“Trust but verify. Distrust and verify. Remain uncertain and verify. Alwaysverify.” - Lucius Malfoy
Imagine you are a future Voldemort, aged twelve.
You are surrounded by lesser wizards, wizards you will mock, torture, and killwith impunity when you are older. They are, all of them, beneath you. You longfor that day to come, when you cast off your mask of civility and seizecontrol. But now you are at Hogwarts and while you are considerably advancedfor your age, such that you defiantly face down older students, possibly evenseventh years, there are teachers that wield far more power than your tinybody can hold.
After all, Magic grows with age, and you are so very young.
Not only magical power, but magical efficiency increases with knowledge, andwhile you are a diligent future Dark Lord you’ve only had so many hours oflife and some of those around you have a century head start. You gnash yourteeth, but railing against the injustice inherent in youth does not (so far asyou can see) increase your power. So you control your rage.
Perhaps you bully smaller children or lesser children, but that would be arisk if discovered. A teacher might notice, might decide that you are toounstable to share any secrets with. You dare not bully Muggles outside ofschool, not with magic, lest you attract the attention of the Ministry ofMagic and have your wand snapped. Your rage is great, but so is your intellectbecause you have no intention of being a stupid Dark Wizard.
Imagine your frustration.
In older, less enlightened times, undoubtedly you would let your rage fly offthe handle from time to time. You couldn’t keep it bottled in for years ordecades. You would arrange for ‘accidents’ and fights that could be labeled asyouthful indiscretions - just kids being kids - a heat-of-the-moment duel thatgot out of hand.
But those were other times and you, you are a Dark Wizard who learned how tolose at the youngest of ages, which meant how pretend to lose. ProfessorQuirinus Quirrell taught you personally, in your first week of classes. No,you will not make that mistake. You will be charming - as charming as youcan stand, which isn’t much but you’ll try - and beloved by teachers who willbe happy to reveal their secrets to you, their favorite student. You will thenresearch on your own and reveal your improved, better knowledge to them. Theywill mark you as important, and seek to curry favor with you, not because youare Dark but you may very well grow up to be the next Albus Dumbledore, andthey would like to be able to brag, to say “I taught him that” or “I knew himwhen he was just a child.” Yes, even a Dark Lord needs allies, at this age.
So you make allies.
You channel your rage, mask it with a bewildering array of habits that maysometimes harm those around you but never appear malicious. Even those youhate will be able to consider you as a friend, or if not friend then at leasta convenient and useful ally. You cannot bring yourself to act as if you werebeneath anyone else your age. But you can pretend you have equals. A few, notmany. With them, you are usually friendly but sometimes put them in terrifyingsituations as a joke, a way to blow off steam. You may even get one of themkilled, if you can arrange it. That would be useful, a memory you cantreasure. You are a smart Dark Wizard, and if you do murder from time to time,you’ll get away with it.
You will grow up to be a Dark Wizard. Your rage won’t trip you up.
But you may make another mistake that would let an observer unmask you,reveal your intentions to the world. Maybe one you don’t even notice.
Draco Malfoy sat as his desk, drumming his fingers, trying to imagine whatmistake Harry Potter would make if he were a future Dark Wizard. He’d donethis exercise several times already. And he’d always reached the samedecision: Harry Potter would act identically whether he intended to beVoldemort or not, if he were clever. And Harry Potter was definitely clever.
It was no help, imagining yourself as Harry Potter.
Draco needed evidence that he lived with a future Dark Lord. Luckily this wasimportant, not urgent. Draco had a head start in studying, and Potter couldn’treveal himself anytime soon. If Draco could get proof enough to convinceothers, he guessed he still had five years. Maybe a bit less.
If it came to that.
Draco stood in the middle of the Hospital. He’d been thoroughly searched, ashe had been every time. He’d gone through the anti-magic zone. The Aurorshadn’t found anything, and since they normally didn’t do more than keep awatch on this area, the safe area, there was only one Auror on duty staring athim. He looked at the rows of beds on it, most of the patients wereunconscious, but some were moaning. Orderlies were fetching water, trying tomake them comfortable.
“Could you please turn around, sir” said Draco to the burly Auror watchinghim.
“Now why would I do that,” he asked?
“Because you know I’m trying something,” said Draco. “And that’s a falseadvantage. In a real security breach you wouldn’t know who to be watching.There are other people here. This is hard enough without you knowing who isthe bad guy. So this extra attention is unfair.”
