Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, February 2015, chapter 104

by b_sen1 min read16th Feb 2015195 comments


HPMOR (discussion & meta)
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New chapter!

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 104.

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Eliezer Yudkowsky which is not supposed to be publicly available (which includes public statements by Eliezer that have been retracted).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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But unless you bought Draco Malfoy's latest theory that Professor Sprout had been assigning and grading less homework around the time of Hermione being framed for attempted murder, thereby proving that Professor Sprout had been spending her time setting it up, the truth remained unfound.

So Imperiused-Sprout is Hat and Cloak?

3CronoDAS7yIronic that The Watson [http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheWatson] actually got the right answer...
3Velorien7ySomehow I can't see Sprout having Hat-and-Cloak's eloquence, and I doubt you can Imperius someone to be significantly more eloquent than their usual self.
2Jost7yExcept through micro-managing their interactions (i.e. Quirrell(*) hiding close to imperiused-Hat-and-Cloak and forcing HaC to use a specific choice of words) – although, in that case, it would be of course be simpler for Quirrell to just play HaC himself. (*) or whoever is responsible for HaC

The obvious question is, why did Quirrell cause Harry to believe that Quirrell is Voldemort? As a background assumption, Quirrell plays the game one level higher than Harry. Quirrell is able to model people very accurately, and has recently been uncharacteristically sloppy. Quirrell is also obviously prepared for Harry to figure this out (gun, smile, etc.), and I would think it likely that he could craft a plan so that he would successfully avoid suspicion, so I'm expecting that Harry believing that Quirrell is Voldemort is part of the plan.

What's his game?

The only thing that comes to me instantly is that Harry is now more likely to just accept whatever Quirrell villainously monologues next as true. I'll note that people are already accepting this as some sort of confirmation that Harry is Tom Riddle. CONSTANT VIGILANCE, PEOPLE! All we have seen is Quirrell say "Hello, Tom Riddle," to Harry!

That, and title of this chapter is The Truth, Pt 1, Riddles and Answers. As in two Tom Riddles.

3Ben Pace7yIt's odd, because Quirrell went so far out of his way to appear to be dying. He set himself up to be caught drinking unicorn's blood. So it's very strange for him to give that away.
1Transfuturist7yTo be caught?
1Ben Pace7yWell, if he's faking the illness, he doesn't require unicorn's blood. Therefore he set up the situation with the unicorn, so that Harry would find him, and know he was dying.

So ...

Harry and Quirrell are partial backups of Voldemort, written onto the respective brains of a young boy and an adult man.

For Quirrell, being the Dark Lord is a core part of his identity; he identifies with that part of himself and its goals, namely personal immortality, which he believes can only be achieved at the expense of others. He believes this for good reasons, namely the underlying magical laws that give rise to the rules for potions and rituals: something of equal value must be sacrificed to gain a desired end: light for light, life for life. Magic is, in the end, zero-sum. Quirrell believes the zero-sum nature of the universe is cold reality, and that anyone who denies it is lying or deluding themselves.

For Harry, being the Dark Lord is not a core part of his identity, but a peripheral part ("mysterious dark side"). Harry identifies not only as a child of the Enlightenment, but as someone who wants to use his powers to elevate all of humanity. Harry does not believe that the magical laws are the way the universe works; he expects human accomplishments can be positive-sum. He believes this for good reasons, namely the positive-sum accomplishments of Muggle s... (read more)

7Velorien7yDoesn't Harry spend at least the first half of the story being variously shocked and outraged at how magic does not abide by the laws of thermodynamics? See Aguamenti producing water out of nothing. Even the laws governing potions aren't really a case of equivalent exchange: the heat of the Ashwinder eggs disperses into the surrounding environment and is bestowed upon any potion made using them.
0fubarobfusco7yYeah, different bits of magic seem to operate on different conservation laws, it's true. And they aren't the ones of physics. But Quirrell seems to expect value to be conserved — and therefore, that accumulating value to yourself and your allies logically implies depriving others of value — whereas Harry seems to expect otherwise.
0buybuydandavis7yI can see how Harry is a partial backup, as he doesn't have all the memories of Voldemort. But why consider Quirrell a partial backup? I always thought of him as the fully transferred Voldemort, with Voldemort going through time from one host to the next.
0fubarobfusco7yIf the process is lossy, the degree of drift might depend on the degree to which the resulting persona identifies with the original's values.
0buybuydandavis7yThere have been lots of instances of comparisons between the lives of Q and Harry along the lines of "how would Q's life been different if Q had been in Harry's position." That would fit with EY's general ideology of all human lives having value.


So, as we approach the end of the fic, there's one question left that looks really hard.

Let's try to solve it!

...but in all seriousness: I expect Harry to solve Death before the end of the fic - it's too central to both Harry's current motive and thus the current plot arc, and Eliezer's motives in writing this fic, to avoid, even putting aside the conspicuous Peverell prophecy.

There is not enough time left for Harry to do this by learning some secret art or by putting his own spin on an existing spell. Therefore, this problem should be soluble with what Harry has on hand.

For now, I will treat Quirrelmort and Dumbledore (come on, you don't honestly think he's going to be absent for the big climactic duel of words and ideals, do you?) as resources - never mind how Harry convinces them for now.

  • Between Dumbledore and Quirrel, essentially any existing spell. This is known to be insufficient for the task.
  • Dumbledore has the Elder Wand. Harry has the Invisibility Cloak. Quirrel is highly implied to have the Stone of Resurrection. All three Hallows are gathered, and Harry seems to have activated something in that prophecy stone.
  • The Patronus 2.0.
  • The Killing Curse 2.0. Harry is never
... (read more)

A bunch of unspecified Muggle items he got the Weasleys to obtain for him.

You're missing sextillions of resources, although only a few hundred billion are in this galaxy and only one is near enough to use immediately without FTL.

The stunning aspect of "the secret to creating new potions" isn't just that you can expend energy accumulated in some magical ingredient, it's that sunlight counts as magical energy. Yottawatts of power plus the ability to transmute elements might be useful...

