Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 120

by Gondolinian1 min read12th Mar 2015116 comments


HPMOR (discussion & meta)
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This is a new thread to discuss Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality and anything related to it. This thread is intended for discussing chapter 120.

Plans for next chapter release:

The next update will be on March 13th, 2015 at 12PM Pacific (7PM UTC).

There is a site dedicated to the story at hpmor.com, which is now the place to go to find the authors notes and all sorts of other goodies. AdeleneDawner has kept an archive of Author’s Notes. (This goes up to the notes for chapter 76, and is now not updating. The authors notes from chapter 77 onwards are on hpmor.com.)

Spoiler Warning: this thread is full of spoilers. With few exceptions, spoilers for MOR and canon are fair game to post, without warning or rot13. More specifically:

You do not need to rot13 anything about HP:MoR or the original Harry Potter series unless you are posting insider information from Eliezer Yudkowsky which is not supposed to be publicly available (which includes public statements by Eliezer that have been retracted).

If there is evidence for X in MOR and/or canon then it’s fine to post about X without rot13, even if you also have heard privately from Eliezer that X is true. But you should not post that “Eliezer said X is true” unless you use rot13.

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Hm. Remember how memory charms, while removing the memories, don't necessarily remove the emotions of the erased moments?

Draco at the start of the chapter:

The feeling of emptiness that filled him up was so profound that it left no room even for pretended courtesy.

Everyone was dead.

Draco after obliviation:

The feeling of emptiness that filled him up was so profound that it left no room even for lies.

Everyone was dead.

Everyone was dead, and it had all been futile from the beginning.

I'm struck with Dumbledore's ruthlessness.

Pretend to kill someone to keep your enemies in line, but really just stash them away to be used as a trump card again later, whether as a hostage or a way to reconcile with your enemy. That's good.

"There's only one way to hurt a man who's lost everything. Give him back something broken."

  • Stephen Donaldson

I'm struck with Dumbledore's ruthlessness

Actually I think he was just following his own advice:

While survives any remnant of our kind, that piece is yet in play, though the stars should die in heaven. [...] Know the value of all your other pieces, and play to win.

All things considered I think it was the most compassionate choice he could have made.

9Gondolinian6yI'm not sure I'd call Dumbledore "ruthless" just for this. While there might very well have been pragmatic benefits to hiding Narcissa instead of actually killing her that Dumbledore took into account, that's not at all incompatible with a simple desire to not cause an unnecessary death.

I'm avoiding this thread because I haven't read HPMOR yet, but since I gather these threads will be frequent in the coming days, I ask people to remember that the recent-comments sidebar exists. Even people not watching the HPMOR threads will see spoilers if they're early enough and obvious enough in a comment.

Thanks for your consideration.

Draco's mother lived as a muggle for a decade. I assume they're not obliviating those memories. Even if Draco does not become friends with Harry, he's not going to end up with the worldview of a pureblood.

I don't believe that that will be the case.

Paraphrased to make the point, here's what McGonagall is about to say.

"Narcissa Malfoy, we abducted you and imprisoned you for a decade. In your absence, your child and husband grew up in anguish, missing you every heartbeat. Stop sobbing."

"Anyway, cool story, your husband and everyone you were close with just died. It totally wasn't us, we double swear. So you aren't worth anything as a hostage anymore, and, heck, someone's got to take care of this kid. By the by, your kidnapper died too, and we are renaming this date, when your husband died, to DumbelDay, in honor of his courage and kindness and wisdom. Everyone's going to be immortal, and we are now post scarcity, something to do with transfiguration, try to keep up, so you aren't rich, and this is what you'll be known for as long as the stars shine."

"Oh, did we say 'everyone', sorry, my bad, everyone but the muggles. Turns out that while Blood Purity gets bullet we DO need to discriminate against the muggleborn, they can't be trusted or something. Anyway, got to go."

It seems possible to me that she will not be sympathetic to anything Dumbledore & Co. believe after her experience. Probably will kill herself, maybe take Draco too.

That's an excellent point. Dumbledore really was playing a very deep game.

Or is she. She doesn't seem to have found her Muggle existence very meaningful. Now that she's presumably going back to the real "first world", her rightful place, to reunite with what's left of her family, I see it as at the very least a possibility that she'll look back at it with contempt, and resentment for whoever removed her from her real life.

