Edit: New thread posted here

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 86The previous thread  has long passed 500 comments. 

There is now 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.) 

The first 5 discussion threads are on the main page under the harry_potter tag.  Threads 6 and on (including this one) are in the discussion section using its separate tag system.  Also: 123456789101112131415, 16.

As a reminder, it’s often useful to start your comment by indicating which chapter you are commenting on.

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Eliezer Yudkowsky which is not supposed to be publicly available (which includes public statements by Eliezer that have been retracted).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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I was thinking that as of this chapter, Harry now had enough evidence to promote to attention the hypothesis that Quirrell is actually Voldemort. He has reason to believe that Voldemort has access to a mechanism which allows him to take control of people and give them a portion of his power, and Quirrell's apparent backstory entails his having undergone a conspicuous increase in apparent competence, much like that which Moody and Dumbledore suspect of having happened to Lockheart. And he has the assurances of the Order of the Pheonix that Voldemort was really smart, no, seriously smart, trust us, you're still underestimating him. And he knows Quirrell is heavily misanthropic and cavalier with people's lives, and also he went out of his way to remove Voldemort's premier servant from Azkaban, who might be useful to other enterprising wizards if she was taught some of the lore of Salazar Slytherin, but also, as Harry has been told, is a key component in restoring Voldemort to power.

But then it occurred to me that given the fact that Quirrell's sudden spike in competence in his backstory occurred while Voldemort was still around, not after his death, he would have to draw the conclusi... (read more)

Primary piece of evidence against: Voldemort tried to kill Harry,

I don't think we know that.

I've always thought it would have made more sense in the original series to have Voldemort purposely make Harry into a Horcrux.

If making someone else a horcrux transfers some of your power to them, that makes them stronger, and better able to defend your horcrux.

It starts to look like a mutual immortality defense league. A bunch of people get together making each other their horcruxes, so that they all can't die without all the others being killed first, they all have an interest in protecting each other, and they conserve the power that they'd otherwise lose to the creation of the horcrux by contributing it to another member of the defense league.

We don't know that Voldemort tried to kill Harry, but Harry has much less reason to doubt it than we do. An Immortality Defense League sounds much cleverer to me than what we actually see if Voldemort was trying to make Harry into a horcrux, which is a guy making a horcrux out of the infant child of his own enemies. That sounds a lot less tactically sound than willfully perverse; of all the people he could have deliberately made into horcruxes, I don't think he had good reason to single Harry out as being a good choice to ensure his immortality. The only reason I can think that he would have had to single him out would be the prophecy, and that the sort of information where I would immediately wonder, in his place, if by horcruxing my own prophesied enemy, I would actually end up screwing myself over.
I think so too, if I do say so myself. I hadn't thought of the IDL until this thread. Harry as a horcrux seems like a decent idea, though. If Harry were the only guy that could kill you, making it so that he can't kill you seems like a good idea. Also, he has a bunch of horcruxes in objects. Diversifying your strategy seems like a decent idea to me. Making one of your enemy, who everyone else will be busy protecting, enlists them in protecting your Horcrux. Also, I just thought canon was dumb having Voldie killed because Mommy unknowingly invoked some "old magic" through her love for Harry. Anything is better than that pap. EY seems to be rectifying that, writing a more believable plot line. First, he offers a plausible route for Voldie's destruction through intentional ritual magic by Lily orchestrated by Dumbledore. Second, I don't think EY will have Voldie destroyed by the unknown thing he did to Harry. I think Voldie recognized Dumbledore's ritual magic ploy and decided to go along with it and pretend to be destroyed.
But he only has a prophecy's word on that, and attempting to cash in on prophecies that way has a tendency to bite you on the ass (tvtropes links).
It's been implied elsewhere, but I'm pretty sure that in HPMOR, Voldemort has specific plans for Harry that go beyond merely killing him, which included him deliberately being made into a horcrux. Some evidence for this: the odd italicized text fragments in the early chapters (which Eliezer has emphasized), Harry wondering many times at the convenience of Voldemort's supposed death, and repetition of the idea that Voldy should have a) known about sacrifice/dark rituals such as are involved in sacrificing yourself for somebody else and b) have had other, better, more guaranteed ways of killing Harry if that's what he had wanted to accomplish. Actually, further to that, I really think Voldy was intentional with the whole horcrux thing, as shown by the set-up of giving Lily the chance to escape. One possible reason for this is for Snape's loyalty; another, which I consider more probable now, is that if she was going to die anyway it wouldn't have counted as a sacrifice for the purposes of the (horcrux) ritual.
One person's modus ponens is another person's modul tollens. Reading this chapter made me update that Voldemort actually never tried to kill Harry. * He came for Harry (but he never said he came to kill him), probably motivated by the prophecy. * He killed everyone around (but he gave Lily a chance to leave). * He did something that resulted with scar on Harry's head. * Then someone (who exactly, if the event had no survivor besides a baby?) spread a story about how reflected death spell killed Voldemort. * And since then, nobody has ever seen Voldemort again. From more recent history (Quirrel's description and self-description -- although he could have lied to us/Harry) we can reason that: * Quirrel enjoys company of smart people. * Quirrel enjoys role-playing; but he recently prefers role-playing a good guy, because villains naturally attract insane people. * Quirrel does not hesitate to kill people who cross his path, but that is instrumental, not a terminal value. * Quirrel is very, very smart. So I guess that Voldemort, after hearing the prophecy, did not panic and try to kill Harry (unlike the Canon!Voldemort). Assuming that Voldemort/Quirrel is extremely smart and he knows how the prophecies work, he could expect that trying to kill Harry -- without "marking him as his equal" first, whatever that means -- would somehow magically fail, and that is an unnecessary risk. Perhaps the original plan was to simply take Harry and raise him as a Sith apprentice; to make him Voldemort's equal in skill, but also charm him into a smarter version of Bellatrix Black. (Converting is better than killing, because you gain an ally; like Harry later tried with Draco.) But during the action he realized that people expect him to kill Harry, and that this could be a convenient way to get rid of the Voldemort persona. So he just -- made Harry his horcrux? performed on him a brain surgery to raise his IQ? -- and disappeared, pretending to be dead; only to return to Harr
I tend to think any line of action which ends up with Riddle losing his body and having to fall back on his horcruxes, given that he apparently wants his old powers back based on his efforts to get at the ingredients to revive himself and/or the Philosopher's Stone, probably contained some element of accident. Also, the act of training his prophesied enemy, one of whom is bound to vanquish "all but a remnant" of the other, doesn't sound like a great way to serve his own interests. It's not like he's likely to subvert the prophesy and gain a powerful ally, it's just another avenue to empowering the person who's his greatest threat. If I were in Quirrell's place, and knew about the prophesy, I would be wondering "in what way can I ensure that whatever person this prophesy refers to will be least likely to be able to defeat me, assuming our conflict is inevitable?" Keeping in mind that if I try too hard to make a candidate into a nonviable threat, the prophesy will probably turn out to be referring to someone else.

Professor McGonagall looked like she was in pain. "Alastor - but - will you teach the classes, if -" "Ha!" said Moody. "If I ever say yes to that question, check me for Polyjuice, because it's not me."

Did anyone else laugh out loud at that line? :-)

Another subtle point that was full of win:

"I cannot believe that guy's reaction time," Harry said, brushing off his Cloak as he stood up from where he'd been lying invisible on the floor, unseen by his previous self. "I can't believe his movement speed either. I'm going to have to figure out some way to zap him without speaking an incantation that gives it away..."

The "I can't believe it" is because it's not true - this is the moment he figures out Moody can see him when invisible.

I laughed at the face value of it, but I just realized the Goblet of Fire reference now. That's even funnier.
That one didn't hit me until after I finished the chapter.
Only realised now...

This chapter, and the update to Chapter 85, are both fantastic. I hadn't noticed until now that Moody is the avatar of being pessimistic enough that your expectations overshoot and undershoot reality appropriately often (in the same way that Fred and George are the avatar of Aumann's agreement theorem), and I'm wondering what other avatars I'm missing.

This won't exactly be a new observation, but one thing I really like about reading MoR is that some of the most important events involve characters updating their beliefs, and in pretty much any other story the only way this happens is when characters announce themselves or other characters doing this, e.g. "Aha! So it was you who killed Prince So-and-so! You traitor!" and instead MoR characters update their beliefs inside their heads like sensible people and the reader has to figure out the nature of the update for themselves. I don't think I've seen this happen in any other story I've read, it is a great rationality exercise, and I more or less completely missed it the first time I read through. (That is, I noticed Harry doing a lot of updating because it's text instead of subtext, but it didn't occur to me that I would understand the story better if I kept track of updates going on in minds other than Harry's.)

