Bold Thinking, Part 3

‘You will rarely be caught in a lie your victim wants to believe. He wouldrather make the lie come true than expose you.” - Lucius Malfoy

“What I’m trying to get at,” Harry Potter said to the gathered BayesianConspiracy, located in the potions classroom near Slytherin, “is that thefastest course of action is to make the boldest prediction possible, thenexperiment.”

Neville asked “What do you mean by bold?”

“I mean something simple, something powerful. The old theory of planetarymotion stated that the Earth stood still and everything else moved around it.But that meant planets sometimes changed directions. That theory worked, buthad lots of convoluted answers and math. The newer, bolder theory placed thesun at the center. It made predictions that allowed easier calculations.”

“But what if that theory had been wrong?” Daphne asked a lot of clarifyingquestions, which Harry appreciated. She’d made a great addition to the groupfor that reason alone. “I mean, that theory was correct and happened to bebold, but what if the right theory was timid?”

“Well, if you make a bold prediction and are wrong, you tend to be wrongquickly,” Harry said. “I lost days trying to fine tune a prediction lastyear, when an hour of work would have told me I was wrong. In the case of anincorrect bold theory, you typically discover a counter example quickly, andthen can go back and think. It’s not that you’ll be right every time, but whenyou are wrong you’ll gain insight into the problem, and hopefully won’t wasteas much time.”

Draco and Gregory headed up the stairs, towards the offence classroom. Dracotaught again today, leading the discussion of how Ginevra Weasley’s Genies haddestroyed Nicholas Martin’s Manticore Army and Zacharias Smith’s Spectres.First year Generals had been advised to take unused army names and once“Ginny’s Genies” had formed the other two stuck with the best alliterationsthey could think of that could be considered fearsome. Like Draco feared, thebattle – such as it was - hadn’t been close. He didn’t relish talking about itfor the next hour and a half. Weasley’s army had faked being dead as hadSmith’s army. But, unlike Zacharis Smith, Ginny had thought ahead and issued astanding order to shoot dead enemies again, ‘just to be sure.’

Gregory had insisted on going with Draco. In theory, to protect Draco fromanother ambush, everyone knew Draco lectured today. In practice …

“Look,” said Gregory, “Montague and Flint are good chasers, Bletchley’s asolid keeper, if a bit uninspiring, but I just can’t work with Peregrine. Imean, he’s a good flyer, better than Vincent even, but I just never know whathe’s going to do.”

“You can hardly expect to build up the same rapport in a few days. Who is theother chaser?” asked Draco.

“I think it’s Warrington, but he’s rubbish. Won’t be good for another year, atleast. I just don’t know what to do with Derrick. I realize we’ve only hadfive days, but he has the strangest ideas about what the beater positionentails. Although I suppose it’s all up in the air this year, isn’t it? Twoforty-five minute halves? Who thinks of these things?”

They went up another flight of stairs, in the distance they heard a crash andPeeves shouting. The first years were probably behind them and didn’t know thepoltergeist’s typical ambush points. “Well, Gregory, take some comfort thatVincent is complaining to Hufflepuffs about their other beater, uh ….”

“Rickett,” Gregory supplied. Right, thought Draco, Anthony Rickett. He triedto visualize Rickett. Tall for his age, but that may just be an early growthspurt. Brown hair, kind of weaselly look. The animal, not the family.

“Anyway, I’m sure that Vincent has spent the last week complaining thatRickett isn’t a bad guy, but he’s no Gregory Goyle.” The walked past alanding, sunlight streamed through a small vertical slit of a window, with atapestry hanging besides it. Draco stopped and examined it, then spun around.

“That is one ugly thing. What are you looking for anyway?” asked Gregory. Thetapestry depicted a bunch of Trolls and a wizard wearing bright pink robesdemonstrating en pointe to the trolls, who watched attentively, with minimaldrool. Draco stood facing the other direction, but there was just a blankwall, the rare bit of empty space this high up. Normally the walls displayedpaintings, tapestries, windows, dangerous ledges, or some knick-knack. Butthis hallway had ten solid empty feet, with nothing. Draco ran his fingersacross the wall, feeling along the seams.

“I could have sworn there was a restroom here last week,” said Draco. “Rightbetween those suits of armor. I mean, I used it – really nice, better than thePrefect’s restroom that has the heated pool - and I definitely recognize thetapestry,” he waved back behind him. “I’m sure it was here.”

