CHAPTER-A-LONG: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Chapter 15

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Chapter 15: The Unbreakable Vow

Returning to the world of Hogwarts! I’ve missed it! This chapter in particular drops a huge plot point into the story, validating some of Harry’s worst fears.

But before that, it’s Christmastime! I find it particularly funny that Harry is still enjoying (and by “enjoying,” I mean “is mildly terrified by”) his popularity with girls. Apparently a big part of Hogwarts Christmas decor is bunches of mistletoe and several girls try to make sure they are under a bunch whenever Harry walks by. He knows the castle pretty well by this point, so he manages to avoid them.

Not sympathetic at all about Harry’s predicament is Ron, who is still enjoying the attentions of Lavender Brown. Ron claims that he doesn’t know why this upsets Hermione so much, since he and Hermione are no longer speaking every since the canary incident. I hate to think that Ron was that ignorant of Hermione’s feelings, but maybe he was. Or maybe he’s just being a bit of a jerk here. Who knows. The only thing Harry knows is that it is irritating.

Hermione, on the other hand, is now throwing herself even more into her studies, claiming that she is completely indifferent to it all. She’s not really fooling anyone, but Harry gives her a pass. She does, however, have a warning for Harry. He expects her to get on his case about the Half-Blood Prince’s book again, but gets something completely different.

“I’m not talking about your stupid so-called Prince,” said Hermione, giving his book a nasty look as though it had been rude to her. “I’m talking about earlier. I went into the girls’ bathroom just before I came in here and there were about a dozen girls in there, including that Romilda Vane, trying to decide how to slip you a love potion. They’re all hoping they’re going to get you to take them to Slughorn’s party, and they all seem to have bought Fred and George’s love potions, which I’m afraid to say probably work –“

Yeah, I wouldn’t underestimate Fred and George’s products. Harry is surprised that these girls were able to get the Weasley twins’ products, since all of them are banned and the school owls are supposed to be searched. Fred and George anticipated that and have been disguising their products as “perfumes and cough potions” in order to sneak past the blockade. Which is brilliant, but also worrisome. If they can sneak stuff in, why can’t other people with more nefarious intentions? Like, say, Malfoy and the necklace?

Hermione shuts down this line of thinking. Weasleys Wizarding Wheezes are not dangerous and are not Dark magic, so they wouldn’t be detected. Also, Filch is the one who is doing the searches and Hermione doesn’t think that Filch is a good enough wizard to detect a potion that was labeled incorrectly on purpose. They are surprised by Madam Pince.

“The library is now closed,” she said. “Mind you return anything you have borrowed to the correct — what have you been doing to that book, you depraved boy?”

“It isn’t the library’s, it’s mine!” said Harry hastily, snatching his copy of Advanced Potion-Making off the table as she lunged at it with a clawlike hand.

“Despoiled! she hissed. “Desecrated! Befouled!”

“It’s just a book that’s been written on!” said Harry, tugging it out of her grip.

It’s a funny reaction. I always wished Madam Pince got more of a story in the books, just because I always wanted to be a librarian. Still, I have to wonder how Madam Pince has worked in an academic setting for so long and NOT seen a book with notes in the margins. When I was in school, we did that all the time as long as we owned the book in question. But I digress . . .

As soon as they return back to the common room, Harry is accosted by Romilda Vane, who offers him some Chocolate Cauldrons. He backs away slowly. Hermione tells him that he needs to ask someone to the party soon so that the girls will all back down. She loses her sense of humor when she sees Ron and Lavender together. The next day, Harry has to watch Ron and Hermione both be bitter and mean to each other in Transfiguration. Hermione runs off in tears leaving her stuff behind and Harry follows after her. They run into Luna Lovegood in the hallway, but after Harry gives Hermione her things, she runs off quickly. This is when Harry gets the most brilliant idea: asking Luna to Slughorn’s party.

“Yeah,” said Harry. “We’re supposed to bring guests, so I thought you might like . . . I mean . . .” He was keen to make his intentions perfectly clear. “I mean, just as friends, you know. But if you don’t want to . . .”

He was already half hoping that she didn’t want to.

“Oh, no, I’d love to go with you as friends!” said Luna, beaming as he had never seen her beam before. “Nobody’s ever asked me to a party before, as a friend! Is that why you dyed your eyebrow, for the party? Should I do mine too?”

Yeah, the eyebrow thing was a mistake from Transfiguration class, but this is both so sweet and so sad! I love that Luna is so excited about the party, but I hate the fact that no one has ever asked her to anything before. She’s such a sweetie, maybe a little odd, but that just makes her all the more endearing. Harry is just glad that the whole party business has been settled, but before either of them can say much else, Peeves the Poltergeist shows up and starts shouting to the world that Harry has asked Luna out on a date. Which, of course, spreads the news to the entire school.

At dinner, Ron is shocked that out of the entire school, Harry chose Luna to go with him to the party. Ginny, on the other hand, has made friends with Luna over this past year, and is really happy about the whole thing because Luna is “so excited.” Harry notices that Hermione is sitting by herself down at the end of the table. He also notices Ron noticing this.

