Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter

Chapter 17: Sleeping Will

Evening of August 10

Voldemort sat comfortably in a leather padded chair, eating a roast mignon and savoring every little detail. He secretly adored the taste of red meat with that tinge of blood in the center. The stuffed potatoes and steamed greens were quite good as well but what he loved most about eating at the Malfoy's was currently being replenished.

"Will there be anything else, my Lord?" asked one of the servant girls as she placed a covered bowl to his side. A wave of the hand dismissed her and the girl left, at which point Voldemort removed the cloth napkin and greedily pulled from the bowl a warm buttered biscuit. Narcissa's servants made the best damned biscuits this side of the Chunnel and a nearly inaudible moan escaped as the dough practically melted in his mouth.

A rapid knock came from a door to his right, "Enter," and he watched his most trusted Death Eater hobble over to the table, relying heavily on a crutch. "Severus, how are you feeling?"

The man managed a bow but his body shook and he struggled to remain standing, "Better, my Lord."

Voldemort expected no more and gestured for him to sit. Severus did so, although with some trouble at first but it wasn't long before he too was enjoying the excellent food of Malfoy Manor.

"How are the others?"

Severus paused, "Recovering, although at a much slower pace. We lost six earlier today."

Voldemort said nothing and bit down harder into one of the biscuits. Despite his sincerest efforts, some of the weaker sods passed on. While it wasn't a complete loss, it was still another set of resources he'd have to backfill. "Pity. At least the bodies will still be of" and his goblet full of wine disintegrated, splashing its contents over some of the food.

Voldemort snickered, "Still having trouble I see. Has that gotten any better?"

To the amusement of many, Severus would have bouts of accidental magic reminiscent to that of a toddler. The instances were at first plentiful since his reawakening and fortunately, over the month or so since he'd come back from the dead, the occurrences were lessening.

Severus' scowl was somewhat tempered, "Painfully slow my Lord, but it is improving."

"Indeed," the Dark Lord chuckled. "Have you had any fortune in finding" but he was once again interrupted when a Death Eater burst into the room and quickly knelt by his side. Irritation flared in Voldemort's eyes, "Speak."

"My Lord, there has been a counter attack to our efforts in Diagon this evening."

Voldemort met Severus' eyes briefly, "Casualties?"

"Eleven so far, my Lord. We suspect it is the Order."

A pause hung in the air before Severus spoke, "What evidence do you have to make such a claim? The Order is not known for taking lives."

The Death Eater, one that Snape didn't recognize off hand, bowed to him, "My Lord Severus, one of the captains, McNair, said he recognized an assailant. He believed it to be Amelia Bones." Snape's expression remained veiled but Voldemort set down his fork and knife before leaning back into the chair.

He hated to admit it, but he had acted too irrationally some weeks ago and was now paying for it. The information his portraits had given him over the years, particularly in the weeks up until the abrupt termination of the network, offered unique insights into many of Dumbledore's plans. Glimpses he would never re-establish without first going into Hogwarts himself.

It was the portraits who gave him the inclination Albus was aware of his soul anchors and on the off chance Albus didn't know, it would only be a matter of time. While it wouldn't be a huge setback, it would cause an annoyance if the Light wizard chose to start hunting them sooner instead of later. No doubt Albus would use the Order to accomplish this feat but when was the problem.

In this, timing was everything.

Another piece of information gleaned from the network was the location of Order HQ and he had been quite happy when Dumbledore let it slip. The House of the Blacks was an old family manor, hidden among the muggles in plain sight. While it would have been a boon for the Dark Lord and his forces to attack the Order's hideout, Voldemort knew such a morsel would be best consumed at a later date.

With Bella currently staying in Grimmauld, he grudgingly admitted to himself it had been foolish to believe she would alert him if the Order suffered a sudden drop in staffing. Bella likely wouldn't have known the significance of such a thing or more likely, have the opportunity to become aware of it which lead to yet another dilemma.