“I don’t imagine you could forget that,” said Gregory, examining thebackground. “This will haunt my dreams, ah! Duck!”

Draco crouched down as several spells flew over his head. He glanced to theleft and saw the Carrow sisters, Flora and Sheila poking around the cornerfiring spells. Hestia stood in a doorway on the right with another olderSlytherin girl, Viola Richmond. What was it with the Slytherin girls? Anddidn’t anybody aim for the chest anymore? Center of mass, hard to dodge. Maybethey just had terrible aim. Gregory dove across the hallway, firing blindly,and pulled himself behind the suit of armor for cover. Draco reached into hiscloak and touched the vial of liquid luck, then put it back. This didn’t seemthat desperate.

“Retreat back around the corner on three,” Gregory said and pointed his wanddown the hallway and counted “one, two, Jellyfy.” Draco ran the few steps tothe corner and turned left into the pack of Slytherin boys.

“Oh, cra…”

Gregory heard Draco’s shout, and then the Petrificus Totalus and thennothing.

Gregory fired off a few more spells at the now retreating girls and lookedback at Draco’s body, visible from the waist up as he’d fallen backwards.

“Goyle? This isn’t personal. We all like you, Gregory,” Marcus Flint’s voicecarried around the hall, “And we just need to teach your friend some manners.But you can walk away.”

“You don’t really expect that, do you Marcus?” Gregory shouted, then glancedat down the hallway. The ladies were slipping away. He didn’t bother firing onthem, but moved to get cover towards the corner.

“No, not really. But we are teammates and I,” the words ended with a sickeningcrunch and some shouts, a stupefy, a curse he didn’t recognize and HermioneGranger shouting Glisseo. There were several more shouts in responsefollowed by the sound of tumbling. Gregory ran – no point in dodging when theenemy had no line-of-sight – and crouched over Draco’s body then peeked aroundthe corner. Marcus Flint stood doubled over, bleeding from his mouth, lowerlip even larger than normal and one of his front teeth twisted slightly.

Gregory pulled Draco out of the line of fire and saw Lucian Bole, who Gregoryhad just taken the Beater position from, down on his hands and knees but stillfiring curses at Hermione. Terence Higgs, former seeker, cast anExpelliarumus and hit Granger squarely with it, her wand flying down thehall. Hermione just got up and started running towards Higgs. Gregory hitBole with a Somnium just as Hermione slid into Higg’s legs, knocking himover like a set of tenpens. They rolled over each other along the ground andthen she was on him, throwing punches into his stomach.

Boles let out a few grunts and Hermione wrestled his wand away from him,barely pausing before leaping up and breaking into a graceful run. By thispoint Marcus had recovered and, spitting out his tooth, cast Protego.Gregory’s stupefy was well aimed, but hit shields. Hermione cast a fewLagann_s and Gregory followed suit, but Marcus’s shields held and he fired apowerful _Ventus towards Gregory that sent several paintings flying off thewall, complaining loudly about students today as they clattered to the floor.Gregory ducked back just in time to see Hermione swinging through the air,legs around Marcus’s neck, then her momentum flipped him off his feet just asshe released her ankles and then landed next to him and simply kicked his wandaway before hitting him with a stupefy.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Gregory said under his breath. He walked overto Draco whose eyes followed his movements. Gregory cast finite incatatem.Draco popped up quickly, taking in the scene, while Gregory recovered thescattered wands.

“There were a few more on the stairs,” Hermione said, “but I didn’t see thembefore they slide away. Sorry. I guess it would have been useful to know whothey were. But better safe than sorry.” Gregory tossed Hermione’s wand to her.“Thanks, Gregory.”

Draco walked up to Hermione. “Are you all right? Thanks,” he said, somewhatbashfully, “for everything.” Draco inspected Higgs and Flint, both now moaningslightly, then stood up and looked at Hermione again. “If you want, I can fixup that bruise so it doesn’t show until you can get it taken care of.”

“No, I’m fine, Draco. It’s lucky I was here.”

“Yes,” said Draco, “very lucky.”

