Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Chapter 7

HPHBP Banner

Chapter 7 – The Slug Club

Chapter-A-Longs are back this week! Yay! I’ve missed them!

In the last chapter, we saw Draco Malfoy behaving very suspiciously in Knockturn Alley. Harry wants to know more, but to his unending frustration, Ron and Hermione aren’t really that interested. This really surprises me, especially since Ron always wants to be suspicious of Malfoy and Hermione really should be smarter than this. All they know is that Borgin is supposed to be keeping something, possibly a broken item, safe because Malfoy wants it. Harry is also considering the fact that Draco’s father is now in Azkaban and has been outed as a Death Eater, which could easily mean that Draco wants to get revenge. This train of thought leads Harry to figure out something that could be quite important.

“He’s a Death Eater,” said Harry slowly. “He’s replaced his father as a Death Eater!”

There was a silence; then Ron erupted in laughter. “Malfoy?  He’s sixteen, Harry! You think You-Know-Who would let Malfoy join?”

“It seems very unlikely, Harry,” said Hermione in a repressive sort of voice. “What makes you think –?”

“In Madam Malkin’s. She didn’t touch him, but he yelled and jerked his arm away from her when she went to roll up his sleeve. It was his left arm. He’s been branded with the Dark Mark.”

He also mentions that they had seen Draco showing Borgin something that instantly scared Borgin and made him treat Draco very seriously. Harry thinks that Draco showed Borgin the Dark Mark. Ron and Hermione still don’t think it’s likely that Voldy would start recruiting teenagers, but even the first time I read this, I strongly disagreed with that sentiment. Why wouldn’t he use teens? Especially when they can easily get into Hogwarts with no questions asked? I seriously doubt that Voldy’d be worried about them being too young to do his bidding.

Harry gets fed up trying to explain his point and heads downstairs, overhearing Mrs. Weasley getting really annoyed with Fleur going on and on about wedding plans. Mrs. Weasley wants to make sure that everything is set up for them to leave for Kings Cross the next day and everything goes perfectly according to plan for once. They have cars from the Ministry driving them again and extra security to make sure they get to the train. Once on the train, Ron and Hermione leave to go to the prefects’ car, but Harry takes the opportunity to talk to Mr. Weasley about what he saw Draco do in Knockturn Alley and his suspicions that Draco is a Death Eater now.

Mr. Weasley isn’t too sure about this, but at least he listens. He also tells Harry that when Lucius was arrested, they raided the Malfoy house and confiscated anything that could be dangerous. Harry says that they may have missed something. The train gets ready to depart, and Mrs. Weasley tells him that he will be coming back to them at Christmastime. Which makes me happy. Harry really needs a very Weasley Christmas.

Once on the train, Harry gets stared at, which he’s used to, but it’s definitely been kicked up a notch after all the “Chosen One” stuff from the papers over the summer. He doesn’t have Ron or Hermione to sit with, but catches up with Ginny briefly before she disappears to go find her boyfriend, Dean Thomas. Neville and Luna turn up and they and Harry find a compartment together. Neville is a bit surprised that he and Luna are being stared at too, not just because they are with Harry, but because they were also involved at the Ministry. They also talk about the upcoming school year.

“Are we still doing D.A. meetings this year, Harry?” asked Luna, who was detaching a pair of psychedelic spectacles from the middle of The Quibbler.

“No point now we’ve got rid of Umbridge, is there?” said Harry, sitting down. Neville bumped his head against the seat as he emerged from under it. He looked most disappointed.

“I liked the D.A.! I learned loads with you!”

“I enjoyed the meetings too,” said Luna serenely. “It was like having friends.”

Oh Luna! This makes me so sad!

They are interrupted by a group of girls, one of which who introduces herself as Romilda Vane. She invites Harry to sit with them, giving the impression that she and her friends don’t think much of Neville or Luna. Harry thinks very highly of them, though, and tells her that they are his friends. Romilda and her snotty attitude leave, and Luna tells Harry that people expect him to have cooler friends. Harry doesn’t care what people think anymore. Neville and Luna were there at the Ministry. They faced Death Eaters for him. They are plenty cool enough! Neville says that his grandmother speaks about Harry all the time, saying that he has “more backbone than the whole Ministry of Magic put together.” Which is very true, but also makes Harry feel a bit uncomfortable.

He feels very connected to Neville, knowing how close Neville came to having Harry’s fate. Voldemort and his followers took Neville’s parents away too, although in a different manner. And that prophecy . . . what would have happened if Voldemort had gone after the Longbottoms instead of the Potters that night? Harry’s life would have been very different, as would Neville’s, although he probably would have still been living with his grandmother. Harry would possibly have his parents, but that’s not entirely certain – plenty of people died during those early Voldemort years, and they were with the Order. They could have been killed another way.