“Oh, I was just watching to see what happens,” said the Auror. “It gets a miteboring these days, not like the summer when everyone was attacking this place.Right filled up Azkaban’s cells. Well, what’s left of it, anyway.” The Aurorpaused, thinking, tapping his wand against his cheek in an offhand manner.Draco had noticed that patients who went into the healing area never came out.There was another exit, into a different area. One way doors, probably. “Tellyou what, anything funny happens and I’ll count to three, which is slower thanI’d give. And if it’s subtle, I’ll count to ten.”
Draco sighed. “I suppose that’s fair,” Draco said, and walked over to the spothe’d arranged.
There was a small Whamf and Dobby appeared.
“One …. oh hahahahaha! Oh, that’s good!” The Auror had stopped counting,doubled over in laughter.
“Dobby is very sorry, sir. The others ambushed him.” Dobby wasn’t holdingDraco’s wand, wasn’t holding anything at all. In fact, he rolled slowly aroundon the spot where he appeared. Several of the patients sat up from their bedto look and see what the commotion was. Dobby rolled, tied up in small ball ofwhat looked like Acromantula webbing, leaving only his face free. “It wasn’tDobby’s fault, sir! Oh dear…”
Another House Elf appeared in a small puff and bowed to Draco, and then theAuror.
“Your wand is safe, sir! And we will return it,” the elf said, “once you leavethe hospital area.” The elf bowed again, then disappeared.
Dobby kept spouting apologies but, bundled as he was, couldn’t smash his faceinto anything and just rolled around the floor, as the other patients startedlaughing.
“Thank you all for coming to this optional evening session of Muggle Studies,”said Professor Asimov.
Draco sat in the Muggle Studies lecture hall, which was packed to capacitywith students of all years and houses. Draco could see Luna Lovegood sittingin the front row, wearing bizarre glasses made of paper with one red lens andone green one. Ron Weasley sat chatting with Fred and George, who wereignoring him. The hall was full of students, those who thought Muggles exotic,the teacher’s pets, the curious, and a few with nothing better to do. Harryhad dropped hints for days that Draco should really attend, that everyone whomissed it would be jealous, that he envied Draco the experience and Dracoagreed just to get Harry Potter to shut up.
Which wasn’t rational, except that it achieved Draco’s desired goal. In anycase, Draco planned to attend because he’d triggered this session during oneof his discussions with Professor Asimov. Draco had stopped by to ask a fewquestions and had been asked “Why do so many of your colleagues resist myclass?”
Draco had thought about it, then answered.
“Inertia, mostly. Many believe that Wizarding society is better, as a matterof course. To a certain extent it depends on your viewpoint, but until thelast two centuries they were probably correct. Some Muggles lived better thanthe average Wizard, but very few. But mostly, you are teaching a class and notshowing them any benefit to them.”
“Ah, of course. It’s obvious once you say it. Students ignoring professors isthe natural order in both worlds. I have to find something interesting.”
So, when last class the Professor had announced a special session that “Wouldnot be on your test, but would be ‘something interesting.’” Draco resolved togo.
So he sat there, while Professor Asimov walked the stage. “Thank you all forattending opening night. This is a movie, a muggle play. As you may knowMuggles can make moving pictures like wizards, but require special equipmentto do so. We’ve finally fitted out this hall with that equipment and workedout some of the problems with magic and technology. In consultation with someof your Muggleborn students, I’ve tried to pick a movie that is educationalabout muggle society. And we’ll see some of those … later. For now we’vepicked something that is just enjoyable. Rest assured that none of the beastsyou see in this film exist, at least not as we know, and that most of thetechnology is also make believe. In many ways, this is a modern day children’sstory, but as we all know fairy tales form a large part of any society. And itis undoubtedly popular.”
Harry Potter, sitting in the projectionist booth, dimmed the lights andflicked on projector, which had taken him days to set up, but incorporatingmagic and technology was a long term research goal anyway. He reached over forhis popcorn just as the main theme blare of John Williams famous scoreannounced the beginning of the movie and the slow introductory text crawled.
The next day eight students received detention for Lucius Gladius fights inthe hallway.
Muggle Movie Night became a popular tradition.
It was late Wednesday night, several days after the last meeting of theBayesian Conspiracy, when Harry Potter walked into the room he shared withDraco and Gregory.
“Why don’t you include us in your other conspiracy,” Draco asked, “the oneyou do instead of going to classes all day like a normal student?”
