Blackmail in Game Theory, Part 3
Ginny had been seething in the middle of the night, when she returned to herbed. Now, several hours had passed, and everyone was waking up around her, andshe barely felt any better. The school thought they had tested her forpossession, and so the possibility wasn’t worth considering, but they hadn’tthought that she might have been possessed since. Ginny knew for a fact thatshe had, though she certainly wasn’t going to let that particular detail out.She put on the gloves that she had managed to secure, though she barelytrusted the gloves more than she trusted Tim; they were flimsy and had littleholes in them she had had to patch up with Spellotape. Note to self: if Icontinue to keep Tim, try to get higher-quality gloves out of Draco. Shepicked up Tim’s paper abode and placed it in a bag, which she carried out tothe Slytherin Common Room.
“Colin!” shouted Ginny, finding him and making her way over to him. “I needsomething from you again-”
“Everyone to the Great Hall!” said a prefect, for the twenty fifth time thismorning. “Headmistress’s orders!”
“Um, let’s talk as soon as possible,” said Ginny.
“Okay,” said Colin; he followed Ginny all the way to the Great Hall, thoughGinny refused to be pressed for more details.
“I’d prefer to tell you privately,” said Ginny. “In an empty room somewhere inthe dungeons.”
“I know just the place,” said Colin, though Ginny was unimpressed; it was notdifficult to find unused, unattended rooms in the dungeons, or anywhere inHogwarts, for that matter. Soon, everyone was sitting at the Great Hall, andit gradually dawned on Ginny what was coming; Headmistress McGonagall wasstanding at the podium with a grave look on her face. When everyone hadsettled in, the Headmistress began to speak.
“I am afraid I must be the bearer of terrible news once more,” said theHeadmistress, and Ginny knew that she had been correct, about why they wereall gathered there. “I am sure many, if not most, of you are aware by now thata student has been killed. It is true. Cedric Diggory, a fifth year Hufflepuffand star student, was found petrified last night. The greatest efforts of theworlds’ greatest healers could not restore him to life. He is truly lost tous. The Diggorys have requested a public funeral this weekend. All of you knewCedric, and I expect that many of you will attend.”
Ginny scanned the room, and saw that each table was miserable in its own way.The Gryffindors had clearly already caught on to what the Headmistress hadthus far not said, that it was murder, and the blood of every one of them wasboiling with anger; Ginny wouldn’t want them to so much as consider thepossibility that she was the Heir of Slytherin. The Hufflepuffs had lost afriend, a peer, one of them, an ideal. The Ravenclaws were pushed into ahigher state of grief by the wailing of Cho Chang, who cried as loudly as youcould without causing much literal noise. Some of the Ravenclaws –particularly Harry, and even more particularly Hermione – had an aura of guiltabout them, as though they were responsible for this for not preventing itfrom happening. And the Slytherins? The Slytherins were as sad as all of theother Houses put together, in large part because they knew that every singleone of them would pay the price for Cedric’s death, regardless of their guilt.
“After careful deliberation, we have decided not to close Hogwarts,” said theHeadmistress, “though all classes will be temporarily suspended until nextTuesday. Before then, you are all permitted, and even encouraged, to visithome via the Floo Network. It is not mandatory, however; Hogwarts will remainfully operational. Because, you see, as most of you have probably alreadyconcluded, Cedric Diggory was murdered. His murderer is something Muggles calla ‘terrorist’, one who enacts violence to cause chaos and disarray, to attractattention to their goals. I cannot possibly imagine a possible reaction thatwould play better into this terrorist’s plans than closing Hogwarts. SoHogwarts will stay open, to demonstrate to the culprit that their bloody questwill prove entirely fruitless.”
“Yes, the murder was almost certainly committed using Salazar Slytherin’sChamber of Secrets,” said the Headmistress. “No, you should not harassSlytherin House about it. They are not responsible for this, they have quiteenough other things to worry about, and I once again cannot imagine an outcomethe killer would prefer to a wedge being driven between Slytherin House andthe rest of the school.”
“You might ask what we are doing to protect you, then, if we are not shuttingdown the school, and the murderer has not yet been identified or apprehended,”said the Headmistress. “That’s a fair question, and we do have an answer. Wehave manufactured safety goggles for every Hogwarts student. Because of theway petrification works, you may still be attacked while wearing thesegoggles, but you will not be killed, or even permanently harmed; merely takenout of commission for the time it takes to brew a Potion of Reanimation. Thesafety goggles will be firmly magically affixed to your face at all times. Ifyou feel that this is unnecessary, or too large of an inconvenience for you tobear, then you are free to ask your parents to withdraw you from Hogwarts, butI suspect they will mostly tell you that you don’t have your priorities inorder.”
