Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Chapter Summary and Analysis - Part One
My interest in the Harry Potter books wasn't planned, but grew from trying to form an opinion for an article I was writing and questions that I was being asked by the parents of my patients. Finding the books not to be as worthless as some less-than-unbiased organizations were claiming; I have, in fact, read them all, some several times. And, I must confess, that I had great anticipation for the release of book six, "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince." For me, this book was similar to the previous releases in that It was difficult to put down and received almost a "straight through" reading over the two day weekend. All that being said, I must confess that, at it's completion, I feel somewhat like having been "slugged in the stomach."
J K Rowling has said many times in interviews that she would not forget that she was writing her books for the 7 to 11 year old child. She seems, to me, to have missed her mark a bit on this one! The book is unmistakably the quality of a Rowling effort, with it's convincingly vivid word pictures. And, it did portray a refreshingly greater "you're-not-being-left-alone-to-raise-yourself-so-here-is-some-adult-mentoring" type of relationship with Harry; which, in my opinion, was lacking in previous books. New characters were unique and skillfully crafted in the "Rowling-ian" fashion; and, it did have "surprises around every corner." When an author breaks down the readers pre-conceptions about characters, their distress and even feelings of loss is, of course, to be expected. Even in a mystery novel such as this.
The enormous "HOWEVER" comes, this time, in the feeling of "pointlessness," which was left in many readers this time around. Perhaps Ms Rowling was actually intending to inflict the reader with feelings of: being overwhelmed with the enormity of the task ahead; that little, if anything, had seemed to have been accomplished so far; that there is aparantly a hopelessly impossible and vaguely defined task ahead; that Harry evidently has totally inadequate skills (Harry couldn’t inflict even one defensive or retaliatory spell on Snape let alone LV); that he is left alone with no significant source of information or assistance which would actually help him become adequate to the task; that making the ultimate sacrifice was pointless; or, to leave Harry with only an inadequately vague, or non-existent plan, or hope, for the future.
Even the customary "moral" or uplifting message, found in all the other books, seemed more vague, to me, in this book; thereby making my defense against the all-to-frequently-present, opinion-by-proxy critic, who was denigrating the book and it's author, more difficult. I saw more than a few youngsters (in the previously targeted age bracket) dressed in their themed clothing, waiting, with me (and their supportive parents with the checkbooks), in the long lines so we could receive "tokens" of permission which would enable us to stand in yet other lines, where the books were located. After they have returned their costumes to the closet this time I wonder how they will feel during the next two years awaiting "closure." I will wait of course; but, it just seems (to me at least) that it wouldn't have been too difficult, or un-true to the plot, for Ms. Rowling to have left Harry (and readers) with just a little bit of realistic confidence upon which to hang some hope.
- The Other Minister
- We've known for some time that the Minister of Magic does, on special occasions, inform the British Prime Minister of important events in the magical world that might effect the Muggle world. There is a painting of frog-like looking old man (really a wizard) in the Prime Ministers private office which cannot be removed and whose occupant will relay messages from the Minister of Magic. The large fireplace is also connected to the Floo network so that the Minister is able to drop in and have a "chat" when he so desires.
The prime minister was being blamed by his political opponents for all kinds of "unusual events" during the previous week which couldn't be explained but he knew wasn't his fault. While he was in deep reverie about his problems, the little man in the painting "ahem'd" and he knew that couldn't be good. He then recalled the several previous times the man had "ahem'd." From shortly after his appointment when Fudge had introduced himself and turned his teacup into a gerbil as proof of his claims; to when he explained of Sirius Black's escape from Azkaban Prison; and then explaining that Voldemort was back and about the triwizard tournament. Each visit had brought increasingly bad news and he didn't want to accept this one; but, the funny man wouldn't take no for an answer.