“No,” said Gregory in an excited whisper, “there’s no way she could do that. Icouldn’t do that move, it requires a good decade of martial arts training.That’s Asian quality Shaolin type stuff. No way Hermione Granger just learnsthat.” They were walking back after both offence classes, Draco lecture andthe second year class. They’d stopped by the tapestry again and Draco askedGregory to walk him through what happened - another after-action report, likethe one he’d lectured on to the first year students.

“And yet she did it,” Draco said quietly. “Or you imagined it.”

“I did not imagine that,” Gregory started and Draco just shook his head.

“No, I believe you, she really did it. You saw it, it’s true. And you areconfused.” Draco let the words hang in the air as they walked down anotherflight of stairs. “How did her hair look? How did she look, while fighting.”

Gregory considered. “I didn’t get a good view, but I’d say normal. Why?”

“You said she tumbled on the ground, tackled Higgs and rolled and punched him.But she had no dirt or dust on her. Just one bruise. Her hair looked perfect,not even mussed, when I looked at her. I thought - I don’t know - I thought Iwas infatuated with her.”

“I’m infatuated with her right now, too,” Gregory interrupted.

“Yes, I get that. I think I still am. But I think it’s not just infatuation. Ithink she’s got a glamour to keep her hair nice, repel dirt, the works. Imean, I can do all that but it’s not permanent. If I’d gone flying through theair my hair would mess up. And she also has a glow. Maybe she’s got someother spell that makes her graceful. She wasn’t sweating, either, although thefight ended so fast that doesn’t really mean anything.”

Gregory nodded. “Yeah. Yes, that sounds right. And she was graceful, like yousaid. How did you know?”

“It’s why I believe you. When I got hit, did you notice anything unusual?”

“I wasn’t looking that way. I was covering you, remember? But you were awakewhen you the fight was over. But that spell doesn’t put you to sleep…”

“It does if you hit the ground hard enough,” said Draco, “but I didn’t hit atall. Something caught me right before I hit the ground, then lowered me. Ithad to be her, unless we’re saying there was someone else around. And, I’m notsure but I think she caught me with her foot.” Draco remembered last night’slesson. “Do we have a bold prediction on what’s going on?”

They walked along in silence for three flights of stairs.

“OK, let’s just assume that she’s become pretty amazing,” said Gregory, “whichwe already knew, after Azkaban.”

“Assuming Azkaban is true,” said Draco, “which now seems likely.” Gregorynodded. “She was always anti-bully, so maybe she’s just lurking around towreck vengeance on them.”

“And not,” said Gregory slowly, “following us around because Potter asked herto.”

“Invisibly,” Draco added.

“With martial arts skills I don’t have after six years of training,” Gregorysaid.

“That she never showed last year,” finished Draco.

They walked back to the dorms in silence.

Horace Slughorn stared over his assembled Slytherin students, those who hadbeen marched from the Headmistresses office after being caught for attemptedbullying. They weren’t impressive – even ignoring that they’d lost to a secondyear girl, albeit The Girl Who Revived – but he couldn’t tolerate thepettiness, the lack of ambition.

These weren’t ringleaders, the clever rarely got nabbed in the first sweep.These, he reflected, were minions. But as he looked along the worried faces,Professor Slughorn suspected the instigators would hear everything he’d saysoon enough. He’d had the Headmistress send the bruised and defeated studentsto his potions classroom instead of meeting them in the dungeons, because thelong walk allowed time to worry. He’d finished brewing a particularly nastydraught of Baneberry potion, room smelling pungent as if a fire burned rottingflesh that left students coughing and eyes watering. It took decades toacclimate to all the smells in a potions laboratory, and only the best PotionsMasters could stomach them all.

Which didn’t make it any more pleasant for him, but he showed no sign ofdistress, unlike his charges.

“Flint, m’ boy. I’m inclined to overlook this whole thing,” said ProfessorSlughorn, as Marcus Flint’s face relaxed into a look of dumb relief, “since Iwould hate to lose the Quidditch cup as my first year. Oh, that wouldn’t do.Wouldn’t do at all, no matter how they change the rules. And if I suspend you,well, I’ll have to investigate the rest of the team and and where would we be,hmm? Nowhere good.” He turned his gaze to the other boys and noted, withsatisfaction, their watering eyes. No doubt caused by the thick musk in theair, but if needed to send them out in public others would assume they’d beencrying.