He had worked hard for years to achieve the sphere of influence he currently wielded. Lucius and Severus were only the beginning and there were more layers to his mechanizations than either of his most trusted men knew. 'Perhaps,' he thought, 'I should consider bringing one of them into the fold.' It was difficult to act as a sounding board to yourself but it was the only way to ensure the utmost level of secrecy. He reached for another biscuit, clearing his thoughts and nibbling on the bread to sooth a weary mind.

"Tell McNair not to pursue until our goals are met. Until then, keep them busy for as long as possible; I will not tolerate failure in this."

The Death Eater stood before bowing again, "By your will, My Lord," and he left.

Severus, having seen his Master pick up the fork again, took it as a sign to continue eating. After a swig of wine from his own chalice, he broached an uncomfortable topic, "My Lord, if I may be so bold. Why haven't you called for Bella?"

If Voldemort was upset with this query he didn't show it and instead continued to eat, speaking in-between bites. "I should have some time ago. I waited too long, hoping she would catch something of interest but it would appear I was mistaken. Yet another error it seems."

"You have been stretched thin my Lord, surely the setbacks we have encountered are not totally unwarranted?" The glare which followed prompted Servus to quickly explain, "What I mean to say my Lord, is you are only one wizard who is building a vast and powerful empire practically on his own. What you have accomplished thus far is commendable in many ways and I personally do not see our recent losses a cause for concern."

'Curious, touching upon a thought I just had myself.' "Perhaps you are correct, I should start delegating important tasks to those I trust. Even still, it would not correct the error I made just recently." Voldemort held up his hand to stall the counter, "There is no justifying Severus, it is an error plain and simple. I should have stormed Black Manor the moment I learned of Dumbledore's change in nature. It may be simple retribution on Bones' part, but I think the deaths tonight are significant."

Severus frowned, "I did not believe Albus to be capable of such things."

Voldemort scoffed, "Please. Any man has the capacity, it only takes the right sort of push before the act is committed." He set down his utensils and steepled his hands in thought letting out a sigh as he did so. "There were three objectives I set out to meet before the end of this year and by the looks of things, I will only see one come to fruition only because I stood idle when action was required."

Severus took one more swig from his gauntlet before answering, "I am of little use as of right now my Lord, but tell me what it is you need and I shall do what I can."

"I need you to get better, Severus. Then I will need those who went with you to the castle to be better. You will assist in this endeavor once you are able as I will need the manpower for what is to come. Recruitment should be attempted as well, but again, only when you are feeling more capable."

Severus moved to stand but Voldemort waved him off, standing himself, "Be seated and finish your meal. I have things to do before the night is over. It's long overdue, but I think it's time I start using some of my more elaborate resources."

Severus smiled, "As you wish, my Lord. Do give Bella my regards."

Voldemort smirked to himself, elevating Severus in his mind for understanding the veiled words. He gave a nod to the man before moving quietly out of the private dining hall and to his personal chambers. Before arriving however, he was intercepted by one of his more recent 'pet' projects.

The toad-like woman bowed. "I've all done all you have commanded, my Lord. At last, the entire Ministry has been sown."

The Dark Lord smiled, "Might I remind you of your failing at being undetected while in the Minister's office? Seeds of Ruin planted or not, you still failed to meet my requirements." He circled her slowly, pleased at her lack of fear or concern. Instead, she simply smiled her sickly sweet smile.

"Apologies, my Lord. My reactions were limited according to your specification. I had no prior knowledge the DMLE was so thorough in its private investigations."

Voldemort frowned while pulling out his wand, "Yet another oversight. Look at me, Dolores."

The witch did so, unflinchingly, and Voldemort tapped his wand on the top of her head. The reaction was immediate, her eyes blinking several times before her whole face turned white and she began shrieking, moving away from him.

"NO! NO, GET AWAY FROM ME!"

The Dark Lord laughed merrily, watching as the pathetic witch backed up to the wall and then sunk to the floor, all the while screaming and turning all sorts of different colors. His amusement heightened at seeing a dampness appear underneath her quivering form and he pointed his wand at her again.