Moody is the avatar of being pessimistic enough that your expectations overshoot and undershoot reality appropriately often

It's funny that Quirrel ought to be that too, because he's hyperrational and reliably cynical about people, and yet his backstory is that he failed to conquer England because he wasn't cynical enough and thought people would follow a Light Lord instead of backstab him.

Actually, I see a significant (at least 10%) chance that the person currently known as Quirrel was both the 'Light Lord' and the Dark Lord of the last war. His "Voldemort' persona wasn't actually trying to win, you see, he was just trying to create a situation where people would welcome a savior...

This would neatly explain the confusion Harry noted over how a rational, inventive wizard could have failed to take over England. It leaves open some questions about why he continued his reign of terror after that ploy failed, but there are several obvious possibilities there. The big question would be what actually happened to either A) stop him, or B) make him decide to fake his death and vanish for a decade.

Actually, I see a significant (at least 10%) chance that the person currently known as Quirrel was both the 'Light Lord' and the Dark Lord of the last war. His "Voldemort' persona wasn't actually trying to win, you see, he was just trying to create a situation where people would welcome a savior...

This is exactly how I read chapter 85, and now 86 confirmed it. My estimate is way over 10%, probably ~60%.

Same. Though... what about Tom Riddle?
What about Tom Riddle? He grew up, decided to conquer Britain, and, being clever, played both sides to do so.
So, in other words, he lost twice.
Evil overlord list rule 230 is "I will not procrastinate regarding any ritual granting immortality.". Which he's shown to be aware of. It makes sense, remaining evil overlord allows him access to all the materials of dark rituals and willing assistants, once he's achieved it successfully he has all the time he would like to do anything else.
I've suspected something like that at least since Quirrell gave his speech at the end of the armies sequence, and 86 just gave me a lot of new evidence for it. By now I'd say my estimate is somewhere in the neighborhood of 80% for him playing both sides in a similar sense, though I don't think we have enough evidence to narrow it down to playing Light Lord as such -- just to set up a situation where a Light Lord would need to arise.
This is certainly the obvious or surface theory that the text presents, and I believe in it too. But that doesn't change Quirrel's backstory; he played the role of Light Lord, and people didn't rally round him.
One caveat - while Voldemort did seemingly try to set himself up as a Light Lord, the closest to such that actually existed in the end was Dumbledore. I think it's safe to assume that Voldemort is not Dumbledore.

Although, actually, that would be kinda impressive.

I mostly wrote that comment as an excuse to write the last sentence, truth be told. It's an interesting enough theory(even if obviously wrong in this case) to make me wonder if any fics exist with it as a premise.
OR IS HE? No. No, he's not.
That's ... far from certain.
Somehow I don't think Moody would make that mistake.
It's pretty clear that whatever the reason Moody hasn't got a phoenix, it's not that he's not willing to solve problems right away by applying overwhelming force to a defenseless (but evil) enemy. And why hasn't he tried to become a Light Lord with a Light Mark on an army of personally loyal Aurors? Maybe he more enjoys the thrill of the chase than rationally plots how to rid the world of Dark Lords.

And why hasn't he tried to become a Light Lord with a Light Mark on an army of personally loyal Aurors? Maybe he more enjoys the thrill of the chase than rationally plots how to rid the world of Dark Lords.

Maybe because he has enough experience to know how much attempting to make himself any kind of Lord would increase his chances of getting killed.

Now that is a much better reason than "because Light Lords inevitably become corrupted and Dark".
Because that is how you become a Dark Lord.
Based on what? We know of only one such (alleged) case and that is Grindewald. Other Dark Lords have tended to start out Dark, thanks to Rowling's apparent beliefs about evil being intrinsic and unchangeable. Anyway, I'll take a corrupted Light Lord over a deliberate Dark Lord any day of the week.

I suppose this is where I need to make the obvious quotation:

If we must have a tyrant a robber baron is far better than an inquisitor. The baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity at some point may be sated; and since he dimly knows he is doing wrong he may possibly repent. But the inquisitor who mistakes his own cruelty and lust of power and fear for the voice of Heaven will torment us infinitely more because he torments us with the approval of his own conscience and his better impulses appear to him as temptations.

It's a nice quotation, but where's the actual evidence? Has anyone shut up and multiplied and calculated the net value of trying to become a Light Lord? At least some of them must do good.
Generally, people are too diverse to allow you to lord it over them without some serious force being used on dissidents, at which point you're not very Light anymore. The extreme case of this is people like Pol Pot or Robespierre, and Grindelwald is as good a fictional avatar of that sort as any. Now, there are historical examples the other way - Cincinnatus, for example. But most of them you'll find will either have been given their power instead of seizing it(which is obviously a lot less likely to cause violence), or they'll turn out to be a lot less nice upon closer inspection.
Being a Light Lord doesn't necessarily mean ruling ordinary people and making laws. Unless you're like Harry and want to change existing laws a lot. Being a Light Lord is about leading people in the fight against evil and Dark Lords, but only a few people are fit to fight like that. For that matter, Dumbledore is a pretty good Light Lord, his goals just happen to be different from Harry's.
If you want to be a moral leader, you can do that and stay Light pretty easily - Gandhi is perhaps the archetype here. But few would consider him a Lord. When you go from consensual means(which are nice, but only ever affect a portion of society) to forcible means(which affect everybody, but are not nearly so nice), you're threading a needle to remain the good guy while you're doing it. It can be done - murder laws are forcible, but I think we can all agree they're good. But it's rare.
Going back to the source, chapter 20: If Harry set about changing effective physical laws by magical means, he would be far removed from day-to-day literal lording it over the common people.
Do you think that gods are less powerful than politicians? Good intentions and unlimited power are not always a good combination. I would trust Harry with literal omnipotence more than most people, but he's far too arrogant to be trusted with enormous-but-not-unlimited power, of the sort where he can screw things up better than he can fix them. Have you ever read Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn books, by chance? There's a character who I'm very much reminded of by this conversation. (Spoilers from the first 3 books follow) Gur ybeq ehyre jnfa'g ernyyl n avpr zna, ohg ur jnf npghnyyl n tbbq thl va fbzr vzcbegnag frafrf bs gur jbeyq, naq ur yvgrenyyl hfrq gur Jryy gb fnir gur jbeyq. Ohg uvf fnivat bs gur jbeyq nyfb erdhverq gur rasbeprzrag bs n gehyl njshy srhqny fbpvrgl, jvgu mbzovr nezvrf(gur xbybff), abovyvgl jub jrer rkcrpgrq gb encr crnfnagf naq yrtnyyl erdhverq gb zheqre gurz nsgrejneqf, naq greevoyr crefrphgvba bs uvf bja crbcyr. Naq guvf jnf yvgrenyyl gur orfg ur pbhyq qb gb fnir gur jbeyq, orpnhfr bapr ur unq zbqvsvrq gur jbeyq gb cerirag vgf qrfgehpgvba, uvf cbjre gb punatr vg shegure jnf tbar. Naq va gur raq, ur ehyrq bire uvf perngvba sbe n zvyyraavhz, hagvy ur jnf zheqrerq ol na natel qvffvqrag orsber ur pbhyq znxr vg evtug. Fnmrq vf npghnyyl bzavcbgrag(be ng yrnfg, nf pybfr gb vg nf ur arrqf gb or), fb Fnmrq pna svk uvf zvfgnxrf, ohg gur Ybeq Ehyre jnf genccrq ol uvf bja fhpprff. V jbeel terngyl gung Uneel zvtug jvaq hc n ybg zber yvxr gur Ybeq Ehyre guna yvxr Fnmrq vs ur fgnegf zrqqyvat jvgu gur ynjf bs gur havirefr.
I'm not sure I'd even trust him with omnipotence, since presumably even an omnipotent agent is still bound by the laws of logic and mathematics. In any case omnipotence without omniscience, at least, strikes me as recipe for disaster.
It's kind of there in the name: Light Lord. More generally, any radical change in society's moral nature will require changes to a lot of laws.
Again, changing people's moral nature is just one thing a Light Lord might want to do. It's not even something Harry really wants to want to do. If a Light Lord was known for e.g. developing amazing new medicinal magic, prolonging average lifespans, giving everyone in the world a hundred Galeons, developing faster broomsticks, or changing the laws of physics to discourage murder - but all the time just ignoring human laws - then they could definitely do so without antagonizing the legal authorities.
You are abandoning all the connotations and denotations of the phrase. Light Lord is explicitly intended to be a parallel to Dark Lord - and there aren't really Dark Lord parallels to the activities you listed (particularly while complying with your important caveat to avoid "antagonizing" legal authorities).
There's no point discussing what the phrase Light Lord "really" denotes. Clearly I understood it differently from everyone else in this conversation, so inasfar as it has a correct meaning, you're right about it and I was wrong.
He wouldn't be good at it, would he? His role is purely defensive - thwarting and removing evil wizards without croaking in the process. There's little evidence he can plot that well, or lead a group that isn't a smallish team of fawning younger Aurors.
He's very offensive on the tactical level. If that sums up to defensiveness on the strategic level, that seems like it should tell us something about Dark Wizards being better strategists than the Light ones.
Well, duh. It's easier to gain and keep power than to gain and keep power and also improve the world and never do anything too unethical.
Or the idea isn't as great as Harry seems to think it is. Moody knows a LOT more about the world and the wizarding world. I'm sure he can remember plenty of dark Lords that started out as light lords, for one.
Where do you get that idea from? Apart from the single example of Grindewald. Besides, Moody wouldn't go Dark because he's got ETERNAL VIGILANCE on his side.
Isn't a bad Light Lord pretty much exactly what Dumbledore fears? That suggests historical precedent, to be so worried after just a few months of Harry.
From Dumbledore's words to Harry, I gathered that he was more afraid Harry might become a Dark Lord more directly without a significant Light Lord phase in between. I don't think he has the concept of a Light Lord present - great wizards are to him either Dark Lords or those who oppose them, not Light Lords who do something positive and unrelated to any Dark machinations. Also, I don't trust Dumbledore in particular to make a fair assessment, since he's the one most liable to be swayed by the single example of Grindelwald.
Avatarwise: Dumbledore seems to be humanities/iberal arts/romantic ideals. Snape is (maybe?) undiscriminating cynicism. [retracted]