“Still, I can’t very well let you off without something. Most keep upappearances. Now,” said Slughorn, shifting his considerable bulk, as the chaircreaked plaintively, looking down at Flint, Higgs, and Bole, “I find it hardto believe that you have a serious grievance against Malfoy. None of you lostyour parents. You might have a slight against Mr. Goyle, Bole, and Malfoy is aconvenient excuse. I have my own theory, would you like to hear it?”

Judging from the nods, Professor Slughorn thought that they would.

“Given what I’ve heard about the attack, it seems that the Carrow sisters, whodo have a reason to feel slighted, are offering …. certain incentives, orbounties.” As he spoke, Slughorn carefully studied their faces and could tellthat he was wrong. The dawning realization on Marcus Flint’s face - the slowreveal that he probably could have asked for some favors - spoke volumes. Butthat same realization also meant that Slughorn had effectively punished thosegirls far worse than he could in any official capacity. He chuckled, more tohimself that to keep up the charade.

“I thought as much. I was a young man, myself, and it’s a rite of passage toallow yourself to be manipulated by some witch. You know the old saying, ‘Youcan’t fall into her arms without falling into her hands.’ Ha! But, at somepoint you must be your own man. Why, get a reputation for doling out favorsfor any witch who just smiles at you … well, you aren’t a true Slytherin.”

Terrence spoke up “Sir, it’s not just…” Slughorn silenced him with a stare anda harrumph. He’d get the exact reason later, in his own time.

“I’m sure it’s not just that, you may very well have legitimate complaints.But I expect them to be solved quietly. And I don’t expect to listen to themmyself, not today. If, in a week, a quiet week, you have complaints I’ll takethem up. But for now I want peace and quiet in my house. So I think we’llsettle for just having you clean up this room as part of a detention, insteadof discussing expulsions. Oh yes, I’m perfectly willing to clean house. And Ifind a more concrete mild threat now will often work when a distant but muchgreater threat doesn’t.”

“Greater threat, sir?” asked Boles.

“Why, with Lord Voldemort dead I can only think of three future dark lords,and you’ve managed to annoy them all during the last few weeks,” said theProfessor, easing out of his chair. “Scrub the glasswork well, and be sure notto spill any potions on you. It will burn through your skin. Give you someraging acne if you sniff to much of it, now that I think of it. You all knowwhere everything goes, and I daresay it won’t take you much more than fourhours. I’ll come check back after dinner.” He strolled out the door.

“Three?” said Martin, as they glanced among themselves.

“Three?” said Gregory, sounding surprised.

“That’s what Slughorn told them,” said Daphne Greengrass, who’d heard aboutthe entire incident the day before. The entire dating relationship of theupper classes had gone through a period of turbulence over the last twentyfour hours, including numerous slaps, hexes, curses, pleading and breakups,although a few new relationships formed as well. The witches gossip networknearly collapsed from the strain of keeping up. “Said there were three futureDark Lords. I mean, I can see Potter and Draco, no offense.”

“None taken,” said Draco, with a small bow, where he sat on his bed, perusingthe latest letter from Mother, “although I think he was just trying toconvince them to back down.”

Daphne, sitting in Draco’s chair at the desk, nodded. “Well, obviously, butthat still begs the question as to who the third Dark Lord would be.”

Gregory paced slowly. “Granger? I mean, I can’t see it, although it would besomewhat great,” Draco looked up at him quizzically, “I mean, come on. A DarkGryffindor? With a Phoenix? And she likes us. We could do a lot worse, youknow,” Draco went back to reading his letter with a sigh and Daphne just shookher head. “I did say somewhat great,” Gregory said, morosely.

“If it were me,” said Draco, “it would just be a mind game. Slughorn didn’tmean anyone in particular, he just knew that everyone expects there to be oneor two, so by saying three he makes them all stop and think. Which is probablya novel experience for them, but probably not habit forming. In any case, Ican’t think of another credible Dark Wizard of our generation…” Draco’svoice trailed off for a second, then picked back up. “I mean, certainly wecould have one, but nobody seems like a threat yet. No, he was just messingwith them.”

“You sound like you’ve just convinced yourself,” said Daphne. “But you haven’tconvinced me. In any case, I figured you’d want to know. Do you have any ideawhy they targeted you?”

“Thank you,” said Draco. “As to why, simply because they can. They’ve gotten afew shots in, but not enough to claim victory. Now it’s more about honour thanany reason.”

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