Chapter 9 – The Half-Blood Prince
You know this chapter is important since the title of the book is right there in the chapter title!
First off, the next morning Harry tells Hermione what he had overheard Malfoy say in the train. Ron immediately jumps in to say that it’s obvious that Malfoy was showing off for Pansy. Shut up, Ron! Let Hermione think for herself! Hermione agrees that Malfoy does like to make himself seem really important, but lying about working for Voldemort? That’s a big one. That’s huge! Harry can’t really say much else since there are other students around, but at least Hermione isn’t completely discounting the idea.
Ron’s just happy that they will have free periods as sixth year students so they can slack off a bit. He also enjoys his prefect privileges a little too much. Hermione confiscates a Fanged Frisbee from a student and Ron immediately takes it. Ron is really irritating me so far in this chapter, but he is impressing one person: Lavender Brown. She finds all this funny.
It’s still pretty awkward with the whole Hagrid situation though.
“But he can’t really think we’d continue Care of Magical Creatures!” she said, looking distressed. “I mean, when has any of us expressed . . . you know . . . any enthusiasm?”
“That’s it, though, innit?” said Ron, swallowing an entire fried egg whole. “We were the ones who made the most effort in classes because we like Hagrid. But he thinks we liked the stupid subject. D’you reckon anyone’s going on to N.E.W.T.?”
Neither Harry nor Hermione answered; there was no need. They knew perfectly well that nobody in their year would want to continue Care of Magical Creatures. They avoided Hagrid’s eye and returned his cheery wave only halfheartedly when he left the staff table ten minutes later.
Since it’s the first day of the new term, they each have to meet with McGonagall to get their schedules in order, especially since what they can take depends on how they did on their O.W.L. tests the year before. Hermione is fine. She can pretty much take whatever she wants. Neville, on the other hand, while cleared for Herbology and Defense, did not really get high enough grades to pass on in Transfiguration. He’s upset because his grandmother really wanted him to take that class, but McGonagall encourages him to try for his N.E.W.T. in Charms instead. She also mentions that she will contact his grandmother and remind her that despite the fact that Augusta Longbottom failed Charms when she was a student, it is still a worthwhile class.
This is why I love Minerva McGonagall! She is fierce!
Oh, and Parvati Patil is disappointed that Firenze isn’t teaching the sixth year Divination classes. Oh well.
When Harry’s turn comes up, he is cleared for Charms, Defense, Herbology and Transfiguration – McGonagall even says she was very happy with his Transfiguration score. Yay! She does question, however, why he’s not taking Potions, since he would need that class to become an Auror. Harry thought he wouldn’t be able to take Potions since Snape had said he needed an Outstanding, but turns out that Slughorn is fine with his “Exceeds Expectations” result. His aspirations for Aurorship is back on the table! Double yay! Harry doesn’t have any supplies, but McGonagall is sure that Slughorn will lend him some to get started until he can order what he needs.
Also, Harry has to figure out when to hold trials for the Gryffindor Quidditch team now that he’s team captain. There are twenty people who want to want to try out.
Ron gets the same schedule as Harry, Potions included, and is still really happy at all the supposed free time he will have. He also is a bit snooty to Hermione who is already stressed at how much homework she has. I’m sure his smug look will not last long as they have their first lesson with Snape in Defense Against the Dark Arts. Snape is in rare form now that he’s in the class he’s always wanted to teach.
“You have had five teachers in this subject so far, I believe.”
You believe . . . like you haven’t watched them all come and go, Snape, hoping you’d be next, thought Harry scathingly.
“Naturally, these teachers will all have had their own methods and priorities. Given this confusion I am surprised so many of you scraped an O.W.L. in this subject. I shall be even more surprised if all of you manage to keep up with the N.E.W.T. work, which will be much more advanced.”
Yeah, but here’s the thing. Since the classes are usually separated out by House, this is a class with of Gryffindor students, many of which would have probably joined the D.A. last year and practiced lots of defensive spells and strategies with Harry. They are more prepared then the average class, plus they are under the threat of Voldemort’s return, so they have a definite sense of urgency to know how to defend themselves. Snape continues on about the Dark Arts and . . . it gets a little weird.
“The Dark Arts,” said Snape, “are many, varied, ever-changing, and eternal. Fighting them is like fighting a many-headed monster, which, each time a neck is severed, sprouts a head even fiercer and cleverer than before. You are fighting that which is unfixed, mutating, indestructible.”
Harry stared at Snape. It was surely one thing to respect the Dark Arts as a dangerous enemy, another to speak of them, as Snape was doing, with a loving caress in his voice?