"Temná Loutka" he whispered and Dolores calmed quickly, regaining her sickly smile and composure.

She stood and cleaned herself with a wave of her own wand, "What assistance may I give you, my Lord?"

"As you were, Dolores."

She bowed and continued on her original path. Voldemort watched happily as she disappeared around the bend in the hall before moving into his room. He searched around in several dressers, finding various articles of dragon hide crafted from numerous beasts. He put on his armor, followed by the usual black robe and at last, a wand in hand finished the preparations.

A short breath steadied his whirring mind, 'So much to do,' he thought wearily. 'At least what follows shall be entertaining.' He smirked to himself and wondered briefly what the night would bring.

"Kreacher?"

An old, rag wearing elf appeared before him and bowed low to the ground.

"Lord of All Things, most trusted friend of the Blacks. How may I serve?"

Voldemort's eyes lit up in a fiery red, his smile bordering on the insane. He recalled with a touch of fondness the destruction of Regulus. Once a loyal servant, the man decided on betrayal but was fortunately derailed before too much could be done. The Dark Lord sighed in disappointment, wishing for the old days and how effortless it was to acquire test subjects. Not so much anymore, particularly the likes of such a fine specimen that had been Regulus.

Blood of a Black was very difficult to come by, especially if you didn't want to kill one in the process.

Voldemort regarded the waiting elf. Ironic how simple it was; a Transfiguration here, a Blood ritual there, followed by a little twist to an animation spell and Kreacher didn't even notice the difference. More importantly though, the ancestral magics of the Blacks didn't notice either. While not the Master of the House, he could still achieve what he needed as a Blood Friend.

"Your home has been infested, taken by the enemy. Do you not agree?"

The snarl was music to his ears, "It pains me my Lord, but Kreacher agrees. Mistress would be so disappointed."

"Then I believe it is high time we do what the matron of Black Manor would wish to see done to her home, given such a terrible infestation. Bring the portrait of dear Walburga to this mansion, along with every other book from the Library. Bella shall take care of those you cannot find or touch."

"Lord Regulus commanded me upon his death to serve you my Lord and serve I shall."

He smiled, "Regulus was of my most treasured servants, even now he follows my bidding in death." Kreacher bowed in respect of his former master and Voldemort barely contained his mirth. "Is Bella alone?"

"Yes, Master. The unworthy left the house not long ago and have yet to return."

"Take me to the dungeons."

The elf said no more, reaching for the outstretched hand of his Master and with a soft pop, appeared in the dark of Black Manor. Kreacher set about his pre-appointed task while Voldemort quietly approached a cell and tapped his wand on the bars.

Bella's eyes opened in surprise but were quickly filled with a burning fire when she noticed who was there.

"Come my dear, there is work to be done."

XX

"H..r.!"

'Ohhh...'

"Ha.r.!"

'Haaa?'

"Harry, wake up already!" The door to his room burst open and a buzzing

Hermione flew in and was at the bedside in a flash. "You do realize it's 7:00 in the morning don't you?"

He groggily looked at her through blurred eyes, only to have his glasses lovingly placed on his head.

"Yea...?"

"Get up lazy bones, we need to get to the castle!"

Harry sighed and sat up slowly, watching idly as Hermione marched back out of the room. By the time the door shut a smile was already on his face.

'Showing her what happened was a bad idea; a very bad idea.'

After a most unexpected venture in the castle, Harry left to meet up with Hermione and her parents for dinner. He had been so excited, much like Hermione had just been, he told her of his findings. This in turn transferred his excitement to her and she demanded, after a snog for inspiration, to be shown via Coetus as soon as possible.

They had spent nearly four hours in their magically connected mindset and it was their longest session to date. It also did little to quell Hermione's curiosity so he promised he'd take her to the castle and show her what happened the following day.

'That is, if Hogwarts will let her through...'

"HARRY!"