“I don’t have to be in,” Gregory added, right hand by his ear. “Unlike somepeople, I like having down time. Of course, if its interesting…” They’d beenplaying exploding snap and Gregory felt that Harry Potter’s sudden entrancehad robbed him of his glory. Some of it. Gregory flicked his fingers forwardand pop! felt vindicated.
“I’ve considered it a lot. I want to. But I just can’t, not yet. I need tomanage risks.” Telling secrets was frequently just one of those things HarryPotter couldn’t do. Not without Hermione’s blessing. He could tell those whoalready knew, of course. He could evade. But Hermione’s arguments that summerabout slowing down had actually bound his tongue even more. He couldn’t trustDraco Malfoy completely.
Draco’s training wasn’t complete.
“And we’re a risk,” Draco said flatly.
“I don’t think so,” said Harry. “It’s one of those things that’s impossible toknow, so the only cure is more time. It’s like we discussed last year, youcan’t just barge into a fast friendship, or something like this. And lastspring raised the stakes dramatically.”
“Do you know why I conceded my duel, Harry?” Gregory gave a start, then wentover and closed the door, and started to ward it. His wards weren’t asadvanced as Harry’s own, or even Draco’s, but Gregory knew more than thecurriculum had covered.
“To avoid upsetting the Jugsons. Which apparently worked, if rumour is true.”
Gregory spoke up. “A great move serves multiple purposes.”
While Draco nodded, Harry thought. He could see a lot of possible reasons. Butreasoning from so little information was difficult…
Draco interrupted “Do you play chess, Harry? I’ve got two sets.”
“I know the rules to Muggle chess,” Harry said, “not Wizard Chess.”
They set up the board, Draco explaining while Gregory took out the the pieces- green for Draco and silver for Harry - and placed then on the boardcarefully, so as not to annoy them. After each piece was set down, it marchedover to its assigned square. Draco had already covered pawns and knights whenHarry interrupted.
“The rook moves horizontally, and the pieces seem to be heading for the rightstarting locations. I think they are the same rules for Muggle chess,actually.”
“How do Muggles make the pieces move, then?” asked Gregory.
“They just pick them up and move them. How do wizards do it? Wands?”
“No, you tell which piece what you want to do and you have to convince it,”said Gregory. “That’s what makes it interesting.”
Draco looked stunned. “So, you just physically move the pieces? That … That’s… awesome. No backtalk? No second guessing? If you discover a brillianttactic you can just do it and not to have some knight turn left instead ofright because he felt like it? Sounds amazing, although not nearly as usefulfor teaching how to think. We have to play Muggle chess! Later, though. ”
Draco took out his wand, tapped it on the table. The pieces stood up a bitstraighter, at attention.
“Silver pieces – Just as Father gave you to me, I now give you to Potter. Youfollow his instructions. Understood?” The pieces agreed, some grumbling. Thequeen, apparently, didn’t like the look of the new boy. A few pawns whisperedconspiratorially. The king’s bishop snored, only to be prodded awake by theKing himself, who lilted disapprovingly.
“Pawn to King Four,” said Harry Potter. The pawn stood there, twistingslightly, as though looking over it’s shoulder back to Harry. “Um … Pawn toKing Four Please?” The pawn untwisted and marched forward two spaces. The gameproceeded quickly. Draco, whenever making a move, would simply point out thatit was good move, offered the piece a chance for glory, to help his teammates,or simply promised the piece it would be safe. Harry, by contrast, had towrangle the pieces considerably. But like many gifted children Harry had beenintroduced to Chess and spent several weeks studying it deeply before herealized that becoming great at chess meant that he’d become great at chess,and little else. Still, Harry had a decent grasp of tactics and positionalstrategy. In Muggle chess Harry felt he’d trounce Draco, but Draco’s piecesalways did what he wanted, while Harry’s pieces committed their own follies.It was an even game.
“Castle Queenside please,” said Harry Potter. “It will protect the king, andbring the Rook to bear on the upcoming battle in the center. You’d like that,wouldn’t you?” The rook nodded enthusiastically. “And everyone will be muchsafer.”
“That’s a bad move, Harry,” said Draco.
“I think it’s a good move, it does exactly what I’ve told them, and the pieceswill do it. I doubt I could convince that Bishop sacrifice itself in anattack, which was my other choice.”
Draco shrugged and Harry confirmed the move. His King shifted over two spacesto the queen’s side, and then stepped aside to let the rook pass. But as theRook went by it took out a sword and stabbed the King, shouting “Aha!”,shimmering from Silver to Green. The other Silver pieces booed and shouted“Traitor!”
“You lose,” said Draco, taking out the box to start storing his pieces.