It’s no use speculating on what might have been, but it’s really hard not to. Neville notices that Harry is acting a bit off. Luna blames it on something she calls a Wrackspurt, some sort of invisible creature that goes through your ears and makes your brain “go fuzzy.” Harry and Neville quickly change the subject.

Ron and Hermione arrive a few hours later. Ron mentions that Draco has decided to skip doing his prefect duties. This is highly unusual since he usually enjoys abusing his power over other students. Harry wonders if Draco is too preoccupied with his new Death Eater role, but before he can really talk much about it, a younger student shows up with messages for Harry and Neville.

Harry,

I would be delighted if you would join me for a bite of lunch in compartment C.

Sincerely,

Professor H.E.F. Slughorn

Neville is startled since he doesn’t even know who Slughorn is and has no idea why a teacher would want to invite him to lunch. Harry wants to try and sneak over to lunch under the Invisibility Cloak to see if he can catch a glimpse of Draco, but the corridors are way too crowded for that and way too many people are trying to look at Harry. Except for Cho Chang, who hid in her compartment when she saw Harry coming and started up a conversation with her friend, Marietta. Marietta, who sold out the D.A. and still has the pimples to prove it.

Harry and Neville are also not Slughorn’s only guests. He has also invited Blaise Zabini (a Slytherin in their year), two seventh years that Harry doesn’t know, and, oddly enough, Ginny. As they start lunch, Slughorn addresses one of the seventh years, Marcus Belby, and mentions that he knows his uncle, who is a very powerful wizard and who invented the Wolfsbane Potion. But Marcus doesn’t really talk much to his uncle, which makes Slughorn lose interest. He turns to the other seventh year, Cormac McLaggen, who apparently also has a well-connected uncle who is also friends with the new Minister of Magic.

Harry realizes that this is an example of Slughorn “collecting” students, like Dumbledore had warned him about. Zabini has a very rich and famous mother, which impresses Slughorn. Neville is interrogated next, which is a bit awkward since you really can’t talk about his famous parents without talking about what happened to them. Then it’s Harry’s turn. Slughorn is already impressed with him, as are most people given his “Chosen One” status, but Slughorn also thinks that Harry must have some sort of hidden powers to have survived all those years ago. A disapproving snort from Zabini draws snide comments from Ginny. Ginny wasn’t invited to lunch due to an influential family member, but because Slughorn saw her cast a very powerful Bat-Bogey Hex and was impressed. Harry really doesn’t want to talk much, but that doesn’t deter Slughorn in the slightest, especially when discussion turns to the events that happened at the Ministry last year.

“So modest, so modest, no wonder Dumbledore is so fond — you were there, then? But the rest of the stories — so sensational, of course, one doesn’t know quite what to believe — this fabled prophecy, for instance –”

“We never heard a prophecy,” said Neville, turning geranium pink as he said it.

“That’s right,” said Ginny staunchly. “Neville and I were both there too, and all this ‘Chosen One’ rubbish is just the Prophet making things up as usual.”

“You were both there too, were you?” said Slughorn with great interest, looking from Ginny to Neville, but both of them sat clamlike before his encouraging smile.

I know that deep down Slughorn is harmless, but he comes off as just being creepy sometimes! In any case, Slughorn continues name dropping for the rest of the trip, talking about all the famous and powerful wizards he had taught who had all joined what he called the “Slug Club” while they were at Hogwarts together. Clearly, he is starting that up again and looking for more students. After what seems like an eternity, Slughorn dismisses them to go and get ready to arrive at Hogwarts. Neville is particularly glad that it’s over. Ginny just thinks Slughorn is odd for not punishing her after hexing Zacharias Smith.

Harry is not paying much attention to them, but is instead watching Zabini heading back to the Slytherin compartment. He has an idea and immediately acts on it, slipping the Invisibility Cloak on, following after Zabini, and sneaking into the compartment with Draco and the Slytherins. In the process, Zabini gets knocked into Goyle, which makes it easy for Harry to get in and jump up into the luggage rack. Other than Goyle, the compartment holds Crabbe, Zabini, Draco and Pansy Parkinson. Also, Draco is laying across the seat with his head in Pansy’s lap while she strokes his hair, so I guess they’re dating now.

Draco asks about the summons to Slughorn’s car and isn’t too happy when Zabini tells him why he was sent for. Apparently Slughorn wasn’t interested in meeting with a Malfoy. He sneers about Belby, Neville and Ginny getting invited, but also mentions that he doesn’t care who Slughorn might be interested in since he may not even be at Hogwarts next year because he may have “moved on to bigger and better things.” Because if Voldemort takes over, he’s not going to care about Hogwarts grades. He’s going to want loyalty. And Draco has been given a job to do.

They start to get ready for Hogwarts and Harry gets smacked in the head by Goyle’s trunk, causing him to gasp a bit. Draco looks up briefly and Harry worries that he may have heard him. He also had looked vaguely in Harry’s direction when he had jumped up in the first place. As the Slytherins leave, Draco hangs back, telling them he needs to “check something.” Harry thinks that maybe Draco is trying to do something secretive, something that might have to do with the item he talked to Borgin about, but instead, Draco casts Petrificus Totalus right at him. He falls to the ground and Draco stomps on his face. Then Draco covers Harry up with the Invisibility Cloak so that he won’t be found and end up back in London.