7Vaniver7yಠ_ಠ Why are you taking Harry's far mode pronouncements as binding on his near mode actions? Not only is that dubious for humans in general, we know Harry has a mysterious dark side that can take control and does want people dead if they're annoying. I don't see how that's different from "hating" Quirrel; if you Other someone by being angry at them, you don't stop being angry at them once they're Othered. How? Remember the bits about being careful to not leak info to allow people to go back in time? (Though 'info' clearly is defined as being 'plot-relevant info' rather than 'physics-relevant info,' so that independent time travel is possible at all.)
2knb7yI believe it's the Killing Curse 2 that Harry believes he can't use (he can't be indifferent to killing someone.)
0Vaniver7yRight. I read linkhyrule5 as saying that 1) Harry wouldn't hate someone enough to use Killing Curse 1 (which I disbelieve) and that 2) Harry could use Killing Curse 2 by being angry enough at Quirrel to be indifferent whether he lives or dies (which I disbelieve).
2polymathwannabe7yWhen Harry is negotiating his truce with Lucius Malfoy, Harry painstakingly tells himself why it would be OK for him to kill Lucius. Maybe Harry can also talk himself into killing Quirrell.
3Vaniver7yI think Harry will have a pretty easy time killing Quirrell, if he gets the sense that Quirrell's continued survival would be a net negative.
5solipsist7ySome others, off the top of my head. * Harry knows enough mind-magic to make a person forget every life memory involving the color blue, or their left arm (or cough their animagus form cough) * The imprisoned Beatrix had as much magic as a first year student, and it was considered conceivable that she could complete an animagus transformation. Harry's animagus form, like his Patronus form, would be a person. * Harry has mental ability to become whoever he believes he is. * Cedric Diggory and the Weasley twins have enough magic to cast the spell of cursed fire, which can destroy powerful magical devices (such as Horcruxes and the Deathly Hallows). * Cedric has a time-turner * Weasleys are the heirs of Gryffindor. Also the controlled transformation Harry learned about in Chapter 104. Harry won't have enough magic to cast the killing curse for a few years. The character of Lesath Lestrange only exists to give Harry a minion who can cast the killing curse.
1Velorien7yWe don't know that he can do so deliberately. It's equally plausible that those are examples of his inability to target his obliviations narrowly enough, or even of his general inability to satisfactorily control them. Where are you getting this? There is no stated link between Patronuses and animagi, and if you're thinking of animagi in animal form being of less interest/resistant to Dementors, it is much more probable that this is because an animagus's thought patterns become more animalistic when transformed (as we know from Quirrell and McGonagall's testimonies), and animals are naturally oblivious to Death. Do we know this? The only information I recall is that Harry isn't yet capable of casting it. We don't know at what age it becomes feasible. (that and the odds of Quirrell teaching it to them seem rather low)
6jefftk7yIn canon there appears to be some kind of "one animal per person" rule. The only people where we know both their animagus form and their patronus are James Potter (stag) and Minerva McGonagall (cat), and in these two cases they match. Additionally, Remus Lupin, a werewolf, has a wolf for a patronus and Dumbledore, who is very close to Fawkes, has a phoenix.
6Velorien7yThat's true. But to me the evidence suggests that "Harry can't create an animal Patronus because he sees that animal Patronuses work through self-deception" rather than "Harry's Patronus animal is a human".
0FeepingCreature7yUnrelated conclusion: fursonas are HP canon.
0[anonymous]7yI'll add Thestral blood Thestral blood, forcibly taken, plus Hermione's flesh, willingly given, plus bones of Harry's ancestors, unknowingly bequeathed, mix together to form a Harry resurrection potion.
2Dagon7yI take the current fight against genre-awareness as some indication that we should not expect Harry to solve death. I more expect he'll end up in a long-term fight against it, with something like magical cryonics (transfiguration or the like) as the best short-term response to actual death.
1skeptical_lurker7yEY also likes to point out the virtues of hard work. It might seem... too easy, too trivial for an 11 year old to solve death in less than a year.
0linkhyrule57yMaybe, but 11 year old has had skillsofts from a much older person uploaded into him and has access to outright magc.
0DanArmak7yThat older person has access to enormously more powerful magic, fears death more than anything in the world, and hasn't been able to solve Death for decades now. Even though he's willing to use methods that harm others, which Harry wouldn't. However, there's the Philosopher's Stone, which is supposed to grant immortality, or at least restore health. (The immortality part is uncertain: in canon it let Flamel survive for six centuries, but in HPMOR Quirrel claims that the stone's current holder is not the one who made it.) Presumably it has some finite store of power, otherwise even Dumbledore would want to use it to heal the injuries of young people. So the question is how to duplicate it. We haven't been told why exactly Flamel can't produce more of it; it might be something Harry can resolve, but it could also be a zero-sum requirement to sacrifice lives to produce it. I feel that the only way Harry could defeat Death would be using the Stone. Coming up with an unrelated solution at this point would not be plausible.
8Velorien7yIn canon, the elixir of youth is something you have to make and drink over and over; if the Stone were stolen, and you were unable to make a replacement in time, you would die of old age. It's possible that this is what happened, with Flamel as the thief. This would also explain why he can't make more Stones.

My suspicion is that Cedric is under a Deathly Hallow invisibility cloak, instructed to leave and send a Patronus to Dumbledore at the first sign of serious trouble, and furthermore Memory Charmed Harry to forget him so that no one could read Harry's mind and figure out that backup plan.

I also suspect that the next chapter will contain a long discussion between Harry and Quirrel before any serious action, but Quirrel might want to have that long discussion after they're in the final chamber, not before.

4Velorien7yCedric isn't a professor, so him using the Memory Charm on a student would trigger the wards. Which I suppose would also work as a last resort way of calling for backup. If Harry had time to duplicate the Cloak of Invisibility (bearing in mind Lesath is already wearing it), couldn't he wear a copy himself?
3Vaniver7yI was under the impression there were two--the original timeline one, and the time-turned one. We know Lesath is wearing the one, do we know where the other is? (Draco was under a cloak, but I thought it was a regular invisibility cloak.) Good point. Is there a sympathetic professor Harry could have gotten to do the Memory Charm that wouldn't also immediately call the Aurors? McGonagall seems unlikely on the second count, and is also busy with the Quidditch match (but might take a break). Snape is at the door. Flitwick and so on don't seem story-critical enough to be counted on for this sort of thing. Dumbledore might be possible--he likely would understand that the Aurors aren't likely to be any help against a serious threat, and that Memory Charming Harry is appropriate for the situation. It also would be convenient to ensure that Dumbledore is actually available to help if something goes wrong, but that might run into Time issues. (Actually, heck, why not have Dumbledore under cloak #2?)
3buybuydandavis7yThat does seem a prudent precaution in a world of mind readers.
2Vaniver7yBayes points for me! But I suppose that one was pretty easy.

