12 September 2015

Significant Digits, Chapter Twenty-One: Opfer Müssen Gebracht Werden

Significant Digits, Chapter Twenty-One:  Opfer Müssen Gebracht Werden

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“That is to say: of what possible use can an agent of the Tower be to me?” asked Lord Draco Malfoy of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Malfoy, infamous enemy of the ascendant Government, thorn in the side of the mighty Harry Potter, and increasingly powerful rhetorical force behind the Treaty of Independence.  As he stared at the teenage boy in front of him, his eyes were narrow and his lips tight with contempt.  His ice-blonde hair was almost perfectly styled, but for two stray bits of hair that artfully dipped across his forehead, as though bowing.  He held a silver-topped cane lightly -- almost carelessly -- in his hands.

His mother, the Lady Narcissa, stood at his side -- herself a figure of almost as much fame since she suddenly and inexplicably reappeared in British society after more than a decade-long absence (during which she was said to be dead, murdered by former Headmaster Dumbledore).  She smiled pleasantly.

Lawrence understood, very suddenly and with absolute completeness, just how stupid he and Annabeth had been to get involved with any of this.  To try to frame Sammy Meroveni-Bowles, fool the Tower, and solve a mystery that was clearly way out of their league.  To do anything other than report straight to the Headmistress about everything.

He tried to answer Draco’s question, but somehow his mouth and throat had gone deadly dry.  Just inhaling to speak tickled the back of his throat, and he shuddered with a cough for a moment, choking it back into a strangle since he was afraid to even cough in front of the Lord and Lady Malfoy.

The pair did nothing but watch, calmly, which was somehow even more terrifying.  Mr. Erasmus, the red-haired former Tower researcher, seemed uninterested.  He sipped his wine and stared off into space.

“I…”  Lawrence struggled to swallow, and then forced himself to continue.  “I brought information.  Things that they’ve found out in the Tower.”  He glanced over at Mr. Erasmus, the man who’d been introduced to him as a former Tower researcher, but Mr. Erasmus appeared more interested in the dram of whiskey that he was swirling around in a stemless glass goblet.

“My dear Lawrence,” said Narcissa, smiling.  “The cause of freedom has supporters everywhere.  I cannot imagine you know anything that we do not.”

“You are a… fourth year, I believe.”  said Draco.  He didn’t look at Lawrence, instead looking idly at the silver head on the cane in his hands.  “Tell me about the astonishing coincidence or whimsical connection that brought you this information.”

“Well, sir, a few days ago one of my classmates, Sammy, was hurt.  He fell.  And I got a Safety Stick to help him -- to get him to the Tower, sir.  But my friend Annabeth was right there, and she helped me.  So we all three went.”  Lawrence spoke smoothly, now, feeling a little better.  This had been rehearsed.

“This sounds rehearsed,” said the Lady Narcissa.  Lawrence felt his flesh prickle.

“Yes, madame… I practiced in front of a mirror before I went to Whizz Hard Books to try to get in touch with the Honourable,” said Lawrence.  Even though he’d been prepared for that observation, thanks to the Tower, who had anticipated it, sweat trickled down the small of his back.

“But Annabeth has been angry at the Tower, I think, sir.  Well, I know she has.  We don’t read your newsletter, since it doesn’t seem smart to have it delivered to Hogwarts, but we still hear things.  About how all the rejuvenated people seem too perfect-looking, like dolls, and how they act differently afterwards… like new people.  Like they’ve been replaced.  Annabeth’s oma -- er, her grandmother, sir -- she was just like that.  Annabeth was happy about the rejuvenation, at first, but now she feels like she’s lost her grandmother.  Like it was unnatural.”

“Your friend would have preferred her grandmother died, you’re saying?”  Draco seemed doubtful and amused, a slight smile playing on the edges of his lips.

“No, sir, but they could have just fixed her, without changing her,” said Lawrence.  He continued his story.  “And so anyway, Annabeth tried to mess things up a little bit when she went along with us.  She had a whole bunch of doxies she’d transfigured down into a rock or something, and--”

“And when she went along with you and your injured classmate, they returned to their native Form and ran amok,” said Narcissa, who shook her head, smiling but rueful at the foolishness of children.  “More like a prank than anything serious, it seems to me.  But I have had word of this; it happened.”