Although, I guess to be fair, he did sort of start their first Potions class with a similar speech, so maybe Snape is just a drama queen?
He shows them pictures of victims of the Cruciatus Curse, the Dementor’s Kiss, and an Inferius attack, all of which are gruesome and terrifying. Their first lesson is on how to do nonverbal spells. He asks what the advantage of using a nonverbal spell would be and grudgingly calls on Hermione when no one else raises their hand. She gives the correct answer, he sneers, and the lesson continues. They split up into partners and practice trying to jinx and shield each other without speaking. Most of the students end up cheating by whispering, but Hermione is able to do it after ten minutes. Snape doesn’t acknowledge this at all though.
Ron and Harry are paired up and it is not going well at all. Ron is really struggling. Snape walks by, calls Ron pathetic, and turns to cast his own jinx at Harry. Harry panics and immediately yells out a Shield Charm, which is so strong it knocks Snape over. What happens next is one of the best parts of this entire book.
“Do you remember me telling you we are practicing nonverbal spells, Potter?”
“Yes,” said Harry stiffly.
“There’s no need to call me ‘sir,’ Professor.”
Sassy Harry is BACK and he is not putting up with this crap anymore! The class is pretty stunned and it earns Harry a detention. Totally worth it. The whole speech at the beginning of class really freaked him out, but Hermione points out that Harry had made speeches as well during D.A. that basically pointed to the same thing. At that moment, Harry gets a message delivered from Dumbledore saying that his first private lesson will be . . . the same night as Snape’s detention. Hee hee! Snape won’t be happy about that!
But enough of that. It’s time for their first Potions lesson with Slughorn. Harry explains that he and Ron don’t have books or supplies, which McGonagall had already informed Slughorn about, and he directs them to the store cupboard, which has some old copies of the textbook. The books are pretty beat up, but will do in a pinch. Slughorn begins the lesson by showing them a few potions he has prepared to illustrate the power of the potions they will be studying. One is Veritaserum, one is Polyjuice Potion, one is Amortentia (an extremely powerful love potion). Hermione identifies all of them correctly and Slughorn asks her name. He remembers Harry mentioning his friend who was Muggle-born and the best in her year and guesses correctly that Hermione was who he was talking about.
The final potion on display is Felix Felicis, also known as “liquid luck.” The class is to concoct a potion called the Draught of Living Death and the person who does it the best will get a tiny bottle of Felix Felicis as a prize. The class gets to work, but Harry is irritated because the old book he’s using has lots of notes in the margins and places where instructions were written over the words in the text. One such scribble has to do with the sopophorous bean they are supposed to be cutting. The previous student suggests to crush the bean with the flat side of the knife instead of cutting it because it will juice it faster. As soon as Harry tries this, it works perfectly.
His annoyance with the previous owner vanishing on the spot, Harry now squinted at the next line of instructions. According to the book, he had to stir counterclockwise until the potion turned clear as water. According to the addition the previous owner had made, however, he ought to add a clockwise stir after every seventh counterclockwise stir. Could the old owner be right twice?
Harry stirred counterclockwise, held his breath, and stirred once clockwise. The effect was immediate. The potion turned palest pink.
“How are you doing that?” demanded Hermione, who was red-faced and whose hair was growing bushier and bushier in the fumes from her caldron; her potion was still resolutely purple.
“Add a clockwise stir –“
“No, no, the book says counterclockwise!” she snapped.
But this mysterious previous student was right. At the end of class, Harry’s potion is deemed the winner, although Hermione’s was pretty good. Slughorn is delighted, as he remembers how good Harry’s mother was at potions. Harry is awarded the tiny bottle of Felix Felicis, much to the chagrin of everyone else in class, especially Hermione. She is incredibly frustrated that Harry had used these other instructions, thinking that it was similar to cheating. Personally, I think Hermione is a little too sensitive to this. She is used to being the best and isn’t too happy of being outdone.
Another perspective comes from Ginny, who overhears them talking, and is alarmed that Harry took instructions from something that was handwritten inside a book. Her experience with Riddle’s diary left a mark. Harry assures her it was just some student’s old notes, nothing too scary. Hermione is still not buying any of this and tries to cast a spell called Specialis Revelio, which I guess is supposed to reveal any unusual magic? It doesn’t. It’s just an old textbook with scribbles. Good scribbles. Useful scribbles. Harry takes the book back and sees something written inside the cover in the same handwriting as the notes:
This Book is the Property of the Half-Blood Prince.
No explanation of who this might be . . . . hmmmm . . . . a mystery . . . .
See you next time for Chapter 10!