CHAPTER-A-LONG: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Chapter 20

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Chapter 20 – Lord Voldemort’s Request

Quick side note: I’m considering trying to do these posts more times each week. They take a long time to do, but also, at this rate, it will take me well over a year to finish this series!

But that’s a decision for another time. On to Chapter 20!

Harry and Ron are released from the hospital wing, both fully healed. A welcome side effect of Ron’s poisoning is that he and Hermione are friends again. So that’s good. Also good, at least from Harry’s point of view, is that Ginny and Dean are arguing. Apparently Dean thought Harry looked funny when he got hit with the Bludger and Ginny took offense to that. Harry tries to get more information about the situation from Hermione, but Hermione is no fool and becomes instantly suspicious as to why Harry is asking so many questions. Harry tries to say that he just doesn’t want drama on his Quidditch team.

They are stopped in the hall by Luna who has a message for Harry from Dumbledore. His next private lesson is that night. Ron takes this opportunity to give Luna an actual sincere compliment.

“Nice commentary last match!” said Ron to Luna as she took back the green onion, the toadstool, and the cat litter. Luna smiled vaguely.

“You’re making fun of me, aren’t you?” she said. “Everyone says I was dreadful.”

“No, I’m serious!” said Ron earnestly. “I can’t remember enjoying commentary more!”

It’s sad that Luna’s immediate thought to receiving a compliment is that someone is making fun of her. Ron admits after Luna leaves that Luna has “grown on him,” that “she’s insane, but it’s in a good –”

He is interrupted by Lavender, who is none to pleased that she was not notified that he was released from the hospital wing, and is even more miffed that Hermione is with him. Harry and Hermione leave them to it.

That night, Harry heads up to Dumbledore’s office and interrupts a meeting between Dumbledore and Trelawney. Trelawney is still upset that Firenze is still on the faculty. After she leaves, Dumbledore admits that he is in a rather tight spot in regards to the Divination professors. He can’t let Firenze return to the forest since the other centaurs would kill him. He also can’t let Trelawney leave since it is known that she made the prophecy about Voldemort and she would be in great danger outside the castle. I found it particularly interesting that Trelawney herself doesn’t know that she made that prophecy. As such, she doesn’t realize how much danger she would be in and Dumbledore is afraid to tell her.

But enough about the trouble with the staff. Dumbledore asks if Harry was able to complete the task he was assigned, namely getting the complete memory from Slughorn. Yeah, no. He didn’t.

“Ah,” said Harry, brought up short. What with Apparition lessons and Quidditch and Ron being poisoned and getting his skull cracked and his determination to find out what Draco Malfoy was up to, Harry had almost forgotten about the memory Dumbledore had asked him to extract from Professor Slughorn. “Well, I asked Professor Slughorn about it at the end of Potions, sir, but, er, he wouldn’t give it to me.”

When you put it that way, it does sound like Harry has a lot going on right now and that it is understandable that he forgot. Dumbledore reiterates that this memory is important, possibly the most crucial bit of information that they need, and Harry is appropriately ashamed for his failure. He apologizes profusely and Dumbledore accepts the apology, telling him that there is no point in them meeting again unless that memory is recovered. But enough of that. It’s time for the lesson at hand. They quickly recap what they have learned in previous meetings. These are the last few memories that contain solid facts about Voldemort when he was a student, so now they will have to make educated guesses as to what he did next.

First, Dumbledore recounts how Tom Riddle left Hogwarts. Riddle had won high acclaim in his school days. Top grades. Head Boy. Winner of the Award for Special Services to the School. Everyone expected him to do great things, perhaps enter the Ministry. Instead, he ended up working at Borgin and Burkes, the shop in Knockturn Alley. This was surprising to nearly everyone who knew him, but Dumbledore admits that it wasn’t Riddle’s first choice. He came to Professor Dippet, the headmaster at the time, and asked if he would be able to stay on at Hogwarts as a teacher. But why would he want to do that?

“I believe he had several reason, though he confided none of them to Professor Dippet,” said Dumbledore. “Firstly, and very importantly, Voldemort was, I believe, more attached to this school than he has ever been to a person. Hogwarts was where he had been happiest; the first and only place he had felt at home.”

Yeah, that sounds familiar. Harry feels exactly the same way about Hogwarts.

“Secondly, the castle is a stronghold of ancient magic. Undoubtedly Voldemort had penetrated many more of its secrets than most of the students who pass through the place, but he may have felt that there were still mysteries to unravel, stores of magic to tap.

“And thirdly, as a teacher, he would have had great power and influence over young witches and wizards. Perhaps he had gained the idea from Professor Slughorn, the teacher with whom he was on best terms, who had demonstrated how influential a role a teacher can play. I do not imagine for an instant that Voldemort envisaged spending the rest of his life at Hogwarts, but I do think that he saw it as a useful recruiting ground, and a place where he might begin to build himself an army.”

Think about that for a second. Voldemort having access to all the secrets and magics of Hogwarts castle and having all the young, susceptible minds at his mercy. Luckily, Professor Dippet thought he was too young to become a teacher and asked him to apply again in a few years. Also, Voldemort had wanted to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts. Big surprise there. Plus the professor at the time was very old and looking to retire, so it was a perfect set up for Voldemort, had Dippet given him the job. But he didn’t, and Voldemort went to Borgin and Burkes. Most people who knew him thought his talents were wasted working in a shop, but Voldemort proved to be very skilled at one particular task: encouraging people to sell their treasures to Borgin and Burkes.

It’s time to enter the memory, this time the memory of a house-elf named Hokey who worked for an elderly witch named Hepzibah Smith.