Is it just me, or did several extremely verbose paragraphs full of questionable reasoning essentially boil down to 'everyone came at the same time so they must have had the same cause'?

EDIT: I mean it's a valid point to make. But it somehow comes from a big complicated tree of wild guesses rather than that statement.

7MarkusRamikin7yhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYyUUrga7kU [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYyUUrga7kU] Do not question super thinking powers. Though to be fair, the HPMoR chapter was waay better about it. EDIT: I liked it more on second reading, and even more on third. This isn't just about "same time", it's also things like "look at all the security your note from the future instructed you to discard".
6dxu7yThere were many interlocking pieces of evidence already pointing to the truth of Q == V (I think readers were actually chastising Harry for not figuring it out earlier at some point); the perfect timing of this particular incident was simply the part that happened to break Harry's voluntary suspension of disbelief enough for him to actually start trying to piece it all together.

As someone pointed out on Reddit, it's pretty suspicious that Harry figured everything out almost immediately after Snape hit him with a "Dispel Confusion".

9Izeinwinter7yThis would also neatly explain why Quirrelmort didn't see this coming "Snape does his level best to help Harry Potter" does not seem like the kind of outcome Q would consider very likely, so his overly complicated plot going off the rails there is perfectly reasonable.
2Luke_A_Somers7yNot exactly. A lot of it was trying to figure out just what set of people had their presence unexplained. If some of them had perfectly understandable reasons for being there right then without intervention, then his new explanation would not need to cover them. It turned out that everyone (perhaps except Snape) needed explanation, including himself, so it kind of looked like he ended up where he started, though he was on much firmer footing afterwards.
1hairyfigment7yHa, but it does start with a conviction that intelligent design is involved. I think that makes it better and not worse.
-2shminux7yYeah, this part of the chapter seems heavy with Rand-like author tract. The fake note analysis made up for it, though.
0dxu7yWhy "Rand-like"?
0shminux7yShe is infamous for it... Here is a good parody from http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/01/25/a-philosopher-walks-into-a-coffee-shop/ [http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/01/25/a-philosopher-walks-into-a-coffee-shop/] : It's not nearly as bad in chapter 104, but the similarity is hard to ignore.
6dxu7yReally? I'm not seeing anything like that in Chapter 104. I know Rand has a heavy penchant for giant philosophical lectures, but I don't see any philosophical lectures in Chapter 104, big or small (at least beyond what EY normally inserts). Harry's revelation is just that: a revelation. Maybe I'm missing something; I don't know. Is there really any lecturing going on here?

Snape's head snapped around, as Professor Sprout raised her wand, and the Potions Master managed to raise a wordless translucent ward between them. But the bolt that shot from Professor Sprout's wand was a dark brown that produced a surge of awful apprehension in Harry's mind; and the brown bolt made Severus's shield wink out before they touched, clipping the Potions Master's right arm even as he dodged. Professor Snape gave a muffled shriek and his hand spasmed, dropping his wand.

The next bolt that came from Sprout's wand was a bright red the color of a Stunning Hex, seeming to grow brighter and move faster even as it left her wand, accompanied by another surge of anxiety; and that blew the Potions Master into the door, dropping him motionless to the ground.

I interpret that as Legilimensed Sprout's magic is Voldemort's magic is Sense of Doom magic. But then how was the troll made immune to sunlight, when Harry touched the troll's skin directly?

4jefftk7yLegilimensed? I thought Sprout was Imperiused?

Nope. Quirrell on the possibility of Lucius framing Hermione:

"From a dark alley the black-clad form of Malfoy steps forth - he would go in person, for this - and speaks to her a single word."


"Legilimens, rather," said Professor Quirrell. "I do not know if the Hogwarts wards would trigger for a returning Professor under the Imperius Curse. And if I do not know, Malfoy probably does not know either. But Malfoy is a perfect Occlumens at least; he might be able to use Legilimency. And for the target...perhaps Aurora Sinistra; none would question the Astronomy Professor moving about at night."

"Or even more obviously, Professor Sprout," said Harry. "Since she's the last person anyone would suspect."

The Defense Professor hesitated minutely. "Perhaps."

2polymathwannabe7yI don't understand. How is Legilimens a method of mind control?
1Velorien7yI've wondered this as well. Eliezer seems to think it is, as it's listed when one of the characters (I forget who) enumerates means of mind control including Imperius and the Confundus Charm. Possibly it's fanon? The Potter Wiki cites Voldemort using Legilimency to send Harry visions and briefly possess him, though their connection seems like it ought to be a fairly unique case.
2dxu7yIn HPMoR, at least, Moody was able to "reshape Harry to make him believe he was on fire", which implies Legilimency is more than just passive mind-reading.
3LauralH7yI think that's more likely Quirrell actively casting that causes the anxiety.
1EricHerboso7yI agree that legilimensed Sprout's magic is activating the sense of doom. But the troll was not legilimensed, so there's no reason for the sense of doom to activate. I may be wrong, but intuitively it seems that when Voldemort causes Sprout to cast a spell, that spell counts as originating from Voldemort, not Sprout -- and that is what makes it activate the sense of doom. Whereas the troll was acting on its own accord, and so didn't activate the sense of doom.
3vericrat7yI think Solipsist was trying to say that if Voldemort using Sprout to cast a spell counts as originating from Voldemort, then if Sprout (or some other Imperiused individual) cast a spell on the troll's skin, then Harry shouldn't have been able to touch the troll. Before, it was assumed that Harry was able to touch the enchanted troll (its skin had been enchanted to resist sunlight) because Voldemort hadn't directly enchanted it (Harry can't touch things Voldemort enchants, see the broomstick escape from Azkaban) but used an Imperiused confederate. Now, however, it seems that using the Imperiused confederate does not negate the issues arising between Harry and Voldemort's magic.

An alternate interpretation is that Voldemort was strengthening a few of the spells that Sprout cast, as well as the spell that Tonks used to win the battle, and this use of his own magic was what caused Harry's doom-sense to tingle. If that's the case, then there would be none of his magic on the troll.