He cringed and immediately got up and went for a quick shower before changing into a new set of clothes, brought to him by Dobby. They had been late last night so the Grangers offered their spare bedroom, which Harry was all too happy to accept. The merging session had taken a lot of him for some reason and yet Hermione seemed perfectly fine. He made a mental note to ask Luna about it later and left his room to head downstairs.

As he descended the steps, the wonderful smell of homemade French toast and bacon hit him in the face and he cherished the thought of starting off the morning with Hermione and her parents. When he entered the kitchen however, Marcus and Olivia were sharing a knowing look and upon seeing him, their smiles grew wider.

"Let's go, Harry," said Hermione, "eat up," and he was forcibly directed to the table where a plate was set in front of him. "Quickly now, no time to lose!" She left the kitchen and could be heard taking the stairs two by two.

"Best be quick, lad" chuckled Marcus. "It's been a long time since I've seen her so excited and you won't get her to slow down for anything."

'Well, so much for a relaxing breakfast' and he mumbled his thanks before turning to his food with a gusto he didn't exactly feel. Just as Marcus warned him, Hermione was newly dressed and ready to go by the last bite of toast.

"Alright, alright," Harry grumbled with a smile. "Hot on the trails of a mystery are you? What happened to 'I don't like adventures' Granger?"

He chuckled as she harrumphed and slapped him on the shoulder, "Would you like to wait until Christmas for your next kiss?"

Everyone except Hermione had a rather good laugh. Harry stood and took his dishes to the sink, "Mr. and Mrs. Granger, thank you for the breakfast and it was good to see you again."

"Likewise, Harry," replied Olivia who stood next to her husband. "Take care and we hope to see you again soon."

Hermione wrapped her arm around Harry's waist and finally appeared to settle, "Bye Mum, bye Dad. See you at dinner!" and the two magicals disappeared before the Granger's eyes.

"Never gonna get use to that," grinned Olivia, "and Lord help his weary soul. Once Hermione sets herself to task, not but the Lord's hand could stop her."

Marcus chuckled, "Sometimes I wonder."

Said witch and her wizard appeared just outside the gates of Hogwarts and Hermione practically dragged Harry to the castle's entrance.

"Merlin, Hermione! Slow down already. It's not going anywhere, believe me."

"Harry! Don't you realize how important this is? I've read every edition of Hogwarts, A History and not once did it mention there being so much more to the castle. This is, this is monumental!"

In what was no time at all, they stood by the wall at the end of the fourth floor corridor and Hermione could barely keep still.

"So this is it?"

He nodded, "There's a wall on each floor, similar to this one. I haven't had the chance to..." and he watched in equal parts shock and amusement as Hermione walked up to the portrait, placed her hand on the painting and walked right through the wall, all without waiting for him.

'Well, apparently Hogwarts will let her through. At least one question gets answered today,' he thought happily to himself and his smile only grew when he could feel the sheer amazement flow through their forming bond. Like Hermione before him, he passed through effortlessly and spotted her some distance away, looking at one of the many new and unmoving paintings which hung on the wall.

On this side, the corridor continued for a lengthy stretch, nearly double the distance he had been from the Grand Staircase on the original side. Doors were scattered along the hallway, each leading to an unused classroom. It had been a long time since this part of the castles saw any use, if the layers of dust were anything to go by. Harry noticed Hermione was unconsciously following his footprints on the floor from the day before: the dust was that thick.

As he began his trek to catch up with her, Harry ran his hand along the wall. He had done this several times already and just like the other reactions, the magic felt subdued here. There was still a warmth to the castle but it was lethargic in a way. A funny notion, yet it was the only description Harry could think of. It was also the reason, at least he believed it to be, why the portraits were all unmoving.

"HARRY!"

Chuckling was about all he could do at hearing the different emotions in her voice: elation, shock and a dash of euphoria turned him into a grinning idiot. He caught up to her, standing by a railing with eyes wide and mouth to the floor. Harry knew she had seen this last night, but not even a memory could compare to the reality.

