Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality prediction thread

Three days ago, Eliezer Yudkowsky posted the first update in a long time to Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, his excellent Harry Potter fanfic. A note at the beginning of the chapter has suggestions for which chapters to re-read in case you’re having trouble remembering what’s happened already. I just wasted an evening re-reading those chapters, searching for clues as to what happens next, because the next update is supposed to be tomorrow and I wanted to test my ability at prediction making. Most of you can ignore this post, but for those who are fans of the fic, my predictions are below the fold, and I’d be happy to hear yours as well.

First of all, I predict that Sirius Black will soon be making an appearance in the fic. This is because, among the chapters Eliezer suggested re-reading were chapters where Harry received messages from a mysterious benefactor. In canon, Sirius was a mysterious benefactor to Harry, and in the fic the mysterious benefactor’s messages strongly implied he knew Harry’s father very well, and came with some evidence of this. So the mysterious benefactor has to be Sirius.

Unless it’s Peter Pettigrew. But the intentions of the mysterious benefactor seem to genuine for that, unless Pettigrew really is a good guy in this universe. And while we know Pettigrew didn’t never hid out as the Weasley family rat, and Eliezer has Harry come down really hard on the alleged ridiculousness of Sirius Black having been framed, my guess is that Eliezer decided to leave that part of the Harry Potter mythos unchanged. In the author’s notes for chapters 33-34, Eliezer gives a list of possible reasons for changes to the story relative to canon, and none of them seem to cover making Peter Pettigrew good. They do say, however:

Writing a children’s book is much harder than writing a story for grownups. I can’t do it. Therefore this is a story for grownups… and that means it is impossible that an evil Peter Pettigrew is hiding out as Scabbers, the pet rat of an enemy wizarding family. In a children’s book, this can be taken in passing. In a story for grownups, it would mean Pettigrew was holding the Idiot Ball. It is a general law of MoR that no one is ever holding the Idiot Ball.

This suggests that the betrayal of Harry’s parents, and the Sirius/Pettigrew confrontation, both happened as in canon, but Pettigrew just did something smarter afterwards.

Second prediction: I predict that Mr. Hat and Cloak will be revealed to be an agent of Lucius Malfoy. Lucius is utterly horrified at the thought of his son becoming friends with Hermione, and no one else has the motivation to go to such ridiculous lengths to hurt Hermione. Lucius also has reason to want to turn Quirrell against Dumbledore (see chapter 35): he probably doesn’t know all that much about Quirrell, but probably knows enough to figure turning Quirrell against Dumbledore would hurt Dumbledore, and Lucius hates Dumbledore.

Given what I’ve said so far, it just feels right for Peter Pettigrew to turn up soon too, especially if he did something relatively smart after faking his death. Maybe he’s Mr. Hat and Cloak? That actually kinda makes sense, if he went to Lucius to say, “please hide me!” after faking his death and Lucius decided to use him for dirty work.

  • Anonymous Atheist

    Glad to see updates happening again. I haven’t put the time into reading most of it yet, but I like the idea, and am impressed with its voluminousness and popularity.

    People interested in HPMOR may also be interested in this fanfic I found today with a similar rationality focus, but set in the Twilight universe: http://luminous.elcenia.com/
    It’s not nearly as popular as HPMOR, but here’s a few positive reviews: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13409450-luminosity

  • Robert B.

    ** SPOILERS FOR MOST RECENT CHAPTER **

    Actually, I think that Hat-and-Cloak is Sirius, trying to make Hermione mistrust Draco for Hermione’s sake. Note how honestly surprised he seemed when Hermione didn’t trust him. And everything he’s told her would be either true or a good guess from his perspective. (Frankly if Draco had the goals he’s pretending to have, he should have been plotting against Hermione from the moment the Sunshine Regiment proved competent if not sooner.) Notice all the Snape hate, too.