“Well, sir, I had this with me, when I was in there and they were questioning her, they had me sit and wait.  They put me at a huge table they have there, and told me to be quiet.  And the auror looked away for a minute… and I had this,” said Lawrence.  He reached very, very slowly and carefully into his pocket -- making it clear he wasn’t going for a wand.  Neither of the three adults seemed even slightly concerned.  But they did seem interested when he pulled a golden sphere from his pocket.  “A Time-Turner.”

“And since Harry uses his own every day, they don’t ward the Tower against them,” said Draco.  It wasn’t a new realization; he said it as if it were known information.

“So I went back an hour, and there was no one there in the past.  I wanted to go look around, but there were just people everywhere, they’re doing so much stuff there… I ended up being stuck in that room, pretty much.  The only place I could go was a little quiet room filled with doors, and even there I didn’t want to stay for more than a minute.  I just… well, I just grabbed some parchments from a desk there, and ran and hid back under the big table.”

“And you waited for the auror to bring your past self into the room, and then when your past self vanished--” said Narcissa, nodding.

“--I pretended as though I was picking up a piece of parchment from the floor.  He yelled at me, but he seemed nice enough for an auror, and didn’t stun me,” finished Lawrence.  “So… well, here.  This is everything I got.”

He reached back into his robes, and pulled out a thick wad of parchments.  They had a crease across their surface, from where they’d been folded in two, earlier.  He offered them to Lord Malfoy.

Draco didn’t take them, and neither did his mother.  They both glanced at each other for a moment, as though in silent consultation, before the Lord Malfoy finally said, “I’m not sure they would mean much to me, if I can be appropriately humble about my own limits.  Edgar?”  He was smooth in tone and neutral in affect.

Mr. Erasmus cleared his throat juicily, rising to his feet.  He found a spot for his glass, and approached, rubbing his hands together.  They were small and mottled with uneven red-and-white.  “Certainly, certainly.”  He took the documents from Lawrence, and held one corner pinched with one hand, paging through them with the other.  “Some of Vernon Wells’ work, here… Advancement Agency making great strides, it seems.  It’ll need some study, but they were already talking about this Muggle testing equipment when I left, and this is a Sanger sequence.  They’re looking for genetic marks in Veela blood.”  He paused, then puffed, “Hertability, that was it.  Looking for hertability.  Very technical.  And we knew they were on this, really.  Not interesting.”

“Oh, it’s all just slips of paper, when you get down to it,” said Draco, drily.  “Anything else that might prove more helpful?”

“This says that Richard Keflo Phillips -- squinty fellow, like everything’s blurry all the time, a mouse of a man -- has worked out how to conjure food.  Straight violation of Gamp, though, must be nonsense,” mused Mr. Erasmus.

“All right, well, look through it thoroughly, if you wouldn’t mind, and let me know,” said Draco.  “Thank you.”

Mr. Erasmus returned to his chair, taking the parchments with him.  He muttered quietly, “Marvelous… in such a short time?  My, my…”

“Draco, dear, the boy might be telling the truth,” said Narcissa Malfoy, folding her hands in front of herself demurely.  “But it seems more likely that the Tower sacrificed this information about their research -- if any of it is true or useful -- willingly.  A price of passage.  Is that so, young man?”

Lawrence didn’t trust himself to speak, and only shook his head in the negative.  She turned away from her son to look at him carefully, still smiling, and he felt like he had to pee or throw up (or both).  She could kill him.  He knew it.  She knew that he knew it -- in fact, she knew it so well she didn’t even bother to appear threatening.

The saving grace was that, even if he hadn’t been trying to deceive them, he would still be this scared, so he didn’t have to try to hide it.

In the stories about boy heroes like Harry Potter and Reynard Goupil, children could run amok and defeat evil and charge into danger.  There were always people waiting to save them if things really went wrong -- a kindly civilized centaur, or a nurturing headmaster, or someone else.  But children… they weren’t ready for this.  This was… he was in over his head...

“That’s true, Mother,” said Draco.  He lowered one end of the cane in his hands, so that he held it only by the silver snake-head.  He toyed with it, rolling the handle between his palms slowly.  “For you see, Mr. Bradwian, we know quite well that the Tower recruited you after your little time-turning adventure in the Records Room -- if that indeed happened at all.”