“In order to identify the murderer,” said the Headmistress, “who is as of yetunknown, I ask that you not mistrust each other – again, that is what theywould want – but do consider the suspicious behavior of those around you. Ifsomeone is acting unusual, out-of-character, or simply Dark, I advise that youreport them to me or another staff member immediately. Do not suppress yourfirst suspicions. Reports that do not ultimately lead us closer to the culpritwill not be punished, as long as they are made in good faith. We must all acttogether so that the person responsible for this horrible crime may beidentified, so that they may be apprehended and punished.
“And rest assured,” said the Headmistress, “the murderer, or murderers, willbe identified. They will be apprehended. And they will be punished. Becausetoday, we are all Cedric Diggory, every one of us. Standing up to our foes,standing up to death itself, just to get an education. And that state ofthings cannot stand. There will be peace, because we will make it.” The staff,with the exception of the Headmistress herself, walked out into the crowd,dividing the room into distinct sections, carrying boxes of goggles. “You willnow receive your safety equipment from the nearest instructor, and a Charmwill be applied to stick them in front of your eyes. If you are visitingrelatives, you may request to have the Charm removed when you leave; it willbe reapplied on your return. When classes resume, Professor Flitwick willteach all years how to reapply the Charm to yourself, in case it should comeundone. When you receive your goggles and Fixture-Fixing Charm, you may returnto your dormitories.”
“Now put your arm around me like this,” said Ginny.
“Um, Ginny?” asked Colin.
“No, this is still part of the magical experiment,” said Ginny. “Now, I’mgoing to use this quill to write in this book-”
“It’s that same book again!” said Colin. “Is it causing trouble again? Is thissafe?”
“Yes,” said Ginny. “That this is safe, I mean. And the experiment is to findout if it’s causing trouble. Now, I’m going to use this quill to write in thisbook a bit; please don’t look at what I’m writing, it’s private. Then, I’mgoing to take my gloves off, close the book, and hiss at myself a bit. ThenI’m going to drop the book, put my gloves back on, and put the book back inits bag. If at any point I do anything remotely unexpected, that’s where youcome in; I want you to grab the book out of my hands and throw it across theroom. Understood?”
“Understood,” said Colin.
“And of course, it goes without saying that this is all very secret and youare not to tell anyone,” said Ginny.
“Okay,” said Colin.
“Alright,” said Ginny. “Let’s start.” She took out a quill, and began towrite:
“Hello, Tim.” An uncomfortable lull, and then a response appeared.
“You’re wearing gloves.”
“Indeed, I am. I wasn’t sure if you’d even notice. Trying to possess me, areyou?”
“No, of course not.” wrote Tim. “I just checked to see if I could. You are aproperly paranoid girl, Ginny Weasley.”
“Yes, and that is the purpose of this entire conversation. There has been alethal attack on a Hogwarts student, using the Chamber of Secrets.”
“The Chamber of Secrets… There had been a similar attack shortly before I wascaptured… very upsetting to hear that it’s happened again. I know some secretsabout the Chamber of Secrets, but none that relate to either attack.”
“I’m sure you do. I’d like to ask you some pointed questions in Parseltongue.I’ve boosted security from our last such encounter.”
“Alright. Then I assume you are removing the gloves?” Ginny didn’t bother toanswer in writing; she simply took her gloves off and felt the foreignpresence entering her mind.
“What do you wissh to assk?” Ginny asked herself in hisses, but it wasactually, of course, the diary speaking through her. Ginny could feel Colingrowing nervous behind her.
“May you causse me to forget thingss ssimply by possssessssing me?”
“No. Regardlessss of the level of control I assssume, you alwayss retain fullawarenessss when possssessssed.”
“May you remove my memoriess by cassting a reflexxive sspell whenpossssessssing me?”
“No. Cannot casst reflexxive memory removal sspell. Theoretically I couldpossssessss ssomeone elsse, and remove your memoriess thuss, but I have doneno ssuch thing.”
“Then where wass I when sstudent was killed?”
“How iss it that you exxpect me to know? When wass the attack?”
“At night, when I wass ssuppossed to be assleep.”
“Then I would ssay you were where you were ssuppossed to be. To the besst ofmy knowledge, you were not pressent at the sscene, if that iss what issworrying you.”
“Wass I ressponssible?”
“Ssome of your older friendss have conccept-”
“I am. Ssome of your older friendss have conccept called heroressponssibility, wherein particularly competent people sshould feel guilt fortragediess, because they did not foressee and prevent them. That iss only wayI could imagine your being ressponsible for thiss.”
“Were you ressponssible?”
“Builder of chamber iss ressponssible. Thiss iss what he built the chamberfor. Infamouss masster wass firsst to fulfill intended purposse of chamber,ass weapon. Learned ssome ssecretss of chamber from him. Whoever is nowopening chamber is continuing infamouss masster’s work, and if not sstopped,will rule world ussing chamber. I dessire to sstop them.”
“I apologize for ssusspecting you. Possssibility that possssessssion victimwass ussed to open chamber was brought up.”
“You are not my victim. You are my partner.”
“Goodbye.” Ginny removed her hand freely from the diary – once again, Timhad not exerted overriding control over her, to prevent her from doing so –dropping it and putting her gloves back on.