    The arrest, too, is very very strange. Draco wouldn’t have told anyone about that duel under pain of torture, especially if Hermione almost killed him. And he would have a very good case to convince Lucius not to tell, either, if the duel was sworn to secrecy on the word of the House of Malfoy. Obviously Hermione wouldn’t spread information that might lead to her arrest either. So whoever let the secret out
    isn’t working with either of them.

    My prediction: Sirius (as Hat-and-Cloak, or perhaps the White Lady) witnessed the duel, saw Draco win (he is magically stronger, and Hermione is at a disadvantage if you cut her off from her friends). Sirius, expecting Draco to break the rules of the duel and harm the unconscious Hermione, intervened and fired a lethal curse at Draco, possibly using Hermione’s wand. (His original would have been snapped – does he have a new one yet?) Draco survived, possibly with injuries. Either because the adult-level curse drew extra attention/set off alarms, or because one or both kids was left unconscious on the trophy room floor, the adults found out about the duel but not about Hat-and-Cloak, Aurors were called in, and the evidence was interpreted to mean that Hermione had tried to kill Draco.

    Of course, in a world with Veritaserum, this is going to be resolved pretty quickly, unless Sirius was an utter jerk, and altered Hermione’s memory so that she remembers casting a lethal curse. Which would be tricky, since I doubt she can cast a lethal curse. She might refuse the Veritaserum in case accepting it would count as violating the secrecy terms of the duel – do you think criminal suspects have the right to refuse Veritaserum in this universe?

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

      Hmmm, interesting, but if Sirius is also Santa Claus, what happened to make Sirius think Harry isn’t trustworthy?

      (You know… when I think about how confident Hat and Cloak was about Harry turning evil, I can’t help but wonder if maybe he is a time traveler after all…)

      • Robert B.

        Hm. I’ll admit I hadn’t integrated that side of things into my theory. Maybe (gasp!) Quirrel was telling the truth about the portkey, and Sirius has been working against Harry for longer than it appears. Old issues with James, maybe?

        And maybe Sirius isn’t Santa Claus, though I admit that’s not something I’d have suspected otherwise.

  • noastronomer

    “… it is impossible that an evil Peter Pettigrew is hiding out as Scabbers, the pet rat of an enemy wizarding family.”

    Actually, I thought that part was spectacularly clever. What he did afterwards was pretty dumb, but hiding out with the Weasleys was a stroke of genius.

    • Robert B.

      It seems like a good idea if you look at it on its own. But compare the risk of pretending to be a pet rat for the Weasleys, to the risk of pretending to be a pet rat for an ordinary Muggle family in, say, Budapest, or Johannesburg, or Rio. Or even London.

      • Anat

        Still smarter than traveling to Albania to bring Voldie back. And then sticking with him. Is that really better than life as a rat in the dumpster of a restaurant?

  • Robert B.

    Will there be a new thread for chapter 79, or shall we just continue here?

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

      Continue here.

      Now off to read chapter 79 for myself.

      Just occurred to me that the title, “taboo tradeoffs,” is probably a clue that whoever’s been messing with Hermione probably has good motives… so maybe Sirius = Santa Claus = Hat and Cloak after all.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

      Okay, in this chapter, we find out that Dumbledore is Santa Claus (so much for the Sirius theory), and all suspicion is falling on either Quirrell or Voldemort as responsible for what happened to Hermione. And as you know if you’ve read the authors notes, Quirrell is Voldemort.

      On reflection, it’s actually completely obvious that Mr. Hat and Cloak is Quirrellmort. After all, Quirrellmort is really who benefited from what Blaise Zambini did, even though Mr. Hat and Cloak claimed the goal was to turn Quirrell against Dumbledore. That was just to prevent Blaise from suspecting what was really going on.

      Similarly, Quirrellmort can honestly claim to know “I know the true reason for the coldness you see in Harry Potter’s eyes. I know the true nature of Professor Quirrell’s mysterious illness. I know who Dumbledore truly fears. He’s also probably the only person who would think to predict that Harry would hurt Hermione.