"Amazing, isn't it?" he grinned. "Who knew there was so much we didn't know?"

The hallway connected to a massive circular chamber, as did the other corridors on each floor. This room, similar to that of the Grand Staircase, stretched the entire height of the castle and the stairs spiraled down, following the chamber's edge. A dusty and corroded golden chandelier hung high, it's brilliance muffled by the absence of use and cleaning. Old portraits and hundreds of tapestries, statues and other trinkets lined the walls, filling this chamber with an untold amount of history.

In several places there were additional hallways, leading off to what Harry suspected were more classrooms but he didn't have the time to explore them all the previous day. Most of his effort had been spent mapping entrances to this side of the castle from the 'normal' side in his memory. It was how he discovered each floor was connected to this place and from those explorations, he also found something else.

Harry nudged her and she turned to look at him, tears streaming down her face.

"This is amazing, I, I can hardly believe it."

If possible, his smile grew and he took her arm in his, "Come with me."

Silently, he led Hermione down four flights of stairs, her eyes darting this way and that with each step they took. Each floor had a landing which circled the entire chamber, allowing for more items of Hogwarts' past to be hung and adored. Harry was particularly interested in several of the paintings because they resembled what looked like Hogsmeade being built. There was also a painting or two with five individuals sitting at a round table. The Founders were easily recognized but Harry wondered who the fifth person was.

Once at the bottom of the stairs Harry led her over to a large set of doors, each one bearing resemblance to those guarding the Great Hall. He tried hard not to fidget in his own mounting excitement for he had purposely suppressed these memories the night before.

"Try not to faint, alright? I admit I had trouble myself."

"Faint? Why would I.. " and her voice trailed off as Harry opened the massive door and helped Hermione through.

He laughed, catching her midway, "See? I told you."

The room they had entered could hardly be considered a room at all. It looked like someone had gutted every floor of the castle and left one gigantic open space. The doorway they came through looked tiny, the wall standing high above it.

The space was easily the size of what Hogsmeade used to be, coupled together with Diagon Alley and maybe even the whole of Knockturn. Houses stretched out before their eyes, each made of wood and white stone, their roofs of golden thatched straw. From this perch, you could see a main street and several side alleys with a central square in the middle. There was also some kind of structure on the far side towering over the rest.

It stood tall against the other houses and was built partly into the opposing wall. It almost resembled a clock tower, its pointed top nearly touching the chamber roof. Similar to the Great Hall, the ceiling was charmed to show an even better view of what was outside. If it was to be believed, the sun was still rising in the East and there were scant few clouds in the sky today.

"It's... It's..."

He whispered softly, "I don't think I've ever seen you speechless."

She would have slapped him for his teasing if only she wasn't so dazed. It was truly a magnificent and completely unexpected sight to behold.

"It's a village, within the castle," she finally managed, leaning on the railing before her. The level they stood on outlined the entire chamber and there were several stairways leading to the streets below. Her eyes traced a few of them, "This is beyond belief, Harry. There are no books I know of describing anything even remotely like this."

Harry nodded beside her before leaning on the railing as well, "I'm not surprised to be honest. There's very little on the Founders or the things they've accomplished and I've always been curious as to why. We've only been told of how great they were, yet nothing on what they did. Finding this," and he gestured to the town below, "gives some credit to their renown. The castle is amazing to be sure, but with their reputations I expected more of what we see here. I mean apart from the paintings from earlier, I haven't seen their portraits in the castle be...fore…."

He drifted off but it went unnoticed. 'That's not true; I have seen their portraits, in that room...' He debated for a moment before choosing to revisit the thought later and instead took Hermione's hand.

"Do you want to go and explore the town?"

She gave him a look that said, 'Are you daft?'

"Right then," he smiled, "let's get going."

Hermione nearly skipped down the stairs, "I can only imagine how the Professors will react to this."

"Funny you should mention. I wasn't even sure if you would be able to see this today."