As they enter the memory, we see Hepzibah primping and preparing for someone’s visit. She is clearly very wealthy, as her room is stuffed with treasures. The visitor arrives and it is none other than Voldemort, a few years older and still handsome as ever. He has come to make an offer on behalf of Burke for a set of goblin-made armor. Hepzibah enjoys flirting with him and offering him cake. She also wants to show him something else, a treasure she knows he will appreciate for its history. Hokey brings out two boxes and Madam Smith picks up the first one.

She opened the lid. Harry edged forward a little to get a better view and saw what looked like a small golden cup with two finely wrought handles.

“I wonder whether you know what it is, Tom? Pick it up, have a good look!” whispered Hepzibah, and Voldemort stretched out a long-fingered hand and lifted the cup by one handled out of its snug silken wrappings. Harry thought he saw a red gleam in his dark eyes. His greedy expression was curiously mirrored on Hepzibah’s face, except that her tiny eyes were fixed upon Voldemort’s handsome features.

“A badger,” murmured Voldemort, examining the engraving upon the cup. “Then this was . . .?”

“Helga Hufflepuff’s, as you very well know, you clever boy!” said Hepzibah, leaning forward with a loud creaking of corsets and actually pinching his hollow cheek. “Didn’t I tell you I was distantly descended? This has been handed down in the family for years and years. Lovely, isn’t it? And all sorts of powers it’s supposed to possess too, but I haven’t tested them thoroughly, I just keep it nice and safe in here . . .”

An artifact from one of the founders of Hogwarts. Truly a priceless treasure, but it’s the next box that hits Voldemort closer to home. Hepzibah pulls out Slytherin’s locket, who she had purchased from Burke, who claimed it had been bought from a ragged-looking woman. This time, even Hepzibah notices Voldemort’s reaction to the locket. As she sends the items back with Hokey to lock them back up, Dumbledore and Harry leave the memory behind. Dumbledore tells Harry that Hepzibah died two days after that memory. The reason for her death: Hokey poisoned her tea. Harry doesn’t believe that for a second, and neither does Dumbledore, but the trouble is that Hokey confessed to putting something strange in Hepzibah’s cocoa and the Ministry just let it go.

Hepzibah’s family found the two items missing, but it took a while since Hepzibah had quite a few hiding places. At the same time, Voldemort vanished, leaving his job at Borgin and Burkes. Clearly, he had murdered again, this time to get the two treasures, the same way he stole from the children at the orphanage and stole Morfin’s ring. Harry thinks it sounds crazy, but Dumbledore says it will all make sense soon. He also understands how Voldemort probably thought that the locket was rightfully his, since he recognized his mother’s story in Hepzibah’s telling. He took the cup because of its value and connection to Hogwarts.

The last memory for the evening is one of Dumbledore’s and involves Voldemort’s reappearance at Hogwarts. It is soon after Dumbledore’s appointment as headmaster. However, Voldemort has changed quite a bit.

Harry let out a hastily stifled gasp. Voldemort had entered the room. His features were not those Harry had seen emerge from the great stone cauldron almost two years ago: They were not as snakelike, the eyes were not yet scarlet, the face not yet masklike, and yet he was no longer handsome Tom Riddle. It was as though his features had been burned and blurred; they were waxy and oddly distorted, and the whites of the eyes now had a permanently bloody look, though the pupils were not yet the slits that Harry knew they would become. He was wearing a long black cloak, and his face was as pale as the snow glistening on his shoulders.

Quite a change, don’t you think? Voldemort begins by congratulating Dumbledore on his new job, but the conversation quickly goes downhill. For starters, Dumbledore insists on calling him “Tom” instead of the new name he has chosen for himself. Dumbledore claims that this is for sentimental reasons, but Voldemort knows its a power play. The reason for Voldemort’s return? To ask for a job. He wants to come back to Hogwarts to teach, just like he had requested from Dippet all those years ago. He claims that he has seen many things and done many great things since he has left and could teach students things they could never learn from another teacher.

There’s just one problem. Dumbledore is not an idiot. He hears things. He knows at least a little of what Voldemort has been up to. Voldy tries to pass these off as rumors and lies told by people envious of his power, but Dumbledore doesn’t buy it. He doesn’t believe the things Voldemort has been doing has made him great, not at all.

“The old argument,” he said softly. “But nothing I have seen in the world has supported your famous pronouncements that love is more powerful that my kind of magic, Dumbledore.”

“Perhaps you have been looking in the wrong places,” suggested Dumbledore.

“Well, then, what better place to start my fresh researches than here, at Hogwarts?” said Voldemort. “Will you let me return? Will you let me share my knowledge with your students? I place myself and my talents at your disposal. I am yours to command.”

Yeah, that all sounds well and good, except that Dumbledore also knows about the Death Eaters, including the fact that a group of them have accompanied Voldemort and were waiting for him down in Hogsmeade. He tells Voldemort to say what he really wants, since he knows that Voldemort definitely doesn’t want to teach. Sure, he wants to return to the castle, but to what ends? Voldemort refuses to say and leaves. Dumbledore feels remorse that he couldn’t do anything to turn Voldemort from the path that he was going down, but sadly, that was not going to happen.

So why did Voldemort want to return to Hogwarts so badly? Dumbledore doesn’t know for sure, although he has guesses. Slughorn’s memory should help fill in the gaps and make things more clear. But that is it for this evening’s lesson. Before he leaves, Harry asks if Voldemort as asking for the Defense Against the Dark Arts job again.

“Oh, he definitely wanted the Defense Against the Dark Arts job,” said Dumbledore. “The aftermath of our little meeting proved that. You see, we have never been able to keep a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher for longer than a year since I refused the post to Lord Voldemort.”

You get turned down for a job, so you place a curse on the entire position? Wow, vindictive much, Voldy?

See you next time for Chapter 21!

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