Fudge's visit this time was for two reasons: first, in order to explain all those events which, in reality, were caused by Lord Voldemort's followers, including giants; and, second, that he had been replaced! He introduced the new Minister of Magic 3 Rufus Scrimgeour 3 who proved to be very efficient and explained that a muggle government official, who had recently been "quacking like a duck," was actually the victim of an Imperious curse and would be taken to St Mungo's hospital for healing. The collapse of a bridge, he informed, was the work of Voldemort's followers; the hurricane was really a giant on a rampage; the death of Amelia Bones (head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement was probably done by Voldemort Personally; and, the continual misty weather was because Dementor's on the loose were breeding! Finally, Scrimgeour revealed that the Prime Minister's so efficient new secretary was, in fact, the Auror, Kingsley Shacklebolt - who would be providing him security.
- Spinner's End
- Late that same night, Narcissa Black, who's Death Eater husband, Lucius Malfoy, had been imprisoned in Azkaban, raced toward a "dung hill" type muggle town to speak with a "friend." Her sister, Bellatrix LeStrange, apparated behind her and urgently issued strong admonishments that Voldemort had given an order preventing anyone revealing anything about "their plan." Down Spinner's End road they entered an infrequently used dwelling and were greeted by Severous Snape and Wormtail! Bellatrix's distrust and even distain of Snape was apparant so Snape demanded that she voice her objections of him. He then methodically answered all of them. He claimed that he had been able to give Voldemort 16 years worth of "spying" on Dumbledore because he had just been following Voldemort's orders to remain at Hogwarts. He hadn't dared kill Harry in front of Dumbledore or risk revealing himself or he probably would have been sent to Azkaban.
The whole purpose of Narcissa's visit was to entreat Snape's intervention with Voldemort on behalf of her son Draco. She asked Snape to try and persuade Voldemort not to have Draco perform "a mission" in which she knew he "couldn't succeed" and, in fact, would probably be killed. She believed that it was Voldemort's punishment for Lucius failing to get the "Prophecy" and being jailed. Bellatrix still admonished that "Draco seems willing to prove himself" to which his mother replied that he was "only 16 and didn't know any better." Snape suggested that perhaps he could "watch over" Draco and help if he was needed; but, with Bellatrix's taunting, Narcissa asked him to make this promise using the magical "Unbreakable Vow." Bellatrix acted as the "bonder" and used her wand on their linked hands as Snape promised to: 1) watch over Draco as he attempts to fulfill Voldemort's plan; 2) protect him from harm; and 3) if it seems that Draco would fail, HE would carry out the deed!
- Will and Won't
- Amazingly, the captured death eaters were sent to Azkaban for trespassing in the ministry despite the fact that the Dementor's were under the control of Voldemort. The Ministry was trying to quash rumors about there even being a "prophecy" and Harry was now being called the "chosen one," who was going to rid the world of Voldemort. Rufus Scrimgeour was described as a "man with a lion-like mien of thick hair and a rather ravaged face." He was, after all, a former Auror and had spent his career rounding up followers of Voldemort. The Ministry said that they assured the students safety at Hogwarts this year because of their many new security measures. And they advised everyone to make sure of several "protective" measures including: making sure children knew how to do Side-Along-Apparition; making sure that they all knew each others "key passwords" so they could be able to tell the "real" person from an imposter using polyjuice potion; and, to be aware that the Death Eaters were possibly using "Inferi" which they should report, if they saw any.
Dumbledore wrote to Harry requesting to visit him at the Dursley's a fortnight into the summer. Harry thought it must be too good to be true so didn't pack or tell the Dursley's, even though he rapidly sent the owl back with his "yes" reply. When Dumbledore arrived he pleasantly, but firmly, dealt with Dursley's rudeness. Harry noticed that his wand hand was blackened and withered. He advised Harry that Sirius Black had left everything he owned to Harry in his will, including: Number 12 Grimmauld Place, Buckbeak and Kreachur! He asked Harry to give Kreachur an order to see if, despite the elf's continued protests of "Kreachur won't, Kreachur won't," it would have to obey. The obnoxious elf was throwing such a tantrum Harry couldn't think, so told him simply: "shut up!" Kreachur continued his tantrum, but silently, which told them that Harry really was the rightful magical heir; and, that the Black families' spells on the house hadn't caused it's ownership to go to Bellatrix LeStrange (Sirius' murderer). Then, at Dumbledore's suggestion, Kreachur reluctantly obeyed Harry's order to go to the Hogwarts kitchen and work with the other house elves. Buckbeak (alias Witherwings) was to go live with Hagrid. The Dursley's got a rebuke for their lifelong abuse of Harry; but, Dumbledore asked that they let him come back again for one more summer's protection. He reminded them that when he turned 17 he would become "of age" in the wizarding world and would therefore loose the "blood protection" that his mother's death (and Dumbledore's spell) had invoked. Dumbledore sent Harry's things on to the Burrow by magic and told Harry that they needed to make one little stop first. He told Harry that he didn't have time to explain his withered hand just yet; because, it "was a thrilling tale and he wanted to do it justice." As he and Harry stepped off the porch into the night he said: "let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure."