Of course that's just speculation, depending on what kind of a person she is - I imagine diferent people in her position would have wildly different reactions to something like this.

675th6yI'm not sure how much influence Narcissa's going to have on him, since Draco's already 12. Maybe if Narcissa eschews blood purism and actively tries to teach Draco, perhaps, but I think she's going to be busy running around screaming "BLECH! ECH! POISON MUGGLE LIPS!" for a while if she had any blood purist inclinations before the memory charm.

The question Harry asks Draco and Draco's final non answer seem like a reference to the book The Sunflower by Simon Weisenthal.

Simon was in a concentration camp and called to the bed of a dying SS officer who asked for forgiveness. He felt pulled to both forgiveness and to the justness of telling the nazi that what he had done was unforgivable. In the end he said nothing.

The book has Weisenthal discussing the dilemma and then 53 other people of note commenting on what they would have done ranging from the Dali Lama to Desmond Tutu.

I've ordered the book. I don't think it's particularly unusual for people to go silent when they've offered two unattractive alternatives, though.

5gattsuru6yAlso, whether Harry intended it or not, he gave two separate choices: whether Harry should stay away entirely, and whether Harry should be a friend that does not manipulate or risk harming Draco ever again. At least to some extent, Draco's refusal to respond reflects a disjoint answer to both questions, and has invited Harry to remain a friend that may manipulate or harm Draco for his own good.

I think the spirit of Draco's response is closer to 'jesus christ I'm not dealing with this shit right now, could you have possibly picked a worse time' than to 'I give you permission to manipulate me without my knowledge forever, let's be BFFs'.

1TobyBartels6yYes, let's just hope that Harry realizes that!

I didn't want to tell it to you before because I thought it might prejudice your decision unfairly. If you were a good person who never killed or lied, but you had to do one or the other, which would be worse?

Notice how Harry doesn't want to "prejudice" Draco with a favorable truth?

I understand the impulse to shade the facts against yourself when being judged by others, but it isn't really fair to you or the person judging you.

I don't... don't want this anymore, I don't want to be manipulating you. I've hurt you too much already.

Because Harry's conscience pains him, he'll ask the 12 year old Draco to make a hugely life altering decision when he's in shock and hopeless about the future, and give him half an hour to do so, then hide that decision from him so that he can neither recant nor even know that he ever had such a choice, or made such a decision.

Time enough for such a decision after Draco had been reunited with his mother for a while. That talk, and that decision, could have waited til the start of the next school year, and Draco could have been given more time to make the decision.

This is a spoiler blocking-paragraph for the new comments sidebar.

Time enough for such a decision after Draco had been reunited with his mother for a while. That talk, and that decision, could have waited til the start of the next school year, and Draco could have been given more time to make the decision.

They can try again later.

3buybuydandavis6yI thought of that too. Repeating the vote has it's own moral issues. But life isn't perfect. I agree that trying again at the start of the school year probably makes sense, but it would have been more respectful of Draco's autonomy to wait til then in the first place.
5BrindIf6yI agree. And how is that not manipulative or kinda a lie?!
3Macaulay6yIsn't Harry saying this to Draco after Draco has been obliviated? Draco has no idea what Harry's talking about.

I didn't want to tell it to you before because I thought it might prejudice your decision unfairly.

If Draco has has the last half-hour of his memory sealed off, then why does Harry say these words to him? Shouldn't Draco respond, "What decision?"

Unless it's a more nuanced memory charm, such that he only subconsciously remembers the conversation.

2shminux6yRight, presumably the spell seals memories, but the associated emotions manage to color the actions, hence "Draco ignored him". This would not be surprising, given that conscious memories are mostly System 2, while emotions are mostly System 1. The memory sealing spell only interrupts the conscious retrieval pathways. .

Kind of glad Draco wouldn't give an answer to Harry - it's sad, but also entirely realistic. Would have strained my suspicion of disbelief if he'd just accepted to forgive and forget.

As for Narcissa... Sweet vindication. ...And then a gutpunch as she speaks her husband's name.

I hoped for Draco saying "I need more time. Lock me up somewhere safe if you have to, but I need time to process this."