I don't think an avatar of undiscriminating cynicism spends more than a decade pining for his crush that got away.

True, that doesn't fit as well. Its not quite an avatar, but his defining trait seems to be dramaticness, he shapes his life around his past mistakes. In contrast to Dumbledore who thinks in heroic tropes he thinks in tragic ones.
Didn't get that until just now.

Harry is slowly updating on the evidence that the wizarding community is not as grossly incompetent as he originally believed.

I agree and it is extremely fun to watch happen to a character. All Harry's private scenarios of how to take over magical Britain in five minutes are a perfect example of his main character flaw: arrogance, or, his dismissiveness of the realities of politics as superfluous, "people stuff." It should be clear to the reader, anyway, that liberal use of Imperius would NOT be sufficient to take over the government, at least not for any meaningful length of time. Harry is making the same type of error that led to Voldermort's original failure, that is, modeling people as being simpler and dumber than they are, likely due to his own sense of superiority.

Totally unrelated, but I wanted to mention somewhere (and didn't think it worth making a new comment) that I laughed harder at "I once arrested a young Japanese who tried a similar trick. He found out the hard way that his shadow replica technique was no match for this eye of mine." than I have at anything in recent memory. (It is a Naruto reference.)

Moody has a magical eye. Therefore, Naruto has at some point fought him. QED.

Not just that. I believe naruto has fought (or was it will fight?) all doujutsu. Word of God.
Yeah, but that one specifically is the best match for the Eye of Vance.
2Eliezer Yudkowsky
I tried to write a line with Harry misidentifying it as the Eye That Looks Toward The Sun but had to take it out.
Sorry, you lost me (and the term doesn't seem to be googleable). What's that a reference to?
1Eliezer Yudkowsky
Hyuuga = "Toward the Sun"
Damn. I already upvoted this, so now I've actually read that scene, I can't righteously upvote. Also, seconding moridinamael; Moody's Naruto line was pretty damn hilarious. Though now I'm wracking my brains trying to remember whether 'no match for this eye of mine' is lifted directly from Naruto, or you were just successfully emulating shonen braggadocio. https://www.google.com/search?q=conic+frustum

Remember that, in canon, Voldemort does indeed take over the Ministry with a few Imperiuses and a few assassinations.

I think this is more Eliezer once again obliquely making fun of how shallowly Rowling imagined her own universe, that its government could be broken by essentially any individual wizard of moderate power.

Well, and the fact he had support form a number of rich high ranking people and his own terrorist group to deal with any resistance after the fact.
Unless Eliezer has deliberately depowered Imperious - which isn't impossible - or given the Ministry some sort of get-out-of-Imperius-free-card - which is also possible, what with the Ministry being created almost exactly in it's present form by Merlin, a significant change from canon - then liberal use of Imperius cold absolutely take over the government. My theory is that "Voldemort" was deliberately playing the role of the Evil Monster who's about to take over the world, but never does; perhaps in an attempt to have Wizarding Britain unite against him.
Considering that Eliezer says in the notes that he "regret[s] that [he] could not come up with any reasonable way to have Harry shout 'Temporal fugue!' or 'Kage bunshin no jutsu!' before attacking", this is almost certainly a Naruto reference.
OK, so there are Moody and Voldemort, but pretty much every other wizard ever is grossly.incompetent. Any normal Moogle SF fan thinking for an hour, or Harry Potter thinking for five minutes, could run strategic circles around them and kill half of all Dark Lords who ever lived by owling them bombs. Better?

OK, so there are Moody and Voldemort, but pretty much every other wizard ever is grossly.incompetent.

No — they simply have not chosen to prove themselves to Harry, the viewpoint character.

I expect we'll find, soon, that Harry's model is wildly out of whack — adult wizards are, by and large, competent but flawed, especially the leaders and heroes. They simply do not let on to children everything they can do, nor their level of control over the world. Why? Because gifted children are not really all that rare, and teaching kids more magic than they are responsible enough to cope with is how you get Dark Lords — and dead kids.

Expanding on this — The purpose of magical education (e.g. Hogwarts) is not to teach kids as much magic as possible, to enable them to fix the world as Harry wants to do. The purpose of magical education is to safely and gradually expose them to magic, to maintain the current status quo and certainly to prevent any dumbass kids from destroying the world or killing each other. It also includes giving them chances to prove themselves responsible and skilled enough to wield more, and to put them in touch with adult wizards who might choose to individually teach more. But none of this is served by powerful wizards flaunting their top abilities in blatant and imitable fashion in front of the kiddies.

Nothing stays secret from teenage kids for long. No conspiracy of a large size can be maintained for very long (especially if it must admit everyone). And the Lucius Malfoys of the world would want to give their kids every advantage.

Parents in the real world want to give their kids every advantage too, but few sign their kids up for calculus class and gun-range time at age 6, you know? Parental conspiracies aimed at preteen children are remarkably resilient things(cf. Santa Claus). Teenagers are harder, but you can rely on most of them not actually wanting to be bothered learning any more than they have to.

Did Draco know about the Secret of Potions?
Did Lucius?
I got the impression it was common knowledge among powerful wizards. Am I misremembering?
If you look back at Chapter 78, it says that Harry had not made an original magical discovery, but rediscovered a law so ancient that nobody knew who had first formulated it: A potion spends that which is invested in the creation of its ingredients. But conversely, it also says that The fundamental principle of Potions-Making had no name and no standard phrasing, since then you might be tempted to write it down. McGonagall and Flitwick seemed to at least be familiar with the idea, though, so there's a good chance that you're right. Edit: I should probably also point out the obvious. If knowing the general rule is "WTF? Stop!" dangerous, like the professors seem to suggest it is when Harry tries it, then it's not generally the sort of thing you'd teach your 11 year old son. There's plenty of time to pass things like that along when the kid's closer to adulthood and mellowed out a bit.
Sure, that's why this is a story written by Eliezer and not (say) Piers Anthony. But still, an educational system does not last for long if it obviously gives every kid a nuclear bomb.
Well, that's true, at least.

could run strategic circles around them and kill half of all Dark Lords who ever lived by owling them bombs.

Harry thought he could figure out who the Death Eaters were by checking their arms for the Dark Mark. Turns out it's not that simple.

Now he (and you) still think that you get rid of a dangerous enemy by owling them bombs. Does either of you even have any reason to believe that there isn't a magical precaution against sending dangerous objects through the owl mail system?