“He did, sir,” said Lawrence, and his voice cracked on the second word.  He didn’t even feel embarrassed, only worried that it made him seem like he was lying, as he pressed on: “And I said yes.”

Narcissa laughed, and it sounded quite beautiful and light-hearted.  It was out of place, like a melodious strain of music on the floor of a slaughterhouse.

“And you propose to bear back my chosen information, then, Lawrence?  Is that what you’re saying?” asked the Lord Malfoy.  There was a knife in his words, hidden like a slip-tip behind the soft tone.

“Yes, sir,” said Lawrence, who wished he had never started playing games.

“How interesting,” said Draco, who relished them like the air.


The three shining spheres, each made of polished silver and standing as tall as Harry, were sitting on simple frames of unvarnished wood.  On each sphere, there were two large holes at opposite ends, with other apertures a handspan apart along different points.  A single low depression, as though someone had pushed their fist gently against the cooling metal, was partway along one side, matched by a similar protrusion on the other.

Harry touched the surface of one of the silver spheres, reverently.  He was wearing his gloves, but they were fingerless: he let his fingers rest lightly on the metal, which was cool to the touch.

After a time spent in contemplation, he dragged a rolling metal podium over.  It bore a long, folded printout in dot-matrix on continuous stationery.  Ugly, but he hadn’t been able to get the much newer and nicer inkjet printers to work correctly.  Harry figured his time was too valuable; he was just going to put five engineers on retainer for the future.  More delegation meant less fun, but he wouldn’t miss some of the tasks… trying to fix the tables on the EEG output had been a nightmare.

After consulting the numbers and crudely-drawn graphs on the paper, Harry lifted his wand and touched it to one of the openings on a sphere.  He opened a pouch on his belt, and pulled free the loose end of a thick cord of dense hemp rope -- source material.  Then he concentrated, using the skill that had become as natural as breath.

Diamond, borosilicate glass, and a single layer of graphite in a honeycomb pattern began to sprout from the contact.  They were crystals joined into a single unit, formed in contravention of all natural processes: nearly transparent and perfect.  It would be an exceptionally good window, fitting deep into wells forged all along the rim of the sphere and anchored in place to an atom’s exactness.

He’d considered making the vessels entirely out of such materials (or even some of the “theoretical” materials that he and Hermione had made in their second year, while studying for their O.W.L.s).  But frankly, not even the best materials that science knew could match the mystic strength of goblin-forged silver.  As best he could tell, it was indestructible by all mundane methods.

There had been one prototype when making the combat gauntlets used by some of the Returned; Podrad the Artificer had turned out a lobster-looking medieval doodad, in the formal and useless style of ages past.  It would have worked wonderfully for blocking Muggle crossbow bolts in the days when wizards ruled their unmagical kin by force, but it lacked the vital spots for the chargers.  It was a good subject for testing, though -- shear stress, compression, penetration (by CO2 laser!), and even a good solid blast of neutrons.  That last one had been entrusted to Luna and Cedric and a hand-picked team, and kept quiet, but the results had been marvelous… the goblin-forged silver had only become more dense, without becoming radioactive.

There was probably an outer limit to its mundane durability, but Harry hadn’t yet discovered it.  The humble Sickle was one of the most amazing things the magical world had ever produced.  Wizards, in their bigotry and stupidity, had spent years oppressing goblins, never knowing that staggering power was jingling in their pockets.  Harry could only hope that the rapid restoration of their rights in recent years had been done with enough celerity and forthrightness that it repaired some of the damage.  Goblins had long memories.


Harry stepped back to admire his work, and then stepped forward again, to make sure he’d really done it.  He tapped on the glass.  Nearly transparent and extraordinarily durable… even before enchantment.  Once enchanted, it should be impervious.

Testing first, though.

Harry reached over to the dome-shaped depression in the surface of the sphere, and pushed his hand inside of it.  He stepped back to observe as a brown band of color emerged from the slight bulge on the other side of the sphere, expanding away from the center of the bulge.  It widened as it went, and it left nothing in its wake -- the sphere vanished as the band passed.  It looked as though the vessel were evaporating; although, when Harry stepped to the side, he could see that the vanishing flat side of the sphere was now the same brown as the enveloping band.  The flat cross-section of the vessel grew larger and larger, until it passed the widest part of the sphere, and then it shrank down rapidly.

