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 117.

Plans for next chapter release:

Ch. 118 will post on March 9th, 2015, at 12pm Pacific (7pm UTC).

There is a site dedicated to the story at, 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

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Eliezer Yudkowsky which is not supposed to be publicly available (which includes public statements by Eliezer that have been retracted).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 hope that somebody (well, Harry) tells Michael MacNair that his father, alone among those summoned, died in combat with Voldemort. It seems sad for him not to know that.

That would have to be a pretty selective report, carefully obscuring how staggeringly stupid the thing that McNair did was. His suggestion had little chance of working unless he was correct that casting the Killing Curse was Voldemort's plan anyway, in which case it was redundant at best, and in fact risky even then (since authoritarian bosses prefer ideas to come from them, not subordinates). I have trouble imaginining how he imagined that conversation would go. "That hadn't occurred to me, Mr. Sallow, but an excellent suggestion, thank you"?

Does anyone else feel like /r/hpmor (but not LW, thankfully) has been suffering from a lot of hindsight bias lately? First "Dumbledore was stupid with the mirror", then "Harry/Voldemort was stupid with the Riddle curse", then "Voldemort was stupid with letting Harry keep his wand", and now "Harry should've thought to preserve the Death Eaters' heads"? Apart from the wand thing (which I believe was pointed out by a few commenters before Chapter 114 was posted), pretty much all of those complaints were made after the fact. (No one talked about preserving the Death Eaters' heads until after Chapter 117 came out, for example.) I don't post on the subreddit, but I do read the comments there, and some of the complaints have honestly been fairly cringeworthy.

Honestly I think even the wand thing is way overblown.

In story, there was only a few minute or so between the making of the unbreakable vow (which did require Harry to have his wand) and Harry using it to kill the Death Eaters. Voldemort makes the "You have 1 minute to tell me your secrets or you die" offer immediately after the vow, after all.

Voldemort could have reasoned that he wanted to kill Harry as quickly as possible. Forcing him to drop his wand would have taken time. It also would have shown weakness in front of the Death Eaters. And Voldemort probably couldn't imagine anything Harry could have done. He's way too young for any really dangerous magic, despite his skill. Voldemort doesn't know about nano-wires and all that stuff. It's probably unimaginable for him that so little magic could have such a big effect.

Let's not forget that forcing Harry to drop his wand first is not a proposition without any risk either. Voldemort wanted secrets Harry had. If he had demanded that Harry drop his wand, and Harry had refused, he would have been forced to kill him without learning any of his secrets. It's very likely that Voldemort considered this a significant risk.

And le... (read more)

Voldemort could have reasoned that he wanted to kill Harry as quickly as possible. Forcing him to drop his wand would have taken time.

This is silly. He'd taken the time to do exactly that before. And now, if he's going to give him a full minute just to think...

The whole thing falls to the "plausible excuse" vs "what you'd expect to happen" problem, which Harry explains in Answers and Riddles:

the laws governing what constitutes a good explanation don't talk about plausible excuses you hear afterward. They talk about the probabilities we assign in advance. That's why science makes people do advance predictions, instead of trusting explanations people come up with afterward. And I wouldn't have predicted in advance for you to follow Snape and show up like that. Even if I'd known in advance that you could put a trace on Snape's wand, I wouldn't have expected you to do it and follow him just then.

If you only knew up to chapter 108 or 110 or so, and someone told you that Voldemort is going to take every precaution to contain Harry's threat that he can think of, running a search of the sort that would generate such ideas as "put up elaborate wards, includin... (read more)

Certainly, but if you must leave Harry a way out, better to have a plausible excuse instead of no excuse at all.
Agreed. Especially if we judge the story by usual storytelling standards. Though that's harder to do after HPMoR itself has been teaching us the difference between story-logic and what is realistically probable, and mocking stories in general and the original Harry Potter in particular at every turn for that stuff. I don't think that hole was even necessary. Voldemort did need to let Harry keep his wand for the Unbreakable Vow. and could have intended to have someone disarm him afterwards. So just have Harry prepare the antimatter bomb while Voldemort is dictacting the Vow, and announce it before he could be disarmed. What do you think? (Sure, that would probably mean no "final exam" for the readers. Now I hated the idea of holding the story hostage, and refused to even "try to try" for that reason, so that doesn't bother me. I suspect I'm in the minority about that, though.)
Well, ‘hate’ is a strong word, but I certainly wasn't going to be bullied into leaving a review.
The problem is that there doesn't seem to be a plausible excuse for the wand thing except "Voldemort was careless", and carelessness under such conditions simply hasn't been part of his character at any point until now. Word of God says that the plot of HPMOR was set in stone since the beginning. If there was some better reason for Harry to face the Final Exam with a wand in his hand, Eliezer would have known about it from the start, and could have seeded all the necessary foreshadowing for it way in advance.

In story, there was only a few minute or so between the making of the unbreakable vow (which did require Harry to have his wand) and Harry using it to kill the Death Eaters. Voldemort makes the "You have 1 minute to tell me your secrets or you die" offer immediately after the vow, after all.

Not so. At T-20 seconds, Harry starts verbally stalling while he keeps working on the transfiguration.

It also would have shown weakness in front of the Death Eaters.

After he's already given them lengthy and detailed instructions about all the many different kinds of spell they must be ready to cast at this naked 11-year old boy at the first sign of trouble?

And Voldemort probably couldn't imagine anything Harry could have done. He's way too young for any really dangerous magic, despite his skill. Voldemort doesn't know about nano-wires and all that stuff. It's probably unimaginable for him that so little magic could have such a big effect.