Yeah, I feel like Harry was being kind of unreasonable in dropping bombshell after bombshell of worldview-shattering information on an already emotionally fragile mind, and then asking for an irrevocable decision, all in a span of thirty minutes.

1polymathwannabe6yHad I been Draco, I would have vehemently demanded to keep those memories.
6TobyBartels6yYes, Harry killed a half hour's worth of Draco without really giving it a second thought. Not much in the grand scheme of things, but I expected Harry to notice that this is a little bit of evil. (Just because Wizards do it all the time doesn't make it not evil, as Harry well knows.) But maybe we'll get Harry's perspective later.
8hairyfigment6yHe explicitly said "seal away," not "erase".
1TobyBartels6yYou're right, that is less evil.
0MarkusRamikin6yAnd less secure.
0TobyBartels6yIf Harry has to do harm in order to obtain security, then I expect him to do it, but I still expect him to feel guilty about it. That's Harry. (And in this case, I also don't see the need.)
4Benquo6yNo, they just put the memories in a Pensieve for later (if Draco becomes an occlumens and turns out to be trustworthy).
-1Unknowns6yIn fact, Harry and Quirrell agreed with each other that the original Horcrux did not work because it did not preserve new memories and so did not have true continuity of self. If this was right, then Harry just (in effect) murdered Draco and revived him with a Horcrux V. 1.0. And even if it isn't right, Harry should think that it is, according to his discussion with Quirrell.
7WalterL6yI dunno, the best way to carry on his Malfoy tradition would be to thank the Boy-Who-Lived profusely, smile falsely and carry on. For emphasis he should claim he was only Imperiused into pretending to love his father, callback to Lucius -> Voldemort. Harry isn't dumb enough to trust him no matter what he says, might as well spit in his eye one last time.
4TobyBartels6yI'm sure that he would have like to do this, but he wasn't emotionally capable of carrying on the Malfoy tradition properly; he was just musing about that.
4Subbak6yWell I guess eventually the right memories will come back to her. Although I guess Draco can't have been more than a few months old when she "died".
6ourimaler6yHe's about Harry's age and Narcissa was disappeared before Voldy got kaboomed, so, yeah.

Well between the chapter opening (referencing news I had only seen a few minutes before I read the chapter) and the rest of the chapter, this was definitely an emotional rollercoaster. Literally crying right now.

That Harry came up with something so callous I can accept, but why would McGonagall go along with it? That's not the sort of conversation that should be sprung on someone who just lost his entire family and hasn't even begun to cope. It's not as if Draco had any valuable information that was urgently needed.

I didn't want to tell it to you before because I thought it might prejudice your decision unfairly.

If this is the justification Harry gave McGonagall, she should have deducted 20 points from Ravenclaw and sent him off.

5Nornagest6yThere's callous, and then there's that. There's really no good way to say "sorry I killed your dad", but Harry's approach goes past "understandably lame" and into "monumentally clueless". Here's how this sort of thing works, Harry: you are allowed any number of apologies and expressions of regret, but no more than one short excuse, which had better be a good one. You are not allowed to witter on about necessity and morality and political convenience. If Draco had called you out in the middle of that speech -- and I mean not just "said you're a jerk" called out, but "formal duel" called out -- I would have thought it understandable.

Harry has, throughout the story, demonstrated a tendency to lecture people when simpler words were far more likely to get results. He is... not a good communicator.

0William_Quixote6yYeah, that's Harrys MO. By this point it's almost a running gag (or it would be if it were less sad). In the first bunch of chapters Harrys lectures are really funny for just how out of place they are if you actualy imagine them coming from an 11 year old. In fact they are out of place if you imagine them coming from any real person at all, rather than from a character in a book. In the early chapters this is played for laughs and then even called out when Hermione notices that people in books speak like books. Here though the exact same behavior goes from funny to sad. Stakes are too high.

Memory charmed, forgot even the existence of the magical world, sent in Australia to be restored after the War... is Narcissa actually Hermione's parents?

So Mr. White was the one who was Lucius? Not Mr. Counsel, the one Voldemort chided for not conquering the country in his name and limiting himself to the Wizengamot?

What made Harry certain of that?

Mr. Counsel might have been Bartemius Crouch Jr.