Er, he broke that protection in about five minutes of thought. That's evidence for actually being able to run strategic circles around magical Britain.
Dumbledore did hand him the "You're wrong, think about it for 5 minutes" cue in a way that got him to do it. That kind of thing is crazy helpful.
And yet Dumbledore and everyone else he though of asking couldn't solve it themselves for twenty years. For the last ten years, Snape would have told them if they'd even made the right suggestion.
Like I said, Voldemort is one of the only two or three competent wizards shown. It's more likely that there isn't than that there is, and it's something to be (quickly and easily) tested. This particular example aside, owling bombs isn't intended to be taken literally; it's a stand-in for a simple attack that wizards don't expect. Any particular such attack may not work, but I strongly expect that if Harry dedicated a whole day to thinking up and actually trying such "low-tech" attacks, vetting them with Dumbledore against known defenses to save time, then he could come up with enough attacks to take down at least half the Dark Lords in recent history.
On the one hand, the fact that owl bombs are not a common tactic is itself evidence against the being usable. On the other hand, in canon you could definitely send dangerous objects through the mail.
In the MoR!verse, at least, Dumbledore is screening Harry's mail instead of letting it go to him directly. So "owling hand grenades" won't work against someone who takes precautions to prevent it. The question is whether the target is taking precautions or is simply going to let owls deliver strange packages.
Dumbledore could also screen it for other reasons.
Indeed. Dumbledore told Harry that he would have a hard time (emotionally) dealing with his "fan mail" and Harry pretty much agreed. Whether Dumbledore has any other motive is left as an exercise for the reader.
Meh, Minerva mentions that a trained wizard can deal with a gun, I imagine explosive deactivating spells would be a standard part of your self defence/mail checking spells.
I think it was cannons, not guns :D
Magic bombs. Or other destructive artifacts.
I may be unduly influenced by how its handled in the DAYD fan-verse, but my impression is that wizards understand the concept of a letterbomb and screen for them if circumstances (for example being Mad-Eye Moody) call for it. They just don't do it routinely anymore than normal people do. P.S. I prepared explosive runes this morning.
DAYD? And I wouldn't be surprised if wizards - at least those with know enemies - screen their mail (although this isn't mentioned, and it's apparently unavailable to students.) I was just nitpicking the idea that you couldn't send a Wizard something they would be unable to neutralize with magic once they had it.
Dumbledore's Army and the Year of Darkness, one of the main stories involves anonymous owls.
In the MoR!verse, Dumbledore is screening Harry's mail instead of letting it go to him directly. So "owling hand grenades" won't work against someone who takes precautions to prevent it.
What about the other Aurors during TSPE? I thought they did pretty well overall.
Madam Bones, yes. The others seem average. Not owl-bomb-proof unless they're given regulations about it.
Fortunately, things like that are why bureaucracy exists.
Bureaucracy is self-preserving. It doesn't really have other builtin goals than that.

That sounds like a cached thought. Bureaucracies can be programmed to have relatively well-understood side-effects of their survival. For instance, McDonald's is a bureaucracy that has a side-effect of producing hamburgers; a military is a bureaucracy that has a side-effect of politically inconvenient people getting dead.

That's a good point. My comment was overbroad and oversimplified.
Avoiding assassination is generally considered to assist with self-preservation.
Reminds me of Competent elites. I suspect we'll get some display of the order, Aurors and/or ministry civil service behaving competently soon and Harry updating his beliefs on them. Outside the school setting what evidence do we actually have that the wizarding world is incompetent? [Not just operating self interestedly or on different values.]
Note, the link in your comment is currently a Google link rather than a link directly to the post.
I don't see the issue, shouldn't it redirect instantly? Changed it anyway.
The issue is just that unnecessary intermediaries should be avoided; it wasn't anything more serious than that.
Another one:
I would say that's more reflective of ignorance than incompetence. Though failing to sufficiently inform themselves about dangerous muggle technology would be incompetence at a meta level.
Putting Arthur Weasley in charge of Misuse of Muggle Artifacts, rather than an actual Muggleborn/halfblood, strikes me as incompetence of the highest order. We even see that Minerva took top marks in her Muggle Studies class, but still thinks of herself as ignorant, and she happens to be fairly competent.
Quiditch, the lack of adequate protection on time turners before Harry gave them the idea put protective shell on them... Seriously, just reread the fic.
My point is that the examples we've seen are mainly from Harry's perceptions, he hasn't actually tested any of them. The only one was the partial transfiguration which isn't exactly obvious to anyone else.
Like there's no RL sports with silly rules. And do time-turners actually need protection? The seem to require pretty deliberate action to use, and I assume they're hard to break.
They're hard to break now that they put protection on them. They were rather fragile before.
Admittedly, it says that in HPMOR, but does it in canon? Do we have any examples of them being damaged or destroyed, or any special care being taken with them? It seems odd that Eliezer would change canon to make the ministry stupider, given how they weren't exactly mental heavyweights in canon and his stated goal is to make a plot where everybody is at least generally competent.
First: MoR is what the conversation was about, wasn't it? Second: Yes, in canon they were fragile enough that all of them- all of them- were destroyed by a few stray spells, in the Department of Mysteries Battle.
1) I was wondering whether the implied mockery of canon was reasonable. Apparently it is. 2) Huh, I never noticed that detail reading through. Not sure a protective shell would help with that sort of destruction, though.
I just went and looked up the exact wording in OotP. A missed Stupefy hits a glass cabinet, which falls to the floor, which shatters all the Time-Turners inside (causing some weird stable time loop thing). If the shell can withstand being dropped on the ground, it's a useful improvement.
I always thought of that as more of a retcon than a plot point, JKR telling us "Yeah, ok, in retrospect the time turners were a bad idea, but I'd like to write the rest of the series without having to incorporate or work around them so just roll with it, ok?"
A better patch would be to say time turners only work in Hogwarts as an additional class attendence spell built into the general spells of the school (which canonically does weird things to space anyway).
Yeah, that's obviously the motivation, as is evident from the fact that Time-Turners essentially don't appear outside of one scene in PoA. That doesn't affect the point of their canonical fragility, though.
Oh lord. Okay, you win.
The possibility of gold-silver arbitrage with the Muggle world and the lack of fractional-reserve banking.
I'm very sceptical since the beginning of gold-silver arbitrage with the Muggle, I'm pretty sure it'll be forbidden under the Statue of Secrecy. Interaction with Muggles are not taken lightly. And since you've to go through a goblin bank to get your gold minted, you could hardly do it in a stealthy way.
I suspect galleons are actually a fiat currency controlled by the minstry/goblins, who keep a very close eye on the amounts of Gold in private hands and limit how many new Galleons can be minted.
There's folks in the Muggle world who think that fractional-reserve should be avoided like the plague, too. Perhaps goblins are all Austrian.
Wouldn't this allow others to set up competing banks, or just competing lending agencies, and make good profits?
Mostly, the Austrian response to that seems to be "Go ahead, but I'd never use them". Apparently, full-reserve banks are a service people are willing to pay for. (And they do. They're called "safety deposit boxes".)

I'm a little surprised that HJPEV didn't immediately update his probabilities regarding Quirrell's motives in Azkaban with the new knowledge from Moody that "You've got to mean it. You've got to want someone dead, and not for the greater good, either.", which would seem to discredit the Defense Professor's excuse that "a curse which cannot be blocked and must be dodged is an indispensable tactic."

Not necessarily; someone who's as deeply misanthropic as Quirrell might wish most people dead (having killed before, he can, as per Moody's explanation, wish people dead rather more casually than non-murderers.) If you're already capable of bringing intent-to-kill to bear on pretty much anyone who crosses you, you can probably use it strategically the way Quirrell suggests.

On the other hand, even if Quirrell's explanation holds true, it does suggest Harry should revise upwards his estimates of just how cavalier Quirrell is with other people's lives.

just how cavalier Quirrell is with other people's lives.

Surely Harry already understands that Quirrel places no intrinsic value on other people's lives. Perhaps this understanding is not visceral enough yet, though.

