The Halo Effect

“Do not get greedy. Have partners share your gains. This provides alliesagainst losses.” - Lucius Malfoy

The Bayesian Conspiracy met after dinner at least once a week, tonight’ssession had just passed the two hour mark.

“All of these ideas,” said Neville, “they let us check a solution. But theydon’t help us come up with the answer.” Harry just raised his eyebrows andlooked around the table, like he did when he wanted people to come up with thesolution themselves.

“Coming up with a solution is harder,” said Draco, “But checking it is easy.Does it work is yes or no. How does it work, that could be anything.”

“Proving a solution is like a fixed Transfiguration,” Hermione offered, “yougo from stone to wood and back. But even that requires lots of differentspells, hundreds for every form combination. Free transfiguration can doanything, but we all know how hard that is.” Hermione felt smug having workedout the metaphor. She missed being in class and getting the right answer, eventhough she knew it was somewhat small of her.

Harry finally spoke up, “And coming up with a solution is really hard. Even Idon’t get it right often. But what I do is that I check my solution instead ofjust trying it, and that lets me discard my failures faster, and then I tryagain. If nobody sees you fail a few times,” he chuckled,” you’ll get areputation as being able to do anything by just snapping your fingers. I’m notalways right, merely less wrong. And to most people that seems like magic.”

Harry’s mirror made a buzzing noise, and he took it out and started a quietconversation, then said “I think now’s a good time to stop.” Daphne checkedthe time and, letting out a small eep, grabbed her scrolls and ran off.Draco jotted a few notes down on a scroll, planning to summarize and expandlater in his journal.

“Draco,” said Hermione, “Do you have a few minutes?”

He looked up, perplexed. “Sure. One second.” He wrote a few more words, morereminders than detailed notes.

Harry said, “I’ll see you later, everyone. I do have some things to do.” Heput away his mirror. Draco caught Hermione’s look, but Harry just shook hishead. “It’s not that important.” He walked out of the classroom, Nevillebeside him, and their voices drifted down the hall as Draco put down his quilland looked across the desk at Hermione.

Draco could see the telltale signs of the glamour, now. That should make herperfection less impressive, but it didn’t. Knowing something on anintellectual level doesn’t necessarily turn off emotions.

“How are things going, Draco?” she asked. Hermione stared at him intently,trying to read his reactions. She felt like she’d been getting better atreading people. Her magic helped her perceptions, if she focused on it. Shereally hoped that came from the Unicorn side of the enhancement, and not thetroll side. She preferred not to think of herself as one-third Troll.

“Fine, Hermione. People miss you in class, of course.”

“I find that hard to believe,” she said, shaking her head, and noticing howDraco watched her hair.

“Oh, they thought they didn’t want you in classes for the first few days.”Draco’s pitched his voice up like Pansy Parkinson. “Where’s little miss know-it-all? Where can she be?” He dropped his voice back to normal, “but it turnsout that when little miss know-it-all isn’t there with the answer then theProfessor could call on anyone, and that’s worse.”

“If you are Pansy Parkinson, sure,” laughed Hermione, “I suspect you know theanswers.”

Draco smiled, “I said people missed you, Hermione, not that I did.” Draco’ssmile looked relaxed, not forced, not beaming, but enough of a smile to showhe was joking. She let out a little laugh, and Draco’s smile relaxed a bitmore. “So, what did you want to talk about?”

“I’m worried about you,” she said and Draco interrupted her with a wave.

“It’s not that I don’t appreciate what you did, Hermione, and I’m not going tolie and say I have it all under control, but it isn’t helping my situation asmuch as you might hope and I think,” Draco finally had to pause for a breath,just barely.

“I’m worried about you and Harry,” Hermione said, exasperated.

“Oh.” Draco paused and fiddled with his quill, thinking. “Why?” Between thepause and the interruption, Hermione felt pleased that Draco treated her morelike a friend and less like a tool he manipulated. Or maybe Harry’s abrasivemanner had been rubbing off.

“Well, you live with him, but you don’t trust him. He told me – please don’tbe mad – about the chess game, and the Slytherin duel before that.”

Draco blushed.

“He didn’t mention all of the parts of the duel, he is your friend after all.But I heard lots of gossip. Anyway, I understand why intellectually its hardto trust Harry, but can you please? I mean, I trust him. Doesn’t that countfor something?” Hermione considered batting her eyes, but she already feltguilty, using Draco’s infatuation to help her gauge how much she should trusthim.