6gattsuru6yCrouch, Nott, or Jugson, though I'd guess the latter more heavily -- Jugson's constantly in the center of the blood-purist aligned factions during one of the battle games, and mentioned as Dumbledore's example of a powerful Death Eater with a seat on the Wizengamot, as well. Mr. White was selected for a particularly humiliating and harmful process, and coincidentally Quirrelmort had wanted to harm Lucius badly on the scale of framing him for attempted murder of his own son, and there's a pretty clear connection.
2TobyBartels6yIronic that the canon Wikia says that it's not even known whether Jugson was free or an Azkaban escapee! Eliezer has certainly made him a much more significant character.
3Subbak6yFor what it's worth, I too thought Mr. White was Lucius before seeing everyone else convinced it was Counsel. It seemed more in line with canon, and "white" evokes Lucius's awesome white hair. On the other hand, Harry could be mistaken, and using codenames that seem to indicate who the person behind is when they in fact bear no relation sounds like a thing Voldie would do.

using codenames that seem to indicate who the person behind is when they in fact bear no relation sounds like a thing Voldie would do.

It is a thing Tom Riddle would do. The Voldemort personality seems to have been deliberately less clever.

2Subbak6yWell, the Dark Mark was not THAT stupid. Also, it's the kind of clever thing you can only pull off when impersonating someone who is not that smart.
0MarkusRamikin6yCould you elaborate on the evidence pointing to White that you see? In what way is it more in line with canon?
6Subbak6yWell, I read canon a loooong time ago but IIRC in book 7 in one of the first chapter Voldie goes around humiliating Lucius, in particular taking his wand without offering a replacement, and insulting him for believing he (Voldie) would give Lucius his wand in exchange. The conversation with Mr. White (" most delinquent of my servants") and the fact that he humiliates him similarly by removing part of his magic ability is reminiscent of that. Also, before I thought Mr. Grim was Peter Pettigrew, but now that we know that Black is the actual bad guy, it's even clearer that Mr. Grim = Sirius Black. In particular, Voldie says to him "I was surprised to see you here tonight; you are more competent than I suspected", which in retrospect clearly means "I thought you were rotting in Azkaban".
3knb6yMr. Grim is also a reference to canon, because The Grim is an omen Harry sees which turns out to be Sirius in his black dog animagus form.
1Jost6yAlthough in canon, Lucius (and the Malfoy family) falling into Voldemort’s disgrace was caused by several events which did not happen in HPMoR, including giving away one of Voldemort’s horcruxes (the diary in book 2), failing to steal the prophecy from a handful of teenagers (book 5) and Draco’s failure to kill Dumbledore (book 6). In HPMoR, Lucius did not fail Voldemort that often.
0Benquo6yHe hung Bellatrix out to dry:
0ourimaler6yTrue, but he was also a lot less useful - Voldemort intended to take the gloves off and have the entire Ministry either dead or imperiused within the next 24 hours, meaning Lucius's political connections suddenly mattered a whole lot less.
0MarkusRamikin6yThanks, good points. But it doesn't explain how Harry would know.
0Subbak6yMaybe he recognized the voice, assuming it was not disguised by a charm?
2MarkusRamikin6yIt was disguised. And Harry he admits in chapter 120 only figuring it out after the fact.

Harry's actions seem kinda callous. What I would do instead:

1) Reunite Draco and Narcissa.

2) Wait a few days or weeks.

3) Offer Draco a choice between red pill and blue pill, without obliviation afterward. Warn him in advance that the red pill would make him hate Harry, etc. Let Draco take his time deciding.

4) End the chapter without any decision from Draco :-)