In a moment, the entire sphere had vanished in the wake of the brownish band, and the flat brown end had revealed itself to be the smooth brown outer surface of a brown leather coin-purse, which had swallowed almost the whole sphere.  As the last of the sphere was placed inside of the purse, it dropped to the ground -- as though, only just then, it realized that gravity applied.

“A childhood dream come true?” asked Hermione.  Harry turned to see her leaning against the doorway, smiling fondly at him.  Bouncy brown curls framed her face.

“This is going into space,” Harry said, as he leaned down and picked up the pouch.  It was about the shape and weight of a grapefruit.  “I am holding the future in my hand,” he marveled.

“Ron Weasley’s future, specifically,” she said, approaching him.  One hand was at her neck, toying with her green-and-gold necklace.  “So I hope the testing has been rigorous.  I wish I could have helped with that, but there’s been a lot to do.”

“He’ll be fine, and you’ve contributed more than anyone to this… well, to everything we’ve done.”  Harry put the pouch in the center of the wooden frame, and gestured at it with his two hands, fingers tented together and thrusting out -- as though beginning the breast-stroke.  Obedient to the BSL command, the pouch began disgorging the vessel, which steadily swelled from a silver bowl back into the full sphere.  The brown lip of the pouch, stretching over the surface as the ship was called forth, looked like it was extruding the sphere, as if it were some otherworldly child’s toy.

Hermione pointed at the next sphere over.  “The bathysphere?”

“Well, a bathyscaphe or a submersible… but yes.  It’ll get a cone-shaped front port.  After testing, it will go to the ocean floor… and then, hopefully, right to the bottom of the Challenger Deep, the lowest point on the planet.  No one’s been down there since the Picards in the sixties.  And we’ll be able to explore far better and see more.  We’ll mount viewing mirrors and adjustable spheres with the Perpetual Light Charm on them on the outside, so we’ll be able to take full-colour video, and a bunch of other things.  We’ll even take samples to make portkeys, and we’ll leave a Cabinet down there.  And there’s some things we need to find that were dropped there, as well.”

“Okay… but then what is this one?  A second spaceship?”  Hermione pinged the surface of the third sphere with a fingernail.  It had a single slight difference from the first two: there was an additional small recess above the space for the front window.

“Something like that,” Harry said.  He lifted a hand, and thumped the surface of the first sphere, hard.  It had fully re-appeared, and the extendable pouch had been swallowed back up in its own turn within the silver lump on the rear of the ship.  The window he’d made seemed to be unaffected.  He set his gloved palm on it for a moment.  “Say, can you scratch these at all?  How do you do on goblin-forged silver?”

“My nails are a nine or so on Mohs.  I could probably scratch the window.  But goblin silver?”  Hermione put her thumbnail against the sphere, and dragged it across.  There was no effect.  “That’s why I have that little knife, so I can trim my nails.”

Harry gathered up a handful of printouts and some other parchments, covered in crabbed notes and designs. “Walk with me?”

They exited the room into the larger hall that held the rest of Material Methods, scooting carefully along the wall at one point to avoid a cauldron that was sitting on an extremely hot fire, the magical flames radiating waves of heat.  They nodded and smiled to the goblins and wizards that were busily working in the room.  Urg the Returned stopped what he was doing --  annealing mother-of-pearl to the inside of a charger cartridge -- and called out a greeting.  The sharp-toothed goblin had been there for a couple of days, sorting out some of the finer points on the chargers.

“Going well, Urg?” asked Hermione.  Harry didn’t think she knew it, but she always spoke to her Returned in an especially gentle voice.  Not as though they were fragile, but as though they just held some special warmth that she was reflecting back at them: a gentle moon to the bright sun of their devotion to her.

“Yes,” Urg said, dusting fragments of shiny iridescence from his fingertips.  “Hezekiah from the Extension Establishment spent some time here yesterday, and showed us how to stabilize the extended pocket space within each charger.  They’ll be able to hold much more of whatever we put into them.”  He had a strong Acklish accent -- guttural hoarseness on the velar consonants.