Hermione blinked, "Are you saying the Professors tried and couldn't get through the wall?"

"Minerva, Filius, and Pomona who happened to be coming back from vacation when I nabbed the others, couldn't get through. Their reactions to me doing so were entertaining though."

"Do you think it has something to do with you being Headmaster? But then why was I?"

He shrugged, "I think that's part of it and as to why you could and they couldn't? I have no idea. The magic here at any point beyond the wall we stepped through feels different from the rest of the castle and maybe that's why. I was thinking about it earlier."

"How so?"

"It's like this part of the castle is sleeping. I know it sounds strange but I can't think of any other way to explain it."

"Have you asked Mai?"

"Yes and she knows nothing of this place. She even tried to follow me through the wall and couldn't."

"Really? I thought she was tied to the castle?"

"She is and despite not being able to get through, it didn't seem to bother her too much. All she said was there are some things she's not privy to and this must be one of them."

Hermione frowned, "Well that's no good."

"What do you mean?"

"How am I to get ahead on research if the only one who might have an answer has no knowledge of this place and can't even get here?"

Harry's laughter echoed the rest of the walk down to the town level but he grew quiet when they started walking amongst the houses. He hadn't come this far although he wanted to and instead chose to wait until Hermione knew about it. He had a feeling they might get a chance to explore together, despite the setbacks the professors experienced.

The houses, as they had seen from above, were made of white stone, interlaced by a framework of dark wood. The materials were in almost perfect condition; the wood showing no signs of decay and the stone was a gloss white, not marble but a deep, rich white. They stepped inside some of the houses and were surprised to find relatively clean, empty rooms. The dust wasn't so thick here and with a little sprucing up, it wouldn't be all that difficult to get the buildings habitable again.

As they made their way towards the center of town, Hermione noticed grooves cut into the streets and buildings. She couldn't tell what exactly they were for but they had a silver like sheen to them, as if the cutouts were overlaid with glass, creating a channel for some purpose. Another surprise waiting for them were the parks they found scattered throughout the town. Whole blocks were devoted to open spaces and there was actually grass growing. They had even found trees at some of the other locations.

"Harry," said Hermione as they approached an empty fountain marking the center of town. "Does this seem familiar somehow?"

He looked at her for a moment, wondering what she was getting at before taking a look around. At first glance, nothing about this place was even remotely familiar but then he noticed something about the one house to his left. The way the building sat, as opposed to the one across from it reminded him of a place he'd been before. The pattern of recognition continued until he finally realized what she was getting at.

"Hogsmeade," he said in a breathless whisper. "This place is built like Hogsmeade." He turned around, looking at the fountain as a point of reference and then quickly spun around again. "There, that building would have been Dominic's and the one right there would have been Gladrags Wizardware!"

Hermione smiled at him, "Yes, I thought the same!" Her brow furrowed before her eyes opened wide, "Could this be what's under the Quidditch Pitch?"

"No, I don't think it is."

She was floored by the quick response. "Why?"

"This is going to sound bonkers but the magic at those bricks was alive, Hermione. Alive in a way I can't describe but I can say it was different from how the rest of the castle feels. Like we talked about earlier, the magic is different here too but it's not the same as the Pitch."

Harry reached for a hand and was about to lead her back the way they came, but hesitated. Hermione watched him curiously as thoughts danced across green eyes.

"Before I first touched the painting back in the 4th floor corridor, I felt a pull on my magic." He looked over her shoulder. "Just now, I felt it again."

Harry walked off, half in a daze and Hermione followed. He led them around the fountain in the central square, past several more rows of houses and they approached the tower they had seen from the landing on the opposite side of the village. The entrance into the structure was a large open archway and inside, Hermione could see a faint glow.

Entering into the dimly lit chamber, she took in the source of light.

An oddly shaped stone sat at the back of the room. It was massive, easily ten feet wide and several more tall. Her attention traveled higher up, noticing with a jolt of surprise the tower was hollow. If she had a broom and wasn't nervous of heights, she could have flown straight up from the entrance and touched the pointed stone ceiling.

