The TRL Magic System,
What the Hell was I thinking?
In trying to quantize and make interesting various parts of the story I ended up with a framework for magic that was almost painfully over complicated and almost impossible to keep straight. I figured I'd put some of the thought that went into it here in case anyone found the world building / clusterfuck interesting.
Part the First: What is magic?
There came a point in writing this story when I sat back and asked myself 'Right, you have these bloodline abilities, where the hell do they come from?'. The characters weren't necessarily going to find out, and neither were the readers but, as the author, it's something that I needed to know or at the very least have a good idea about.
Rituals, as the ultimate in handwavium were of course my first choice. Because they're barely touched on in canon we can do pretty much whatever we like with them and even point at the mention of dark evil rituals used by Voldemort and claim it as evidence. Unfortunately something that powerful does not get quietly forgotten by magical society, even if it's not the done thing. At least one or two cunning little muggleborns would have discovered/stolen the knowledge and founded Houses of their own.
Speaking of muggleborn their very existence sparks some interesting questions if you assume that bloodline 'gifts' exist. For instance, if magic can spontaneously appear in a bloodline, can a gift appear in a bloodline without magic? If it can't, why not? Restricting them to the magical population is almost necessary to enforce a firm magical/non-magical separation. Not doing so leaves all kinds of things open to happen or a crossover with a mutant/superhero Universe which would alter the growth of magical society regardless.
The problem comes in asking why these abilities spontaneously appear in the magical population in a similar manner to muggleborn appearing in the non-magical one unless you assume the same reason applies to both. Namely mutation / evolution. Magic is an obvious survival advantage, as is being able to use a class of magic without a focus. However I didn't want to demystify magic to the point at which it becomes a genetic marker (and really, how does the ability to warp reality, common sense, time and death become something as mundane as a chemical sequence?). That leaves us with a mutation in something else, with the soul seeming to be the most obvious thing.
Once you've assumed that souls can mutate between generations all kinds of possibilities open up, and you can find alternate explanations for the craziest of things. One of my favourites being that the 'werewolf curse' is in fact a spiritual parasite that evolved from a bunch of spiritual wolves in siberia as a survival mechanism (spiritual possession via bite against bears) and has since evolved further in strange ways. That never made it in though, and good riddance to it.
Further complication came when I considered squibs, who are not magic users and not non-magic users, which is awkward because this means that magic use can't be the result of just one mutation or there is a form of mutation that cripples it. Either way works and either way is plausible. At the end of the day it doesn't really matter which you choose or don't choose, but I decided that it would two mutations, the first was the ability to store magical energy, the second to manipulate it, because it was a neat separation.
Incidentally, it also leads to their being two different variants of squibs and naturally occurring squibs that are a lot more common that the purebloods would like to believe.
As for the Lordship ability, that was a giant problematic kettle of fish. Had it just been the ability to bind followers and gain power from it, it would have been fine, but the various auras and other effects made it far too complex for it to be a single mutation stage. It was also suspiciously specific.
We've now ascertained that the ability to use magic and the amount of magical power someone has is down to the spiritual equivalent of genetics (if there could be said to be such a thing, the soul is not immutable in this setting, it can be split). This also implies a level of spiritual inheritance.
In case people were wondering, this is why females in this setting gain slowly in magical power before accelerating post menopause in this setting and men lower their maximum magical potential by wanking but have a steady gain. The kid's soul has to come from somewhere. (Similarly a virgin is different from a non-virgin in that their spirit hasn't been touched/contaminated by fragments of another's among other nonsensical plot reasons.)
The existence of dementors adds another level of complications to this as they show that the body and soul are not required for the other to function (so do ghosts and horcruxes) and we have to ask ourselves why they're two separate things. There's not really a good answer to this as a question, I could think of reasons why a body would want a soul (access to emotions, magic use etc.) and a soul would want a body (a power source, if magic is produced by living things, a safe haven from some magics that can target souls) but not a compelling reason as to why they are this way.