Hermione picked up the charger he’d been working on, and examined it curiously.  “What’s this for?  Air, foam, water, tear gas, grease…?”

“Potions,” said Urg.  “Cure for Common Poisons, Befuddlement Draught, and any of the others that can be breathed in.”

Harry frowned, leaning over to examine Urg’s workbench.  It was at goblin height, so he had to lean quite a ways over.  “I thought they kept going inert inside the charger?  When we did a prototype with the Muffling Draught, it just shot out like a jet and didn’t function at all.”

“The lining,” said Hermione.  “The mother-of-pearl sustains the potion?”

“And there’s a nozzle for the front, to mist it,” said Urg.  He went back to the workbench, and held up a small nozzle.  It looked like a copy in metal of a Muggle spray-bottle nozzle.  “The only trick was keeping the Undetectable Extension Charm stable, and I think we’ve solved that.”

“This is wonderful, Urg,” Hermione said.  The goblin drew himself up very tall, and nodded, the tips of his long ears bobbing with the motion.

“Thank you,” he said.

“We’ll let you get back to it,” said Harry.  “But I wonder if you might take a moment, some day next week, to speak to the Science Program students about this?  Not specifics… but just the way you approached the problem.”

Urg shrugged.  “Yes, if you’d like.  It’s just as the old proverb says...” he said, and accompanied it with a fluent line of Gobbeldegook.  He paused, then translated for the humans: “Make it and break it and make it until it stays made.”

“I might need to have that engraved on the wall,” said Harry, as he and Hermione began walking again.  “Thanks.”

Urg nodded again, and sat back down to his work.  The Tower and the Goddess proceeded out of Material Methods and down the corridor.

“We need to change tactics when it comes to Malfoy,” said Harry, as they walked side-by-side down the featureless corridors.  They passed the quiet Records Room, the noisy Conjuration Conjunction, and the humid Vision Verge.

“Yes… I know about your tactics so far, Harry.  And why you need to change them.  It wasn’t hard to guess,” said Hermione, quietly… a little coldly.

Harry heard her, but was distracted for a moment.  He ducked back the way they came, and called into the Vision Verge, where the two researchers of that department were concocting a clear, viscous substance, turning it over in thick folds with a large metal spoon.  “Hey!  It doesn’t matter if that mercury is enchanted, the vapours are still toxic!  First degree of caution, please!”

The chagrined researchers, who’d started in surprise at the sudden interruption and command, set the large metal spoon down and got out their wands to begin putting up the precautions.  Harry nodded severely.

When he returned to her side, he said, “Yes… it’s been necessary for a long time.  You came to me after the bombing in Diagon Alley with Tonks, and you both were right, then.  I’ve been waiting because… well, the time wasn’t right.”

As they entered the meeting room, Hermione closed the door behind them, and glanced around.  They were alone.

“No,” she said, leaning against the door.  “I know.  I know you haven’t been trying to stop Draco and Narcissa.”

Harry controlled his reaction.  He’d been expecting this.  He limited himself to nodding, thoughtfully, as he walked over to the big table.

She crossed her arms, and went on.  “I even understand the reasons behind it.  But what I don’t understand is why you wouldn’t tell me.  Why you’d keep it a secret.”

He sighed.  I knew this was coming.  Another reason to step up more obvious aggressive action… it’s becoming apparent that we’re not really taking on the Honourable.  We move hard to advance our own interests, but barely do anything to restrain the Malfoys.

“I wanted to control the game… I wanted one game, as much as could manage,” Harry said.  “World politics was too balkanized, with too many separate sets of interests.  The States and most of the rest of the Americas are all about advancing their own power and pushing back against the ‘British imperialism’ that they think has been dominating the world since Merlin.  I mean, not that they’re wrong, but…”  He shrugged.  “Europe is a muddle of old feuds, like Cappadocia and Cyprus… the Sawad and Africa splinter into different factions on a regular basis… and the Ten Thousand are-- well, I don’t actually understand what’s going on between the twelve of them.”

“Harry James Potter-Evans-Verres,” said Hermione, sharply, “if you dare to try to explain the basics of game theory to me, I am going to be rather cross with you.  I can see why you did it: you wanted to create a conflict game where there are only two sides -- and as close to zero-sum as you could get.  I’m going to leave aside the arrogance of trying to manipulate world politics on this scale -- I mean, honestly, the Cold War version of this left the world with thousands of nuclear bombs! -- and just say that you should have told me.”

