This is a single point of divergence story from the fanfic Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (www. hpmor .com, remove spaces). Specifically, the divergence starts mid-chapter 82. At the time of this writing HP:MoR is still in progress, and I only know of the events through the current chapter (now 85), so there may and probably will be more divergences, intentional or not, as time goes on. Certainly I'm not going to follow what's going on in HP:MoR slavishly, and background that has not yet been revealed I'll need to create my own material for. (As will become apparent by the end of this chapter, the present is going to be diverging wildly, enjoy the ride!)
I will, by necessity, need to borrow some text from chapter 82 of MoR to establish the place in the story and provide for continuity. Unfortunately, all the ways in which I might typically designate this text would compromise the flow of the story in some instances. I trust the astute reader will have read chapter 82 MoR anyway and be able to distinguish my text from Less Wrong's. Consider this an explicit acknowledgement that I have borrowed some text, and that all appropriate text should be properly attributed to him. Most of the borrowed text occurs from the start to "The boy took a deep breath, and opened his mouth -".
If you have not read HP:MoR yet, I strongly suggest you do so. It is, however, a daunting task, given its immense size. At the very least, you should read its chapters 78-82 (which is actually a surprisingly good starting point for the middle of the story).
"I acknowledge the debt, but the law does not strictly oblige me to accept it in cancellation," said Lord Malfoy with a grim smile. "The girl is no part of House Potter; the debt I owe House Potter is no debt to her. As for the dishonor -" Lucius Malfoy paused. "As for the grave shame I feel at my ingratitude toward the Potters, who have done so much for me -" Lucius Malfoy bowed his head. "May my ancestors forgive me."
"Well, boy?" called the scarred man sitting at Lord Malfoy's right hand. "Go and destroy Azkaban, then!"
"I'd like to see that," said another voice. "Will you be selling tickets?"
It went without saying that Harry didn't pick this particular moment to give up.
The girl is no part of House Potter -
He had, in fact, seen the obvious way out of the dilemma almost instantly.
It might have taken him longer if he hadn't recently overheard a number of conversations between older Ravenclaw girls, and read a certain number of Quibbler stories.
He was, nonetheless, having trouble accepting it.
This is ridiculous, said a part of Harry which had just dubbed itself the Internal Consistency Checker. Our actions here are completely incoherent. First you feel less emotional reluctance to risk your bloody LIFE and probably DIE for Hermione, than to part with a stupid heap of gold. And now you're balking just at getting married?
You know what? said Internal Consistency Checker. You're stupid.
I didn't say no, thought Harry. I was just saying SYSTEM ERROR.
I vote for destroying Azkaban, said Gryffindor. It needs to be done anyway.
Really, really stupid, said Internal Consistency Checker. Oh, screw this, I'm assuming control of our body.
The boy took a deep breath, and opened his mouth -
"Oh, and Master Potter," Lord Malfoy said, "it is well known to this assembly that there are ways in which the girl could become part of House Potter. However, following the tragic events of 1734, in which a certain Archibald Broomhandle attempted to compel poor Aelwen ferch Olwydd to marry him, by arranging circumstances not so disimilar to these – not that I mean to impugn the honor of House Potter in this matter, you could hardly be responsible at your age," Lucius smiled and continued, "the Wizengamot no longer recognizes any sort of contract as relevant to its proceedings if it was not in force before the start of those proceedings."
...and closed his mouth.
"By all means, if you wish to bring her into your house after these deliberations have finished, feel free to continue."
So, Azkaban? said Gryffindor.
They have dementors not in Azkaban, Ravenclaw unhelpfully pointed out. Not many, but enough to damage a 12 year old girl.
The only way to protect Hermione is to demonstrate our dominance over the Wizengamot, said Slytherin. We need leverage.
What happens if we escalate? asked Ravenclaw. What happens if we choose to lose?
Losing means Hermione dies.
Unacceptable! said Hufflepuff.
We know dragons can be slain, said Gryffindor.
While Harry's inner monologue was ongoing, his feet carried him past a stunned Professor McGonagall, and down the dark stone stairs to where Hermione and the dementor were. His attention was fixed on her, her eyes puffy and cheeks wet with tears. Jeers from Lord Malfoy's side of the Wizengamot slid off him.