“You could say sorry,” suggested Harry bluntly.

“What, and get attacked by another flock of canaries?” muttered Ron.

“What did you have to imitate her for?”

“She laughed at my mustache!”

“So did I, it was the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.”

More shenanigans that happened in that Transfiguration class. I love that Harry doesn’t take Ron’s crap about this. He calls him out for being a jerk. They probably would have continued this conversation if not for the arrival of Lavender and Parvati. Lavender throws herself at Ron, but Parvati seems annoyed and a bit embarrassed. Harry can relate. He talks with Parvati for a bit. Turns out her parents were wanting to pull her and Padme out of school, but they managed to talk them out of it.

Hermione comes up then, looking surprisingly happy. She asks Parvati if she’s planning on going to Slughorn’s party that night, to which Parvati answers no. Hermione lets slip that she is going to the party . . . with Cormac McLaggen. You know, that jerk of a jock who tried out for the Qudditch team? Yeah, him. Never for a second think that Hermione isn’t smart. She knew this particular party date would make Ron angry, and Hermione is hurt enough to be this petty.

She left. At once Lavender and Parvati put their heads together to discuss this new development, with everything they had ever heard about McLaggen, and all they had ever guessed about Hermione. Ron looked strangely blank and said nothing. Harry was left to ponder in silence the depths to which girls would sink to get revenge.

Yeah, don’t underestimate girls, Harry. Especially not Hermione.

That night, Harry meets Luna for the party. He’s glad she isn’t wearing her radish earring or her Spectrespecs. When they arrive, Slughorn is immediately happy to seen him and pulls him in to introduce him to his guests. Harry doesn’t really like having people fawn over him, so he and Luna duck out as soon as they see Hermione. She looks relieved to see them. Harry mentions that she looks a bit disheveled – no, actually “disheveled” is JKR’s word. Harry says, “What’s happened to you?” Because he is a teenage boy and very blunt. Hermione says that she just left Cormac under the mistletoe and is now trying to avoid him. Harry doesn’t have a whole lot of sympathy, but Hermione answers quite honestly that she was looking for someone to go with that would annoy Ron the most. She actually considered Zacharias Smith, the annoying Hufflepuff boy from the D.A. last year, which Harry finds revolting.

Harry doesn’t want Hermione tell Ron, in a fit of anger, that she’s the reason he made the Quidditch team, mostly because Harry doesn’t want Ron to fall apart on him. Hermione haughtily claims that she would never “stoop that low.” She also gets angry that Quidditch is apparently all that boys can talk about, as McLaggen has been talking about nothing else. She also spots McLaggen at this point and makes a quick getaway.

Without Hermione, Harry gets pulled into a conversation, first with Professor Trelawney and then with Professor Slughorn. Slughorn goes on and on about Harry’s talent at potions. To Harry’s horror, Slughorn pulls Snape, who was passing by, and compliments him on teaching Harry so well. Snape is understandably surprised by this, since he has never witnessed any such brilliance from Harry. Harry is worried that Snape might ask some questions that he’s not ready to answer, but Slughorn turns the conversation around to Harry’s other classes, which just so happen to be the subjects required to become an Auror.

This uncomfortableness is first broken by Luna, who starts talking about the Aurors being a part of the “Rotfang Conspiracy,” whatever that is, and then by Filch dragging Draco Malfoy into the room. Malfoy was caught trying to sneak into the party without an invitation. Slughorn is benevolent and says that Malfoy is welcome to stay, but Snape asks for a word, since he is Malfoy’s Head of House and would be in charge of Malfoy’s punishment for sneaking out at night without permission. Harry wonders what they might talk about and follows them.

Their whole conversation is fascinating. Malfoy indicates that he had nothing to do with the Katie Bell incident and wants to know who suspects him of being involved. Snape must have tried Legilimency to get inside Malfoy’s head, because Snape realizes that he has learned Occlumency and accuses him of trying to hide something from his “master.” Malfoy just wants to keep Snape out of things, which is why he has been avoiding Snape all year long. And then we get this.

“Listen to me,” said Snape, his voice so low now that Harry had to push his ear very hard against the keyhole to hear. “I am trying to help you. I swore to your mother I would protect you. I made the Unbreakable Vow, Draco –“

“Looks like you’ll have to break it, then, because I don’t need your protection! It’s my job, he gave it to me and I’m doing it, I’ve got a plan and it’s going to work, it’s just taking a but longer than I thought it would!”

Well, that sure sounds suspicious, doesn’t it!

Malfoy is still angry. Snape is taking him to task about how he is being reckless and not taking precautions. Malfoy claims that he would have had Crabbe and Goyle helping him if Snape hadn’t put them in detention. Malfoy also accuses Snape of wanting to “steal my glory.”  Snape doesn’t say anything to that, but says that he understands that Malfoy is upset, since Malfoy Sr. has been captured. It’s too much for Draco, who stalks away and leaves. Snape leaves too a moment later and returns to Slughorn’s party. Harry stays sitting on the floor, trying to process all he just heard.

See you next time for Chapter 16!

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