It should already be pretty high though - Harry even points it out at the time (Rule 1 of Unforgivable Curse Safety) and Quirrell equivocates it away by mixing up etiquette rules with safety rules. That might just as easily have ended with "I just shot Bahry in the face" considering how fast the spell must be going - probably <100 ms to recognize he can't dodge in time, and push him away.
The Auror starts dodging as soon as he recognizes the Killing Curse. This probably gives Quirrell a reasonable window of time to judge whether or not his opponent will dodge in time. How large this window is, that's another question. Voldemort can say the incantation in "less than half a second" but the description of that doesn't match the description of the Azkaban scene, so it seems that Quirrell says the curse more slowly. This suggests that either he is telling the truth when he says that he wanted Bahry to dodge, or else Voldemort's skill at tongue-twisters is rare even among capable battle wizards, and he doesn't want Harry to make the connection.
I took this passage as saying that you don't have to be especially pathological to cast the killing curse a second time - Moody explicitly says it "doesn't tell us much". So if we trust him, it doesn't tell us much.
"It takes a cracked soul to cast." and "Murder tears the soul." just says that if you've gotten to the point where you could cast it once, that particular pre-requisite is already accomplished, so the work to crack your soul is already put in. It doesn't say anything about removing the requirement of wanting someone dead. Though, so long as we're looking at evidence, if we take Quirrell at his word, then his ability to cast the spell despite not wanting his opponent dead is pretty strong evidence that the requirement is in fact removed. In fact, we already know that some "requirements" to cast spells are not set in stone: from that same scene, Harry cast the true patronus without the carefully practiced stance and wand twitches, instead merely "one desperate wish that an innocent man should not die -"—but the constant requirement in this case seems to be the thought that accompanies the casting of the spell, which is why I'm hesitant to believe the wish of death is removed from AK's casting requirement.
Harry didn't cast the patronus then, it was already active, he just moved it.
Fair point, though that also removes the point of evidence that casting requirements are removed with practice.
Just because he didn't intend to kill him doesn't mean he didn't want him dead. As Moody said, you have to want it, not just for the greater good, but as an end unto itself. Quirrell might have wanted to kill Bahry as an end unto itself, whereas for matters of convenience it was better to leave him alive.
Yeah, that kind of leaped out. It also made me wonder how Quirrell and Dumbledore thought they were going to teach students the spell.
Killing Curses don't kill wizards, wizards kill wizards!
You don't think you can teach children how to want someone dead for the sake of wanting them dead? Children can be very hateful. (At least, this could be what Quirrell is thinking, and Dumbledore could be thinking or hoping that the children just aren't going to be able to cast it.)

I'm very glad I didn't know that spell when I was little.

In canon, Moody used the unforgivables on a spider, and given the prevalence of ostensibly non-sentient things-to-fear in the magical world (e.g. boggarts), it's conceivable that they could have found a particular magical creature that even the most PETA-supporting student would have no trouble excising from the world. Also, as far as I can tell, there's nothing in canon to contradict that curses' targets are limited to Kingdom Animalia (see also: Harry's existential crisis about sentient plants), and I seriously doubt there are any 7th level vegans at Hogwarts.
How do you level up in being vegan? And what powers does it grant?
It's a reference to an episode of The Simpsons, wherein Lisa's boyfriend states: "I'm a level 5 vegan. I won't eat anything that casts a shadow." Edit2: Primary source found.
Remember that Harry had also learned that Quirrell had successfully used Avada Kedavra on two Death Eaters. Moody says that it isn't hard to cast AK for a second time, and Harry already knows that this time would have been at least Quirrell's third.
I interpreted the ease of casting the spell as a specific application of scope insensitivity rather than a change in the requirement to cast it. That is, while casting it the second time might be just as difficult (i.e. take as much mental/magical/spiritual energy) as the first, the third and fourth time would together be only as strenuous as the first, as would the collective fifth through eighth time, etc. It is already established in-universe that some form of personal mana depletion exists, and my idea of this difficulty reduction is an extension of that form of energy to the spiritual energy (established in canon w.r.t. horcruxes, dementors, etc.).

Now Mad-Eye Moody was turning slowly, always turning, surveying the graveyard of Little Hangleton. [...]

Moody didn't actually need to turn to survey the graveyard.

The Eye of Vance saw the full globe of the world in every direction around him, no matter where it was pointing.

But there was no particular reason to let a former Death Eater like Severus Snape know that.

Some time later:

"You see in all directions," Harry Potter said, that strange fierce light still in his gaze. "No matter where that eye is pointing, it sees everything around you."


Just because he has no reason to tell Snape doesn't mean he has any particular reason to fear the knowledge getting out. He's already earned his spot on the Supremely Dangerous Wizards list. Kinda makes me wonder why he didn't conceal the fact that he has a magical eye at all, though.

FakeSpoiler: Mad Eye actually wears a decoy. The real Eye of Vance is a suppository.

Because it's bright blue, the wrong size, sits in its own special eye socket, and is prone to spinning on its own? It's not like he can play it off as being his own eye, and nobody would believe it's just regular glass. If you want your lies to be credible in future, you can't make obvious ones in the present.

There's a little thing called MAGIC. Also: Eyepatches. It's not like it can't see through them.

I don't have a side view coming up on Google Image, but I thought the eye stuck out of his head pretty far, making any sort of usual eyepatch inadequate for concealing, and custom eyepatches(in the 20th century, when eyepatches are never seen outside of Halloween and period pieces) would just beg the question.
It's hard for me to imagine you're not trolling with that comment. We're talking about an entire culture that dresses in a combination of period garb, fictional accouterments, and ignores almost entirely the "20th century" world around them. No one comments on Quirrel's Turban or Moody's unique to him skull staff. Also: To this day, the 21st century, people sometimes suffer eye injuries and wear eye patches, and they're pretty large Also: Google image search for steampunk eyepatch
Okay, using centuries to describe wizard fashion was a silly thing to do. And I was unfamiliar with serious modern eyepatches - most of the time I've seen something for that purpose, it's either sunglasses of some sort, or an "eyepatch" that's more of a temporary dressing than anything. Though I don't see why a turban would raise eyebrows. Admittedly, white guys wearing them is unusual, but turbans are hardly rare. And everybody knows Moody's a bit of a loon, so...well, I suppose that by explaining why he has his weird headpiece, I'm also arguing for why he could probably get away with an eyepatch if he wanted to. Maybe he got the Eye in a way that was made public despite his best efforts, and so he figured he'd do better to obfuscate its exact powers than to try to conceal its existence?
One could argue both ways. As I recall, he knocked over some third-world (or, since it's magical, negative-third-world) country to loot the artifact from a tinpot dictator. On the one hand, that sounds pretty dang public on the face of it; on the other, he phrases it as 'somewhere he doesn't have to worry about silly rules' (such as "don't hunt down and kill people because you want their things"), implying Britain isn't paying a lot of attention to the place in any event.
What are you talking about? Edit: Ah, that's something they invented for the films.

I think I preferred the old version of 85 more than the new one. "The phoenix only comes once" seems a lot more made-up than Harry's original determination to abandon comic-book morality as soon as someone died, which felt very much in character.

86 is certainly interesting, even if it largely felt like a wrapping-up restatement of what we knew. That said, I loved the Moody duel, and after six months a bit of restatement is quite useful. Also, I'm torn between how to interpret Snape's last question - my first thought was that he was verifying the truth of a story he had been told("Your master tortured her, now join the light side already!" being the most likely), but upon rereading, I wonder if he was worried that she had been used as Horcrux fuel.


The new version was like a shock-glove-plated punch to the gut right at "I thought it was to my death I went". Wouldn't trade anything for that feeling. :)

Greater emotional impact in much fewer words. It actually feels awful, rather than sounding like a drawn-out rationalization. New version wins on both counts IMHO.

I never liked the old version. Harry pretty much admitted to himself that he was making a wrong choice, he expected his attempt to not kill anyone to fail, and yet he still delayed making the right decision because he couldn't accept it emotionally. That is not a superhero of rationality. Frankly, that is not someone to whom a phoenix would come.

I think part of the point of HPMOR is that rationality is hard.

Like people, phoenixes need high but achievable standards, and I think you're setting yours too high.

Phoenix utility functions are not human-friendly; they do time discounting differently from us. It's not that rationality is hard, but that true rationality combined with human values like Harry's does not meet with phoenix approval.

The post-edit Harry decided he would do the phoenix-right thing later. Once he decided that, the phoenix went away, and will not return. If he had decided that firmly earlier, presumably the phoenix would not have come to him in the first place.

The pre-edit Harry struggled with a similar question. To be consistent, I agree that a phoenix could and should have come to him while he was struggling. But once he had made his decision, the phoenix would definitely not come. Those are the phoenix rules, as given by the update to this chapter.

The decision Harry had come to pre-update was that he would not do whatever it took to free the prisoners of Azkaban; and also that he would not do whatever it took to protect his friends and strike down evil, until he allowed another person to die through being ineffective. Those are not decisions a phoenix would approve of. (Which is not to say I don't approve of them.)

What are phoenixes trying to accomplish?

Do they have goals, or just drives? They're implied to be closer to animals than people.

In the same way (in HPMOR canon) Dementors are the projections/personifications of death pheonixes may be the personifications of courage or whatever.

[Maybe there's some sort of magical collective unconscious thing going on?]