Will Harry make it back to Hogwarts, or will he leave with the train? See you next time for Chapter 8!

 

 

 

Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Chapter 6

HPHBP Banner

Chapter 6 – Draco’s Detour

It’s so nice that they have a few weeks that are at least a bit relaxing. Eating good food, playing friendly games of Quidditch in the afternoons, it would be lovely – without all the stories of bad things happening. Accidents, disappearances, deaths, something new reported every day in the Daily Prophet. One of which they find out about on Harry’s birthday: Karkaroff. He never made it far after defecting. His body was found in a shack with the Dark Mark hovering over it.

Other notable disappearances: Florean Fortescue, the owner of the ice cream shop in Diagon Alley, and Ollivander, the wandmaker. It looks like Fortescue was dragged off, but Ollivander just vanished. He’s the best wandmaker there is, so it really isn’t good that he’s behind enemy lines now.

Some good news though. When they get their letters from Hogwarts, Harry was named Quidditch Captain! It’s not all happiness though – Mrs. Weasley is very nervous about going to Diagon Alley.

“Well, I don’t suppose we can put off a trip to Diagon Alley much longer now you’ve got these,” sighed Mrs. Weasley, looking down Ron’s booklist. “We’ll go on Saturday as long as your father doesn’t have to go into work again. I’m not going there without him.”

“Mum, d’you honestly think You-Know-Who’s going to be hiding behind a bookshelf in Flourish and Blotts?”

“Fortescue and Ollivander went on holiday, did they?” said Mrs. Weasley, firing up at once. “If you think security’s a laughing matter you can stay behind and I’ll get your things myself –“

She’s not wrong. Ron has to back pedal so fast here, claiming that he was joking. Mrs. Weasley is so paranoid, she’s ready to keep her kids home from Hogwarts. Because of the heightened security, and because of who Harry is, they are able to get Ministry cars to take them to Diagon Alley. Harry makes sure he has his Invisibility Cloak in his backpack, just like Dumbledore advised. When they arrive at the Leaky Cauldron, their extra security is none other than Hagrid! Yay Hagrid! It’s always nice to see him, and he’s extra happy to have Buckbeak — excuse me, Witherwings — back.

The Leaky Cauldron is sad right now. It’s completely empty, except for Tom behind the bar. Actually, most of Diagon Alley is pretty empty as well. Many shops have closed. In their place are several stalls selling presumably fake anti-Dark magical items. They split up, with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and Ginny going to Flourish and Blotts, while Hagrid takes Harry, Ron and Hermione to Madam Malkin’s for new robes. It’s crowded, so Hagrid decides to stand guard outside instead of going in.

Inside, they see Draco Malfoy getting fitted for new dress robes and generally being a jerk. He’s not happy that his mother has accompanied him on this shopping trip, but then he sees Hermione in the mirror and calls her a Mudblood. Typical Malfoy. Wands are drawn and Madam Malkin tries to diffuse the situation. Narcissa Malfoy isn’t happy to see Harry at all and some rather harsh words are exchanged.

“I see that being Dumbledore’s favorite has given you a false sense of security, Harry Potter. But Dumbledore won’t always be there to protect you.”

Harry looked mockingly all around the shop. “Wow . . . look at that . . . he’s not here now! So why not have a go? They might be able to find you a double cell in Azkaban with your loser of a husband!”

Harry is done playing nice, that’s for sure. Madam Malkin tries to ignore things in hopes that maybe they will work it out, but when she accidentally sticks Draco with one of her pins, he rips them off and says he doesn’t want them anymore. Narcissa says that they will go to a better store where this “kind of scum” doesn’t shop. Madam Malkin quickly fits the three of them for robes and seems very glad when they leave.

They meet up with the rest of the Weasleys and head to the Apothecary and the Owl Shop (Hedwig and Pig need snacks!) before heading to Fred and George’s shop. It is . . . . words don’t describe it, really.

Set against the dull, poster-muffled shop fronts around them, Fred and George’s windows hit the eye like a firework display. Casual passersby were looking back over their shoulders at the windows, and a few rather stunned-looking people had actually come to a halt, transfixed. The left-hand window was dazzingly full of an assortment of goods that revolved, popped, flashed, bounced, and shrieked; Harry’s eyes began to water just looking at it.

Fred and George have even mimicked the posters that the Ministry has put up everywhere warning people with posters of their own, advertising a product called U-No-Poo. Mrs. Weasley is horrified, but Ron and Harry think it’s brilliant. Which it is. This is just what Diagon Alley, and the wizarding world in general, needs right now – a way to relax and not worry about Death Eaters all the time. They have really expanded their inventory as well. They still have their Skiving Snackboxes, but they also carry a wide variety of trick wands, fancy quills, a Reusable Hangman, and Patented Daydream Charms, among many other things.