He knows that the Harry is a walking extinction event waiting to happen, and that Harry knows secrets powerful enough to be worth learning (potentially even powerful enough to end him - cf. "power he knows not"). Indeed, these are ... (read more)

0Ben Pace9y
A fine point. It is amusing how, through the reinforcement from the meme's spreading, people have forgotten the reliability of this statement.

I don't think Harry really could preserve the Death Eaters' heads. Remember, he was out of magic, totally drained after the "Obliviate". And he had to take of Voldemort first, to not take any chance of letting him escape. So even while Harry is good at "doing the impossible", there is a limit to how much "impossible" he can do a limited time.

He might have a portable refrigerator set to 4 degrees C in that bag of tricks of his, but that's a little much forward planning even for him. And that still leaves the problem of safely cooling ten times thirty-six pounds of meat down to that temperature without damage.

I can't give you evidence, but I saw lots of posts about freezing the death eater's heads before today.

I talked about just dismembering their arms before the chapter was even posted. I suppose them surviving would mean Harry can't make up a ridiculus story after the fact, though. HJPEV Gotta do an overly complicated plots that cost others more than he realizes at the time or else he just isn't HJPEV. >_>
Unlike Harry, the death eaters have lots of wandless options. Not just one.
Also don't forget that Harry had less than a minute to make up a plan.
Then he'd be an eleven-year old surrounded by bleeding but live adult Death Eaters, and with only (and specifically) two tourniquets, with no easy way to get them medical attention or stun them. There's ways to incapacitate them less lethally, but you'd need to think a little further outside of the box, and they're not really compatible with MoR!Harry's outlook nor the narrative progression.

The wand objection has been a very good one, and don't give me the "hindsight bias" crap, people were complaining about that in advance. No matter the bizarre excuses the author comes up with, it just doesn't make sense to order 37 death eaters to shoot Harry if he raises his wand, rather than order one Harry to drop the damn wand. It certainly doesn't make sense to be so paranoid as to strip Harry naked and nonetheless let him keep his wand.

If Voldemort is overconfident, then fine, LET HIM BE OVERCONFIDENT. But Eliezer wanted it both ways, both to treat Voldemort as super-ultra-cautious AND let Harry keep his damn wand.

Right, okay, I'm back, and on further reflection, I think I've actually decided that leaving Harry his wand isn't even that bad of a mistake. So, let's get started on why:

it just doesn't make sense to order 37 death eaters to shoot Harry if he raises his wand, rather than order one Harry to drop the damn wand.

If Harry needed his wand to demonstrate something (which he very plausibly might have), it would have made no sense to take it away. From Voldemort's perspective, the threat from letting Harry keep his wand (as opposed to, say, his Time-Turner or a hidden Portkey on his person) is close to none; with the precautions he took against Harry, Harry would have needed to pull off a wordless, movement-free, multi-targeting, incapacitating, direction-neutral attack, which is a tall order even for most grown wizards, much less a first-year at Hogwarts. If the threat is minimal and the benefit is high (demonstrating a secret spell), simple cost-benefit analysis would tell Voldemort to let Harry keep his wand. And so he did. The fact that Harry had an attack that just happened to fulfill all the aforementioned criteria is pure coincidence (I would have called it authorial fiat, if i... (read more)

If Harry needed his wand to demonstrate something (which he very plausibly might have), it would have made no sense to take it away.

So have him drop it and a Death Eater confiscate it, and if he says he needs it to demonstrate something, Voldemort can ask "do you plan to usse it to attack me, sservantss, or to esscape?" before returning it to him. Then as soon as he's done, confiscate it again. That's an extra 10 seconds; which is a small price to pay to hedge against a Black Swan.

Voldemort doesn't know about Partial Transfiguration, but he does know Harry has powers he knows not, which is what this entire charade was about in the first place! I would've done it it just in case.