You do understand she is never going to accept this, said Slytherin.
He stopped before the metal chair.
Harry was not one to stop finding solutions just because he had some candidates. Because some days would be like today, where all the straightforward solutions would be exhausted without effect. This wasn't even his last idea, he'd passed it over originally because it was dangerous. Danger was scary. And because its effects would be permanent. Terribly permanent. Irreversibly permanent.
"Attempting to send a 12 year old girl to Azkaban is an act of war."
It was not what anyone was expecting him to say. There was silence for a full minute.
"How do you intend to fight a war, boy, with no weapons," said the scarred man next to Lord Malfoy, a bemused smile on his face. "And against all of magical Britain no less."
Harry turned, slowly, to face the Wizengamot. He stood straight, head erect, eyes cold as he surveyed the gathered lords and ladies. He could feel the dementor behind him through the two Patronuses.
"You brought me a weapon," Harry said, the pure high pitch of a young boy's voice imcompatible with the deadly seriousness with which it was said. "In your hubris and your arrogance you imagined yourselves it's master."
Some few eyes glanced at the dementor. Dumbledore was looking very sharply at Harry.
Harry was recalling, quite distinctly, facing down a dozen dementors with nothing but a thought and a command. State of mind was key when dealing with dementors. People – other people that is, never Harry – could hear dementors speak because they imagined dementors had minds and could talk. Expectation drove observation. Set up the right expectation, and people's beliefs would cause the dementor to behave in that way. Reinforce it by projecting his own belief at the dementor in a forceful way and the outcome should be a foregone conclusion.
"In a moment, I'm going to cancel the Patronuses and prevent any more from being cast. Then my dementor is going to kiss everyone who voted to send a 12 year old girl to Azkaban."
There was a sharp gasp from off to his right where Professor McGonagall was sitting. Then the room erupted into laughter. Dumbledore was frowning, his eyes looking down and right as if working through a puzzle.
Of course, they didn't believe him yet. The dementor was still 'safely' behind two Patronuses. It was a shocking claim. - two shocking claims actually. It was also certain that no one believed he could actually cancel the Patronuses. No one except Harry. There's a funny thing with belief. Make one unlikely statement and people will reject it out of hand. Make two unlikely statements, and then demonstrate the truth of one, and people were much more likely to believe both. Because he had comingled them, their truth values would be conflated in the minds of the Wizengamot.
And the problem with the Patronus charm was that it worked by tricking your mind into holding onto the right thoughts. The actual manifestation wasn't necessary – thinking the right thoughts was sufficient to protect you from dementors, but it was hard. Hard to keep the mind focused on the right thoughts. The charm provided several useful features: it provided a concrete and physical action you could take, it gave you a totem that you could point to and say 'that is providing me safety', and it shielded others by putting those thoughts between the dementor and them rather than just in your own head. The last was a useful effect, but the others were only useful insofar as they gave you confidence. One problem was that all that confidence was built on an incorrect understanding of dementors. The real problem was that achieving that confidence when faced with the truth behind dementors required an entirely different kind of happy thought.
So all Harry had to do was speak the truth and the Patronuses would pop. One of his two unlikely claims being demonstrated, the members of the Wizengamot would instantly lend credence to his second claim, and their collective belief would drive the dementor's action.
It was Dumbledore who cut through the laughter and brought the room to silence.
"No Harry! Don't!"
Into that silence a boy's voice spoke: "The dementors are Death, and the Patronus charm works by thinking about happy thoughts instead of Death."
Two seconds later, he snapped his fingers.
The Patronuses behind him popped like soap bubbles.
And Harry, filling his mind with the earth among the stars, thrust that thought at Death and said "Kiss everyone who voted to send Hermione to Azkaban, but spare Lucius Malfoy."
The dementor struck many down before they even had a chance to react. Shock and surprise prevented any quick response. As the reality sunk in, suddenly the assembly sprang into motion. Wizards scrambled to their feet, tripping over seats and stumbling into others. Some few drew their wands, far too late, but no Patronuses appeared. Charles Notte attempted to apparate away, forgetting in his panic that most of the ministry was warded against apparition. A handful managed to extricate themselves from the benches to make a dash down the stairs for the door. They didn't make it. The dementor kissed them all. And when it was finished, an impossibly short time later, the Dementor stood before Harry Potter.