“It does,” Draco stammered, “of course it does. But … what we’ve been learninghere is how keep our judgment when we’re biased. If Harry were here, he’d saysomething like ‘Hermione Granger is difficult to fool, which reduces the oddsof Harry being a future Dark Lord significantly.’”

“But not to zero.” Draco just nodded. “I understand that, Draco. That makessense. In fact, Harry told me a story. After Professor Quirrell taught him tolose he asked if there was anything he could say to convince the Professor hewouldn’t turn evil, and the Professor just replied ‘You could raise your righthand,’ meaning that there was nothing that someone as clever as Harry couldsay that would comfort him. So we have to judge Harry by his actions, not hiswords. And that’s going to take time.”

“I knew that,” Draco said. “But it isn’t just time. I can’t judge Harry’sactions if I can’t see them.”

“The time will come, things have to line up a bit first. Please, Draco, don’tmake it even more difficult for him.”

Draco slumped in his chair. “Even more difficult?”

“You, you don’t see it?” Her eyes semi-closed, “I get it now. He hides it fromyou, doesn’t want to look weak. He runs off every time.” Hermione thought,deciding if she wanted to reveal what she’d assumed Draco had already noticed.She said, “Boys!” with a snort. “Why don’t they just talk instead of posture?”

Hermione saw Draco’s bewildered look, and sighed.

“What did Harry tell you, about Voldemort? I have to ask because I promisedhim I wouldn’t tell anyone details.”

Draco got up and started pacing. “He didn’t tell me anything,” Draco said,sounding slightly hurt. “But I have my guesses. I’m not sure how ProfessorQuirrell is involved, or any details really. But, well, they came up with aplan to bring you back and attack Voldemort. The Professor took the brunt ofthe attack, maybe sacrificed himself since he was dying. At the time, I didn’tthink you were involved at all, and that was just Harry being Harry, bringingyou back somehow. But after the summer and what Gregory saw when you foughtFlint …. I don’t know. You’ve been hiding your powers haven’t you?”

Hermione nodded slightly. “I want to be treated like a normal girl, not likeHarry was treated. For as long as I can.”

“So, I’m not sure anymore exactly who defeated Voldemort, but Harry was there,if not the driving force. Despite the fact that he appeared to not be there.”

“How do you think he did that,” she asked.

Draco shot Hermione a look, and then said. “I have some theories. But hehasn’t told me how. I don’t think he’ll ever tell me, and I’m OK with it. I’dlike to know the details, of course…”

“And that’s it? Harry didn’t tell you anything else? Professor Quirrelldied. You never thought to ask yourself if Harry got away without ascratch?” Hermione had an edge in her voice, and saw Draco’s shock. Sherealized that no, he hadn’t actually asked himself. Which wasn’t toosurprising. Harry never seemed to get scratched. Before she died Hermione hadseen Harry scared, but never actually hurt in some surprisingly dangeroussituations. And everyone had been so young. Harry explained that most peoplenever thought about death (and by extension, injury) until they’d seen itfirst hand. There was no reason Draco would be different.

“Wait, you have a Phoenix. Harry built Peverell Hospital. Whatever happened tohim is fixed.” Draco’s voice had a note of accusation.

“Have you ever heard of hypergraphia, Draco? People with it suffer acompulsion to write things out. They can’t stop writing, not until they areexhausted. Harry doesn’t have that, exactly, but he got cursed in the battle.You know he was already a bit obsessed and his methods made him …. odd. Butnow it’s more of a compulsion. He literally can’t do things unless he reasonsout all of the consequences.” Harry wouldn’t be happy about this, Hermionethought, but it was a close enough explanation to be true.

“What kind of curse does that?” Draco asked.

“The kind that Voldemort casts, specifically designed to slow down HarryPotter. No, I don’t know why Voldemort didn’t just kill him. Maybe he worriedabout the spell rebounding, like it did when Harry was a baby. Voldemort casta curse that would hurt Harry more than anyone. And now Harry has to spendhours and hours making decisions that he could have made in a second lastyear. He’s …. too rational, maybe.”

Hermione paused. “I guess you don’t see it because he’s exhausted when he goesback to his dorm. And he’s not making decisions then, not really. He’s justteaching and hanging out with the few friends he has left. I think Harrywould say that the odds that Draco Malfoy is actually a good person andHarry’s friend have shot up dramatically, so I just want you to give him timeand not do anything rash.”

Draco gathered his notes and they both got up to head out. “I wasn’t planningon doing anything rash,” Draco said defensively. Draco opened the door,quickly glancing at the empty hallway.

“Nobody ever does,” Hermione said as she walked through the door.

“I suppose not,” said Draco, shutting the door behind him.

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