There's an easy way out of that one: Harry should precommit to not begin thinking of any possible plans of escape using his wand until after getting it back.
From LV's perpsective, that would still be an improvement. It seriously curtails Harry's thinking time.
Because you hadn't decided shortly before that Harry was an idiot.
You can't have it both ways. Either Harry is dangerous enough to justify the full suite of precautions, or he's an idiot, in which case what you need isn't "the full suite of precautions minus disarming".
Voldemort has an absolute truth oracle, or at least a sufficiently good approximation thereof, available too him. If Harry needs his wand to teach V one of his secrets, make him say so in Parseltongue. If H does demand his wand, make him state whether he intends to use it for anything but demonstrating a secret. The wonderful thing here is that this gives all kinds of opportunities for V to screw up without realizing he's screwing up. PT is a secret for which H needs his wand. H is, in a sense, demonstrating PT. Unless V was very careful about making H state his exact and full intentions, we could have had a plausible reason for H to have his wand. There's really no plausible reason for V to just let him have it, though; disarming him (there's even a spell which does exactly that, and one would hope his followers know it...) costs nothing but a small amount of time, and gains V potential defense against "a power he knows not"... the existence of such things being the whole reason V didn't just have H killed immediately!
I'm not addressing the meat of your comment right now (I may do so later--I'm a bit short on time right now), but this part specifically caught my attention: Ahem. From my original comment: Just sayin'.
Voldemort was powerful enough that he could defeat a couple of fully armed Aurors with wands pointing at him, so the threat of Harry raising his wand and casting a spell at him was negligible, as proved by him dodging a killing curse cast by a much stronger wizard than Harry. Even if Harry was so powerful to be able to raise his wand, cast a spell quick enough at Voldemort so that he couldn't dodge it, the Death Eaters would have stunned Harry instantly, and even if a spell cast by Harry destroyed the body of Voldemort, he could easily make himself a new one.
So what was your prior on Voldemort being more afraid of Harry keeping his socks than of keeping his wand? What was your prior that Voldemort, afraid of Harry, would rather screech at 37 Death Eater to make sure Harry doesn't raise his wand, rather than just order Harry to drop the wand? All these arguments are backwards -- you start from the conclusion that Harry needed to keep his wand for an authorial reason, and excuses are being made to explain that. But the breaking of suspension of disbelief comes exactly when we see the authorial hand too strongly overriding what would have been the natural character decisions, much like Harry's suspension of disbelief couldn't accept four different groups arriving at the same time at the door, if a single mind wasn't orchestrating it. It doesn't have to do with excuses you give afterwards, it has to do with the plausibility you'd give the events in advance.
Voldemort knows that Harry understands game theory, and has no incentive to drop his wand if he ends up dead and cannot save everyone anyway. If he orders Harry to drop his wand, Harry might refuse, and then he has to kill him before being able to extract information out of him. We have to weight the probability of Harry being able to raise his wand before the Death Eaters can cast (deemed impossible, as we've seen how fast a grownup wizard can cast) and cast a spell which defeats Voldemort against the probability of Harry refusing to drop the wand and being required to be killed before telling any secrets. I strongly suspect the later one is many orders of magnitudes larger. Voldemort knows Harry has knowledge he has not, but this doesn't necessarily mean Harry knows spells or has the magical power required to cast strong enough spells to harm him.
So now you're saying that Voldemort can order Harry to keep his wand lowered and threaten him with death if he raises it, but he can't order Harry to drop the wand and threaten him with death if he refuses? I somehow doubt that you would have come to this rather very specific conclusion if you hadn't needed to explain-after-the-fact the things we saw occur in the story.
I can't prove it because I didn't write it down, but this very question bothered me after reading chapter 113, and I made up this explanation before reading chapter 114.
There are two possible answers to this argument. * 1) If Harry is refusing to give up his wand, this suggests that Harry thinks that with the wand he has a non-0% chance of escape. In that event, getting the wand off him takes priority over questioning. * 2) Expelliarmus. One of Voldemort's 36 followers must know it, and if not, frankly Voldemort could probably teach them on the spot. "Power he knows not" strongly implies the ability to do or achieve something, rather than abstract knowledge with no immediate applications.
But that isn't relevant. It doesn't matter what Voldemort's assessment of Harry's abilities is. He knows three things: * 1) Harry has unknown powerful secrets * 2) Prophecy says Harry has power Voldemort knows not * 3) Any failure on Voldemort's part to stop Harry could be all it takes to end the world When you know for a fact that you are missing information, and you know for a fact that you can't afford the consequences of failure, you take every step you can think of to ensure success. Voldemort has already shown that he knows this with his plan of how to kill Harry. The step of disarming Harry is both obvious and carries no costs to Voldemort, so it should be one of the first steps he takes.

No one talked about preserving the Death Eaters' heads until after Chapter 117 came out, for example.

I'm pretty sure some people did, actually.

Did they? I don't recall seeing any.
See here for a thread posted shortly after chapter 115:
Ah, there we go. I must've missed that one. Perils of not double-checking, I suppose (though in my defense, the subreddit has a heck of a lot of threads right now, so that one might have been buried under a lot of other threads).
I might have been looking at r/HPMOR when I saw it. To be fair, preserving 37 heads would have taken a long time- as in, he might not have had the magic to cool them all, so most would be warm and dead anyway. It would also be hard to maintain the transfigureations. Actually, I had just assumed that Harry had decided that Lucius deserved to die, and had blamed it on LV partially so that he could continue his friendship with Draco.
Count me as guilty. He should have taken the wand, particularly when having a discussion to extract extra super powers that he suspects Harry to have. Preserving the Death Eater's heads isn't hindsight bias, it's just silly. The world is full of people dying who Harry could save much easier than warm headless corpses.
I don't know what's on /r/hpmor, you'd probably have to ask there. On Less Wrong, people discussed both of the last two in the comments on Chapter 113.
With the hype surrounding the final arc, the quality of /r/HPMOR is declining in general.
Did you even go to r/hpmor after Chapter 114? A bunch of people were saying that he should at least cool them, or try to revive them after he uses his time-turner or то incapacitate instead of kill or anything. Given that it also occurred to me immediately and was discussed multiple times on ##HPMOR, I'm pretty sure there was no hindsight involved..
HELL FREAKING YES, even on LessWrong. That said, it hasn't been as bad as I was expecting.
I fail to see how "Harry should've thought to preserve the Death Eaters' heads" thing has anything to do with hindsight bias. These comments were a response to current events, not to a later outcome making it look like a better idea than it seemed at the time.

Why on earth is Prof McGonagall announcing in public that a bunch of children's parents are dead and were evil? That seems a really, really terrible way to break the news to them.

I'd expect at the very least she'd tell them privately in advance, and probably wouldn't say it in public at all, except in very general terms.

From her perspective, there are advantages to announcing it in public - for example, there will no be no witch hunt of "which Slytherins turned out to have active Death Eater parents?", and McGonagall also firmly tied the listing of the orphaned children's names to pronouncements of sympathy and solidarity in her listeners' minds.

I still don't think there was any good reason not to break it to them in private first.

I still don't think there was any good reason not to break it to them in private first.

In a perfect world, I completely agree.

In a real world, I can see that McGonagall did not have time before breakfast to talk to all of the orphaned children. I can also see that she might strongly prefer to quench the early rumors and avoid starting new rumors by calling a number of students into her office. (Delegating it to Snape, the Head of Slytherin House, was not an option; and delegating it to any other teacher would have sent a signal of McGonagall not caring enough to do it herself, making this a non-option, too.)