Courage doesn't run on a model of "if you fail one test, you'll never get another chance".
Perhaps they are personifications of "The Call To Go On A Magical Quest Requiring Great Courage". But I admit it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.
"Heroism" seems like a more succinct way of putting that, although it's a fairly specific sense of heroism.
"Heroism" has the same objection as does "Courage": You may get many chances to be heroic. "The Call etc" is a particular trope, and only occurs once per character.
"Campbellian heroism", perhaps. Though strictly speaking a Campbellian hero doesn't have to be a conventional hero -- the Thousand Faces/Hero's Journey pattern is more about growing into your potential than about saving people or defeating a specific Big Bad -- and both seem to be indicated here. As I think I've said before, the specific construction of heroism that MoR is using seems to inherit a lot from Fate/stay night, and more specifically from the "Fate" and parts of the "Unlimited Blade Works" routes. The concept we're pointing to usually gets translated there as "superhero" or "hero of justice", but I'm not sure what the Japanese is, and in any case I've no idea if Nasu was using a conventional phrase or if he's using a specialization of a more general word the same way we are.
True, but death doesn't wear a cloak etc. The personifications of a concept don't necessarily have to model it perfectly,
Maybe there's a limited supply of phoenixes and they just figure they can find better heroes if they keep trying out new people.
How so? So far as I can tell, in this war, nobody has died, and since we don't know it's a war against Voldemort again, we don't know that it's part 2 of a war where a lot of people did. Now, there's a good chance that the war will result in deaths, but "I should go around killing innocents if needed to win the war" is a pretty extraordinary statement, and I won't fault him for requiring fairly ordinary evidence to make it.
A war means people risk death, Voldemort or not. The last plot tried to have Hermione die in Azkaban, and (since Harry doesn't believe Quirrel did it) seemed designed to kill Draco right away; the next plot may succeed. And people are dying in Azkaban all the time, second by second. Pre-edit Harry was unwilling to commit to killing as an acceptable instrumental goal given a sufficiently high payoff. Making a goal sacred and of infinite value, while also wanting to balance it with other terminal values, is a contradiction. Harry realized this, and did it anyway, and that is a rationalist sin. He disobeyed the rule that "if you know what you're going to think or do later, you should think or do it now". Post-edit Harry is willing to commit to killing if that's what it takes. He asks Moody not to harm the suspect if possible, but he doesn't say they should not attack him if they expect to have to harm him. He is both a better rationalist and a better person.
Harry's discussion with Moody in 86 didn't bother me. I'm referring specifically to the old version of 85. And remember that the vast majority of conflicts in the world don't turn out to be "war" - thus far, we've had one attempted murder and a jail that's basically a worse version of a stereotypical third-world oubliette. That's well within the realm of things police deal with on a regular basis. Police don't generally give themselves license to, say, burn Narcissa Malfoy alive. (Anybody have a copy of old-85? I'd like to see the exact phrasings of it if possible, for continuing this discussion)

(Anybody have a copy of old-85? I'd like to see the exact phrasings of it if possible, for continuing this discussion)

"What's that, Lassie? Somewhere a LWer is wishing they had made use of my archiving system so they could pull a particular page out of their local cache and upload it to Dropbox? Then we'd better hurry!"

The thing is that people aren't perfect rationalists, and part of being a good rationalist is acknowledging your own flaws and limitations. If you accept to kill, you'll kill, even in situations where killing wasn't necessary, because you'll stop searching the hypothesis space when you find a solution that involves killing. Or because you'll estimate that killing one will save two, but your estimation was flawed - you killed one, and yet the two still die. And it's also something you should know about the way humans work, that once you did something once, it's easier to do it again - and the killing curse seems to model that quite well. Harry putting himself a "I'll not kill" rule is him forcing himself to find solutions that don't require killing. Especially when you see how his "dark side" work, finding solutions to "impossible" problems when really pressured to do it, it doesn't seem irrational from him to test the hypothesis that he, with his rationalist training, and his "dark side" creativity, can find solutions that don't involve killing. And that only if that hypothesis is falsified, he'll resort to killing.
I think Harry's mistake is that he has left himself no setting between, "no killing" and "all bets are off".
I get the impression that the phoenix is a rewrite prompted by someone pointing out to Eliezer that in terms of consequentialism abandoning that woman was the same as letting an innocent bystander catch a curse, so Harry had already violated the new vow he was taking.
8Eliezer Yudkowsky
The title of the arc is "Taboo Tradeoffs". The phoenix was the original intended ending. I just couldn't get it written in time.
Aand, maybe you didn't want to face the wrath that would no doubt have risen with such a heart wrenching cliffhanger. ;-)
Not really - she could be rescued, while a dead person cannot be.
Yeah - it's not so much the downer, that's fine, it's that I miss Harry's resolution. Hopefully that pops up later.
1Eliezer Yudkowsky
Probably not - there's just no room for anywhere to put it!
I think you did, though it's not exactly the same decision. In this version, Harry didn't even wait for a bystander to die. He deliberately sacrificed Azkaban prisoners, some of which are innocent, in the name of higher probability of success. The decision is not very explicit, but he had decided to stop playing nice right away.
Or verifying a deal he made with Voldemort, though that might not make as much sense with Snape's character.
What, as in he made a deal not to hurt Lily, but killing's okay? Snape's messed-up, but I don't think he's quite inhuman enough to treat that as a deal honoured. The earlier part of the events, perhaps, but not the "Lily died without pain, then?".
I read it as Snape being happy that Voldemort offered Lily an out: his deal with Voldemort must have been "please let Lily live and I'll do anything". The memory confirms the story that Voldemort gave Lily an option out ("stand aside"). So he considers Voldemort to have held up his side of the bargain. This interpretation does not bode well for the Dumbledore-Snape alliance (which already seemed to be in bad shape in MoR)
That's how I read it as well. Snape saw that Voldemort had kept his word, and only killed Lily when she attacked him first. It seemed to me that Harry hadn't learned his lesson about his talks with Snape. He even noted that Snape's allegiance was wavering, and yet he shows him that Voldie given Lily her chance.
Harry didn't learn, no. But is that an advantage or a disadvantage? To go back to Chapter 76: Now, yes, this separates Snape from Dumbledore. But Dumbledore is not the protagonist. Harry is the protagonist. And what Snape can learn from Harry's actions are: Harry Potter will tell him the truth; Snape can trust Harry Potter. -or- Harry Potter is a brilliant plotter; so good that even at age eleven he outclasses both Voldemort and Dumbledore with his ability to fake being honest and trustworthy. If the first is true, Snape can put his trust in Harry, where he cannot trust Voldemort or Dumbledore. In a world where the prophecy clearly declares Harry Potter a power that ranks with Voldemort, isn't the obvious power to align oneself with the one who you can trust? When looking at the future, do you want it dominated by someone who let you wallow in foolishness and pain for their own advantage, or someone who treated you as you would wish to be treated? (Well, it might just mean the boy doesn't have enough guile to win, of course, but that suggests merely not burning your bridges. You're already in the other camp, after all . . .) If the second is true, the only sensible course is to make oneself as useful to Harry as possible, because Harry is unstoppable.
Who were Snape's two mentors? I used to think they were Voldemort and Dumbledore, in that order. But from the new chapter we learn that Snape only became a Death Eater when he told the prophecy to Voldemort, and that must have been immediately before Voldemort died or vanished. That doesn't seem to leave enough time for Voldemort to be a mentor to Snape.
4Eliezer Yudkowsky
Note that the prophecy is from before Harry was born, and his parents died when he was over a year old.
The timetable is getting tight for Voldemort to mentor Snape significantly, but I really don't see who else it could be; especially since it doesn't sound to me like it's supposed to be a huge mystery who the second mentor was. (I think we can exclude Quirrel/Monroe entirely.)
I like this as a hint as to where Snape might move next. His detachment from Dumbledore makes him a free agent in my book, unless he's more beholden to Lucius than I know.
Right, Chapter 76 was mainly to verify that Harry was trustworthy.
He gave her a slight chance of living with the guilt of having scarified her son, which sounds more like torture than generosity to me. If he really wanted to let Lily live, he would have stunned her, or he would moved to cast the Killing Curse on the crib without harming her. Asking her to voluntarily stop protecting her child is sadism, not a real attempt at sparring her life.
That's true enough. But I don't think keeping his deal with Snape required making sure that Lily lived, it required giving her a chance. You say it was a crappy chance. Maybe so. But this was a concession on Voldemort's part, and expecting a Dark Lord to do more than the letter of an agreement is asking a bit much.
Harry isn't much of a believer in the noble lie, if you haven't noticed.
He didn't even have to lie. All he had to do was say the thing in italics which he thought, right before the end. Snape if anyone understands exactly how excruciating emotional pain can be.
But after his previous encounter with Snape, where he offered Snape advice while not knowing what the advice was about, he seemed to accept that discretion can sometimes be the better part of valor, and maybe sometimes you should just shut up. He didn't need to be sharing these facts with Snape, he even recognized in the moment the undesirability of doing so, and yet he spilled the beans regardless. That boy just aint never gonna learn.
1Eliezer Yudkowsky
I would've liked to include the resolution too - but there simply wasn't room for that and the phoenix. I decided the plot could better survive the surgery of one than the other.