- Horace Slughorn
- Having never apparated before, and with all the Voldemort activity, Harry was worried. Dumbledore reassured him "you don't need to be afraid, you're with me." Harry told Dumbledore that his scar had not hurt at all since the altercation at the ministry. Dumbledore wasn't surprised and said that Voldemort himself was probably using Occlumency against Harry's thought's. Dumbledore's fingers had been burned and blackened but he deferred any explanation. They discussed the new minister (who the paper reported as having an argument with Dumbledore), and the ministry's new security procedures. He jokingly chided Harry for not asking him his favorite flavor as a "key password," which he said was raspberry, by the way. Harry did "side-along-apparition" with Dumbledore, which felt like he had been squished through a long rubber tube, to the town of Budleigh Babberton. Most magical buildings are protected against anyone apparating into them. Inferi are dead bodies which have been bewitched to do a dark wizards bidding.
They found Horace Slughorn in a "borrowed" house transfigured into the form of an arm chair trying to pretending that the house was empty and he had been killed. He told Harry that he had been moving around the world, living in the empty homes of people who were vacationing, in order to prevent Voldemort's followers from recruiting him. Dumbledore had brought Harry along to "help convince" Horace to come back to Hogwarts. He was the former head of Slytherin; but, claimed that Lilly, Harry's Gryffindor mother, had been his favorite student. While Dumbledore had excused himself, ostensibly to use the bathroom, Harry was left alone with Slughorn. His simple questions convinced the former professor that, even though he was fearful of Voldemort's wrath, he would be safer by being at Hogwarts. He finally agreed to return to teach at Hogwarts. After leaving, Dumbledore warned Harry that Slughorn liked to "collect" people who were highly connected or who were likely to be famous. He advised that Harry should be on guard with "professor Slughorn" as he would most likely be trying to "collect" Harry into his sphere of influence as well.
They finally apparated to the Burrow; but, before going in, Dumbledore still wanted to talk some more so went into a small, spider-infested, shed. They had a heart-to-heart talk about Harry's love for Sirius and the necessity of "not shutting myself away." Dumbledore also said that: 1) He would be taking a more active role in Harry's education with private lessons containing "a little of this, a little of that"; 2) Harry should not tell anyone about the prophecy, or that he even knows what it was, EXCEPT Ron and Hermione; 3) he should keep his invisibility cloak with him at all times, "just in case"; 4) not to count his OWLS until he had received them; and 5) that the Weasley's were suffering inconvenience having Harry with them and he shouldn't repay them by TAKING ANY RISKS. Harry agreed, so they knocked on the Burrow door, as Dumbledore said: "so as not to deprive Molly any longer of the chance to deplore how thin you are.
- An Excess of Phlegm
- Harry and Dumbledore finally made themselves known to a very nervous Molly Weasley who wasn't expecting them until much later. They also found a depressed Nymphadora Tonks who excused herself as soon as they arrived. Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Fleur DeLacour were upstairs in bed. The Weasleys' famous clock had become very odd with all of it's arms pointing to "mortal peril." Harry was given Fred and George's old room to himself because the twins were now living over their joke shop in Diagon Alley and Percy was too embarrassed to apologize and make up with them. Arthur arrived home from work late and demanded to hear their "secret question's" before he would allow Molly to open the door. His was that "finding how airplanes stay up" was his dearest ambition, and Molly's was that "Mollywobbles" was what she liked him to call her when they were alone. Arthur had been promoted to the head of the "Office for the Detection and Confiscation of Counterfeit Defensive Spells and Protective Objects."