They are greeted by Fred, who notices Hermione’s eye, which is still black and blue. He hands her some kind of salve and assures her that the bruise will be gone in an hour. He and George needed to find a good bruise remedy since they have to test all their products themselves. Fred gives Harry a tour of the place. They even have a display of Muggle magic tricks, which are more of a novelty item than anything else, but still popular. George joins them and tells Harry that he really needs to see the back room.

This area is darker, definitely more subdued than the riot of colors in the main store. It started when Fred and George developed Shield Hats. It was funny — have a friend shoot a spell and the hat would deflect it. But it turns out that a lot of wizards don’t know how to do a Shield Spell at all. The Ministry bought them out of Shield Hats, so Fred and George expanded into Shield Cloaks and other garments that would do the same thing. It won’t stop an Avada Kadavra, but it will stop more ordinary hexes.

This led Fred and George to develop more Defense Against the Dark Arts products since they are in high demand, only their products actually work, not like the rubbish in the stalls outside. They have Instant Darkness Powder, if you need to make a quick getaway; Decoy Detonators, if you need a quick diversion. George hands several of these to Harry and tells him to help himself to anything else he might want. No charge. They remember that Harry gave them the money to get this started. He never has to pay, just to be sure to tell everyone where he got his stuff.

They head back out to the main store to find Hermione and Ginny looking at a display of love potions. Ginny wonders if they work, which Fred and George quickly assure her that they do. But they are absolutely not selling them to their baby sister. Absolutely not. From the sound of things, Ginny doesn’t really need help. She’s still dating Dean Thomas, which I think is adorable, although her brothers aren’t particularly happy about it. She changes the subject, asking about a cage of round balls of fluff. They are called Pygmy Puffs, but let’s face it. The Trekkies in the house know what these are. Fred and George bred the equivalent of tribbles!

Ginny also tells off Ron for telling stories about her to the twins.

Ron comes up with an armload of items, thinking he’ll get some sort of family discount, but no. Full price, bro! They argue about it while Ginny asks Mrs. Weasley if she can have a Pygmy Puff. In all the hubbub, Harry looks out the window and sees Draco Malfoy hurrying down the street by himself. Seeing how protective Narcissa was of her boy, they know he must be up to something if he was able to get away from her. They hide behind a display, pull out the Invisibility Cloak, and sneak out of the shop, following after Malfoy. One guess as to where he’s heading: Knockturn Alley.

They had drawn level with the only shop in Knockturn Alley that Harry had ever visited, Borgin and Burkes, which sold a wide variety of sinister objects. There in the midst of the cases full of skulls and old bottles stood Draco Malfoy with his back to them, just visible beyond the very same large black cabinet in which Harry had once hidden to avoid Malfoy and his father. Judging by the movements of Malfoy’s hands, he was talking animatedly. The proprietor of the shop, Mr. Borgin, an oily-haired, stooping man, stood facing Malfoy. He was wearing a curious expression of mingled resentment and fear.

Hmm. Wonder why Borgin would be scared of a sixteen year old boy? Something is going on here. They can’t hear what Malfoy is saying, but luckily, Ron has some Extendable Ears from his armful of Weasley products. They listen in as Malfoy asks Borgin if he know how to fix . . . something. They don’t know what. Borgin asks him to bring “it” to the shop, but Malfoy says he can’t, and just wants Borgin to tell him how to do it. He also threatens Borgin not to speak of this to anyone and that if he does, he will sick Fenrir Greyback on him. He also tells Borgin to keep “that one” safe, because he can’t carry it with him down the street.

Malfoy leaves and walks past them, looking pleased. Unfortunately they weren’t able to see what Malfoy was pointing to, whatever Borgin was supposed to keep safe. Hermione decides to try and find out, but her attempt is pretty laughable. She leaves the boys under the Invisibility Cloak and heads into the store, asking about various things, how much they are, and whether or not they’re being held for anyone. She also tries to say that Draco is her boyfriend and she wants to buy him a present. Oh jeez. It’s a bit obvious and Borgin sees right through her. He throws her out of the shop and locks the door.

Ron finds this incredibly funny and he and Hermione argue about it all the way back to Fred and George’s shop, where they pretend to have been the entire time.

See you next time for Chapter 7!

Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Chapter 5

HPHBP Banner

Chapter 5 – An Excess of Phlegm

Harry is finally at the Burrow! With the Weasleys! This is wonderful! Dumbledore knocks on the door and waits for Mrs. Weasley to answer. I notice that he didn’t get on her case about not asking about his jam preferences, but that’s okay. Maybe there are other enchantments on the Burrow that make such caution unnecessary.