Fifty-five. That was the number of the corpses that surrounded the cowering Lucius Malfoy in the stone hall of the Wizengamot. A woman was being noisily sick among the benches for spectators.
Three aurors and a good number of the remaining dignitaries of the Wizengamot all had their wands pointed at Harry.
"I might observe that the only person capable of casting a Patronus in this room is me, much less controlling the dementor at all. And you will all be thinking much clearer with a Patronus present. I recommend you lower your wands and allow me to do so."
The wands lowered, slowly.
"Expecto Patronum!" Harry said, and a brilliantly glowing person manifested before Harry. There were gasps from around the room. The Dementor hung loosely in the air, seemingly unaware of anyone or anything.
You know, said Gryffindor, I'm not sure I'm ok with what we just did.
"Hermione, are you ok," Harry said, turning his head.
"No," her voice weak, "Never. Ok. Again."
She was afraid of him, he could see it in her eyes.
"Release her, please," Harry said to the Auror closest to him. "And she's going to need a wand, so unless you happen to have hers on you, I suppose yours will have to do."
Gawain Robards looked plaintively up to the remaining members of the Wizengamot, where Amelia Bones slowly nodded her head. He then tapped the manacles with a short metal rod and they fell away, and while looking at Harry he offered his wand to Hermione.
"Hermione, there's something we need to do."
The look of horror on her face was painful for him to look at. "Haven't you done enough," she said. She stood up but looked ready to bolt.
"Something Fawkes would want us to do." He held his left hand out to her.
Hermione looked up, over Harry's shoulder, to where Fawkes and Dumbledore were. Her face changed, conflicted, the horror warring with something else. He didn't think he could look where Dumbledore was, he was too close to breaking emotionally already. She took his hand as if he might bite her.
"Only because Fawkes wants it."
"Mr. Potter," said Lucius Malfoy, standing, confusion writ on his face. "Why am I alive?"
He considered Lucius for a moment. Then his face softened.
"Because Draco is my friend, and Draco loves his father," he said softly.
Lucius sat down abruptly, looking like he'd been struck.
And Harry turned his attention to the Dementor, where his wand was still pointed and his Patronus stood idly waiting. And the Earth among the stars filled his mind, the promise of a future without death. He heard Hermione gasp beside him as his patronus became impossibly bright, drowning out the other gasps from the room. When it faded, there wasn't a Dementor anymore.
Harry let his Patronus fade. He turned his attention to the remaining members of the Wizengamot.
Loudly he said, "I seem to recall this council just voted to send Hermione to Azkaban. I've changed my mind, I agree."
And Harry filled his mind with fire and righteous fury. A Phoenix soared among the stars above the earth in his thoughts. Then Fawkes was there beside him, in the Wizengamot chambers, and then he and Hermione and the Phoenix were gone.
For about the tenth time in the last two hours, Amelia Bones's mind failed her. She knew she should be doing something, but she just couldn't process what she'd seen. A muggle might have called it a system error, a blue screen of death, all she knew was her brain just wasn't working.
The boy said what? And then what? And then what? And then half the Wizengamot was dead? And then what? What? What!
Amelia Bones was not used to being this flummoxed. She had thought herself reasonably paranoid. She'd never prepared for this. No one expected a 12 year old boy who could command Dementors. No one expected anyone who could pop patronuses without even touching their wand.
One thing and only one thing was clear, she knew where he was going. Azkaban.
Why in the... Oh. Shit.
The boy who could command Dementors without a wand was gone to Azkaban. She should do something about this.
She found she was sitting, so she stood up. Then she stopped.
What do I do? Any aurors I send will be unable to defend themselves against dementors...
She sat down again.
I have a time turner in my office. I have 6 hours to figure out what to do.
She looked at Dumbledore. Dumbledore had his head in both hands, elbows on the podium, and... was he crying? That wasn't a good sign.
I don't think 6 hours is going to be enough time.
Which was about when the rest of the remaining members of the Wizengamot started to come out of shock. Eyes started to turn towards her. She held up a hand to forestall any questions.
"I have no idea what I am going to do. What I can do. But if anyone has any suggestions, please, I am desperately in need of suggestions."
No one said anything.
Six hours is definitely not going to be enough time.