“So did it go well?” asked Colin.
“Very well,” said Ginny; she had put her gloves back on and returned the diaryto the bag she was using to transport it. She then indicated for Colin to lether go, and she started for the door with him.
“I mean, I assumed so, since I didn’t have to save you,” said Colin.
“Uh huh,” said Ginny.
“Hey, Ginny, um,” said Colin. “I was wondering if maybe, some time, we could,um…”
“Oh!” said Ginny. “Thank you, but I’m already seeing someone, Colin.”
“Hey! Harry!” said Ginny, managing to find him by a staircase between mattersof official business.
“Oh, hi, Ginny,” said Harry. “I didn’t know it was you.”
“I take it there’s no meeting this week?” asked Ginny.
“Indeed,” said Harry. “Half of the Squad is either visiting home or dead, andI’m caught up in some business myself.”
“What do you think about this whole mess?” asked Ginny.
“It’s a mess,” said Harry. “Frankly, I’d be shocked if no one else died by thetime this is all over. Whoever is opening the Chamber is probably very clever,at least in some ways. They’ll find a way to route around the goggles. Ofcourse, I don’t mean to imply that they’re brilliant – this whole blackmailscheme of theirs is simply not very smart, as far as I can tell. They couldkill every boy, girl, and teacher in Hogwarts and it wouldn’t make anyone endthe Interdict of Merlin.”
“Could you see the Interdict of Merlin ending any time soon?” said Ginny.
“It’s even less likely after this,” said Harry. “Because, you see, now if theyended the Interdict, that would be signaling to whoever’s done this that theirplan to end it by killing Hogwarts students was a success. It would besignaling to any future Dark Lords following in their footsteps that killingpeople is a good way to make people pay attention to their agenda. It makesthe world a generally worse place. That’s the thing about blackmail – if yougive into it, then it makes the concept of blackmail a stronger one, whichmeans there’s a moral imperative not to give into it.”
“That’s a shame,” said Ginny. “So absolutely nothing good will come of this.”
“Indeed,” said Harry. “Although I’d hesitate to call the Interdict of Merlinbeing canceled a good thing. Merlin had some good reasons for putting it inplace originally, and I’d be hard-pressed to argue with him.”
“Muggles don’t have to deal with the Interdict of Merlin in scientificresearch, and look at all that they’ve accomplished,” said Ginny. “Think aboutall that you would have accomplished if the Interdict had been removed foryou.”
“Muggles are more advanced than wizards, yes,” said Harry. “But they’re alsomuch less stable. There are dozens of Muggle inventions that could end theirworld, in varying degrees, if misused in the precisely incorrect way. Isuspect – no, know – that that problem is even worse with magic. Not tomention, of course, that I don’t actually know how you would cancel theInterdict of Merlin. I know some people in very important positions of powerrelevant to the Interdict of Merlin – Amelia Bones, for instance – and I’mpretty sure none of them know how to cancel it, either. I’m pretty sure nobodydoes, and that’s a good thing.”
“Let’s agree to disagree,” said Ginny.
“That’s rather difficult for a true rationalist,” said Harry, “because truerationalists will necessarily reach the same conclusion, if they’re operatingon the same priors using actual rationality. Which reminds me, that you reallyneed to examine some of your beliefs and why you believe them.”
“What beliefs?” said Ginny, and she did not like the direction theconversation was taking one bit.
“Come on, Ginny,” said Harry. “You literally wear a big sign on your chestthat says ‘I’m a Christian.’” Ginny looked down, confused, and saw her crossmedallion.
“Wizard Christian,” said Ginny.
“I know,” said Harry. “I researched all of the magical belief systems a longtime ago, when I first learned of magic, to see if any of them had any moreevidence or sense than the Muggle ones. And sure enough, they didn’t. It’sexactly the same process, a vicious cycle based on broken thinking…” Harry hadlong ago learned to say “broken thinking” instead of “magical thinking” if youwanted a wizard to have any idea what you meant.
“I’ve done research as well,” said Ginny, “and not come to the sameconclusion.”
“Of course not,” said Harry. “It takes a lot of effort to fix bad mentalhabits; rationality isn’t easy.”
“How much research did you do?” said Ginny.
“Enough,” said Harry.
“I’d like to talk to you at length about the evidence,” said Ginny. Harrystared at her, and then smiled.
“Well, that at least suggests genuine belief rather than belief in belief, sothat’s a good sign,” said Harry. “Perhaps we could meet somewhere in thedungeons – outside the Slytherin dorms, of course – next weekend, afterclasses resume, and talk. I’m open, then.”
“Alright,” said Ginny. “I hope to see you there.” Harry nodded, strolled off,checked a watch, muttered something vulgar to himself, and stepped out ofsight while turning something in his pocket. After a few minutes, Ginnymanaged to twist things from “some of my most strongly-held beliefs are beingchallenged by my idol” to “Harry Potter asked me out on a date!”
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