Happy Halloween, Squiders!
If we look at the entire Harry Potter series as a whole, where Order of the Phoenix is the Dark Moment and Deathly Hallows is the climax, then Half-Blood Prince is the lead-up. Sure, it has some Dark Moment tints to it, as Harry loses the last adult he ever really looked up to, but for the most part, Half-Blood Prince tells us why. Voldemort’s backstory is told through a series of pensieve visits, allowing us to see how the Dark Lord became the force of evil he is. We find out about the horcruxes, how they’re made, how Voldemort thinks about them. All this information is essential for Harry to go out on his own to accomplish his end goal: the destruction of Voldemort, finally and completely.
Also, eventually I will get through this book without crying at Dumbledore’s funeral, but today is apparently not that day.
Half-Blood Prince messes up convention. I remember, my first readthrough, how shocking it was when Slughorn turned out to be the Potions teacher and that Snape was to be Defense Against the Dark Arts. Up until HBP, there’d been a lot of discussion about his loyalties. I’d been leaning towards good, since Dumbledore trusted and relied on him so much, and he’d always been there when it counted, but the end…brilliant, really. HBP leaves you sure that Snape has been evil this whole time and yet…yet there’s this tiny doubt. Just how much does Dumbledore know? How far ahead is he really thinking?
Harry’s calmed a bit, though he still has his moments where you kind of want to punch him in the arm and tell him to shut up. It’s almost like Sirius’s death has shown him the dangers of not thinking things through, of acting before having all the information. Ron and Hermoine act like tools for half the book so we’re still reminded that they’re teenagers, to even things out a bit.
(Also, I like how Firefox tells me that Hermoine is not a word, but Voldemort’s okay. EDIT: Siri informs me that I am spelling Hermione wrong. Whoops. Carry on.)
We’ve also got two out of three Deathly Hallows in HBP, though, of course, we don’t know of their existence yet. In the pensieve memories, Gaunt points out the crest on his ring: the Peverell coat of arms. A random name at this point, means nothing; the scene distracts you from it with Slytherin’s locket. Both would be turned into horcruxes, but only one contains the Resurrection Stone. I wonder, since Voldemort was familiar with the Deathly Hallows enough to know of the Elder Wand, that he didn’t recognize the ring for what it really was, but maybe he just had no use for it. After all, he had no loved ones to bring back.
Poor Harry has his hands on Ravenclaw’s diadem and doesn’t even realize it.
There’s also a vague hint of Dumbledore’s backstory, while he and Harry are in the cave. Interesting that the guilt is so strong, even after all those years.
Half-Blood Prince is the last book in the series that attempts convention at all. There are still classes, there is still Quidditch, there are still hormones and rivalries, but in the end, Dumbledore is gone, Harry will not return to Hogwarts, and the war looms ever closer.
Questions for Discussion:
1. Dumbledore thinks it’s important for Harry to know the truth of Voldemort’s past. Harry himself has often noted the similarities between himself and Voldemort. What do you think Dumbledore is trying to show Harry through this?
2. Scrimgeour is a much more active Minister of Magic, but is he a better one than Fudge?
3. Scrimgeour accuses Harry of being Dumbledore’s Man, through and through. What exactly does this mean?
4. What does it say about Harry that he gives his Felix Felicitas to his friends to keep them safe, rather than keeping it for his own use?
5. Dumbledore knew that Draco had been trying to kill him all year. Why didn’t he act on this knowledge? Was there anything he could have done that would have kept both him and Draco safe?
Deathly Hallows will be on deck for November 21st.