Given all this, I still think she should have delayed the announcement to talk to the children beforehand; but I don’t think it’s a simple choice for her.

I don't think "were evil" is actually a secret, most Death Eaters are known - they plead being under the Imperius or otherwise forced to join, but I don't think there is much doubt for who was on which side of the war. As for telling them publically, it's true it's not the best way to break the news, but I fear attempts to tell them in private could have been ever worse - with rumors propagating in the school, the fact you can't tell them all at once and have to take turns and everyone will see something is going on. In the current situation, it seems an acceptable way of doing it. Edit : forgot to refer to the "Voldemort - tried to revive - he summoned Death Eaters and he killed them, stole their blood and life" line of Harry, which is why rumors and doubts were likely already in full motion, justifying a clear public announcement as soon as possible.
Maybe it was a nod to the canon, the listing of the fallen defenders of Hogwarts. (I do agree that it was an awful thing to do, but I think allocating time to tell the children instead of to check the wards, ..., would be inexcusable in the context of a possible new Wizarding War.)
Yeah, the general comments were fine, but the list of names? A Muggle would have known better.
The names would have come out over the next few days, anyway. McGonagall’s choice was to either break the news to all the students on her terms, or to have wild rumors appear within hours. Breaking the news herself gives her the chance to declare her solidarity with the affected students in the clearest possible terms and to quench any schadenfreude immediately. She is proactive, rather than reactive. In fact, compared to the Minerva McGonagall of the very early chapters, she feels a little more grown-up now, in a way. She has developed into a more sophisticated character over the course of the story, and I like this a lot.
You're right, she should have listed them as she did. But she still needed to have told them privately beforehand.
I mostly agree. (see my reply to Velorien, though)
In a search for kindness, not using cloistered information for personal advantage, and low tendency for factionalism, "child of a Death Eater" is a pretty hard constraint.
Someone in /r/HPMOR mentioned that similar things happened in Muggle schools after 9/11 (That is, a list of names for children whose parents may have died). Generally speaking, educational institutions are completely unprepared for tragedies.
Except that in the Muggle schools after 9/11 the parents who died were not terrorists, so the pupils didn't have to fear persecution.
That's fair for Muggle schools. But Hogwarts went through a huge wave of orphanings a mere ten years ago during the Wizarding War, at which time McGonagall was already a Hogwarts teacher (likely in the same position). She should have as much experience dealing with such things as any educator can.

When Quirrell learned about Harry's "sense of doom", did he do anything to stop the information from getting to Dumbledore? It looks like pure accident that Dumbledore never learned about it. McGonagall could have told him as well, when things got serious.

It looks like pure accident that Dumbledore never learned about it.

The injunction against anyone bringing up issues about Quirrell only makes sense within the story as a way for Dumbledore and McGonagall to maintain a pretense that they don't know that Quirrell is Voldemort. In particular, preventing the Boy Who Lived from communicating his doubts makes no sense at all except in those terms. They've known about horcruxes for a while. They know Voldemort can come back. Fairly early on, Dumbledore see's that Harry is the Good Voldemort. If they really didn't know where Voldemort was, it would just be Idiot Ball for Narrative Convenience to shush Harry's reservations about the Defense Professor.

If Dumbledore was meant to be a PC, he had to know.

McGonagall in fact prevented Harry from spilling the beans about the Sense of Doom. I remember at least one such scene, and don't recall any where McGonagall actually let Harry tell her about the Sense of Doom.

Re-reading the story, I see a lot of evidence that Dumbledore didn't know that Quirrell was Voldemort. For example, Chapter 62: He refers to the same issue when talking to Bones. It would make no sense for him to do so if he believed that Voldemort had constant access to Harry and countless opportunities to "accidentally" obtain his blood (as indeed happened with the newspaper).

It seems likely...that some of our students will also have been stripped last night of those named as their guardians.

I'm a little worried about Harry's parents.

Hm. To be honest, I'd hoped that this chapter would include a scene of Harry explaining events (or at least a version closer to the truth) to McGonagall, Snape and Moody, since it seemed unlikely they would fall for his melodramatic psychic display. (And because keeping secrets has NOT worked well so far, as Harry recently realized.)

He should definitely tell the truth to Moody. Harry's inexperience has caused him to overlook many things in the past and this is serious enough to get someone with actual experience to look over the facts. Voldemort probably had other plans in motion and other agents carrying out his will.
And Moody can be counted on not to go blabbing to the others, undermining Hermione's status as the new hero, or so on.
Well, since they did accept that "Voldemort tried to cast AK on a child, boom big explosion", and they do suspect that Harry's scar is indeed connected to Voldemort, I don't see any reason for them to distrust Harry's account of the events, especially since they mostly match what they found there. As for keeping secrets, not speaking about "the sense of doom" and the Azkaban issue to the Order did harm, but keeping secret about partial transfiguration and his ability to transfigure carbon nanotubes allowed him to save the day, so I wouldn't say "keeping secrets has NOT worked well" in general. If I were Harry, I would probably wait a bit until the emotional chaos (both inside Harry and inside McGonagall) lowers a bit before telling them "hrm, you know, I'm the one who killed the Death Eaters". If I were to even speak about it at all.
I would actually talk to Hermione first, since she’s the one most affected by this untrue explanation. Ask her, whether (and if so, whom) to tell the truth.
Harry seems to want to setup Hermoine as the hero. Taking responsibility for it doesn't help with that goal.

I though that Death Eaters mostly had only one child, not 2-3.

"Sheila, Flora, and Hestia Carrow. Lost both their parents last night. Students who have lost their fathers include Robert Jugson. Ethan Jugson. Sara Jugson. Michael MacNair. Riley and Randy Rookwood. Lily Lu. Sarah Sproch. Daniel Gibson. Jason Gross. Elsie Ambrose..."