2hairyfigment7yThis is a very good point. Possibly premature answer: the Dark Lord Tom hired someone else to enchant the troll before sneaking it into Hogwarts. Then he cast a spell on the hireling.
0[anonymous]7yAlso, Harry shot Sprout and didn't trigger doom. Either it's just sloppy writing on Eliezer's part, or Sprout wasn't mind-controlled after all, or Quirrell dispelled his magic when Sprout fell.

"Harry had refreshed the Transfigurations he was maintaining, both the tiny jewel in the ring on his hand and the other one."

Hermione, probably.

The play on words with the title of the chapter (Riddles and Answers) and the final reveal was neat. Harry might be a copy of Quirrell!mort who's had his memory erased (rememberall,) and good ol' Quirrell!mort needs Harry to get the stone because...?

I'm still really curious how the Deathly Hallows are going to tie into this.

Also, where the hell is Cedric Diggory? Will it be another situation like what happened with the troll? The spare gets killed, or Harry is the spare, and is found defective?

Who says he need Harry to get the Stone? For all we know, he wants Harry to look into the Mirror of Desire in the hope that this will explain what the %&* Harry wants.

3FeepingCreature7yOkay. Hm. I think maybe you can't transfigure Hermione into Hermione if you don't have a true image of what Hermione was like. But if you had the Resurrection Stone, maybe you could use it to create a true image to work from? No idea about the wand/cloak.
0hairyfigment7yAhem. [http://lesswrong.com/lw/km5/harry_potter_and_the_methods_of_rationality/b5xh] The current adventure will not go smoothly. Probably the best argument against my solution is that it also is not mass-producible without more work. And Harry could still do artisanal resurrections. (We can expect the centaur back. Doubt he'll be able to find the pieces of that beetle, though.)
0solipsist7yMaybe under Harry's other invisibility cloak. He has two -- a time-turned one and a non-time-turned on.
0buybuydandavis7yIsn't the whole shtick with the Mirror that it will only give the stone to someone who doesn't want to use it? Doesn't Harry want to defeat Death more than anyone? And is likely hauling around a transfigured Hermione to do just that? Is Harry just the backup ritual in case they can't find the Stone? Or, is it all just a Harry and Hermione plot to get the Stone to mass produce immortality for all?
0Macaulay7yHe went with Lesath, not Cedric.

Yes. But two minutes before that he was thinking of taking Cedric, and then we get a cut scene to him sneaking about in the hallway with Lesath. That implies that Cedric might still be in play, otherwise we probably would've gotten a short sentence or two on why he chose Lesath over Cedric.

Cedric, who may or may not have a time turner, could quite possibly show up.

He's the Super Hufflepuff! He's taking all the electives, which is physically impossible without a Time Turner! He was mentioned right before Harry started making thorough off-screen preparations, and then conspicuously forgotten for the rest of the chapter! Dramatic logic dictates that he's got to show up at some point, probably in some way that involves time travel.

... Unless the whole thing was a throwaway joke about how useless Cedric was in Goblet of Fire, in which case yeah, I guess it was pretty funny.

0[anonymous]7yUnder Harry's other Invisibility Cloak. He has a time-turned one and a non-time-turned one.

So when Dumbledore asked the Marauder's Map to find Tom Riddle, did it point to Harry?

It tried to point to all the horcruxes in Hogwarts at once, and crashed because of an unchecked stack overflow.

Things I notice I'm confused by: If Quirrel needs Harry's help to get the stone, why didn't he just ask? (Edit: okay, he did ask. But why didn't just ask earlier? And why is he playing all these tricky games?) I mean, it already worked for freeing Bellatrix. If there's a disturbance which Dumbledore suspects is a distraction, why did he send only Snape, rather than several aurors/coming himself?

What could Quirrel need Harry for? In canon, Harry could get the stone because he wanted to find it, not to use it, or something like that? But this Harry definitely wants to use it.

If there's a disturbance which Dumbledore suspects is a distraction, why did he send only Snape, rather than several aurors/coming himself?

Hypothesis: the situation is a trap for Voldemort. The corridor itself is blatantly a trap - it's easy to enter, but we know from Fred and George that it's full of invisible wards. Voldemort wouldn't risk confronting Dumbledore, and an unguarded corridor would be too suspicious, but Snape is just right in terms of difficulty level (and also has the option of going "my lord, you have returned!", surviving an encounter which would be fatal for anyone else, and possibly sneaking off to call Dumbledore).

The flaw with this is that the trap is really obvious, and Voldemort's intelligence is known to be very high, so it's implausible that he would enter the corridor at all unless he was absolutely certain of being able to steal the Stone despite the wards, and before Dumbledore could return.

0Vaniver7yIn canon, Dumbledore is called away for some business (Supreme Mugwump duties?), and I presume the same happens here. Now, why Dumbledore didn't time-turner to both be at that business and here is harder to say--unless Quirrel explicitly used the time-turner prevention on going back more than X hours to send a message to Dumbledore preventing him from using his time-turner? I didn't look closely enough at those rules to figure out whether or not it would be likely to work (and don't have the time to pull out the relevant bits of HPMOR).
5Velorien7yOne way of preventing Dumbledore from using a time-turner is to have the disturbance take place at Azkaban. And after Bellatrix's breakout, it shouldn't be difficult to have him consider another potential Death Eater escape as a matter of absolute emergency requiring his personal intervention. Of course, Azkaban is the one place Quirrell can't act in directly, so he'd probably want to Imperius an off-duty Auror or something.
0ReevesAnd7yIn the Azkaban arc, they were able to Time Turn away from Azkaban, do some preparation, then arrive after being informed of the breakout. I don't think this would work to prevent Dumbledore from using a Time Turner to be in two places at once.

I have never been so strongly connected to or affected by a piece of fiction, and have been breathing heavily since reaching the last couple of lines. You devil, Yudkowsky.

Now that the cat's out of the bag, I wonder whether Quirrell set up Hermione and the troll as an excuse to Fiendfyre his way through some of Hogwart's walls.

5jaime20007yQuirrell's internal monologue makes that unlikely.
1Velorien7yDoubtful. Canon states that Riddle felt affection for Hogwarts, and this is implied to be the spell of cursed fire that permanently costs you a drop of blood to cast.
1Alsadius7yI suspect he's not the sort of fellow who plays for only one objective at a time.