The next morning Harry discovered that Bill had gotten engaged to Fleur, much to the disappointment and dislike of all the girls who called her "Phlegm" derisively behind her back. Molly was trying to break the two up, and it seemed, would rather have Tonks in the family. Tonks had lost her metamorph ability and "looked terribly depressed." They all believed that it was due to having depression and survivors guilt over feeling responsible for Sirius' death.
Alone, Harry told Ron and Hermione about the fact that he had heard the prophecy which said: "neither of us can live while the other one survives." He was surprised to find that they were unexpectedly receptive and supportive. Hermione was slugged in the eye by a trick telescope which belonged to Fred and George; then, was panicked to hear that their OWL results would be coming later that day. She believed that she had failed all her O.W.L.'s. When they finally came, Harry received: an "Outstanding" (top grade) in DADA; "Exceeds" (2nd) in Creatures, Charms, Herbology, Transfiguration and even Potions; "Acceptable" (3rd) in Astronomy; a failing "Poor" (4th) in Divination; and "Dreadful" (5th) in History. Ron got the identical grades except no Outstanding. Hermione was actually disappointed with her 10 "Outstandings" and 1 "Exceeds" (DADA)! Harry remembered that Snape had a rule to not accept anyone into his potions NEWT level class who hadn't gotten an "exceeds." He had mixed emotions that he now wouldn't be able to become an Auror because that would take NEWT level potions.
- Draco's Detour
- Harry turned 16 while staying at the Weasley's. At his party Remus Lupin and others brought distressing news about Dementor attacks, Igor Karkaroff's body being found in a shack under a "Death Mark", Florean Fortescue being dragged off from his Diagon Alley ice cream shop, and Ollivander, the maker of Harry's wand, going missing. Their book lists finally came and Harry was made Quidditch Captain which gave him equal status to the school prefects. Molly wouldn't go to Diagon Alley without Arthur and extra security which finally occurred on the following Saturday. Hagrid was their security guard; but, when Harry, Ron and Hermione split from the rest of the group to go to Madame Malkin's he remained outside the "too small of shop." Inside, they met Draco and his mother Narcissa who, of course, tried to be rude, abusive and arrogant and caused a scene.
Draco, being fitted for a robe, was openly abusive to them, and his mother joined in. Harry openly stood up to them both, with his wand, out saying: "go ahead and try something," and perhaps she "could be in a double cell with her looser husband." She told Harry that he would be "reunited with your dear Sirius" before she would be with her husband in Azkaban. They visited the Weasley joke shop and were "blown away" with the impressive store front and the massive crowd. Fred gave Hermione the bruise remover that they used to put around her punched eye; and, told Harry he "would never pay at their shop" in gratitude for the TriWizard winnings "startup loan" he had given him. They showed them that they had opened a more serious line of "shield charm" hats and clothing which would protect against simple jinx's. It had accidentally turned into a "big money-maker" when the ministry had purchased in bulk for their employees. Harry got some "Decoy Detonators," Hermione a patented "Daydream Charm"; Ginny a purple miniature bred Puffskein named Arnold and Ron got some extendible ears (but he had to nick them.) Ginny showed strong interest in their lines of "love potions."
Harry saw Draco sneaking away from his mother and down Knockturn Alley; so, the three followed him, under Harry's cloak, to Borgin and Burkes dark artifact shop. They used Ron's extendable ears to hear Draco buying "something," then threateningly order Mr. Borgin to tell him "how to fix it" because he couldn't "bring it into the shop." He also told Borgin that he better "keep that one safe" and showed him something on his arm to him to frighten him. He claimed that the old man had better "keep his mind on the task" or he would be getting a visit from their "old family friend - Fenrir Greyback."