Alecto and Amycus Carrow are siblings, and Flora and Hestia are twins (see ch 46). That means one birth per each of their marriages.

Does EY realize that Alecto and Amycus are siblings? He said that these children lost both parents. And if Alecto has a child, then either the child is illegitimate, or Alecto kept her last name after marriage, something that no woman does in canon, and that no Witch does in MOR (only the Muggle Evans-Verres couple hyphenates). I don't take Alecto Carrow for a tradition-defying feminist. So I conclude that this a slip-up.
I thought that powerful wizards had few children - Voldie, Dumbeldoor, Lucius - not a point about death eaters.

Now that I think of it, Quirrel watched over Harry as he felled a bunch of trees in Precautionary Measures pt.2. And that involved partial Transfiguration.

So was Voldemort really unaware that Harry could Partially Transfigure Things? Or did he only underestimate what could be done with that?

Quirrel had seen Harry use /Diffendo/ on some trees, and later that the trees have been cut. He was unconscious (and in an extradimensional bag) when Harry had cut through the wall in Azkaban, and only saw a cut circle of wall. He may not have known that Harry had anything up his sleeve more complicated than a Cutting Charm; he certainly had no reason to believe that Harry could wordlessly transfigure the tip of his wand into well over a hundred feet of braided carbon nanotubes. Quirrelmort has never seen -- only Dumbledore, Hermoine, and Professor McGonagall have.

But that's really not the part that got him.

Quirrelmort had accepted the risk that Harry could have escaped, or killed everyone present, just as he accepted the possibility that the Unbreakable Vow wouldn't have been enough to stop Harry from destroying the world. If he were absolutely certain, he'd not have bothered with backup plans. He did not care about the deaths of the present Death Eaters, and losing his own body was merely a minor setback. It's Harry's ability to instantly and permanently incapacitate without letting Quirrelmort's spirit loose that made the threat serious. That's a problem Dumbledore was relying on an ancient and frighteningly powerful artifact to implement, and Quirrelmort's mode of thinking doesn't exactly encourage thinking of these matters..

Indeed. Harry saying that he has the capability to kill everyone present did not frighten Voldemort. Had Harry said he has the capability to incapacitate everyone present, then Voldemort (even if he were almost sure Harry was wrong) would have shot him with his gun instantly.
Has the parallel with the way Harry's list of resources in his first DADA lesson (Hufflepuff bones, etc.) was entirely concerned with things that could be used to kill been remarked upon? I don't think it's coincidence. (I also don't think it has any deep significance beyond the fact that Harry and Voldemort think rather alike in some ways.)
From our perspective, yes, I agree that it is obvious, but from Voldemort's perspective at the time, Partial Transfiguration just isn't something that exists; there's no reason to have it as a prominent hypothesis to explain Harry's cutting down trees. It's much simpler to assume that Harry had just figured out a more efficient variant of the Severing Charm, or something similar. As Voldemort himself said in chapter 108: [edited]
He wouldn't have had enough information to conclude that Harry had invented a new type of Transfiguration - he would probably think it was a particularly powerful cutting hex for a first year, or something. Still stupid of him not to have made inquiries after two times witnessing its effects (cutting through the wall of Azkaban, felling the trees).

Especially knowing that Harry almost offered to explain it to him (after Azkaban). Quirrel's answer :

it is too rare that I find a person whom I cannot see through immediately, be they friend or foe. I shall unravel the puzzles about you for myself, in due time.

Quirrel's main problem was that his idea of muggle weapons technology was a machine gun. If that was the best Harry could do, he would have lost. His other problem was giving Harry access to his wand for more time than strictly necessary. Had Harry figured out what to do earlier, he wouldn't have even needed partial transfiguration, since his wand was touching someone else's during the Vow. But Quirrell knew better than to rely on his plan being perfect. He should have known to minimize the time during which Harry could act.

I begin to wonder if we (the community) really found the best plan or if we are reading a sadder ending. Maybe there was a plan that saved everyone.

According to a post on /r/HPMOR:

[EY] posted a comment a while ago that the short sad ending would have been Harry blowing himself up Transfiguring antimatter.

ETA: Found EY's relevant comment:

In the profoundly improbable event that I'd needed to write [a sad ending], it would have just been Harry suiciding via antimatter (that went off prematurely as soon as it started to Transfigure) and Hermione waking up among the flaming ruins.

That's the "sad" ending? The Disposable Male sacrificing himself for the Greater Good and wept over by the Fair Damsel is the classic "bittersweet", ennobling ending. The Sad Ending is Voldemort taking over Harry's body and destined to rule Magical Britain, and the world. Or Harry being compelled by his Vow to twist the Universe to some Cthuluic purpose.

If Eliezer had written the antimatter ending, it would indeed have implied that Voldemort would later take over the world, since the antimatter would not have been able to destroy his horcrux network.

To follow up on this, the sad ending wouldn't be the sad ending because Harry had to sacrifice himself to win. It would be the sad ending because Harry failed, as a result of not being able to think of a clever enough way to stop Voldemort (reflecting our own failure to do so in the exam).
That's the "sadder" ending, which is precisely what EY promised.
True, but this is a fantasy story, and in fantasy stories where the villain has a seemingly foolproof way of guaranteeing his return (and especially if he's done it before), you can normally expect the hero to find a way to defeat it in N-20 +/- 10 pages, where N is the number of pages left in the book.
I still wonder about that too. I assume Harry is still bound by the Unbreakable Vow. He's partially an Artificial General Intelligence, with the programmed portion being so obviously and clearly safe. He's the perfect means for EY to make a pedagogical point about the non obvious but potentially cataclysmic dangers of AGI. I would think that he would consider making that point a worthwhile use of all the time he has spent on the book, whereas other points might not seem quite so worthwhile in comparison, to him.
I don't find anything sad about it. The DEs' lives were forfeit anyway. Not refusing to kill a child on command only confirms it.
8Rob Bensinger9y
Death and suffering can be sad even when its causal consequences are net-positive. And death and suffering can be sad even when it happens to bad people (to say nothing of their families). Normatively speaking, I don't believe someone can involuntarily 'forfeit their life' in the sense of making it intrinsically OK to kill them. (Though it may be instrumentally necessary.)
Why do people think children have greater moral value than adults, and it's worse to kill a child than a similarly defenseless, innocent adult?

