We now have two-and-a-half more chapters of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality to consider. Chapter 85, while awesome and sad, doesn’t add a lot to the mystery. Nor does Chapter 87, which is primarily further character development for Harry and Hermione. But Chapter 86, now that’s interesting.
The big thing we learn in Chapter 86 that makes me reconsider what I thought was happening is that the dark mark is not quite as stupid as we thought. Maybe Voldemort wasn’t quite so obviously holding the idiot ball. That makes it somewhat more likely that “Voldemort” really did want to take over magical Britain and perhaps more. Harry, of course, still thinks Voldemort was incompetent; and isn’t ready to consider him an equal. However that still changes if “Voldemort” was a plant from the get-go. Moody certainly seems to think that’s possible:
“In this line of work, if you survive, you learn that there’s three kinds of Dark Wizards,” Moody said grimly; his wand wasn’t pointed at anyone, it was angled slightly downward, but it was in his hand. It had never left his hand since the moment he’d entered the room. “There’s Dark Wizards that have one name. There’s Dark Wizards that have two names. And there’s Dark Wizards that change names like you and I change clothes. I saw ‘Monroe’ go through three Death Eaters like he was snapping twigs. There’s not many wizards that good at age forty-five. Dumbledore, maybe, but not many others.”
Moody does suggest something I hadn’t thought of already. Rather than David Monroe pretending to be Tom Riddle pretending to be Lord Voldemort, it could be that Tom Riddle pretended to be both Lord Voldemort and David Monroe. I still think that Voldemort, Quirrell, and Monroe are the same person. I’m just not sure who’s pretending to be who or even more importantly, for what purpose. It’s not hugely important to the story whether Riddle is dead and Monroe is pretending to be Riddle or Monroe is dead and Riddle is pretending to be Monroe.
Even if I’m right about this, the question is still open as to what Quirrell wants now, and what exactly happened during the war. Voldemort and Monroe both vanished, Monroe first. Assume Monroe’s vanishing was intentional. Perhaps the persona had served Riddle’s purpose? Moody explains, “It was murdering the House of Monroe that made Voldie’s name. Until then, he was just another Dark Wizard with delusions of grandeur and Bellatrix Black. But after that every fool in the country flocked to serve him.” Maybe it was by defeating Monroe that people like Lucius decided that they should back Voldemort because he was likely to win.
Then later why did Voldemort vanish? It begins to seem more likely that the curse really did rebound from the infant Harry as in canon. We do know that Harry has his mysterious dark side, which is most likely some effect of being Horcruxed by Voldemort. Also, HPMoR Harry is still a Parseltongue, and from canon we know that came straight out of Voldemort. And there’s the sense of doom and bad interaction between Quirrell and Harry’s magics. Again, Harry is not just Harry and never has been since he was one. There’s a part of Voldemort in him. That much is obvious. The question is whether it’s an accident or whether Voldemort put it there deliberately?
Assume for the sake of argument that Voldemort did put it there deliberately. Why? He had heard the prophecy, and maybe he took it to mean that he could live on in Harry. In fact, maybe he decided that the best way to win control of the wizarding world was as Harry, a grownup hero, into whom he had secretly placed his soul, rather than as either Voldemort or Monroe. Now this is a real longshot, and the main thing that makes me consider it is extra-textual. The author, Yudkowsky, has a long-standing interest in both immortality (cryonics) and artificial intelligence. And within the text he’s suggested the possibility that humanity’s descendants will be machines.He also name drops Douglas Hofstadter within the text, multiple times. Now personally I’ve never bought Hofstadter’s argument that sentient humans are just patterns, and a perfect copy of the pattern is the same as the original. But Harry might, Yudkowsky might (have to check his non-fiction writings on the subject), and Riddle/Monroe/Voldemort might as well. We certainly know that possession by Voldemort is possible, both in canon and even more so in HPMoR. Maybe the plan is to setup Harry as a leader, have him take over the government of magical Britain (as Quirrell explicitly states) and then transfer Voldemort’s consciousness from Monroe/Quirrell’s body to Harry’s, wiping out Harry’s own consciousness in the process. That would seem to fulfill the prophecy and resurrect Voldemort without the opposition his Riddle/Snakehead form is likely to take.
The other evidence that suggests we should be looking for deeper motives is that Harry still thinks Voldemort is holding the idiot ball, and we know that’s not true. It could be that Harry is simply wrong as a matter of fact. It may not be as easy to take over magical Britain as he thinks. He was wrong about the dark mark, after all. But there’s still a real possibility that Harry is confused and as a rationalist he is more confused by fiction than by fact. The whole novel is fiction of course, but there are fictions within fictions here and at least one of them has yet to be revealed as such.