- The Slug Club
- Obsessing on Draco's activities, Harry theorized that Draco must have taken his father's place as a Death Eater and it was his brand with the dark mark on his left arm that he showed Borgin which caused him fear. Harry got Mr. Weasley alone on the Hogwart's Express train platform and told him about Draco; but, he didn't really believe him. Everyone else's activities on the train left Harry by himself; so, he sat with Neville and Luna Lovegood, who he called "his friends" to a gaggle of girls who had told him that he didn't have to sit with "un-cool" people. Both Harry and Neville received a special invitation to luncheon with Professor Slughorn and found that 6th year Slytherin Blaise Zabini, 7th year Gryffindor Cormac McLaggen, Ravenclaw Marcus Belby, and 5th year Ginny were also there. Everyone invited was there because of their family and their "connections" except Ginny, who was there because she impressed him with her Bat-Bogey hex. He went around the circle addressing each one and trying to ingratiate himself to them. He saved Harry until last and tried to "pump him" for information about being "the chosen one" and happenings at the ministry. Thankfully, Neville and Ginny were there and diverted the conversation. All there were invited to join his "Slug Club."
Harry then followed Zabini back to the Slytherin compartment under his cloak in order to spy on Malfoy. He only got into the cabin and up on the luggage rack with great difficulty and thought his "tenny's" had come from under the cloak for a second. Draco seemed surprised about Neville and Ginny being invited and him not. He told all the group that he "may not be at Hogwarts next year" having moved "onto bigger and better things." When he saw the effect that his remarks were having on the others, Malfoy continued: "Maybe the job HE wants me to do is something that you don't need to be qualified (of age) for." When the kids were getting their luggage down, one hit Harry and he let out an involuntary gasp, which it looked like no one had heard. After everyone had left the compartment, Malfoy used the Petrificus Totalus charm on Harry to immobilize him. He claimed that Harry hadn't "heard anything that he cared about"; but, then broke Harry's nose by stomping on his face (in retribution for his father). He covered Harry back up with the cloak hoping that no one would find him until he was back in London.
- Snape Victorious
- While Harry lay on his back, paralyzed, with his legs in a crouch and blood dripping down the back of his throat from his broken nose, and just as he had resigned himself to his doom, Tonks came looking for him. She un-petrified him and healed his nose with "Episkey." She said that she knew he hadn't left the train so thought he must be hiding for some reason and checked the one compartment with the blinds drawn. She sent her patronus, an immense silvery four-legged creature, up to the castle so Hagrid would know he was safe and come down to unlock the newly charmed gate. It was Snape who actually met them and malevolently told Tonks that her "new patronus looked weaker than her old one." He then took 70 points from Gryffindor for Harry's lateness and muggle clothes and tormented him all the way to the Great Hall.
Dumbledore's hand still looked injured, or dead, as he got up to announce that Slughorn would be teaching Potions this year - and Snape would be teaching DADA! Without thinking Harry cried out "no," but no one seemed to hear him except Hermione and Ron. Hagrid had been late for the feast because he had been with Grawp at the new cave Dumbledore had fixed for him in the mountains. Later, when Harry mentioned Draco's action and possible affiliation with Lord Voldemort, Hagrid let slip that Voldemort "didn't need anyone at Hogwarts" so Draco couldn't be working for him. He anticipated that he would see them all in Care of Magical Creature's class the next day; but, none of the three were taking his class this year!
- The Half-Blood Prince
- Hermione didn't believe Harry that Draco really had a "Lord Voldemort" mission. When they had their class schedule review, McGonagall stopped Neville from taking Transfiguration because of his past grades; but, she suggested Charms instead - to his delight. She advised Harry and Ron to take Potions now that Slughorn was teaching; because, she said, he accepted students at the "E level." Snape continued his hateful teaching style, but clearly "loved" his new Dark Arts assignment and gave a lesson on "non-verbal spells." His teaching style was to just tell the class to go "do it" on each other while he stalked the room belittling them. When he came to them, and saw that Ron couldn't hex Harry, Snape attempted to show the class how to do one using unwilling Harry as his guinea pig. Harry had his wand out however and reflexively spoke the shield charm so strong that it knocked Snape down on his butt. Angry, Snape threatenly asked if Harry remembered they were supposed to be using NON-verbal spells and Harry replied, "yes," (instead of yes "sir"). Trying to continue his belittling, harassment, Snape sneeringly corrected him by saying: "it's yes, SIR." Almost without thinking Harry flippantly replied: "there's no need to call me 'sir,' professor," earning him a detention for his "cheek." Dumbledore sent a letter of invite to Harry for his first "private lesson" which turned out to be at the same time as Snape's intended detention. The detention was delayed a week by Dumbledore.