Because children are not fully capable of taking care of themselves, and so there is a norm that all adults (and older children) have a duty of helping and protecting them (even against themselves).

And also because if an adult harms a child, it is much more likely that the victim is innocent and didn't "deserve" that harm than if the victim is an adult.

(and I don't think "greater moral value" accurately describes the situation)

One justification that I've heard is that a child has a longer life ahead of them. Kill a child, and you're removing 60 years of life and happiness from the future; kill an old adult, and you're removing 10 years. Another justification is innocence; although you specified that the adult is innocent, matching the innocence of a child is a tall order for an adult to reach, at least if you think of guilt as a cumulative effect. I'm trying to answer ‘Why do people think […]’, not ‘Why is it true that […]’, which you didn't ask.
I'm pretty sure lifespan is just a justification, a rationalization, and not the actual reason people think that. If expected lifespan was the reason, people would treat healthy 20 year olds as more valuable than mature 50 year olds, and the oppposite is mostly true. 'Innocence' is more plausible. If a person alieves in a philosophy or theology that says people acquire guilt like bad karma, and it's OK (or more OK) to hurt them the more generalized guilt they have, then children would be hurt less. But again, on this theory you would expect older people to be the least innocent. And yet it's not the case that hurting older people (but not so old that they are weak and defenseless because of it) is more morally permissible than hurting young adults. On balance, generalized guilt sounds to me like a good partial explanation alongside other heuristics.
This isn't true in my experience. The death of a 20-year-old is grieved as untimely, while the death of a 70-year-old is often accepted as the natural order; 50 falls in between (still untimely but not the same level of tragedy as at 20). If it's murder, then you get more sympathy with age for being defenceless; you can see that that is the reason, because it doesn't apply to natural death. People talk about the value of the elderly for the same reason that they talk about the value of female STEM majors and racially diverse neighbourhoods: to overcome society's ingrained prejudice in the reverse. (It is irrelevant to this phenomenon whether people believe what they say, or even if the prejudice is justified; such comments are still a reaction.)
Maybe it's also that killing a child is something you do not do if you want your specie (or your specific social or family group) to carry on. You wait at least until he got a chance to pass its genes on. (I just noticed kilobug was having the same idea)
Being ready to wage war when necessary, to risk death to defeat the enemy, is a nigh-universal part of the role of the adult male. When children enter combat, outside conditions of total desperation or cases where the existing technology means more meat = more force, it's often as help to the adults.
Is this intended as a moral consideration, or only an evolutionary reason? When you're judging the killing of Harry, an 11-year-old child who (arguably) isn't from an enemy tribe, this seems to be the latter.
Those aren't the only two options! It's a cultural pattern. It doesn't apply on reflection -- if you're an Austrian soldier and Momčilo Gavrić points his gun at you, you shoot him -- but it comes up on the quick first pass. Like tomatoes. Tomatoes are vegetables because they function as vegetables: you put them on sandwiches and in salads, and you don't eat them plain or put them in fruit salad. Then you think about it and realize that tomatoes are technically fruit. Or like that last sentence: tomatoes are the classic example of a vegetable that's actually a fruit, but come to think of it, cucumbers do the same thing, and sometimes you put apples or pears in salads...
I see several reasons for that, which fall broadly in two different categories (different meaning of "why"). The first set of reasons is grounded into evolutionary psychology, "why" being taken in "why people happen to do it, whatever it's right or wrong". From the genes pov, your children are your greatest asset, since what matters is not having children, but having children who reach adulthood. There has been some evidence that the value we unconsciously assign to children growth with their age (with the resources we spent ensuring they grow healthy) until they reach puberty, that's consistent with that explanation. The other set of reasons answer to "why should we consider killing children to be worse ?" and to that I've several answers : * children have a higher remaining life expectancy, so killing a 10 years old mean destroying 70 years of life expectancy, while killing a 50 years old mean destroying 30 years (well, not exactly, but not far) ; * children didn't have as much time to enjoy life, so killing a child is unfair (some people do value fairness as a terminal value, and I'm among them) - everything else being equal, if you've two people and together they can live 60 years, it's better to have 30 years each than one living 50 years and the other 10 years ; * children are more vulnerable and less able to defend themselves, and therefore deserve more protection from society ; * many people consider (and I think it holds true to a point, even if I'm not sure how much) that childhood is a part of life that is more full of joy and wonder than adulthood, so depriving someone of his childhood does more harm than depriving someone of the same amount of adult life years ; * children are more psychologically vulnerable and less able to deal with their fear/pain, it's very rare to kill someone suddenly without any pain, so the fear/pain that precedes death is actually worse for a child.
