry go until he was pleased with the answer.

Harry tried to hide a smile, happy to know that the blonde would still have that Malfoy quality even with all the things and changes he went through. Bringing his hands to cup Draco's face in the same manner that the blonde had captured him, Harry finally let his smile seep through.

"I'll try." He responded.

"Miss Hermione Granger?"

The bushy haired ex-Gryffindor looked up from her work to see an unfamiliar face bobbing gently in the fireplace, expression slightly pensive and lips pulled into a firm line. The girl in the fire looked exhausted, with dark smudges underneath the eyes and a hair that looked like it hadn't been taken care of for ages.

Hermione put down her quill, wanting to be polite and giving all her attention over to the woman in the fire. "Yes, that's me." She replied confidently, running a hand through her short-chopped hair. "Is there something you needed?"

The older woman looked slightly relieved to have gotten the right person, making Hermione wonder if the poor lady had been wandering from fireplace to fireplace looking for her. But that wouldn't have been right… it might not be public knowledge where she was staying, but it certainly wasn't a secret either.

"I'm Dr. Greengrass from St. Mungo's… the test results that you requested yesterday are done, and I was hoping that you would come to St. Mungo's to have a look at them." The lady seemed uncomfortable about something. "The results were… rather… bizarre, and though I'm not sure about what you're looking for, several of the original blood samples have already deteriorated to such a level that we haven't been able to salvage any of it."

Hermione set a blank mask on her face. That was not good. The blood samples that she had taken had come from the cursed wizards and witches, the ones who fought during the second uprising of Voldemort, and then from ordinary muggles. She had a good guess as to which of the samples had deteriorated.

"Bizarre results?" she asked instead. "Bizarre in what way?"

Dr. Greengrass drew her brows together. "I think… it's something you have to see for yourself."

That brought up her curiosity, and Hermione rose from her chair. "I'll be right there."

End chapter 5

Authoress' Rambles: Waii, here's another chapter! ^__^ The explanations at the top are really complicated and somewhat confusing, I know. ^^;; Sorry. I did try to explain the best that I could, so I might have been extremely repetitive and whatnots. Everything's a strange mixture of magic and science. LOL. That's what this entire fic seems to be about. Thanks to everyone who reviewed in the last chapter! *huggles!* This story hasn't been forgotten yet!! And I'm sorry for the long waits, but I will finish this story. And the third one as well. ^^;; I've been working on other stories lately. Is it good enough just to say that despite all the delays, the end will be reached?