      What threw me off from figuring this out earlier, I guess, is that Mr. Hat and Cloak’s methods seemed so crude, too crude for Quirrellmort. But the problem Quirrellmort was having was not lack of ability manipulating people, but lack of experience dealing with people like Hermione specifically. The Hat and Cloak routine worked just fine on Slytherin Blaise Zambini.

      On the other hand, one thing Eliezer does really well is write characters trying to throw off other characters from figuring out their motives/identity. Better than he intends to be, maybe, so that his readers end up confused about what’s really going on when Eliezer intends it to be figure-outable.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

      Oh, and I still haven’t figured out what Quirrellmort gains from this. Is it to remove Hermione as a positive influence on Harry? To make Harry hate the government of Magical Britain even more? To further manipulate Harry into doing something that benefits his long-term agenda, whatever that is?

      Another prediction: I predict that Voldemort will try to resurrect using the same ritual he used in Goblet of Fire, but just as it seems likely that he will use Bellatrix Black, rather than Peter Pettigrew, for the “servant” part, he will also use someone else–namely Dumbledore–for the “enemy” part. Maybe, given what Snape and Alistair have been doing to all those graves, he’ll also find an alternative interpretation to the “father” part? Hmmm…

      Actually, I’m not sure it benefits Voldemort to use Dumbledore as the “enemy,” and doing something like that just for the sake of flair is at odds with the HPMOR philosophy. Unless Voldemort doesn’t want to come back full force until Dumbledore has been defeated.

    • Robert B.

      I’m beginning to really doubt that we are on the rails of anybody’s plan right now. If Hat-and-Cloak is the same person as the framer and it’s all according to his plan, said plan requires the following things to happen:

      1. Hermione believes the lies about Snape and Draco plotting together against her.
      2. Hermione tells Draco what she now believes.
      3. Hermione beats Draco in public.
      4. Draco takes the “forced move” in a way that permits Hermione to be framed – cheating in a public duel, or for that matter fighting fair in a public duel, would not have worked.
      5. Hermione fails to outmaneuver Draco in response.
      6. The Wizangemot and Aurors behave as predicted even after both Harry and Dumbledore know what’s going on.

      This supposed plan is breaking Malfoy’s Law like crazy. (“Any plan that requires more than three separate things to happen is a bad plan. Since only an idiot would want a plan that is as complicated as possible, the real maximum is two.”) The plotter would have to be something like three orders of magnitude smarter than Lucius Malfoy to think this is practical – even Quirrellmort isn’t that good. Especially since most or all of those six steps requires someone smart to make a serious error, which is a relatively low probability event.

      I think we’re looking at an improvised clusterfark that no one planned. Given how many non-communicating sides are in this game, it’s even possible that so many people contributed, in enough ignorance of each other’s actions, that even now no one thinks they’re responsible or knows what happened. Certainly if framing Hermione is Quirrell’s objective, he wouldn’t be deliberately drawing Auror suspicion on himself. (We’re supposed to believe he doesn’t know what’s in Quirrell’s passport? Please.)

      • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

        In Quirrellmort’s mind, the plan probably looked more like:

        (1) Provoke Hermione into doing something or other that allows her to be framed.
        (2) Frame her.
        (3) ???
        (4) Profit

        And the ??? is only from our perspective, Quirrellmort probably knows the intended effect.

        1-5 isn’t the only way you can end up with Hermione doing something stupid that allows her to be framed, or even does something that gets her in enough trouble without any framing going on. Eliezer has actually written about how we tend to underestimate the probability of events that could come out in many different ways (though I don’t know if that has been mentioned in HPMOR). So 1-5 are effectively “one thing” that has to happen for purposes of Lucius’ Law, but one thing that happened to have come about many different ways.

        As for (6), I bet Quirrellmort considers the workings of the government of Magical Britain so predictable that that barely constitutes a step. And it’s not really true that Harry and Dumbledore know what’s going on; they have a theory mainly motivated by their knowledge of Hermione’s character but they don’t know for sure the culprit and have no evidence that could convince anyone else.

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