The second point is important: it means young adults are more valuable than young children, yet in practice morals sway the other way, with little children being the most valued now that childhood mortality is low. More specifically, a young parent who expects to have at least one more child if this one dies should be more valuable than the child. Then we should assign lower value to people the older they get. Yet it's typically considered worse to murder a very old person than a young adult. Do you disagree? That is a good point which I didn't consider. Everyone is equally unable to defend themselves against a gun, or a Death Eater with a wand. This may be relevant when you're talking about hitting someone, but not for murder. Anyway, once you've murdered someone, why should it matter morally that you might have failed because he defended himself? I think this needs evidence. FWIW it wasn't true in my own life, and I don't think I'm that atypical. It also predicts a weak effect of valuing 20 year olds more than 50 year olds. This is a plausible argument against hurting children. But do you, or others, really think that a few minutes or even hours of pain are comparable with loss of life, to the same degree that people consider killing a child to be worse than killing an adult?
I think that's because the elderly are more likely to be defenceless and murdering someone defenceless is considered bad for virtue ethics reasons. But if you could save either an elder's life or a young adult's life I'd guess most people would say you had better save the latter.
It would make me (and perhaps others) a happier person if people saying things like "it's worse to do X than Y" would distinguish between * doing X is a greater harm to the world than doing Y, and * doing X is better evidence that the person doing it is a Bad Person than doing Y. [EDITED to add: Oh, and "actions that broadly resemble X tend to do greater harm to the world than actions that broadly resemble Y". And perhaps it's worth remarking that if you cash out "Bad Person" as "person liable to do net harm to the world", these three correspond to a typical consequentialist's analysis of consequentialism, virtue ethics, and deontology respectively. I am not claiming that this observation is in any way original.]
By "had better" with no qualification I meant the former and by "bad for virtue ethics reasons" I meant the latter, but yes, I should make the distinction even more explicit.
Personally I don't consider it really worse. In society in general, the murder of an eldery is usually considered worse because the eldery is weaker, but the accidental or "natural" (ie, disease) death of an eldery is considered much less bad than the same death of a young adult. It is not relevant for the murder itself, but it is relevant overall when considering how society protects people. Large-scale effects are often delt with broad heuristics (like deontology and virtues), and children being defenseless means a deontological injunction "doing harm to children is very very bad" being justified, and that injunction will apply to murder too, even if it's less justified there. Trying to exclude murder from the injunction will weaken it, make it much less of Schelling point, so overall I don't think it's something society should do.
Killing people is horrible. It's why DE are "bad people", because they kill. You can't claim DE to be bad people, and yet rejoice at their death. Yes, killing DE has Harry did it was a required evil - letting Voldemort win would have let to much, much more suffering. But that doesn't change that killing the DE was sad. They were people, and in their own eyes, they weren't evil. And some of them, like Malfoy, was a loving father, paying political cost to help his son feel better. And the children of the Death Eaters are just kids. Draco may initially dreamed about raping and killing people, he doesn't know better, but he did help Hermione, too. And his pain at losing his father is as real any other child pain at losing his father - something no 11 years old should ever have to go through. Denying humanity to people, considering they are better dead than alive, that their death isn't any sad, is exactly what Death Eaters did wrong. Harry, Dumbledore, Hermione, McGonagall know better than the eternal loop of hatred, they know that "an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind", and that a tragedy never undo another tragedy. Yes, you can kill Death Eaters when they actually threaten you and you need to do it to prevent Voldemort from ruling the world - but that doesn't mean killing Death Eaters isn't sad, or that you should rejoice when a 11 years old kid suddenly loses his loving father.