8DanArmak6yIf he let Draco choose the red pill without obliviation, then Draco might tell Narcissa or other people, and the secret of Harry Potter would leak. He's asking for obliviation for security, and it's important enough that he needs to obliviate Draco even if he honestly chooses to stay Harry's friend and keep his secret.
6cousin_it6y"You're my friend, but I can't let you know that I killed your father, because you might tell that to someone else and that would be unpleasant for me." Tell you what, I've made peace with this chapter. It shows Harry as a flawed protagonist, and in a more interesting way than Eliezer's usual "I was flawed because I was not smart enough".
6gjm6yPerhaps that's Harry's real motivation (or: Eliezer intends us to understand that it is; or: an actual person who behaved as Eliezer describes Harry behaving would likely have such motivation) but it actually seems more likely to me that it's "... and that would risk destabilizing the government, messing up my plans for doing away with serious illness and death, and preventing me from stopping the end of the world wiping out human life as it seems to be prophesied I might be able to do and no one else can". Which would be a damn good reason, all things considered. (Of course Draco, and Harry, and we, should consider the possibility that that's all just rationalization. But given what else we've been told in HPMOR it seems like something of the kind is in fact correct.)
4DanArmak6y"If there's even a small chance that letting you know will reduce my ability, down the line, to save the world, then I am physically incapable of letting you know."
0Unknowns6yIf the Vow prevented him from letting Draco know on a permanent basis for this reason, it would prevent him from telling him with the intention of obliviating him afterwards, since there would be a chance he would get away without being obliviated.
0BrindIf6yGood point. He's counting on Minerva to obliviate Draco, which makes it a bit safer.
3MarkusRamikin6yHarry may be shown as flawed in this chapter, but choosing to keep extremely important secrets secure is not one of the reasons.
0[anonymous]6yYes, there are risks to trusting your friends. If you can't accept these risks, then don't have friends.
6Nornagest6yDraco's not stupid. I don't know how much of the circumstances around the graveyard scene are going to become public, but enough information has already been released to paint a picture of Mysterious Circumstances involving Hermione and Quirrell (and the dead). Knowing that, if Harry -- a kid with an uncanny talent for showing up in the center of Mysterious Circumstances, and with close links to both Hermione and Quirrell -- shows up and tells you he has a horrible secret that will make you hate him, is it that hard to put the pieces together even without hearing the secret explicitly? Not conclusively, of course, but enough for strong suspicion?
2Astazha6yIdeally he has been obliviated of that part of the conversation too. "the most important part of any secret is the knowledge that a secret exists", etc.
2Nornagest6yIn the chapter, yes, that's presumably true. I was replying to cousin_it's alternative plan, which specified no obliviation.
0shminux6yThat would be just one more manipulation,,,

I wonder how Harry would react to Death as written by Terry Pratchett?

2DanielLC6yHe'd be happy to find out that there really is an afterlife, although it doesn't sound like that good of one. He'd probably try to get as many people into Death's domain before they're supposed to die as possible.
0TobyBartels6yWait, remind me why it's good to get into Death's domain before one is supposed to die?
9DanielLC6yDeath's domain is not the afterlife. You can just hang out in Death's mansion and meet people and stuff. It's not paradise, but it's a perfectly fine place to be. The afterlife seems to be some kind of infinite desert where you're alone for who knows how long until you figure out how to talk to the other people wandering it. It's also mentioned that the afterlife is what you expect it to be, so if you grew up believing that you'd go to hell for some minor thing you did, sucks to be you.
3Sheaman37736y"This explains why it is so important to shoot missionaries on sight."
0Transfuturist6yIIRC the desert was the passage to the actual afterlife, and not even Death could cross it.
2JoshuaZ6yWas that ever made clear?

Dammit dammit dammit.

I hadn't realized that there was such an easy way to bring back lost memories. More reason to put that emerald ring into the Mirror, ASAP.

This is a different, McG mentions the existince of a reversible memory charm to seal away but not lose memories to Hermione after she gets back from her trial. Which I now realize was foreshadowing this.

Her memories were sealed in a way that was intentionally undoable. This may not be possible with Voldemort.

2gjm6yWhich, all things considered, is probably safest.
1Rob Bensinger6yAgreed, though there could be quite recent back-ups of LV's memories; we know there are at least older ones, the Horcrux v1s.
1DanielLC6yVoldemort seems to have memories after making the v1s, suggesting that even they were continuously updated.
1Rob Bensinger6yHm? Voldemort himself has memories, but the V1 horcruxes are basically separate people forked from the moment when he created them, whereas the V2 horcruxes are a mechanism for his revival as a single continuous succession-of-experiences that switches bodies.
1DanielLC6yWasn't he restored from a V1?
3Kindly6yThe narration was unclear, but I think that it makes the most sense if we assume that Voldemort came up with the V2 Horcrux before he decided to use impossible hiding places, and that he was restored from a V2 Horcrux that was not particularly well-hidden.
3Rob Bensinger6yHe was restored from a V2 Horcrux that was too well-hidden: without the Resurrection Stone network (Horcrux V2.5?) he was dependent on someone touching his horcrux, which didn't happen for a long time.
0Subbak6yWell, as he said, it was an "obviously hidden" horcrux screaming "I'm apowerful magical artifact" (like the locket in book 6, which he explicitly calls out), as opposed to a random pebble in the middle of the desert.
3Gondolinian6yI took it to mean that Dumbledore had used a reversible memory charm on Narcissa, knowing they might want her back once Harry had defeated Voldemort, or, more practically, they could use her as a "last weapon to be used against House Malfoy" by holding her hostage. I think Obliviate is still permanent for all practical purposes, so the same couldn't be done for Voldemort. [edited iteratively]
1JoshuaZ6yWell, it may be only very easy when someone has set up the charm to do so. It seems like that's the sort of thing Dumbledore would do given the circumstances.