I eventually settled on a framework that worked for the Voldemort/Riddle parts of the story, with the soul being the emotional/magical core of a person whilst the mind stores the memories kind of like a hard drive and the body acts as armour/magical battery. This means that when Voldemort died, he also lost a lot of his knowledge and more of it went with the destruction of the diary in second year. Hence when he's resurrected he has a very good reason to lose the fight and stay in the shadows for a year or two regaining his knowledge.
It also makes Necromancy/Necrourgy a lot more complicated and difficult but that's mostly a pleasant side effect.
As for Majorities, those are an excuse to have some fun with the characters and explain why certain abilities only appear when characters are mature enough to use them. Can I think of a decent basis for it? No. A gradual appearance over time would make more sense, but is harder to dramatise and I wanted to come up with a reason why the power of spells goes up in increments across the years. First years being unable to cast things like reducto without knocking themselves out seems as good idea as any.
Incidentally Hermione is ten and a half months older than Harry by canon which in the world of statistics makes her age at the start of term one as well as her head start on knowing about magic almost as much of an indicator as to their academic gap as her personality and general book reading. Date of Birth and term times are unfortunate like that. Even more so when you're informed of something on the day you hit eleven and therefore has that ten and a half month advantage of magical development.
Part the Second: The Energy of Magic
This is the part where everything goes to hell in a handcart. Why? Potions, wandlore and the patronus. We've decided that magic is the manipulation of energies, ergo potions is the mixing of residues of these energies left behind in somethings body after it dies (vanishing blood/bodies is difficult as a result of this). Every ingredient has a different reaction to other ingredients so we can infer that almost every species magical energy is different. It's obvious, it's also very big when we include the importance of wood from wandlore. I'll state it on it's own line:
Every plant, animal and probably insect species produces/maintains a magical energy different from almost any other and it varies throughout their body. (see: bezoar)
Not exactly something we were expecting to have as a logical consequence of having magic as an energy that can be inherent in a body. We're now left with the problem of how runes react to the differences in these energies and whether or not they have a tolerance. Either way we have issues. I choose to go with them reacting differently and runes having a tolerance, as minor variations in energy type equates to minor variations in rune geometry, like having a line a couple of degrees off.
Thus we have rituals where the runes in use determine if you can sacrifice a goat or a bunny, the energy difference between a male and female unicorn could drastically alter the properties of a potion made with 'unicorn horn' and so on. Life for magic users just became a lot more dangerous and a lot more unpredictable. Incidentally I never did decide if it was possible to use a wand with your mouth or feet as they're somehow 'keyed' to your hands.
On that line of thought we now know that every living beings magical energy is inherently different (see wand choosing) and may not be uniform throughout their body. We also know that the runes used are dependant on the energies being channeled, leaving us a very large amount of complicated stuff to make up magic. It gets worse because of one spell: The Patronus.
Emotions are being used to power spells. This isn't consuming a memory or drawing from the wizards energy store, it's drawing from the emotion themselves as best as I can tell. I might be wrong, but assume I'm right: we have an emotion powering a spell, so emotions are a form of energy. All emotions. Not just love, happiness etc. because that wouldn't make sense. The question becomes where does the energy come from?
At this point I made a bit of leap and assumed it came from elsewhere, mostly because this has pleasant consequences. Demons for instance suddenly become entities from emotional planes and the reason why creatures evolve to feel emotions? Why people acting in the name of fear and love are able to perform extraordinary things? Why, it's because they're channeling energy from one of the most potent emotional planes of course. *twirls moustache*
See good chap, everything's worked out there.
Except it hasn't because we've added yet another layer of complexity onto our magical energy kerfuffle. Right next to 'every living thing' we can write 'emotions' and 'mystical planes' because why stop at just the emotional ones, there's always necromancy, the void, the elements and...
If you feel the need to break down or close the browser window from the madness I've written myself into, feel free.
After working through that bag of beans we go onto something even more nonsensical and into the realm of fan-fiction. A part of my plot requires the existence of ley-lines, a cool idea that has been floating around for some time but leaves us with a slight problem. It means the earth has magic, looking back on our previous reasoning why should its magic be like any other celestial bodies magic. Hell, what's to say there aren't ley-lines on mars?