Also at the Burrow is Tonks, but Tonks . . . doesn’t look good. She looks tired and her usually pink hair is a plain brown. Very un-Tonks-like. She leaves quickly and Dumbledore leaves soon after. Mrs. Weasley immediately starts mothering Harry, which of course, he desperately needs. He’s also starving. As he sits down at the table, he almost sits on a large ginger cat. Crookshanks! That means Hermione is there as well! Yay! Everyone is together again!

Mrs. Weasley asks about whether Slughorn agreed to teach and then asks Harry what he thinks about him. Harry still doesn’t really know. Slughorn is an odd duck, but then, so are most people in the wizarding world. Mrs. Weasley understands, since Slughorn likes the ambitious and never really gave her or Mr. Weasley much of a glance. The big news is that Mr. Weasley got a promotion! He is heading a new office at the Ministry – the Office for the Detection and Confiscation of Counterfeit Defensive Spells and Protective Objects. Basically, since Voldy’s been back, a black market has sprung up with all these things that are supposed to help you. Potions that are really useless, spells that don’t really do much, and the occasional dangerous item planted by a Death Eater.

Of course, Mr. Weasley misses working with plugs and Muggle appliances. But he has ten people working under him in his department now! He’s still at work, but Mrs. Weasley expects him home soon.

She turned to look at a large clock that was perched awkwardly on top of a pile of sheets in the washing basket at the end of the table. Harry recognized it at once: It had nine hands, each inscribed with the name of a family member, and usually hung on the Weasleys’ sitting room wall, though its current position suggested that Mrs. Weasley had taken to carrying it around the house with her. Every single one of its nine hands was now pointing to “mortal peril.”

“It’s been like that for a while now,” said Mrs. Weasley, in an unconvincingly casual voice, “ever since You-Know-Who came back into the open. I suppose everybody’s in mortal danger now . . . I don’t think it can be just our family . . . but I don’t know anyone else who’s got a clock like this so I can’t check. Oh!”

Mr. Weasley’s hand on the clock moves to “traveling” and there is soon a knock on the door. Mrs. Weasley follows protocol by asking the security question – I guess as a Ministry employee, Mr. Weasley feels he should set an example. We find out that Mr. Weasley’s dearest ambition is “to find out how airplanes stay up,” and that his nickname for Mrs. Weasley is “Mollywobbles.” I love them so much!

Mr. Weasley comes in and greets Harry, apologizing for being late. Harry is very sleepy and Mrs. Weasley notices immediately. She has Fred and George’s room set up for him to stay in, since the twins are living in a small apartment above their shop in Diagon Alley. Business is booming and even Mrs. Weasley is starting to get impressed by the twins’ business acumen. Their room is filled with a bunch of boxes full of who-knows-what. Hedwig has already arrived along with Harry’s trunk. Harry feels extremely content and falls asleep immediately.

He awakes the next morning to the door slamming open – Ron and Hermione have just been told he was there. They both want to hear about Harry’s outing with Dumbledore. Harry swears it wasn’t that exciting and tells them a bit about Slughorn. Well, tells them that he looks like a walrus and used to be Head of Slytherin. Harry also notices that Hermione keeps looking at him oddly, but she brushes it off when asked.

Ginny comes in complaining about “her” downstairs, treating her like a child. Harry thinks Ginny is talking about her mother and is shocked when Hermione chimes in, claiming that “she’s so full of herself.” Ron jumps on the defensive and Ginny snaps back at him for it. It’s all very strange until . . .

The bedroom door flew open again, and Harry instinctively yanked the bedcovers up to his chin so hard that Hermione and Ginny slid off the bed onto the floor.

A young woman was standing in the doorway, a woman of such breathtaking beauty that the room seemed to have become strangely airless. She was tall and willowy with long blonde hair and appeared to emanate a faint, silvery glow. To complete this vision of perfection, she was carrying a heavily laden breakfast tray.

“‘Arry,” she said in a throaty voice. “Eet ‘as been too long.!”

It’s Fleur Delacour! Followed by Mrs. Weasley, who is a bit irritated that Fleur brought up the tray before she could. Fleur greets Harry happily and informs him that she and Bill are getting married next summer. Um, yay? Hermione and the other Weasleys don’t seem too happy about the situation, but Fleur is oblivious. She tells Harry that Bill is working a lot and since she is only working part-time at Gringotts, he brought her to stay with his family for a bit so that she can get to know them better.

After Fleur leaves, Ginny tells them all that Mrs. Weasley doesn’t like her. Mrs. Weasley denies this – she just thinks they’ve rushed into their engagement. She understands a bit, since similar things happened when Voldemort was in power before. Including, incidentally, her and Arthur, which Ginny points out. But that’s different, of course! They were perfect for each other. What do Bill and Fleur have in common? They’ve been dating for a year now and Ginny suspects that Bill’s love of adventure is part of what drew him to Fleur.

Except that Ginny likes to call her Phlegm. Oh Ginny.