“You knew that rook was a double agent! That’s not …,” Harry paused whileDraco just looked it him quizzically.
“Fair? What’s fair got to do with it?”
“So is that normal, Draco, in wizard chess? Traitors?”
“Of course not. This is the set Father taught me with. A set for teaching.” Inhis mind Harry could hear Draco’s words from before the game. Just as Fathergave you to me, I now give you to Potter. “And my first lesson – Learn who totrust.”
Harry remembered that Draco had offered this game to provide an insight intoDraco and his earlier Duel. “So you are upset because you aren’t trusted?”asked Harry.
“No. We don’t play that game, Harry,” said Draco, who had taken out the boxfor the green pieces and ordered them back. “I admit I’m not thrilled with itbut I’m a Malfoy, I understand. And we have history. But think about the game,and now consider why I just asked you to play chess right then.”
Harry thought. Harry remembered logic puzzles where a question is posed, “Howmany blue-eyed people exist on this island” where everyone is a perfectlogician, or the solution to some obscure math puzzle among expertmathematicians. The islanders don’t know. Nobody can see their own eyes, sincethey don’t have mirrors (and only trust what they can see). But then a wiseold man says “I see someone with blue eyes.” And as they days go by eventuallyall the islanders, using their perfect logic, know the answer. Because theyrealize that if only one person had blue eyes, he’d know after a day or two(seeing only brown eyes) that he was the only one. The more people with blueeyes, the longer it takes, but a person who can see one other islander withblue eyes will know that the other islander should figure it out instantly, ifhis eyes weren’t blue.
They’ll all figure it out, eventually, no matter how many blue eyes exist,once they recognize the inferences when other people can or can’t solve thepuzzle.
So, while Harry couldn’t narrow it down before, the fact that the Chess gamehad been meant as a lesson. A lesson with two purposes, a primer on trust andDraco’s answer to Why did I resign? Still, he couldn’t decide between twoanswers until he heard Gregory’s small “Oh.” Realizing that Gregory had missedthe solution made it easy.
“You resigned to avoid revealing your anger at your Father, not your Mother.Lucius Malfoy trusted Voldemort, no that’s not really it, he distrustedDumbledore and you fear making the same mistake with me.”
Draco nodded. “He couldn’t tell which pieces were on his side and that’s thefirst lesson. The very first lesson.” Draco’s voice seemed to crack. He’dcarefully considered this speech earlier. It might reveal that Draco knew whatParseltongue implied, but he didn’t have to admit that. Draco had agonizedover this for the summer. “For a while, I thought that maybe Father knew whatwas going to happen and just sacrificed himself. But if he knew he’d haveprobably found an excuse to let Gregory and Vincent’s fathers not show up.Maybe I’m wrong but Father didn’t know. You talk about the fundamental rulesof rationality, but the fundamental rule of politics is to understand yourrelationship with those around you and Father failed. It’s … haunting me. Youseem like my friend, but we both keep secrets. I’m mad at Father for gettingit wrong. I believe you, but … I wonder if I’m making a mistake trusting you.If I won’t end up dead because of it, the same way Father did. I’m sorry,Gregory.”
“Don’t worry. We’ve all thought it. If we turn up dead at least the otherswill know,” Gregory shrugged, displaying an indifference he didn’t feel.
“What,” said Harry, even though he knew the answer.
Gregory kept putting the chess pieces away. “You clearly had some connectionwith Voldemort, through your scar. You could see through it, the night he cameback. We discussed it over the summer.”
“Like I said, Harry,” Draco continued, “I understand. I can’t prove anegative, but I have doubts. Maybe you have doubts about me, but you need mein your conspiracy. It will reassure us both. We complement strengths, I’d beuseful. I have to keep an eye on you, you are too important, and if you didn’tfreeze me out we could trust each other faster. Shave years off the process.You must understand this, now.”
“I do. But, I’ll have to discuss this with others.”
Gregory, having put away the pieces, was now back at his desk and working onsome Transfiguration homework. He didn’t look up. “I hope you investigatedthem more than your borrowed chess set.”
“I could give him Veritaserum…” Harry saw the flaw. “Wait, there’s no way toknow if someone is an Occlumens, is there?” The same informational attackthat Harry used to deduce how the Dark Mark worked applied here. If some testexisted, nobody’s deception could be perfect. The phrase Perfect Occlumensimplied no such test existed or had yet been discovered, anyway. HeadmistressMcGonagall started to answer, but got interrupted.