Making such a decision is awkward and mostly unnecessary even if I still made it in the story: Mithril in this setting is the mixing of silver with magic emitted by the moon when hit by sunlight and orichalcum, something very important for growing food in the caverns of gringotts, is made from mixing gold with magical energy from the sun. Alchemy is such a wonderful excuse for bullshit.
The reason why we don't have to worry about this is mostly the same reason we declare that we don't have to worry about all these planes, creatures and other things: humanity hasn't discovered the runes for them yet and hasn't had the capability to. Thus we restrict ourselves to a nice manageable subset of our highly analysed... magic.
The number of times I ended up on a tangent because of these thoughts.
Part the Third: Runes, Arithmancy, Wands and other Tools
As the two subjects not covered by the books in any way, shape or form Runes and Arithmancy give authors a great leeway to do whatever the hell they like with them. For TRL I decided that they'd feature the basics of Artefact Creation and Spell Creation respectively as befitting their status as difficult subjects (and because actual Arithmancy is a footnote in Divination, which does not a subject make).
The problem is trying to decide how these subjects work in relation to everything else as well as their scale: Can you create wandless spells? Staff-based spells? Wands themselves? Great artefacts of power? etc. There has to be a reason that the stereotypical ancient artifact is better than anything modern day, assuming you're going that route. Making ancient things more powerful is certainly easier on the characters as it lets them find MacGuffins lying around instead of always being one-upped by more experienced or richer characters. (Malfoy, for instance, would have a ton of the damn things.) See also: Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes apparently the only manufacturer of interesting war goods in canon.
I'd already decided by this point that magic is an application of energy channeled and manipulated by the mind. The problem then becomes why a wand is even needed and how does it work? There were many ways I could have gone about this, from it being a parasite, a 'block' on wandless magic, a training tool and various other stereotypical things you'll see in a lot of fics. But is my story history was important, and the standard wand has been in development for over a thousand years as of the start of the story and it's abilities need to reflect that.
The Ollivander wand is not just a simple tool, it's a tool based off thousand years of wand-lore, specifically carved remains of a living tree and a vitally important piece of a magical creature. Thus I decided that when a character casts a spell they're providing the energy whilst it does most of the legwork. This provides me with a firm basis off runes, making them provide a geographical framework that cause certain energies to react in certain ways. Essentially making them the base components of my sufficiently analysed magic.
We now know what runes do and why wands are necessary so we must therefore derive why incantations and wand movements exist. The movements are easy, you're just performing an additional rune or direction that modifies/enables the spell. As for the incantations... I eventually decided that if a wand is capable of so many spells then an incantation is as good as any to differentiate the sets of runes being used.
What's interesting about this line of thought is that it doesn't limit us to one type of wand. More importantly it means that spells are created specifically for a type of wand and methods that work for one type of wand might not work for another, opening up all kinds of possibilities for the Elder Wand if, in fact, you want to use the Elder Wand as a artefact at all. (I did eventually decide that it was a wand that instead of having a core ate a piece of the user's soul each time as the 'core' of the spell, leading to great effects and a decreased life span.) You can see this in the War Wand / Ollivander Wand / Rune Project Wand in the story.
Staffs are an amusing item of interest. I've seen a few stories in which the 'holy shit Harry you're too powerful for a wand' occurs and they inevitably give him a staff. A staff which uses the same spells as everyone elses wand. To start with it's really difficult to perform any kind of precise wand movement with something that has that much inertia and secondly wizards moved from staffs to wands. I see no reason for staves to be anything other than crude channeling devices - say a branch struck by lightning carved with runes for 'lightning' or similar and a soaked in potion made from lightning-like materials.
The sort of thing that would leave your ordinary wizard crying for a decent wand. But that's just my not-so-humble opinion.
Incidentally the magical 'numbers' I've used are the primes, which fit quite neatly into the pool of modern day numerical superstitions in fiction.
Thanks for reading. o/