After Mrs. Weasley leaves, Ginny says that she’s pretty sure that her mom will stop the wedding. She thinks that Mrs. Weasley has been inviting Tonks over a lot to try and get Bill to fall for Tonks instead. But Tonks hasn’t been the same, not since the incident at the Ministry last year. Hermione claims that Tonks hasn’t gotten over Sirius’s death. Ron thinks that’s crazy, since Tonks and Sirius barely knew each other. Hermione says that Tonks blames herself for Sirius’s death since she had been fighting Bellatrix but wasn’t able to take her down. Harry and Ron find this ridiculous, but Hermione understands.

“It’s survivor’s guilt,” said Hermione. “I know Lupin’s tried to talk her round, but she’s still really down. She’s actually having trouble with her Metamorphosing!”

“With her –?”

“She can’t change her appearance like she used to,” explained Hermione. “I think her powers must have been affected by shock or something.”

“I didn’t know that could happen,” said Harry.

“Nor did I,” said Hermione, “but I suppose if you’re really depressed . . .”

Once again, I have to wonder how they treat mental health in the wizarding world. They didn’t mention it at St. Mungo’s, but here it looks like it’s a known problem. I would love to have a companion book that talks about this.

Mrs. Weasley calls Ginny downstairs to help with lunch (probably so she doesn’t have to be alone with Fleur). Hermione picks up a small telescope and asks what it is. Probably just some of Fred and George’s stuff – so you might want to be careful. The twins are doing really well – their store is making out like gangbusters in Diagon Alley. Ron says he hasn’t had a chance to visit it yet because his parents want to make sure to have extra security when they go. Speaking of seeing family, what about Percy? How has he taken the news that he was wrong this entire time? The answer is: not well. He’s still not speaking to his parents, despite knowing that they were right about Voldemort.

Harry lets slip that Dumbledore will be giving him private lessons and speculates that it has to have something to do with the prophecy.

“Nobody knows what it said, though,” said Hermione quickly. “It got smashed.”

“Although the Prophet says –” began Ron, but Hermione said, “Shh!”

“The Prophet‘s got it right,” said Harry, looking up at them both with a great effort: Hermione seemed frightened and Ron amazed. “That glass ball that smashed wasn’t the only record of the prophecy. I heard the whole thing in Dumbledore’s office, he was the one the prophecy was made to, so he could tell me. From what it said,” Harry took a deep breath, “it looks like I’m the one who’s got to finish off Voldemort . . . At least, it said neither of us could live while the other survives.”

There is a stunned silence . . . and then Hermione disappears in a cloud of smoke. She’s fine, she’s fine! That little telescope she picked up? She squeezed it too tightly and it punched her in the eye. She brushes this off though, much more concerned about Harry. She asks if he’s scared, but he’s started to get used to the idea. He was much more scared at first, but now it does sort of seem obvious. This whole mess started with him and Voldemort, so it makes sense that the two of them would need to finish it. They speculate for a bit what Dumbledore might teach Harry: advanced defensive spells, countercurses, anti-jinxes. Harry starts to feel better just knowing that his two best friends are there for him. No matter how scared or shocked they are, they will do whatever they need to in order to help Harry through this. Friendship is magic, y’all! Oh wait – wrong franchise.

Hermione mentions wondering when their O.W.L. results will arrive and Harry remembers Dumbledore mentioning that they would arrive today. Time for a Hermione freak out! She runs downstairs to see if any owls have come (they haven’t yet) and also to see if Mrs. Weasley can fix her very impressive black eye. Oddly enough, nothing that she tries will make the bruising go away. Instead, Hermione stews over all the questions she probably got wrong during their exams.

The owls arrive, three of them, one for each of them. Harry opens his and finds that he actually did pretty well. Acceptable in Astronomy. Exceeds Expectations in Magical Creatures, Charms, Herbology, Potions and Transfiguration. Outstanding in Defense (as if we doubted).

And a Poor in Divination. And a Dreadful in History. But the rest are pretty good! Ron didn’t do too bad either, although he didn’t get an Outstanding. Hermione . . . got nine Outstandings and one Exceeds Expectations. And she’s actually really disappointed in the EE grade, although she’s trying to hide it. One thing that Harry is disappointed in is his Potion grade. According to Snape, he would only be able to advance to N.E.W.T. level Potions if he got an Outstanding. Which he didn’t. And he needed his N.E.W.T. in Potions in order to become an Auror. Personally, I think being the Chosen One would probably also help in that endeavor, but Harry really thinks that joining the Aurors would be the best way to go after Voldemort. After all, it is basically their job, right?

See you next time for Chapter 6!

Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Chapter 4

HPHBP Banner

Chapter 4 – Horace Slughorn

You know how awkward it was back when you were a kid and you run into a teacher outside of school? It feels weird because, in your mind, they only exist at school. That’s where they live, right? Going on this little side trip is making Harry feel this same awkwardness, only ten times more. Especially since he and Dumbledore didn’t necessarily part on good terms when they left at the end of last school year.