Any professor could begin docking an escalating number of points from both houses points for poor sportsmanship. Just because they get a lot of points doesn't mean their total has to end up large.

I thought that Quirrell would die and in this chapter we'd learn the lesson that stories don't always finish when you expect them to (and then Harry would go on a 16-chapter quest to figure out Quirrellmort) but it appears that Yudkowsky can teach us that fact of life without it actually happening in the story.

The outcome of the comedy of errors that we witnessed, was that Harry realised that Quirrell was Voldemort. If this was Quirrell's explicit intention, then that's strange because there are much more efficient ways for him to do this (there are also m... (read more)

The outcome of the comedy of errors that we witnessed, was that Harry realised that Quirrell was Voldemort. If this was Quirrell's explicit intention, then that's strange because there are much more efficient ways for him to do this

Maybe the point is for Harry to not go that extra step, and realize that Q wanted him to know at that point?

Though I think the simpler explanation is just that Q's plan failed, and now he is resorting to his backup plan. That Q is always N+1 to Harry's N strikes me as a false portrayal of human reasoning and knowledge.

8drethelin7yI agree with this: I think being adaptable and/or having contingency plans is probably more powerful than trying to anticipate everything your opponent might do and rely on your plan to deal with it going perfectly.

Don't forget that Quirrell can sense Harry's emotions (cf. coming to a resolution, and the prophecy). Under the circumstances, he doesn't need mind-reading to realise that Harry's figured him out.

0Ben Pace7yAnd I'd managed to forget about their magics not touching. So yes, maybe it was body language after all.
0bogdanb7yWell, we only know that Harry feels doom when near Q and/or his magic, and that in one case in Azkhaban something weird happened when Harry’s Patronus interacted with what appeared to be an Avada Kedavra bolt, and that Q appears to avoid touching Harry. Normally I’d say that faking the doom sensations for a year, and faking being incapacitated while trying to break someone out of Azkhaban, would be too complicated. But in this case...

Missed on first reading:

Harry had refreshed the Transfigurations he was maintaining, both the tiny jewel in the ring on his hand and the other one

An aside, a while back Harry convinced himself that Voldemort couldn't be smart, because his attempt to take Magical Britain had failed in the face of the Order of the Phoenix, who he's convinced himself would be easily disposed of through cleverness.

I remember thinking that Harry was accepting Dumbledore's assessment of Voldemort's goal, that is, taking over Magical Britain. But I think Voldemort didn't want to be World Leader, he wanted to be Boogeyman. I think he had no intention of defeating the Order, and spent his time tormenting them.

Assuming that the Mirror of Erised works the same, Bellatrix is the obvious wielder

Good point. As skeptical_lurker said:

The mirror shows what you want, so the idea is a "good" person like canon Harry would see themselves finding the stone (which allows them to actually find the stone), whereas a "bad" person would see themselves drinking elixir of youth or making gold. Harry would presumable see himself providing everyone with elixir of youth, which means that he would not see himself finding the stone, which means he could not find the stone.

In that case, we would assume that Bellatrix would see herself presenting the stone to Voldemort and pleasing him, which would allow her to find it. In fact, that's a reasonably satisfying answer to why he wanted her out of Azkaban. So why does he even need Harry?

2Velorien7yPresenting the stone, then, not finding it. In which case the vision would likely not be portraying the stone's original location and/or the means by which Bellatrix had obtained it.
2Gondolinian7yThat's assuming that the stone is hidden somewhere and the mirror merely allows information on its location. In canon, (or, at least, going by my memory of the movie) after HP saw himself in the mirror finding the stone, it materialized in his pocket.
0dxu7yWhy the assumption that the trials in HPMoR are going to be even remotely similar to canon? All we know at this point is that the Mirror of Erised plays a part, but we don't know what that part is, or what any of the other trials are, etc. Using canon information to make deductions about HPMoR has proven a less-than-reliable method in the past, and EY's essay on originality [http://yudkowsky.tumblr.com/writing/originality] suggests to me that the obstacles will in fact be radically different from those in canon.
3avichapman7yWe do know that devil's snare will play a part.
0drethelin7yProphesies have real weight, so he might think it's best to keep Harry around in a "keep your enemies closer" sort of plan. If one of them is going to defeat the other, making sure Harry is nearby and under control might be safer than letting him run around loose.

Remember that no matter what happens, the Hufflepuff boy will still come to Harry at a bit after 11:04. This means either that Voldemort will survive this encounter and retain mobility in four hours, or that he set up this message in advance (or that Harry is wrong about the source of this message).

I understood it to be implied that the message was actually set in advance to mislead Harry into believing time travel was involved.

1linkhyrule57yUpon further consideration, this is the more likely solution.
2linkhyrule57yOr that Harry then forges Quirrel forging his signature.
3CellBioGuy7yThen the whole thing is precisely arbitrary, reaching and surpassing Bill And Tedd's Bogus Journey levels of fakeout.
2Luke_A_Somers7yNah, that would just be 'I stole the keys after all' Bill and Tedd's Excellent Adventure level of fakeout.
0WalterL7yFixing paradox is entirely seperate from everything else, and must be taken care of. (We don't know the consequences, but they are presumably serious). If Harry triumphs here, and Voldemort has already arranged for that note to be sent, then fine. If Voldemort hasn't, then Harry has to take care of it himself.

Also, the transfiguration Harry is doing is an obvious hint as to the antimatter weapon ending.

4Illano7yI thought it was more of a hint as to how he's going to bring Hermione back. Seems to me like surgery gets a lot easier when you can just partially un-transfigure the injured part and fix it, while leaving all the vitals transfigured into something unchanging, like a rock.
0cultureulterior7yI'm too obsessed with antimatter

What are some sensible-sounding alternatives to eliminating the snitch entirely?

The best I can think of is have two snitches—red snitch, blue snitch. Whenever a seeker catches their snitch, the opposing team can't score any more; the game ends when the second snitch is caught.


Harry gets the Snitch eliminated from Quidditch. Not just in Hogwarts, but in the big leagues as well - they don't want a Germany vs. Austria on their hands.