Only 12 students were in Harry's NEWT level Potions class this year. Slughorn loaned Harry and Ron some used books from the cupboard, along with some supplies. To Harry's annoyance the book he got had previously been copiously annotated such that he could hardly even read the book. Slughorn showed examples of NEWT level potions which he had made: Veritaserum (truth) was colorless and odorless; Polyjuice Potion (transfiguration) was slow-bubbling and mud like; Amortentia (love potion) was mother-of-pearl with spiral rising steam; and Felix Felicis (liquid luck) was golden and splashed about. The fumes of Amortentia smelled like Treacle Tart, woody broomstick handle and something flowery from the Burrow to Harry. To Hermione it smelled like parchment, newly mown grass and "something else" which made her blush. Felix, Slughorn told them, was illegal in competitions and had very serious side effects when overused. He offered a small vial, 24-hours worth, of Felix as the prize for the person who made the best Draught of Living Death during the class period. Harry slowly began using the annotations in his book and far surpassed even Hermione which won him the vial of Felix, and Slughorn's comment that he was "like his mother" with special skills in potions. Amidst Ginny's and Hermione's angst over Harry "obeying" anything handwritten in a book, Hermione used the "Specialis Revelio" spell to reveal any "special" capabilities it might have. On the back cover Harry noticed, in the same small cramped handwriting as was throughout the book, the words: "property of the Half-Blood Prince."
- The House of Gaunt
- Harry continued to use the annotated potions book with superb results. Dumbledore told Harry that his "lessons" would use the Pensieve to teach him of all the information he knew about Voldemort; and, that it "definitely was about the prophesy" and he "did hope it would help him survive." He put off, again, telling Harry how he got the wounded hand and said their first visit would be to a memory of Bob Ogden's where he had paid an official visit, as Head of the Magical Law Enforcement Squad, to Little Hangleton. The visit was to serve a summons on Morfin Gaunt, the inbred mentally odd son of Marvolo Gaunt, for hexing a muggle, Tom Riddle, with hives. Marvolo ranted belligerently about being a pure blood descendent of Salazar Slytherin and flaunted his "ugly black-stoned family ring with the Peverell coat of arms engraved on it" and a golden locket which had belonged to Slytherin himself. He demanded to know Ogden's blood line, and, when it wasn't given, said "I think I've seen noses like yours in the village (i.e. short, muggle types)."
All of the family spoke Parceltongue to each other (which Harry understood but, apparently, Bob Ogden did not) including his daughter, Merope, whom he treated mercilessly as a near squib. Morfin tattled that he had seen Merope "have eyes" for the muggle so he hexed him with the hives. When Marvolo heard that, he became enraged at her physically; and, when Ogden tried to intervene he needed to run for his life. Ogden returned with reinforcement and arrested them both to be tried and sent to Azkaban. Marvolo was Voldemort's grandfather; and, when Merope was left on her own, her magical powers grew such that she was able to use a "love potion" to win a marriage proposal from Tom Riddle. (the muggle she had fancied. When he was released and found what Merope had done, Marvolo disowned her; and, when she became pregnant and stopped giving him the love potion thinking he would still love her, she was disowned by Tom Riddle too. Of course she had died in childbirth and her son Tom (Jr) was left to be raised in an orphanage.
Harry noticed the Gaunt ring on Dumbledore's table and was told that: "Yes, it had been gotten at the same time my hand was injured;" and, "Yes, it was the ring he had worn when they "recruited" Slughorn." Harry asked again about the relevance of the "lessons" and was reassured that "it is very important to know about Voldemort's past" and "it has everything to do with the prophecy." He also said that Ron and Hermione had earned the right to hear the things Harry was taught; but, he needed to swear them to secrecy.