Hello, gentle readers. We have arrived at the sixth book…how time flies. If I’m remembering correctly, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince doesn’t get a lot of love. I can kinda see why, given its unfortunate position between the psychologically damaging Order of the Phoenix and the big-ass conclusion to the whole shebang. There’s also the various romantic subplots that make this book feel more like a standard YA book then the others (which makes sense when you realize the kids who had been growing up with Harry and the gang were smack in the middle of YA territory by the time the sixth book came out).
I don’t really mind the romance stuff. The Ron/Lavender plot is hilarious. And, I’m not gonna lie, Harry realizing he has feelings for Ginny pushes the right buttons. I also enjoy the generous helping of backstory we’re given. We see more of Tom Riddle’s past. We learn about Horcruxes. What else do you want?!?
A word of warning: I asked for these chapters. For reasons. There may be some incoherent ginger admiration ahead. You’ve been warned.
CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR: SECTUMSEMPRA
I’m trying really hard to recall if there’s anything in the books about the use of the Felix Felicis potion coming with any karmic kickback. Oh, sure, there are dangers about using too much, but does a single dose require the user to repay the universe in any way? Why do I ask? Well, after all of the ridiculous good fortune that Harry experienced in the last two chapters, these next chapters take a little bit of the wind out of our hero’s sails. This chapter, in particular, takes its pound of flesh and kicks Harry in the junk on the way out.
It’s safe to say that the centerpiece of this chapter is Harry’s use of the spell that gives the chapter its name. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this chapter follows the chapter where Harry learns about Horcruxes. In order for someone to make a Horcrux, they first have to commit murder, an act so horrible that it actually rips off a tiny piece of the murderer’s soul. That’s not something that’s easy to wrap your head around. I mean, what exactly does that mean: ripping off a piece of your soul. What does that feel like? What kind of person can willingly do that?
So, here we have Harry facing off against Malfoy, someone he clearly hates more than anything. Malfoy, who is willing to hurl a Cruciatus Curse at him, is clearly an enemy. Harry counters with Sectumsempra (you know…for enemies!)
The spell practically fillets Malfoy–something that looks particularly gruesome in the film. We’re gonna ignore the debate over whether or not Harry made the best decision to use a spell without having the slightest idea what it does. What’s important here, I think, is what the act does to Harry. Malfoy has made the last six years of Harry’s life miserable. He’s a bully and a racist. And, even in self defense, the thought of causing Malfoy that much pain shakes Harry to his core. Whether he knows it or not, this incident has given Harry insight into just how far gone Voldemort is.
Of course, Snape is the one who finds Harry in the crapper, standing over a dying Malfoy. And the bad luck just keeps on going. Snape tends to Malfoy, accuses Harry of using Dark Magic, and demands to see all of Harry’s school books. Now, when I first read The Half-Blood Prince, I just assumed Snape was being his usual suspicious self. But, now you can see the wheels turning in his greasy-haired head. He knows. (Full disclosure: It never occurred to me that Snape was the Half-Blood Prince. I always thought it was going to be Lily.) Harry’s karmic payback continues when Snape gives him detention on every Saturday until the end of term. That means no Quidditch and no chances to talk to Ginny (I’ll get to that in a bit).
I’m torn on how I feel about Snape’s punishment. On one hand, it’s pretty crappy for an adult to repeatedly point out that a kid’s parent, whom the kid never even got a chance to know, was a worthless little shit. It’s vindictive and immature. However, I can see where Snape is coming from. I was bullied. I was bullied in elementary school and middle school and most of high school. It sucked. If I had a chance to show the children of those bullies what their fathers had been like in school, I don’t know if I’d be able to resist the urge, especially if the entire world thought those former bullies had beer-flavored nipples.
Speaking of urges and whether or not you should resist them–
When he isn’t obsessing over Quidditch, Harry is obsessing over Ginny or, to be more specific, how Ron would feel about Harry having feelings for Ginny. I just realized that both Ginny and Cho are Quidditch players, which means that Harry might actually love Quidditch so much he tried to marry it. Harry’s stuck in detention with Snape, so he has to leave the Gryffindor team in the capable hands of Ginny, Ron, Dean Thomas, and Katie Bell. Returning to the Gryffindor common room after the final game of the season, Harry’s sure the Gryffindors came in last place. Stepping through the door, Harry is met with the sounds of celebration. They won! Gryffindor won the Championship! Yes. Yes. Blah blah Quidditch blippity blah blah. What’s important is that–
CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE: THE SEER OVERHEARD
“Once in his life, every man is entitled to fall in love with a gorgeous redhead!” -Lucille Ball
So, Harry has gotten himself a spunky ginger girlfriend. That lucky prat!
People argue against Harry and Ginny being together. (Okay, to be fair, people argue against EVERYTHING.) They say that Rowling only did it to make sure the main characters were all paired off or as a way for Harry to officially join the Weasley family. They claim that Harry’s feelings came out of nowhere. Well, isn’t that the way it happens sometimes? You see someone every day for years and all of a sudden you realize that they mean more to you than you initially thought. It’s not like Harry and Ginny just met at the beginning of the book. They’ve known each other for six years. They’ve hung out together. It makes total sense. If anything, I think Rowling is providing an important lesson through the Harry/Ginny relationship. Ginny had a crush on Harry when she was younger. It made her a total spaz whenever Harry was around. It was only when she let it go and started acting like a sane human person that Harry realized how funny and awesome she was. (Thanks, Hermione!)
Today’s lesson: Always be yourself. Unless you can be a ginger. Then always be a ginger.
Where was I? Right. Harry and Ginny are dating and, for the most part, things are grand. Sure, Harry still has Saturday detention and Ginny is studying for her O.W.L.s, so they don’t have a lot of time together–can you ever really have enough time with your ginger girlfriend? Luckily Harry has other things to worry about besides ginger interruptus. Things like Hermione’s ever-vigilant quest to discover the identity of the Half-Blood Prince. The funny thing about Hermione’s Eileen Prince theory is that it would probably be the right answer in any other book. I would totally expect to have a solution like that in a Sherlock Holmes story. Or Ms. Marple. Or Nero Wolfe. Or Ellery Queen. (Ugh. I have so many conflicted feelings about J.K. Rowling and mysteries, you guys!) And, of course, Harry still has his number one pastime: Snape hating. A lot of people think Harry should become a professional Snape-hater. I think he should retain his amateur status so that he can hate Snape in the Olympics. (That’s an out-dated Friends joke. You’re welcome.)
After a chance meeting with Professor Trelawney–who’s attempting to hide empty sherry bottles in the Room of Requirement, the souse–Harry learns that Snape must have overheard the prophecy that Trelawney made for Dumbledore during her initial Hogwarts interview. Rowling has always been really good about the ol’ bait-and-switch when it comes to whether or not Snape is a white hat or a black hat. But, after five books of Snape simply being misunderstood, Half-Blood Prince has been working overtime to make us think he’s really gone over to the dark side. Or that he’d never left. No matter what you’ve thought about Snape to this point, by the time you finish Half-Blood Prince, he’s a Death Eater.
Random Thought: Does Dumbledore use the fact that his brother owns the Hog’s Head to cover his tracks and shake potential tails? “We just saw Dumbledore walk past the Hog’s Head, he must be up to something. Oh, wait, no. It’s just the Hog’s Head’s owner. Dumbledore must still be at Hogwarts.”