All of the celebrity Quidditch players of the world - Victor Krum, Ludo Bagman, Finbar Quigley - are distraught by these sudden and drastic changes to a traditional game they've loved for many years. At the ceremony marking the changes, some of them tear up.

The Daily Prophet headline is "BOY WHO LIVED TEARS UP THE STARS"

Eliezer gives all of us a long lecture about how the prior for somebody making celebrities cry is so much higher than the prior for someone literally ripping the Sun apart that the latter hypothesis should never even have entered our consideration, regardless of how much more natural an interpretation of the prophecy it is.


This prediction doesn't fit very well with the exact text of the prophecy: "apart", "in heaven", "end of the world".

Clever, but you have to balance it against the closely related fact that making celebrities cry is surely much less likely to be the subject of a prophecy than destroying stars.

3polymathwannabe7yWhen Harry received that cryptic note, I thought "watcher of stars" meant the centaur. Now that you propose this hypothesis, I'm inclined to thinking that "tear apart the very stars in heaven" means Harry will defeat Quirrell in such a way that Quirrell will survive, but will never be able to cast that wonderful stargazing spell again. Harry likes that spell more than I think is normal, but removing it sounds like a particularly cruel punishment for an astronomy fan.
1falenas1087yI'm not sure how serious this is, but if it were said aloud Harry would hear the difference between the two definitions of "tears," and wouldn't be worried about it if that were the case.
1shminux7yOMG, that's what the centaur meant...
7skeptical_lurker7yI would have thought the obvious answer is to stop adding match points onto house points and instead simply give a fixed number of house points to the winner.
0Vaniver7yFor symmetry, though, that would require that academic points be fixed in some fashion. (Remember, a primary point is to get students to care about the academic half by linking it to sports.)
2skeptical_lurker7yBut academic points can't be so obviously gamed.
7MarkusRamikin7yI'll just note that the presence of the Snitch in Quidditch has historically survived a match that took 3 months because nobody could catch the damned thing.

With professional players, whose job it was to play Quidditch.

It won't survive children doing the same. More to the point, the snakes and ravens are deliberately and obviously exploiting the current rules, which will trigger all sorts of fair play instincts.

0ReevesAnd7yAlthough the easier solution to this problem is to stop adding Quidditch points to House points. That's dumb to begin with. Maybe just add some points for winning the match.
6WalterL7yI'm pro-Snitch. Harry's gripe about the snitch, which is that it trivializes the rest of the game, isn't the problem on display here. The issue currently afflicting the user experience is that the House Cup doesn't just rely on Quidditch Win/Loss, but also on the magnitude of the win/loss. Therefore, two teams can collaborate to play a game of such magnitude that it obliterates all other considerations. A clock wouldn't actually solve this, (they could just agree to exchange points for the first X minutes, then play for real for an abbreviated endgame when time pressure became acute). A solution to the problem must prevent Quidditch collusion from making one of the last two teams to play Quidditch automatically win the House Cup, but simultaneously maintain the primacy of Quidditch in determining the House Cup (because otherwise students won't care about the House Cup). A simple solution seems to be that rather than adding the points of both winners and losers to their Houses respective scores the winner is awarded a static (high) number of points.
3Luke_A_Somers7yWhenever a snitch is caught, it is marked as a score and released. A team's final score is the product of their snitch-catches with their quaffle-goals. The game ends when a team's score reaches or exceeds 100.
0zedzed7yI'm assuming quaffles are still worth 10?
0Luke_A_Somers7yNo, I was thinking that the snitches would be released early on and not be quite so evasive, so the 100 might come from 6 snitches and 17 quaffle goals, or something like that. This isn't an unreasonable number of quaffle goals for a Quidditch match. Maybe the target would be 50 and the snitch wouldn't be toned down so much - then each snitch grab will be worth a large fractional increase.
3Vaniver7ySuppose there is a clock that determines the end of the game. Then Quidditch becomes similar to football (of the non-American variety) or basketball, with a slightly more hostile field. But it loses some drama from the Seeker no longer having a role. I do think that multiple snitches is a good way to go, but video games provide the right role for them: power-ups. Then there's lots of room to get creative. Suppose there are, say, three snitches active at any time, in order to get their effect they have to be held (but they also attract the attention of the Bludgers, which has lots of potential for manipulation), and they all have a maximum duration of, say, two minutes, at which point the Snitch is depleted and is replaced by another one from the supply (and it reenters the supply to be available when the next one is depleted). Probably the seeker gets a faint glow of whatever color Snitch they're holding, both to make it more obvious to spectators and to make it easier for the other team to try to interrupt the Seeker's boosting of their team. 1. Raw points: a golden Snitch is worth 20 points if you manage to hold onto it the whole period. 2. Amplifying team members: a blue snitch increases the points scored through the Quaffle by your team, and a red snitch makes everyone on your team fly a bit faster. A green snitch makes the opposing side's goal hoops a bit larger, and an orange snitch makes your hoops smaller. 3. Replacing team members: a white snitch causes the Bludgers to avoid members of your team (both making Beaters unnecessary and less likely to help, since the Bludgers would avoid getting hit). A black snitch halves or eliminates points scored by the other team (giving your Keeper a break). 4. Meta: the team composition seems unforgiving to increasing or decreasing the number of players, but it might be reasonable to have one that lets you field an extra player or knock out one of their players (likely chosen by
2Alsadius7yThat's a very videogamey design, but still interesting. I will point out that removing a player for two minutes at a time is already the standard penalization scheme for one major sport [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penalty_%28ice_hockey%29], so it's clearly not that terrible a frictional problem.
0Vaniver7yThat's where I got the idea, but the penalty box triggers because that player did something. If I grab the snitch that expels one of the other team's players, somebody has to make a decision which player, and then they need to leave the field, and so on--and if the benefit only lasts as long as I'm holding the thing, and I let it go and grab it again, what does that do to the time they're out? And so on. I don't think that's a workable idea, but it might suggest other ones that do work.
0Alsadius7yThen just make it automatically the opposing Seeker(and ensure the same Snitch doesn't recur for at least five minutes, to prevent lock-out).
3drethelin7yI think just having the snitch be worth zero or a very nominal amount of points works fine. This makes the core of the game the regular point scoring and play, and makes the snitch-hunting important but more about biding your time and trying to pounce on the snitch when your team gets ahead.
2Epictetus7yMake it worth 20-30 points and keep it as the game-ender. It's only going to make a difference if the game is close, so the Quaffle remains relevant.
0DanielLC7yEliminating the snitch won't even solve the problem entirely. Sure, if there's an hour time limit, the game won't take forever, but they could still rack up points by alternately letting each other score 30 points. Come to think of it, why didn't they? They could have way more points by now.
0WalterL7yNo reason to trust the team that goes first to let the team that goes second score, and no rush. Just play normally without catching the Snitch until one of you can win by catching the Snitch, that team goes for it.
0rebellionkid7yMake the game end when the clock runs over, or when the snitch is caught, whichever is sooner. And make the snitch worth ~half the typical point spread of a match.
4Izeinwinter7yNope. Make it worth zero points. This keeps it's importance, but changes the job of the seeker. Behind, "Run interference", ahead, "catch snitch". But mostly, having one is still daft.
0AdamSpitz7yMake it worth fewer points, make the game not end when the snitch is caught (it's re-released and can be chased and caught again, so it's just another way of scoring points)...