“I would have trusted the serum, before. Never imagined someone so young couldeven start training. Just goes to show.” said Mad-Eye, stomping around theoffice in a slow circle. He hadn’t yet taken the cure, despite providingsecurity for the new hospital. He still had doubts. And while he would neveradmit it, Moody enjoyed his current appearance and the fear he caused. Madehis life easier, too, lots of people surrendered to him. Those he attacked atouch less violently, before arresting. Just in case they were faking.
“Then how do Auror’s know who’s testimony you can exclude,” Harry asked. TheWizarding legal system, despite seeming quaint, clearly had a staggeringnumber of flaws.
Amelia Bones answered “Tradition. Most people can’t, so the default is that weaccept it, certainly for anyone as young as Draco. Once you’ve startedtraining or been caught in a lie using it, well, you can never use what yousay under Veritaserum to convict someone else, but your memories can be usedagainst you, of course. And as a matter of tradition we tend to discountaccusations by certain Houses once they reach maturity.”
Harry thought about the implications of this, trying to see if they matchedhis experience. If what he’d heard was accurate, Dumbledore could have raisedthe issue to save Hermione, if he had any suspicion of Draco. But wouldDumbledore actually have objected? Dumbledore had been willing to let Hermionego to Azkaban… he’d played such a complicated game Harry couldn’t judgeanything from Dumbledore’s actions, because he’d been reacting to complexprophecies and who knows what else.
Harry sympathized with Draco. This would be easier if everyone could trusteveryone. Harry felt reasonably certain Draco had been turned, but…
With the revelation that Harry couldn’t trust Veritaserum to make him fullycertain, the other obvious solution required a carefully worded UnbreakableVow. Harry doubted Draco would accept. In any case, Harry didn’t want to usea vow on Draco or on anyone he knew personally. It would cause resentment.Letting the Philosopher’s Stone fall into the hands of a Dark Wizard? That wasan existential threat. Harry couldn’t allow that.
And Harry Potter couldn’t rationalize away his knowledge that the greatestthreat the world faced was Harry Potter.
Harry’s Vow automatically stopped him from doing anything rash, like breakingthe Statute of Secrecy without preparation. That was the good part. But itonly stopped him when he was somehow aware of the problem. Like Veritaserum orParseltongue, the Vow wasn’t an Oracle. It didn’t stop him from ending theworld accidentally or provide him with knowledge he didn’t know at some level.Harry spent the summer considering various ways he could topple that firstdomino that led to Armageddon, because once he did know something then the Vowwould protect the world from himself.
Unfortunately Harry Potter had a _particularly vivid _imagination.
The more he’d thought about the problem, the more restrictive his Vow became.It tightened as summer went on, as Harry became more and more aware of thenumber of ways he could destroy the world. At first - in the early days - hisVow empowered Harry. Now it restricted him considerably. Decisions he wouldhave made quickly, neglecting a tiny probability of failure, now had to beexamined in detail.
The odds of Draco turning Dark? Small, but there. Not quite negligible.
Casting a Vow on Draco might make Draco bitter, might nudge Draco out of thelight. Eventually. And honestly the Vow didn’t guarantee safety.
Harry defeated Voldemort while operating under the Parseltongue curse. Hecould still end the world accidentally, if he didn’t know some crucial pieceof information. If he rushed things. Harry could imagine Draco, wounded byhis Father’s death, becoming the next Dark Lord. Probably not an insaneVoldemort persona, but a Dark Ruler? Harry couldn’t dismiss it outright,couldn’t rationalize it away without detailed consideration that frankly hedidn’t have time for. As Draco himself had pointed out, trust was acomplicated issue and not Harry’s strong suit. He’d be able to do it, later.Time would let him turn his 95% probability of Draco’s redemption into 98%into 99% into some number so certain that to not act on it would beirrational.
But Harry’s own rationality, coupled with the Vow, enforced caution. Fourmonths ago Harry would have spilled the secrets of his victory over Voldemortto Draco. Harry would demonstrate trust and not seal the memories. After hisVow Harry couldn’t confess without pre-committing to seal those memories away.It was just the first of a growing list of things-he-found-he-couldn’t do.
Harry could imagine a perfectly safe Vow to make, but now that he lived underthat burden he wouldn’t inflict it on another.
He’d had to talk with Hermione, convince her.
Harry couldn’t do anything now, realized he was wasting time, and went back tothe business at hand with the Order of the Phoenix. He had details to attendto, things to do, things he could affect right now that he needed to do,before he could progress to the next phase of his plan.
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