So I've got an alternate version that includes the important parts of both endings. Feel free to use or modify it if you like it.

The boy stood there on the rooftop, his own eyes locked with two points of fire. The stars might have had time to shift in their constellations while he stood there, agonizing over the decision...

...that wouldn't...


The boy's eyes flickered once to the stars above; and then he looked at the phoenix.

"No. Not yet," the boy said in a voice hardly audible. "I can do better. I can end death itself, not just Azkaban, if you give me the chance. If I can't stop death, if more have to die while I wait for the right time, then I will. But not yet. I still think I can win this without loss, and I won't...can't!...throw away that chance at a big victory later for a small one tonight."

Without word, without sound, a sphere of fire surrounded the bird's form, crackling and blazing with white and crimson veins as though it meant to consume that which lay within; and when the fire dispersed into grey smoke, no phoenix remained.

There was silence on the top of the Ravenclaw tower. The boy gradually lowered his hands from his ears, pausing only to wipe at his wet cheeks.

I figured it was for plot reasons. And upon rereading, it does make more sense - for some reason, I thought it was Fawkes that was coming, not another phoenix. My original reading was that Fawkes was somehow going to spitefully reject a chance to destroy Azkaban because Harry had missed his chance, which seemed absurd - knowing that Harry was giving up his chance at a phoenix of his own, and not his mission, annoys me much less. I'm still not sure if I like the new 85 more than the old, but it's closer now. Also, I'm probably being optimistic about how easy the writing of it would be, but my first impression is that it should be possible to make a version of it where Harry's resolution is the rejection.

One thing I really liked about this update is it helps explain why Harry hasn't figured out Quirrell = Voldemort yet. He's reasoning (perhaps without even having spelled it out in his head this way) that if Quirrell had been Voldemort, he would have won very quickly.

This is all fascinating, because it's a fairly good solution to the problem of "if Harry is so smart, why hasn't he figured out the solution to the problem that most of the audience has figured out by now?" I can't say I would have come up with that good of a solution to such a problem in any story I was writing.

That said, it seems like there are at least three conversations which could unravel the whole thing:

  1. Harry learns enough about horcruxes to make the Pioneer Plaque connection.

  2. Harry confesses about Azkaban, Dumbledore says "Harry, you fool!" and that's that.

  3. Hermione tells Harry about her recent conversation with Quirrell, confirming David Monroe = Quirrell = the plotter and suggesting the possibility that Voldemort was toying with Magical Britain for the fun of it during the war.


"if Harry is so smart, why hasn't he figured out the solution to the problem that most of the audience has figured out by now?"

Please remember that the audience has a lot more information on the subject than Harry himself, for not only do we get to see whats happening in the scenes of the story without Harry in them, we also have the huge advantage of having read the canon Harry Potter books. As Quirrell worked for Voldemort in canon, our prior probability that Quirrell is working for Voldemort is high, even before we read HPMOR. Harry on the other hand, hasn't even had a reason to consider that this is a possibility, let alone to assign a high probability to it.

1- Harry could conclude Quirrell made the Pioneer Plaque into a horcrux without coming to the conclusion that he's Voldemort. That Quirrell has made at least one horcrux is evidence towards him being Voldemort, but not all people who've made horcruxes are Voldemort.

2- This would probably convince Dumbledore that Quirrell is the top candidate for being Voldemort, but I think Dumbledore would need to follow it up with more investigation to convince Harry; I don't think Dumbledore has much more evidence to bring to the table if Harry lets this spill that he hasn't told Harry already.

3- Suspecting Quirrell as the plotter hasn't led Harry to suspect Quirrell as Voldemort yet, and I don't really see how hearing David Monroe's explanation of his backstory would lead Harry to conclude he was toying with Magical Britain for fun; he could simply conclude he's a largely amoral person who tried being good for the reward, but concluded that it wasn't rewarding.

Well, there is a thing that should at least ring a bell in Harry's mind to me. The "resonance" between Quirrell and Harry preventing their magic to interact which each other, when Voldemort transferred part of his magic to Harry, should be considered significant evidence towards Quirrell being Voldemort. Harry knows his magic partly comes from Voldemort, he knows Quirrell and his magic resonate in an unheard of way, and yet, he doesn't at least suspect a link between the two ?
I don't see the obvious link between those; magical transference seems like it could more easily lead to casting spells together more effectively, not it being a terrible idea to cast spells together. Harry is also biased against presuming causal factors that he can't articulate a motivation for, and so it doesn't seem likely that the character would come across that hypothesis in the first place.
I've read all the chapters up to 86 and I didn't figure it out. Care to enlighten me? Of course Quirrell is extremely suspicious but his persona can be explained as well by being Monroe.
If you need more evidence, vg'f rkcyvpvgyl zragvbarq va rneyl Nhgube'f Abgrf obgu gung Dhveeryy vf Ibyqrzbeg naq gung Ryvrmre jnf trahvaryl fhecevfrq ng ubj ybat vg gbbx crbcyr gb trg guvf. Punyx vg hc gb n pbzovangvba bs crbcyr orvat hasnzvyvne jvgu pnaba, crbcyr nffhzvat Ryvrmre jnf gevpxvat gurz, naq vyyhfvba bs genafcnerapl...
I think part of the issue is that Eliezer decided to portray being a good manipulator realistically with the result that Quirrell successfully managed to manipulate half the audience.
This is spoilers, which Eliezer officially retracted. Please rot13 it, at least.
Have you ever read Philosopher's Stone? I hadn't when I first read HPMOR, so I totally missed the Quirrell thing, but it's pretty blatant once you're handed the answer on a canonical platter.
I didn't read the canon.
Then a first-book spoiler for you: Ibyqrzbeg fcraqf svefg lrne rzorqqrq va gur onpx bs Dhveeryy'f urnq.
Should I read your comment or will it spoil the fun? I'm assuming that it is possible to read and understand HPMOR without having to read the canon? So far I'm doing fine. Although I also watched the last HP movie so I have some info from the canon.
If you've read HPMOR and watched Deathly Hallows, it will not be much of a surprise. However, it has not been explicitly stated by any of the material you've read/watched to date, so it is technically a spoiler. That said, HPMOR does get better when you start getting all the canon in-jokes, so I would recommend consuming the originals at some point. They're actually pretty good(even if the first two are basically kid's novels).
There's a big fat hint in chapter 20. It's compatible with Monroe!Quirrell being an unpleasant person in the same way Voldemort was, but one of those on each side including the supposedly good one is less likely than the big bad playing both sides.
Here are the relevant quotes: [...]
Well, he pretty clearly turned the Pioneer Plaque into a Horcrux, told Harry, then Obliviated him when he reacted badly. Also, at two separate points he claims to have "resolved his family issues" and later states that his family is "long since dead by the Dark Lord's hand." Hardly conclusive, but there are other, similar little hints and Q has after all admitted to "playing a game of lying with truths." Oh, and Voldemort in Canon always wanted to teach at Hogwarts. So there's that.

You're not supposed to say what he did to the Pioneer plaque out loud! It's more funner to realize it on your own.

Where do you get that he Obliviated Harry? All of his lines sound like reasonable first-iteration attempts, and Harry didn't lose time.

I, ah, I got it from the ellipses. Which is suddenly seeming much less reasonable. In my defense, it IS the same effect used for Hermione.
Quirrell can't cast spells on Harry without some sort of magical resonance occurring. He almost certainly has not been obliviating Harry.
Well, it's the same effect as when H&C brute-forced Hermione. Although that's a good point about their magic; I'd forgotten about that. There are ways around it, of course ...
Do you know which chapter that was? I cannot remember this passage.
Chapter 20. Of course, that's just my reading of it, but I think it's a popular interpretation - it certainly seems the most plausible one.
That is so weird - I've never heard that interpretation, and I can't seem to get it out of the text. I just see Harry reacting not-badly, and no sign that Harry was obliviated.

The, ah, the ellipses?

"I subscribe to a Muggle bulletin which keeps me informed of progress on space travel. I didn't hear about Pioneer 10 until they reported its launch. But when I discovered that Pioneer 11 would also be leaving the Solar System forever," Professor Quirrell said, his grin the widest that Harry had yet seen from him, "I snuck into NASA, I did, and I cast a lovely little spell on that lovely golden plaque which will make it last a lot longer than it otherwise would."




"Yes," Professor Quirrell said, who now seemed to be standing around fifty feet taller, "I thought that was how you might react."