If the Philosopher's Stone can make transfigurations permanent, must we assume this is how Lily made Petunia permanently pretty? So Lily had access to it? So she had occasion to do some other stuff with it?

0b_sen7yNot necessarily. Dumbledore implies that Lily used a potion, and potions may not need the Philosopher's Stone for their effects to be permanent. (Harry thinks it's the Thestral blood, and guesses that Thestral blood is also responsible for the permanency of his Cloak's magic.)
2Velorien7yNot quite. Some chapters later: These are the only two mentions of Thestral blood in the story. They don't make it sound likely that Lily went on to use Thestral blood in the potion, and Harry doesn't make that connection either. The association Harry does make seems to be between Thestrals and Death and possibly invisibility, not permanency.
2Vaniver7yWell, note that Petunia did get sick for weeks, and it's only maybe die. I think it's the best fit of the things we've seen in the story, but too much remains unseen to be confident.
0b_sen7yHmm. Point taken. (Although the point that potion != transfiguration still holds.)
0Alsadius7yPetunia was made pretty by a potion that made her ill for an extended period, which doesn't sound like the Philosopher's Stone. Interesting theory, but I lean towards it being false.
3polymathwannabe7yIf I remember correctly, in the canon first book the Stone is meant to be used to make a potion.
2Osuniev7yYes, it's used to make the Elixir of Life.
0Alsadius7yI don't have HP&PS on hand, but if true, that'd be evidence for your theory. That said, while Transfiguration sickness is canonical, it seems that the whole point of the Philosopher's Stone is to bypass concerns like that, so I still lean against it being true.

Adding to my previous prediction comment:


Harry can resist the Imperius (if it were to be cast on him). 90%

Quirrell enchanted Harry's pouch so that Quirrell can enter and leave on his own in his Animagus form, and there is no mention of those enchantments being removed after leaving Azkaban. This fact will become plot-relevant at some point in the final arc. 75%

Some magical effect was previously preventing / discouraging Harry from figuring out that Quirrell is Voldemort. 65%


The True Patronus appears to have more intelligence than P... (read more)

0ChristianKl7yHow about putting the prediction on predictionbook and linking them?
0b_sen7yHow is PredictionBook for sharing evidence for one's predictions, back-and-forth discussion, logging 'categories' of predictions, detailed statistics (such as calibration changes over time, more granularity than 10% increments, etc.) and so on? Are there any specific features of PredictionBook you would recommend to me? I ask because: * I want to participate in readable discussion as well as log my predictions; browsing as a not-logged-in user, PredictionBook appears to have a much less readable presentation for discussions. * I often have domain-specific prediction techniques and would want to check my calibration for each technique (and each domain) as well as overall. (To take MOR predictions as an example, I might make some predictions based on a feeling of "this looks like foreshadowing", others based on looking for themes, still others based on knowledge outside MOR itself, ... ) Come to think of it, both domains and categories can also overlap, but I still want to have that kind of feature available whether I make the graphs myself or not. I do intend to check my calibration on my MOR predictions once MOR ends, regardless of where I put the predictions up.
0ChristianKl7ySharing your prediction in this thread doesn't get others to share their own numbers. Predictionbook on the other hand usually does. It leads to communal prediction making. It also gives you calibration statistics. You could have a account for every prediction technique.
0b_sen7yThat seems like an excessive amount of work, especially once overlapping categories and domains come into play.

So, Harry should probably have figured this out 60 chapters ago.

But we'll cut him some slack.

I'm looking forward to the next update. Earlier (as in, over a year ago), I was guessing that when this conversation came around, either Quirrelmort would have been partially won round towards the light side, or HP, would be coming towards the dark side, or both, and Quirrelmort would say something along the lines of "I'm sorry I killed your parents. I was trying to find a cure for death and Dumbledoor's faction tried to stop me, and I believe that the ends justified the means. Obviously it was nothing personal, and knowing you now if I could take it ... (read more)

I still consider it unlikely that Voldemort is keeping Harry alive just to get the Stone. But perhaps he thinks a more altruistic desire for the Stone will allow someone to find it when the Dark Lord could not? Would that suggest Tom Riddle was originally more altruistic?

7skeptical_lurker7yThe mirror shows what you want, so the idea is a "good" person like canon Harry would see themselves finding the stone (which allows them to actually find the stone), whereas a "bad" person would see themselves drinking elixir of youth or making gold. Harry would presumable see himself providing everyone with elixir of youth, which means that he would not see himself finding the stone, which means he could not find the stone.
0buybuydandavis7yI thought the canon was that the mirror would only give the stone to someone who didn't want to use it. Doesn't Harry want to use it more and more often than anyone else?
0Luke_A_Somers7yVoldemort knows that it requires a desire, but he doesn't know what the required desire is.
0CellBioGuy7yI would imagine a wide range of intrinsic altruistic natures allow one to get it out of the mirror when your true motivation is to bring back your dead friend.

There seems to be a contradiction between the end-of-chapter weapon choice and the low magnitude of the sense of doom.

0tgb7yWe've gotten much less senses of doom with this encounter with Quirrell than any in the past as far as I can tell. Only Sprout's magic caused apprehension, Q not at all. Was Quirrell in control of the sense of doom all along? Has something changed?
0Alsadius7yWhat on earth makes you think that a gun is more deadly than Avada Kedavra in Voldemort's hands?