She drew her attention back to the stone and took in its appearance. The surface looked to be polished smooth, but it wasn't perfect as small indentations could be seen if you looked at the right angles. It was a darker color, with a shine akin to marble and what really set off it's tone was the softly glowing runes.

Hermione didn't recognize them, which automatically put this high up on her 'To-Study' list. They pulsed quietly and emitted a warm hum of magic with each rise and fall of the rune's breath.

"So this is what the Stones look like."

She thought for a moment, "Hogwarts showed you these, didn't she? Back before everything went to pot?"

Harry chuckled, "Yes, although it may be more accurate to say she let me feel them for the first time." He smiled at her as he walked up to the stone and placed his hand upon the surface. "This is one of five that make up the base for the wards."

Hermione's eyes went wide as saucers as she slowly crept forward, "This. This is an Anchor Stone? One of five?"

His short nod made her squeak like a little mouse and his laughter reverberated in the tower. The stone reacted to Harry's cheer and it pulsed brightly before sending out a burst of magic.

They quickly moved outside, their eyes following the wave as it took physical form and radiated out across the town. Hermione was nearly hyperventilating, her interest piquing at how the magic looked to be running along the channels she had puzzled at earlier.

Harry took a deep breath, feeling revitalized and Hermione couldn't help but look at him in awe.

"Maybe you need to start teaching me." She would swear up and and down his smile rivaled the sun.

"Why not start now? I've learned a surprising amount thanks to you and Mai. Come on, I'll show you." He turned back and they headed inside to the stone. "You ready for this? It's gonna be heavy."

She nodded in earnest.

"The first thing you need to realize is everything we ever learned about magic applies only up to a certain point. Let's take Magical Transconductance (MT): can you give me a textbook example?"

Hermione easily slipped into student mode, "It's described as the ratio of our magical output compared to the regenerative capability of our core. The theories give backing to whole leagues of trades and abilities; wand making, healing, dueling, the list goes on it. It's one of the fundamental concepts really."

"10 points to Gryffindor had we been in term," he said with a grin. "That is all true, but what happens to the equations for let's say, a squib?"

"Their output is either too small to properly utilize magic or the regenerative aspect is next to nothing so they can't build any reserves."

"Another 10 points. The ratio adjusts itself depending on the circumstances of the witch, wizard, or in this case, squib. The effect can be extended to muggles, whereas the ratio is absolute zero or in terms that are higher up on the theory scale, Null Magic."

It was Hermione's turn to beam at him. Their efforts at Coetus were clearly paying off.

"What if I were to tell you," he continued, his eyes sparkling, "despite all we just talked about, there is no such thing as regeneration and by extension, MT?"

Her theoretical self jumped at the chance for a debate, "With so many other disciplines hinging on this theory, to say our cores don't regenerate magic is a pretty bold and potentially devastating concept. I don't see how our cores can't help but to regenerate when necessary."

"Why can't it be our output simply diminishes due to physical, mental and core fatigue? What if our so called 'regenerative' aspect doesn't really exist or rather, is so large, it has no functional purpose? Our cores are literally just valves and we the handle whereas through fatigue and physical strain are only able to hold the valve open for so long."

Hermione frowned, thinking the notion over.

"And," continued Harry, "what makes a wizard or witch powerful? Admittedly this is a bit of a tangent, but it will help me reach the conclusion I'm striving for."

She thought hard on the matter but couldn't come up with an answer to Harry's oddball questions. She lost her focus when Harry's eyes practically shined.

"Hear me out, alright?"

Hermione smiled, feeling his excitement through their bond.

"A wizard or witch's skill is largely a result of practice, study and of course, more practice. It's like riding a broom, the more you do it, the better and more comfortable you get at it." He started to pace, "But the same cannot be said for natural ability, which plays a large part in the differences between wizards and witches. Where did it come from? You have an affinity for books and logic, I for flying.