Harry faced away from her for a long moment, staring at the glossy wood of the table.  He leaned on it, and thought about what to say.

“It’s not that I don’t trust you.  I trust you implicitly,” he said, still gazing at his own reflection in the table’s surface.  “You’re intuitively good… I have to think through utility functions and weigh the benefits, but you… you carry goodness around like pennies in your pocket.  Not that intuition is the best way to get correct utilitarian results, but… I have to admit your record on moral decisions is a lot better than mine.  Results matter.  So it’s not that… it’s not trust.”  He paused.  “But you and Draco were… close.”

He heard Hermione about to speak behind him, as she drew in a breath.

“That’s not what I mean,” he said hastily, turning around.  Her eyes were bright and fixed on him, as if she could pin him to the floor and wrest out his secrets with the intensity of her scrutiny.  “But you spent a lot of time together, after our first year.  I know he really helped you, when you couldn’t get the-- when you had trouble with the Patronus.”  Her gaze stayed steady.  “And you’re so open and clear to everyone… it’s why you’ve been so effective at convincing people to join the Treaty for Health and Life.”

But you’re terrible at deception.  You never had to learn it: you have always won by sheer dint of cleverness and hard work.  You’ve gotten a little better at dissembling and lying as you’ve become more of a politician, but carrying on a charade where we were working our hardest to crush the Honourable threat?  I couldn’t risk it.  People like Reg Hig would see through you after a single conversation.

But none of that was the right thing to say.  You can’t convince someone out of their feelings like that… it ended up sounding like you were saying that their feelings were wrong or illegitimate.  Even if you succeeded in reasoning someone out of all of their objections, you didn’t make them feel better or repair the breach.  He’d learned, all too well, that emotions could overwhelm everything else, in the moment.  Once you get past that, and get on with it, you can get back to being rational and

“No,” Hermione said, firmly, as though she knew exactly what he was thinking.  “I am not a delicate flower, and I am not an irrational woman overcome by my past and my emotions, and I am not standing on a bloody pedestal while you take the hard decisions on yourself.  I’m not--”  She paused, seeming to think of something else for a moment, then added, “I’m not a bloody pawn in your game.”  She walked towards him until she was only a pace away, her jaw rigid with anger.  Harry became aware that he’d leaned back against the table away from her, without being conscious of it.

“But after Granville, you were… I mean, you’re out there all the time, open to attack and facing the public, and--” he said, starting and restarting his explanations.

Hermione reached to the table next to him, took hold with a few fingers, and casually twisted.  The beveled edge of the wood, fully an inch thick, snapped off with a loud cracking noise.  She shifted the thick chunk to her palm, and ground it to splinters with a few motions of her hand.  Broken pieces of the destroyed fragment of table pattered to the floor like rain.

“And I’m too fragile?”  She opened her hand, releasing a scattering of dust.  Her voice was bitter, arch contempt underlying every syllable.  “You didn’t tell me about your proposed plan because you didn’t think I’d be able to handle it… because you thought I’d be in a conference in France or Germany or America, and someone would ask why we weren’t cracking down on the Honourable, and I’d muff it.  Because you don’t think of me as a full equal.  I’m your equal only on very specific terms… spellcraft and tactics and combat and ethics.  But when it comes to the big decisions on strategy?  You only trust your own judgment, even after everything.  That’s the only real reason for this.  You’re the Dumbledore, watching over me, and I’m the child.”

“I-- I’m… I’m sorry, I--”  He felt overwhelmed, and wanted to protest, No, no, that’s not true… we’re full partners, but he was too well-trained in the art of avoiding avoidance, and so he was already critically assessing his own thought processes, and wondering if she was right about all of that, and he had the sickening suspicion that she was.  If someone is your full partner, you don’t use a grand strategy that leaves them in the dark.  That’s what you do with subordinates.  Which was how he’d been treating her… in this, anyway.

“I’m going to stop Draco from dragging any more people into his nasty little Treaty of Let People Die, don’t worry about that,” Hermione said, as she jabbed a finger into his chest.  She was being gentle, he knew, since it didn’t hurt him.  Even as she felt betrayed, she was gentle with him.  He felt like an unbelievable jackass.