Poor Draco. He's had a really tough time of it.

What actual lies (or literal truths intended to mislead) did Harry tell Draco? I don't recall any off hand.

7Subbak6ySome long time ago he told Draco that Hermione was his enemy.
4shminux6yI wonder if the lies Draco remembers are of the Feynman said he didn't take the door [http://home.agh.edu.pl/~szymon/humor/feynman.html] kind.
0ourimaler6yThere was that whole "You just used a Muggle dark ritual to permanently sacrifice your ability to believe in blood purism" bit.
2shminux6yThat was an ELI5, not a lie...

Oh. Dumbledore must have memory-charmed Lucius.

8Gondolinian6yWhy? Wouldn't Lucius just believe Narcissa was burned alive like everyone else did without any further intervention?
2philh6yDidn't Draco say that Lucius saw it happen?

It looks like chapter 47 is where Draco tells Harry about Narcissa's death, and I'm not seeing anything about Lucius' being an eyewitness. The chapter seems to imply that Lucius was told, just like everyone else:

"Draco," Harry said, he let all of the hoarseness into his own voice, it would be wrong to sound calm, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry for asking, but I have to know, how do you know it was Dumble-"

"Dumbledore said he did it, he told Father it was a warning! And Father couldn't testify under Veritaserum because he was an Occlumens, he couldn't even get Dumbledore put on trial, Father's own allies didn't believe him after Dumbledore just denied everything in public, but we know, the Death Eaters know, Father wouldn't have any reason to lie about that, Father would want us to take revenge on the right person, can't you see that Harry?" Draco's voice was wild.

0wobster1096yMy understanding was Lucius came home and "found" Narcissa burned in the remnants of the house, or at least remembered doing so. It just doesn't make sense that a clever, cunning man (who brought Draco to see Death Note and criticized the plot) would find no trace of his wife and, knowing Dumbledore to be famously soft-hearted, would just unquestioningly believe that story.
2JoshuaZ6yHuh? No. The young Draco looks like what she remembers his father looking like. She hasn't seen Draco since he was a little child.
5WalterL6yI think its just blonde over green triggering the name in her mind. As the chapter ends her memory is still coming back. My model of the memories she's getting back goes all the way back to when Dumbledore "killed" her, so she'd remember an adult Lucius.
0Val6yAnd Draco is still a little child. Remember, all the first year characters are 11 or at most 12 years old. The storytelling made most of them look much more mature.
3JoshuaZ6yYes, but her memory isn't working well and she likely knew Lucius from a very young age. After all, both were from Noble Houses which were in the pureblood faction. At minimum they would have known each other since Hogwarts.
2TobyBartels6yNarcissa's house isn't 100% in the pure-blood faction, but that's a minor detail.
1Sheaman37736yThe Black House isn't 100% in the pure-blood faction? What HPMOR fact am I forgetting?
2TobyBartels6yBrindIf said it, but I'll confirm: Nymphadora Tonks appeared in MOR, and there was no suggestion that her mother [ETA: Andromeda, who is Narcissa's and Bellatrix's sister] differs from canon. (ETA: In particular, Andromeda must have still married a Muggle for Tonks to get her surname.)
0Sheaman37736yAh. Even ignoring that the context is from when they are children, I don't consider the black sheep disowned from the family as having a bearing on where the House stands, but alright. Semantics, I suppose.
0TobyBartels6yAs I said, it's a minor detail.