Dumbledore cautions Harry to keep his wand out, even though Harry is technically not allowed to use magic. He gives Harry full permission to do whatever is necessary to defend himself if they are attacked, but it’s not likely this will happen. Harry is with Dumbledore after all! Who is going to attack Dumbledore? They need to travel a fair distance, and since Harry can’t Apparate yet, Dumbledore is able to take Harry along via Side-Along Apparation. It’s . . . uncomfortable.

Harry felt Dumbledore’s arm twist away from him and redoubled his grip; the next thing he knew, everything went black; he was being pressed very hard from all directions; he could not breathe, there were iron bands tightening around his chest; his eyeballs were being forced back into his head; his eardrums were being pushed deeper into his skull and then –“

When he opens his eyes, he is no longer on Privet Drive. Harry decides that he doesn’t like Apparation much.

They have arrived at the village of Budleigh Babberton. As they walk through the empty village square, Dumbledore asks if Harry’s scar has been hurting. Surprisingly, it hasn’t been. Harry thought for sure that it would be now that Voldemort was back, but as it turns out, curse scars are a two-way street. Now that Voldemort isn’t hiding anymore, he doesn’t want Harry to know too much about what he’s up to, and as such, he appears to be using Occlumency to block Harry out. Not that it’s a bad thing. Harry doesn’t mind this at ALL. As someone who used to get chronic migraines, I can relate. It was awesome when those finally went away!

So what are they doing in this little village? They are there to find an old friend of Dumbledore’s and convince him to return to Hogwarts as a professor. In the process, we learn a bit about wizarding etiquette. Harry asks why they didn’t just Apparate directly to the wizard’s house, to which Dumbledore explains that it would be very rude to do so. Also, many wizarding homes are warded against people doing that, much like Hogwarts is.

They also discuss the new Minister of Magic. Harry asks Dumbledore’s opinion of Scrimgeour. Dumbledore knows that Scrimgeour is a capable wizard and, as the former Head of the Auror office, he knows the dangers that they are facing quite well. He won’t underestimate Voldemort like Fudge did. That definitely sounds positive, even if Dumbledore didn’t really give a ringing endorsement – he doesn’t seem to dislike Scrimgeour either. Harry also asks again about Dumbledore’s blackened hand, but Dumbledore doesn’t want to tell that story just yet.

Another topic of discussion: the leaflets sent out by the Ministry to help prepare the wizarding public about the dangers of Voldemort’s return.

“Yes, I received one myself,” said Dumbledore, still smiling. “Did you find it useful?”

“Not really.”

“No, I thought not. You have not asked me, for instance, what is my favorite flavor of jam, to check that I am indeed Professor Dumbledore and not an impostor.”

“I didn’t . . .” Harry began, not entirely sure whether he was being reprimanded or not.

“For future reference, Harry, it is raspberry . . . although of course, if I were a Death Eater, I would have been sure to research my own jam preferences before impersonating myself.”

Good to know for the future. Dumbledore likes raspberry jam. Good choice!

They finally arrive at the home of the wizard they have come to see that it has been completely trashed. Everything is broken and torn and mangled. Dumbledore walks cautiously into the room, Harry following behind him. Harry wonders if there was a fight and they had dragged the wizard away, but Dumbledore doesn’t think so. He thinks he’s still in the house. Dumbledore then quickly pokes a nearby armchair with his wand. The armchair in question yells. Turns out that it’s not an armchair at all, but Horace Slughorn, Dumbledore’s old college and the person they are there to see.

Normal people don’t disguise themselves as furniture, but Slughorn has been afraid of Death Eaters coming to find him, so he makes it look like a crime scene and then hides. Dumbledore points out that if he had wanted it to look realistic, he should have added a Dark Mark in the sky. Whoops. They quickly use magic to set the house back to normal. In doing so, Slughorn gets his first look at Harry. He recognizes him immediately, but Dumbledore goes on with the charade and introduces him. Slughorn knows that Dumbledore brought Harry along to get him to change his mind about coming back to teach, but it won’t work! Won’t work at all, he swears! But can’t they, Dumbledore says, at least have a drink? For an old friend?

They proceed to have a rather uncomfortable conversation, especially around Harry. Slughorn just wants to retire and relax with his comforts. He has enjoyed his retirement, except for the hiding out from Death Eaters part. Dumbledore points out that Slughorn is not as old as he, Dumbledore, is, but then Slughorn points out that Dumbledore isn’t as spry as he once was, pointing out his injured hand. Harry notices that Dumbledore is also wearing a ring that he hasn’t seen before.

It was large, rather clumsily made of what looked like gold, and was set with a heavy black stone that had cracked down the middle. Slughorn’s eyes lingered for a moment on the ring too, and Harry saw a tiny frown momentarily crease his wide forehead.