To reply to Shminux, I imagine it's because the sense of doom is some magical warning of the repercussions of Harry and Voldemort's magic colliding, which probably is not being set off by the probability of Harry's life being ended by a high-velocity piece of metal fired from a completely non-magical weapon.

To Alsadius, I think the gun is more deadly to Harry than an Avada Kedavra because of Harry's previous resistance to the spell. Remember when Quirrell previously suggested that they stage a "return of Voldemort scenario" where the pretend-Voldemort shot another killing curse at Harry who would block it with his Patronus 2.0? Harry's reaction was something along the lines of, "Nobody would believe that Voldemort would be so stupid to try that again." Apparently, Harry's ability to block it (as demonstrated in Azkaban) and previous resistance (as demonstrated the night his parents died) made Voldemort think the same thing.

5Velorien7yMore generally, a gun can be used to disable Harry in all sorts of not-necessarily-fatal ways, something Voldemort cannot do using magic. With that said, Voldemort is also surrounded by the bodies of Harry's unconscious friends, so it's not like he urgently needs extra leverage.
1pjeby7yAnd that's apparently his intent, since it's "pointed at Harry's wand arm". He's not threatening to kill Harry, but only preventing him from using his wand to do anything.
0[anonymous]7yRemember what happened the last two times Voldemort cast Avada Kedavra near Harry?

Could the thing in the mirror be the Resurrection Stone, instead of the Philosopher's one? Linking Hallows seems more likely to lead into the prophecies about Harry than simply retrieving Flamel's stone.

I think it's more likely that Quirrell has the Resurrection Stone. When Harry shows him the Deathly Hallows symbol, he cuts their meeting short and hurries off somewhere. In canon, the stone was set into the Gaunt family ring, which Quirrell would have seen and would know the location of (it is implied that HPMOR follows the canon relationship between Tom Riddle and his family: "I have long since resolved my parental issues to my own satisfaction", "my family are long since dead at the Dark Lord's hand", Snape and Moody meeting at Tom Riddle Senior's grave).

1hairyfigment7yHow many of the objections you threw out in this thread [http://lesswrong.com/lw/km5/harry_potter_and_the_methods_of_rationality/b5xh] do you believe now?
0Velorien7yCould you be more specific? There was a lot going on in that thread, and I'm not sure which objections you're referring to.
0palladias7yExcellent point.
4hairyfigment7yPerhaps, especially since I assumed the Philosopher's Stone was under the lampshade in Dumbledore's office.

Harry didn't quite know how to describe in words the sense of kinship he felt with Professor Quirrell, except to say that the Defense Professor was the only clear-thinking person Harry had met in the wizarding world. Sooner or later everyone else started playing Quidditch, or not putting protective shells on their time machines, or thinking that Death was their friend. It didn't matter how good their intentions were. Sooner or later, and usually sooner, they demonstrated that something deep inside their brain was confused. Everyone except Professor Quirre

... (read more)
1Vaniver6yI think this was yet another hint that obgu bs gurz ner Gbz Evqqyr. I think that the "world is mad" reasoning is one that Eliezer endorses in some sense--that is, there is a special kinship between the Only Sane People, but that kinship should not override other strategic and moral concerns.

Some questions I would have if I were Harry:

  1. Why do you teach me? Why do you teach others valuable lessons in Battle Magic?

  2. What really happened at that martial arts dojo? Did you have good reason for not losing? Is the story of Voldemort killing everyone and not learning anything wrong?

  3. Why have you demonstrated kindness to me? Ex.

"Very well," Professor Quirrell said. "I grant you permission to offer me something I want." The gun gestured invitingly. "That is a rare privilege, child. Lord Voldemort does not usually negotiate for what he wants."

Dear, dear, did he really call Cedric a spare? That doesn't bode well.

1:00–1:20: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1VfpFM1Gr8&index=13&list=PLC76BE906C9D83A3A

At this point, I would like to say "I Knew It" on the endless Quidditch match, but I can't find where I described this exact solution to the Quirrell wishes. I mean, it's kind of an obvious thing to do...

0CellBioGuy7yThis simply cant be the first time some house has exploited the rules to steal the cup. Its a patently obvious strategy...
6Vaniver7yBut it requires cooperation by both parties, only one of whom will win the cup, and that the primary contender for the cup not be in the game. There's also the question of whether or not it's sporting, and how much the players care about that. (Odds are high that the Snitch is cursed or the Seekers somehow coerced in this game.)
6skeptical_lurker7yIt also requires that the two houses (which pretty much have to be Ravenclaw and Slytherine, as the other two would be above such dirty tactics) are almost neck and neck on points, so that each has a chance to win afterwards. Plus, Quirrel's battles have taught the students to bend rules and cooperate with other houses.
0CronoDAS7yWe don't actually know what happens if House Points tie. Presumably this doesn't happen because Dumbledore or some other professor breaks it?
0Nornagest7yIf I remember right, Quiddich is scored in increments of ten, so if the current House Points score for one of the contenders isn't a multiple of that it's impossible to tie them based on Quiddich scores. I don't remember seeing anyone giving out one or two House Points at a time, but we've seen five.
2CronoDAS7yI imagine it helps to have a Professor in on the scheme.
1Vaniver7yI seem to recall many single points issued in academic settings, and I also seem to recall the conversion from Quirrell points to House points allowing single numbers.
[-][anonymous]7y 0

Lesath Lestrange is under Harry's time-turned invisibility cloak, but Cedric Diggory could be under his non-time-turned cloak.

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

Oh dear. Bets on how badly this will end?

4Alsadius7yThere's what, 16 chapters left? Still plenty of chaos left to ensue.

I found it unbelievable that Harry would have taken that absurd amount of time to decipher what "the constellation" meant. It was obvious even to me.

On the other hand, I didn't see it at all, so it takes all sorts, I guess.

5palladias7yI thought Sirius.
4garabik7yThat's not a constellation though...
3polymathwannabe7yI must admit "seven in a square" was not obvious to me. I thought it was advice for the chess room.
2CellBioGuy7yI was drawing squares on clock faces.
0ReevesAnd7y"42" seemed the obvious answer. Although if he were going for that, he might just make a Hitchhiker's Guide reference. Or maybe he was concealing the Hitchhiker's Guide reference?