"Mr. Potter?"

"...I can't think of anything to say."

"'You win' seems appropriate," said Professor Quirrell.

"You win," Harry said immediately.

"See?" said Professor Quirrell. "We can only imagine what giant heap of trouble you would have gotten into if you had been unable to say that."

They both laughed.

Waitaminute. That was just him staring silently, wasn't it? And the line about "fifty feet taller" just meant he seemed so much more imposing for hav... (read more)

CFAR could make very good use of a lot more money than this while starting up. I don’t work for the Center for Applied Rationality and they don’t pay me, but their work is sufficiently important that the Singularity Institute (which does pay me) has allowed me to offer to work on Methods full-time until the story is finished if HPMOR readers donate a total of $1M to CFAR.

That's quite the author's advance!


Speaking of which, isn't there anyone with CFAR-authority that wants to make a fundraising announcement post, as Luke did for SI?

I was curious about that as well. I suspect they have decided to wait until SI's fundraising drive is finished, for behavioral economic reasons as well as their prioritization, but it passes up the option to determine LWers' relative preferences for SI and CFAR.
Well, they mentioned in the SI fundraising post that there would be a CFAR fundraiser, and that's why I didn't donate to SI.

HP: Punch AM in snout to establish superiority.

Anyone else getting tired of this? Harry does it to everyone he meets, including Minerva and Hermione.

Everyone else: presume HP is inferior; withhold information.

I can see both sides of it.

Yeah, that's the other side of the same complaint :-) I'm not complaining about Harry's behavior, but about Eliezer putting so much macho posturing (and opportunities for it) into the story.

Well, the premise of the story necessitates that Harry be an eleven year old boy and that he be highly competent. Having people constantly underestimate him is a practically unavoidable consequence.

Harry could just quietly, secretly exceed people's expectations, but when those people are his allies, it's probably a poor strategic decision.

It's okay, he's just rewriting Ender's Game.
There is a little too much of that for my taste. There are plenty of other things going on as well in the story, enough of them to keep me interested, but the bits that seem to be just Ender's Game don't impress me. Being smart isn't nearly that reliable at producing victory in battle; there are too many details of execution that matter tremendously, and there's just generally too much unpredictable stuff going on. Admittedly, there have been historical generals who consistently won, but they always had some consistent edge that for some reason their enemies couldn't fully duplicate or counter (higher technology being an obvious possibility, or perhaps ability to recruit soldiers from a population that already possessed useful, difficult to develop military skills not practiced elsewhere).

Harry hasn't won consistently. He's lost plenty of mock battles, and while he sometimes gets his way against adults, he's sometimes thwarted. Harry also does have a couple advantages that can't readily be replicated by other characters, namely his technological and scientific savvy, and the True Invisibility Cloak, and the time turner which can't be replicated by most of his opponents.

Eliezer wrote ages ago that he gets people complaining that Harry wins too often and isn't sufficiently challenged, and people complaining that he loses too often and doesn't accomplish much, and considers himself to be doing his job properly if he's at least getting similar amounts of each kind of complaint.

He admits freely that Moody would have kicked his ass in a real fight, so I'm not sure how much actual superiority was established there.

Just because Harry's learned to keep his claws sheathed doesn't mean he's not still engaging in dominance contests.

I think in this case it's more an "I'm not as pathetic as you think I am" contest. Nobody's going to mistake him for the best duelist in that group, but he's not willing to concede complete inferiority. It's certainly a status game, it just doesn't rise to the level of "establish[ing] superiority".

Moody set it as a condition for being able to speak as an equal.
He gets the mechanism wrong though. In a real fight, Moody kills him or at the very least takes his toys away if he's needed alive. There wouldn't be any time-turned copies of him in the first place.
Stable time loops are sort of a problem for what-if scenarios - it's sufficiently hard to make up one, coming up with alternates isn't always possible.

I bet a large portion of the readership would have been disappointed if that didn't happen.

And in this particular case, that was the only fast way for Alastor to gain enough respect for Harry's competence that they could cooperate in the future. It wouldn't have been consistent with his already established paranoia if he just believed Dumbledore & co.

I can imagine this getting old eventually, but imo it hasn't happened yet.

Yes, but its fun to watch.
It happens a lot, but you wouldn't expect it to happen only a LITTLE with a super intelligent 11 year old.

Harry needs to think more before he tells people things just because they ask. Just because somebody's not Quirrell, Harry, doesn't mean that their knowledge has no consequences!

Holy shamoly, I got name-dropped in the notes.

Now I've got even more incentive to blast apart my current writer's block on "Myou've".


To add to you incentive I'll donate £10 to the Against Malaria Foundation when you do (utilitarian blackmail?).

gasp You can have a writer's block?
Hey, I had a pretty good run of near-daily, 2k-word chapters. At the moment - the first non-Myou've story I tried breaking the block with foundered and is probably defunct. However, I'm currently working on another non-Myou've story; and am actually making progress. I've got a skeleton of a plot written out, and over 1500 words of an actual first draft, and am getting feedback and encouragement by writing it in a GoogleDoc I've given a few other people access to. I think I've got a good chance of actually turning this one into a complete story - and once I do, I'm going to try using the momentum I build up by getting back to "Myou've".
High five!

Voldie isn't like any other Legilimens in recorded history. He doesn't need to look you in the eyes, and if your shields are that rusty he'd creep in so softly you'd never notice a thing.

Harry and Quirrell spend a lot of time together, and now we learn that he might not even have to look Harry in the eyes. How much of Harry's brain has Quirrell already mapped out? Perhaps this is why he is always playing "one level above you". Maybe this is why Harry doesn't notice some things he otherwise might.

I'm going to start reading all their conversations assuming that Quirrell can read all of Harry's thoughts in real time the same way we can, and interpret all his statements in light of that. Could be interesting.

They can't interact magically, so no.

This is in fact a major literary reason for the above. :)

In canon, Voldemort has extra "legilimency" style power to know harry's thoughts and influence him due to the scar, even though their connection makes it dangerous for the two to touch (at least while he was in Quirrel). Obviously this isn't great evidence, but I think it's relevant.
Signs of leglimency can be detected, so if Quirrell is leglimizing Harry, he may be risking getting caught. The fact that Harry has an occlumency teacher who uses leglimency on him in an instructional setting might serve to disguise other people using leglimency on him though. We don't know what kind of evidence checking for leglimency can provide about recency and whether the mind has been accessed by different people. However, I doubt that Quirrell has been using leglimency on Harry, because there's a point where you're really just giving the antagonist too great an advantage, and if Quirrell has been accessing the contents of Harry's mind undetected, I would have an incredibly hard time buying the protagonists not being completely fucked (tvtropes link.)
There is some time resolution.
upvoted for tvtropes warning.
I suspect that Voldemort's legilimency though occlumency barriers may have been the same sort as Quirrell's in Ch. 49.
Oh, you mean a bluff using knowledge gained by other means? That's an interesting thought. Quirrell does do that a lot when we know he couldn't be using Legilimency, doesn't he?
He also had this ability before Harry ever started learning occlumency so it would be possible for him to sneak past if anyone could.
At one point the Defense Professor does give a plausible reason why he might have resolved not to use Legilimency. From Chapter 74:

Heh. Just noticed the explicit comparison of Moody to Rorschach.

This really confused me until I realised you were referring to a comic book character, not a famous psychiatrist.

Gerald Grice. He was the first person Rorschach killed, and triggered his change. He killed Blair Roche, 6 year old girl, and fed her to his dogs. Both are named dropped by Moody as he discusses the Killing Curse.

Oh, cool. I didn't get that.

A reminder: there's an extensive Reddit discussion (>288)

My thoughts: 1) It's becoming increasingly clear that - even though Harry has accumulated a wealth of knowledge and evidence by this point about Dumbledore, Quirrell, Lucius and Snape - he still knows little about Voldemort (e.g. motives, background, abilities, weaknesses). I am fairly confident that this is intentional on the author's part; withholding Harry's (and the reader's) knowledge about Voldemort is an excellent way to ensure that a Revelation of information occurs within the next few chapters about Voldemort's background. 2) We haven't yet seen Harry's reaction to the fact that Flitwick invented a Charm; presumably he will update his model of the nature of magic when he has time to process this. 3) The joke at the beginning of the chapter making fun of America's disconnect with the rest of the world was particularly brilliant and appreciated

Minerva already told him that people invent new spells all the time early in the story.
Without knowing the details of the process of researching new Charms, we can't really differentiate between "invented", "discovered", "created", and "learned". Flitwick is not a scientist and I don't trust him to report the difference correctly. The discovery itself is not on-screen.