We were born with these things and one's strength or power in magic, I think, is determined in a similar manner. Partly. By hard work and sacrifice we can improve ourselves; work past the natural ability we're born with. However, you can't dismiss some people are just better or stronger in things. Which has lead me to believe the answer lies within us or more specifically, our blood."

Hermione frowned at him.

"Wait, wait! Don't give me that look, not yet at least. I know what you're thinking," and he added cheekily, "literally," which earned him a swat on the shoulder. "You're right though, it's pureblood-bigotry at its finest. Yet, if this is how the original ideals of pureblood beliefs came about, it makes sense for how it all evolved into what it is today."

Hermione sighed, "Alright, I'll concede blood plays a part in the makeup of a magical's ability. There has been some work and study in this to offer proof to your claims, but I don't understand how this has anything to do with MT?"

"That it plays a part is the point," he said, almost shaking in place. "In turn, this leads to other factors. You know how intense emotion can make us temporarily stronger or weaker, right? It's a double edged sword, which is why we're cautioned when powering any spell with emotion; it may or may not work and case in point, the Patronus Charm. It's difficulty is due to the emotional component."

She nodded her head, starting to see his pattern, "So aside from hereditary conditions we don't have control over, what you're suggesting is that the magical power one has or doesn't is based heavily on the individual themselves. Limiting factors are, for the most part, entirely of our own making or… completely changeable given we worked at it enough..."

Harry smiled at her, "It's all up to us how strong we wish to be and even things like blood can be changed if we're willing to sacrifice enough." He started to chuckle lightly, "I can't thank you enough, Hermione. If it wasn't for our sessions and some of the things you're teaching me, I never would have cottoned onto any of this and I'm still finding more as I go." He looked off in one direction and mumbled, "I should probably thank Mai too."

Hermione studied him for a second, a tiny feeling of sadness mixed with her pride and elation. 'He's changing,' she thought to herself, wondering if Harry realized how strong an intellectual he'd become. It wasn't to say she disagreed with these changes: a smart Harry was an incredibly hot Harry if anyone were to ask her but Hermione wasn't sure where the changes were coming from. Were they based in part of his own desire to becoming better or were they a byproduct of their merging? 'And what of me?' she wondered. 'Have I changed too?'

Harry's deep sigh startled her musings.

"Which brings me to what I really wanted to say and is the biggest shakeup of my understanding so far." Harry turned to look at the stone, "Magic is very structured, but only because we have made it to be this way. Arithmenic equations, runic composition arrays, the laws, theories; it's all an attempt to make magic understandable and predictable to wizards and witches. Maybe even make it easier to learn and use."

He gestured around the room, "Which is fine. The structure offers us an approach to use and respect magic, but it's not the only way. When things like MT exist, everything's right with the world as we know it. Brooms will be made the same way, potioneering will rely on the combinations of magical ingredients, their base properties melded and mixed by the presence of flame or not."

He reached out and let his fingers trail along the stone, "But when you increase the power, when you manipulate the ratio of MT a certain way, everything we know suddenly breaks. Everything we've been taught no longer applies and things get chaotic, wondrous and terrifying all in one go. It's like we're returning to the roots of magic; the structure doesn't work anymore and then what really matters, what really makes the difference in having power and strenght is realized: intent. It's the will and passion for what you want."

Hermione gently grabbed his arm, "Harry, what you speak of is graduate work. The power you're talking about would have to be enormous, something we can't even begin to measure or comprehend."

Harry's excitement was literally consuming her.

"Hermione, I'm living it. There will always be a limit to our physical capability and there are some things which will always remain the same, but the castle is" and he stiffened. The Anchor Stone flashed and Hermione felt the air charge with magic. She felt herself get nervous and afraid, feeling a slight prick at the corner of her mind.

"We have to go," he said, his voice tight. "Moody just stumbled through the wards."

XX

A/N:

Temná loutka - (Czech) dark puppet