OK, I agree with the "sad" part (though not the "sadder" part). It was unfortunate that people had to die. I don't think HP should torment himself for not having thought of saving them.

Sure you can. Life is full of trade offs. When the tradeoff is sufficiently in your favor, you rejoice. Sometimes that involves people dying. Then I won't expect them to rejoice at their own deaths, but in my eyes, there is plenty to rejoice over.
That's... more than a little sociopathic. You seem to be saying that the only value of people's lives to you is instrumental: if you benefit from someone's death overall, then their death is a good thing.
I think you're misreading the comment -- it only says that a human life does not have infinite value and that worthwhile tradeoffs where part of the cost is someone's death exist.
I'm not convinced. I agree that worthwhile tradeoffs where part of the cost is someone's death exist, but the way that's framed in the comment suggests that people dying is irrelevant to whether one rejoices over a worthwhile tradeoff or not. This contrasts heavily with, say, Harry's view, which is that a necessary death is still a tragedy.
I don't see how you got that from what I said. I said "trade off" - that implies relevance.
I guess I misread your tone. The way you put "sometimes that involves people dying" immediately after "you rejoice" made it seem like the former was an afterthought.
Maybe you were psychic about my tone. Retribution. Vengeance. Justice. Comeuppance. I value that somewhat. Bad guys should get what they've got coming. I understand that not everyone approves of such sentiments, and probably a lot of people here. I look at it as a predictable adaptation in line with rule consequentialism. But I also understand that some value it much more viscerally than I do. I recall Peter Hitchens opening a window into his mind one day. Basically, he didn't want to live in a universe without Justice built in, which from him I take as bad people not getting get their comeuppance. He wants God to settle the scores. He seems very committed to bad guys getting their just deserts. Starts around 13:30. Around 14:30 is another chunk.
In the sense that the cost of people dying is already folded into the evaluation of the tradeoff and it still is worthwhile -- yes. I understand your position, what I don't agree with is that any other view is necessarily "more than a little sociopathic".
I think it's the tone and the context that does it for me. It seems less "worthwhile tradeoffs where part of the cost is someone's death exist" and more "I don't care if people die as long as I get enough out of it".
Well, making psychiatric diagnoses on the basis of short internet comments is a popular and time-honored activity :-)
You're right, "sociopathic" was perhaps a poor choice of words. "Cheerfully unempathic" would have been a better way of saying what I was thinking.
Yes. That's pretty much the definition of consequentialism. Values can be compared and weighed, and when the weight is greater compared to the alternatives, "then X is a good thing".
I don't think that you and kilobug are actually in contradiction. Kilobug is saying that the deaths of the Death Eaters is a negative term in the utility function. You are saying that the total utility of the act that kills them is positive (or greater than the alternatives). Unfortunately, idiomatic English discusses these two very different points in similar language. In other words: kilobug says that, as you survey the consequences of Harry's act of transfiguration, when you get to these deaths, you do not rejoice; buybuydandavis says that, considering all of the consequences of Harry's act of transfiguration, you rejoice. At least, that's how I understand you two.
No that's not why they are "bad people", and yes you can. Who is killed and why also matters. Or do you see no difference between murdering innocent people and killing Aurors, and killing the murderers themselves to stop them from going on another spree?
You're confusing two things, the direct and indirect consequences. The death of "innocent people" (who is truly "innocent" anyway, who defines what "innocent" is, and aren't the kids of death eaters "innocent" and yet themselves victims too ?) and the death of murderers are, in themselves, terrible. The direct consequence of killing is something very, very bad in both cases. The indirect consequences are more complicated. Killing murderers when it's the only solution you have (ie, you can't incapacitate them) to prevent them from killing again is acceptable, not because killing murders in itself is good, but because it saves more lives. But the indirect consequences unfold in many different ways, that you can't always fully apprehend. That's why there are deontological rules like "killing innocents is worse than killing murders". It's not inherently true, it doesn't mean the life of a "murder" has no value, it just means that the broad, general consequences for society as a whole if people are allowed to kill "murders" when they feel cornered tend to be less bad than allowing them to kill "innocent" when they feel cornered. But it's not even that simple. Was Dumbledore right to kill Narcissa (if he did) to stop the Death Eaters from targeting family of the Order ? Narcissa was "innocent". And yet, in the specific situation, while the direct consequences of killing her are horrible, the indirect consequences (protecting family of the Order) are positive. But that long-term reasoning doesn't make the death of Narcissa, and the pain of Draco, any less horrible. And that's why Harry was right to kill the Death Eaters, because the alternative would have lead to much more death. But that doesn't mean the death of the 36 people, including the father of one of his best friends, isn't a very tragic event.
When refusing would likely result in one's own death, and the painful death and torture of their loved ones, and it isn't clear if refusing personally would have made a difference, this is pretty understandable behavior.
Given what Harry has done up to this point, he hardly qualifies for the "innocent child" special moral dispensation.
In that event, Voldemort survives and finds another host. Maybe not sad in the same sense, but certainly a bad situation.

As I also posted on David Brin's site, I don't think it makes sense for Voldemort to let Harry have the wand just because he believed Harry was unable to use it. Precautions don't work that way--taking precautions means that you have to try to stop some things even if you don't believe they'll happen. Just saying "I don't think he can do X" is insufficient reason to avoid taking precautions against it. Proper precautions depends on the size of the mistake you'd have to make in order for X to be a danger. And "I don't think he can use this weapon" has a lot smaller mistake connecting it to danger than "I don't think he can use this non-weapon as a weapon".

Timing note: While this update was at 12pm Pacific, this is no longer the same as 8pm UTC, due to daylight savings time beginning in the US. I'm assuming tomorrow will be the same (at 19:00/7pm UTC)?

He just fixed it. I've updated the note in the OP.

Lies! " shrieked a tall Slytherin, who'd risen up from that table. "Lies! Lies! The Dark Lord will return, and he'll, he'll teach you all the meaning of -"

What did he mean to say before Snape interrupted him?


I suspect something like "vengeance", "suffering", or maybe even "loyalty". (I like William_S's proposal, though.)
The death mark.
Hmm, random speculation: does the death mark have the power to resurrect you? (in some, not necessarily preferred or pleasant form). And the Death Eaters cannot talk about it, unless you already suspect this is the case. This would fit Snape's response from ch. 86: :
The Dark Lord had nearly the same level of cunning that Quirrellmort had in HPMoR. (A little less, since he was less experienced at the time.) That alone would explain Snape’s response. Some sort of resurrection power of the Dark Mark is very unlikely, given that Voldemort is strongly predisposed not to give that sort of power to others. (Identified as one of his weaknesses in chapter 108.)

"Fourth. One piece of exceedingly unexpected and happy news. Hermione Granger is alive and in full health, sound of body and mind. Miss Granger is being observed at St. Mungo's to see if there are any unexpected afteraffects from whatever happened to her, but she appears to be doing astonishingly well considering her previous condition."

Should be "aftereffects".

I wonder if Harry can help Draco by teaching him the True Patronus (possibly to have Draco resurrect Lucius). It would be a nice callback to their early scientific discoveries and Harry teaching Draco Patronus 1.0, although Harry might have to be very careful about how he does it.

I also notice that Lesath wasn't among the kids who'd lost parents, so they didn't find Bellatrix among the Death Eaters at the graveyard. Where is Bellatrix?

Last time we heard, Voldemort had sent her to "a safe place to recover her strength". We do not know whether this is before or after he removed her arm, or whether she survived the process. Presumably, without her arm she no longer bore a Dark Mark, and hence wasn't summoned to the graveyard.
Assuming it's her arm, which is plausible given that Harry noticed its thinness but isn't confirmed. In any case, I was mainly just raising the question.
It's also the only explanation we have for Voldemort's assertion in 108 (I think) that he has further use for "her, or rather a certain part of her".

Poor Harry, not since feeling guilty about not being able to help Lesath get his mother out of Azkaban has his inflated sense of responsibility hit him so hard. He already had this discussion in his mind, he's not Batman, but he can't help feeling it.