She stalked out of the room, pausing only to say one last thing.

“Voldemort didn’t think he had any equals, either.”


NOTE:  I am aware that graphene wasn’t yet produced in a real way until years after 1999, but it was observed and studied for many decades before that, and scientists began trying to synthesize it in the seventies.

What do you want from me
you who walk towards me over the long floor

your arms outstretched, your heart
luminous through the ribs

around your head a crown
of shining blood

This is your castle, this is your metal door,
these are your stairs, your

bones, you twist all possible
dimensions into your own

      -- Margaret Atwood


  1. Well she says she isn't fragile but her emotional reaction to being told she sucks at lying and then telling him she refuses to follow the plan without any coherent argument makes Harry seem more and more correct in his assessment

    1. I actually find Hermione to be my least favourite character in both HPMoR and SigDig because of this.

      More specifically, it feels like Hermione is supposed to be the Heart/Conscience/Minder, who makes sure that Harry doesn't go off into the deep end (with Voldemort being all the way in already).

      However then you get scenes like these, where so far as I can tell the only real mistake Harry is making is that he isn't being very nice or mindful of the feelings of others. Yes, those are definitely bad personality traits, but...

      If your closest ally has the unfortunate flaw that they are incapable of keeping a secret (or at the very least are very likely to tip people off by virtue of being a bad liar) keeping crucial information hidden from them is the RIGHT thing to do, if your objective is actually high enough a priority.

      Harry's plan for saving the world requires there to be secrets and hidden actions which as few people as possible should know about. This scene feels like an Aesop about how you shouldn't keep secrets from those close to you, but given the circumstances sparing Hermione's feelings could have been significantly worse than making her feel like Harry doesn't trust her to keep a secret.

      It's an Aesop, but either Hermione is SUPPOSED to be a flawed conscience or I'm just heavily in disagreement with both Eliezer and Alexander about what's important. Either Hermione is supposed to be a grating character or I just don't agree with the story.

    2. Hermione doesn't know that Harry doesn't trust her with a meaningful lie, and he knows that telling her this then hurts his ability to lie to her in the future. So her anger could be appropriate given her level of knowledge and assumptions, though she does reject the possibility that there could be a legitimate reason to lie to her, and it could thus not be explained why. She represents the ideal, assuming complete honesty is the best solution, which can be true in many scenarios

  2. It was really hard to visualize that scene with those silver spheres. I still don't get it too well.

  3. hm, well this makes it seem very much like the opposition of draco is real. One of the reasons I suspected otherwise was that it just seemed implausible for Draco to be on the opposing side. Looking forward to the explanation of motives.

  4. As much as I like both of these stories (why the fuck would I be reading a Harry Potter fanfic fanfic otherwise?), I feel like both stories have the flaw of the female characters being a little one-dimensional. JKR wasn’t great to her female characters either, but they all felt like real people- whereas McGonigal and Hermione generally don’t seem to quite get there in these stories (with the exception of the first scene in Diagon Alley in HPMOR).

    I will say on the other hand that Harry’s response in this scene is great- he avoids the mistake that many men make in talking to women and actually wonders if Hermione could be right, rather than just trying to prove her wrong. It’s things like that that make their friendship feel real.

    1. And he does also get points for that Margaret Atwood quote.

    2. For McGonagall, I think that's partly intentional. She is the archetypal good witch, representing the best of magical society that nevertheless is the unthinking foil to HJPEV's rationalism.

      In HPMOR, all the characters except HJPEV and Voldemort were somewhat one dimensional. It was a story about those two, everyone else was just along for the ride.

  5. I normally wouldn’t point this out, but Mr Erasmus is really taking his life into his own hands and breaking the rules of transfiguration: in the course of two paragraphs, he changes his glass of wine into a stemless glass goblet of whiskey.

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  7. Ironically, Hermione has never looked more fragile and childish and delicate and irrational than in this scene that seems like it's trying to demonstrate how not-fragile and not-childish and not-delicate and not-irrational she is. I really hope that was deliberate on the author's part, and he didn't actually think this makes her look like a Strong Independent Woman™. I really hope this was part of the author's plan, and the rest of the plan involves Hermione having a character arc that redeems this scene.