The End of Procrastination: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Attention: Spoiler alert!

It’s been a while since I finished my HP Summer (Re-)Reading and as it is – when the project has ended – one cannot be bothered with the according wrap-ups. Thus, in keeping with the motto „better late than never“, my report on HP part VI (and the one for the Deathly Hallows will follow, too! Promise!)

Rolling the field up from behind, I start at the end of the book this time which is kind of a bombshell, isn’t it?
When reading the Half-Blood Prince for the first time, I repeatedly had to go over the passage where Dumbledore is killed. I wouldn’t believe that Snape really proved himself the nasty piece of work everyone thought him to be. Not before I realized that someone like Albus Dumbledore would never have pleaded for his own life, I acknowledged the possibility that when apparently he asked Snape to spare him, he actually asked Severus to kill him instead. In the light of his fatally injured hand which Dumbledore acquired when he destroyed the first Horcrux, Marvolo’s ring, he thought it more important to make Snape keep to the Unbreakable Vow and safe Draco Malfoy from a murder on his conscience than to live only a little longer himself. By doing it this way he prevented Severus becoming useless as a spy in the ranks of the enemy, too.

An aspect on which I entertained some illusions, however, is stated in the chapter „The Phoenix Lament“. I hoped that if one interpreted Fawkes‘ mourning as a song, it could mean that (The Chamber of Secrets revealed that Phoenixes‘ tears have healing powers) he was able to cure Albus Dumbledore even from the fatal spell. But all these wishes turned out to be what they were – mere fantasy. Albus Dumbledore is dead at the end of part six, leaving Harry behind to bring it all to an end by himself. Harry who neither feels all set for it nor thoroughly informed what his task really involves.

The Half-Blood Prince starts after a memorable encounter in the Dursleys‘ house (Albus Dumbledore vs. The Three Dursleys) with the Headmaster and Harry trying to persuade retired Professor Horace Slughorn (ex Head of Slitherin House) to take up a teaching job at Hogwarts. At first the pensioner is reluctant but when he perceives the opportunity to remain comparatively safe there and additionally to be able to collect more people for his notorious „Slug Club“ in which only „the famous, the successful and the powerful“ (75) have a place, he eventually agrees to the offer. Later in the book, Dumbledore sets Harry the important task to secure a specific memory Slughorn has sealed in his head being too embarassed to reveal it. When Harry already fears he will never accomplish this assignment, the potion Felix Felicis (liquid luck) helps him unexpectedly. At the funeral of Hagrid’s giant spider Aragog, he eventually manages to retrieve the crucial memory from Slughorn.

From Dumbledore Harry learns that he inherited number twelve, Grimmauld Place from Sirius which contains the reluctant house elf Kreacher as well. Unlike Sirius, Harry soon can establish a better and more fruitful relationship with his subordinate by simple means of kindness and benevolence. On Hermione’s advice he provides Kreacher with a locket which once belonged to his deceased master Regulus, Sirius‘ brother, which triggers a completely different behaviour of Kreacher towards them (warm and palatable meals, helpfulness and almost an attachment for his new master).

After the private lessons he had to take with Snape in Occlumency which didn’t turn out so well

„I think the word ‚fiasco‘ would be a good one here,“ said Dumbledore, nodding. (79)

Harry is instructed by Dumbledore himself instead. Together, they undertake excursions in peoples‘ memories with the aid of the Pensieve. On these trips Harry learns a lot about Voldemort’s past as to his family connections and he relives a scene in which Dumbledore is offering young Tom Riddle a place at Hogwarts. He notices that even as a kid, Riddle was a bully using his magical talent to threaten and punish others and that he liked to collect trophies – items which he later turned into Horcruxes. Horcruxes that have to be destroyed in order to defeat Voldemore for good.

Regarding Hogwarts, Ron and Hermione become Prefects and Harry the new captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. The O.W.L. results surprisingly enable Harry to pursue his career ambition to become an Auror and with the new teacher for Potions, Professor Slughorn, and a battered, scribbled-in copy of the course book which once belonged to someone who called himself the Half-Blood Prince, Harry produces the best results in this subject ever. Unfortunately, there is also a downside: When Harry tries out an unknown spell, it turns out to be horrible and nearly costs a person’s life. Inspite of many speculations and a thorough research, Harry, Ron and Hermione cannot find out who the Half-Blood Prince really was until the end.

There is also the matter of love, which plays an important role for many of the characters in this book. Harry starts to suspect that his feelings for Ginny are not exactly what can be called a brotherly affection. Tonks is unhappily loving Remus Lupin who refuses to give them a chance because he is afraid of what can come out of a relationship between a witch and a werewolf. There are also Bill Weasley and Fleur who are going to get married. Mrs Weasley and Ginny aren’t happy at first because they believe Bill’s future bride arrogant and pretentious. Only when Fleur proves herself to be absolutely loyal and loving to Bill when he is bitten by werewolf Fenrir Greyback and ends up with a mutilated face, Fleur is truly admitted in the family.

„You thought I would not weesh to marry him? Or per’aps, you ‚oped?“ said Fleur, her nostrils flaring. „What do I care how ‚e looks? I am good-looking enough for both of us, I theenk! All these scars show is zat my husband is brave!“ (581)

Albus Dumbledore will be missed very much in the last part of the series, the Deathly Hallows; not only for his intellect, his foresight and his guidance but also for his chuckles, his eloquence and his love for Every Flavour Beans and knitting patterns. Thus, it shall be him who has the last words.

„From this point forth, we shall be leaving the firm foundation of fact and journeying together through the murky marshes of memory into thickets of wildest guesswork. From hereon in, Harry, I may be as woefully wrong as Humphrey Belcher, who believed the time was ripe for a cheese cauldron.“ (187)

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