As we listen in on this conversation, we learn more about how Slughorn has been living over the past year. It hasn’t been fun. He has been worried about the Death Eaters finding him, despite claiming that they would never be interested in an old has-been like him. He’s been moving from Muggle house to Muggle house while the owners have been on vacation. How is this a quiet life? Isn’t that what he said he wanted and was the reason he didn’t want to come back to Hogwarts?

He knows that Hogwarts will not be restful at all. He has also heard rumors about Umbridge, but Dumbledore quickly clears that up – it’s not his fault that Umbridge decided to insult a herd of centaurs. Slughorn mentions that he never liked Umbridge, and this makes Harry chuckle a bit. He admits that he didn’t like Umbridge either. Aw look, they’re bonding! Dumbledore decides to take this opportunity to leave for the bathroom, giving Harry and Slughorn a chance to talk by themselves.

Slughorn isn’t an idiot. He knows that Dumbledore brought Harry to help convince him to come back to Hogwarts. He tells Harry that he looks so much like his father, except for his eyes, of course. How many times has Harry heard that he looks like his dad, but has his mother’s eyes? So many!! But it turns out that Lily was one of Slughorn’s favorite students. He wished she had been in his house – Slytherin. Slughorn was actually formerly the Head of Slytherin. He also says that it was so impressive that Lily was so talented despite being a Muggle-born. Harry jumps on this, saying that one of his best friends is Muggle-born and is absolutely brilliant.

I don’t think that Slughorn is as bad as the pureblood maniacs (like, say, the Malfoys), but he is still a product of his culture. He even says that he doesn’t want Harry to think that he is prejudiced at all. Lily was one of his all-time favorite students, and then there were several others that he knew that have gone far despite being Muggle-born. He shows Harry the photographs he has of his former students and talks about how they still stay in touch and send him gifts – members of the Ministry, professional Quidditch players, the editor of the Daily Prophet. But how are they keeping in touch, Harry asks, if Slughorn has been constantly moving? Slughorn grudgingly admits that he hasn’t heard from anyone since he’s been in hiding. I actually feel a little sorry for him when he says it.

“Still . . . the prudent wizard keeps his head down in such times. All very well for Dumbledore to talk, but taking up a post at Hogwarts just now would be tantamount to declaring my public allegiance to the Order of the Phoenix! And while I’m sure they’re very admirable and brave and all the rest of it, I don’t personally fancy the mortality rate –“

Teaching at Hogwarts doesn’t mean joining the Order though. Most of the other professors are not Order members. It’s just Snape and McGonagall at this point, right? Besides, Dumbledore is the only wizard that Voldemort has ever feared. Maybe it would be safer closer to Dumbledore, especially after Amelia Bones could get murdered after having all her Ministry protection.

Dumbledore returns and says that it is time for him and Harry to leave. He knows that he won’t be able to change Slughorn’s mind, so they will get out of his hair. Dumbledore does want Slughorn to know that he is always welcome to visit Hogwarts any time he wants to. As they are leaving, Slughorn bursts out that he will do it. He will come out of retirement and join them at Hogwarts. But he wants a pay raise. And a better office.

As they leave, Dumbledore explains a bit about Slughorn. He enjoys gathering influential people to him. He doesn’t want to be in charge – he prefers being behind the scenes. Slughorn will definitely want to collect Harry as one of his favorites. Dumbledore offers his arm and they Apparate to the Burrow, but before he leaves, he has one more thing to talk to Harry about: Sirius.

“It was cruel,” said Dumbledore softly, “that you and Sirius had such a short time together. A brutal ending to what should have been a long and happy relationship.”

Ugh, let’s just jab that knife back in my heart. Harry knows that Dumbledore probably knows that Harry has been suffering so far this summer. He hasn’t been eating, barely sleeping, staring out the window. It’s awful. He had gotten used to being able to write to Sirius, to actually having a parental figure in his life. Harry also knows that he can’t just give up. Life is short, especially where he is concerned. Amelia Bones. Emmaline Vance. The next person to die could be Harry! But Harry has also grown a backbone.

“It could be me next, couldn’t it? But if it is . . . I’ll make sure to take as many Death Eaters with me as I can, and Voldemort too if I can manage it.”

Yesss!!!!!

Dumbledore also points out that the wizarding world has been going insane with speculation as to what really happened in the Department of Mysteries. Harry hasn’t really told anyone about the prophesy, although Dumbledore says he should probably tell Ron and Hermione about it. He also says that this year, Harry will have private lessons with him. Of course, Dumbledore being Dumbledore, he won’t say what they will be studying, but still, it’s got to be better than private lessons with Snape! In fact, Harry probably won’t see Snape much at all since he didn’t get the proper grade to move up to N.E.W.T. level Potions.

A few precautions. One: keep the Invisibility Cloak with you at all times. Obvious reasons there. Two: while he is with the Weasleys, do not do anything stupid. They have accepted extra security to their home to protect Harry, and while it has been a huge hassle, they don’t mind because they want Harry to be safe. Harry agrees to these terms and Dumbledore leaves him to Mrs. Weasley’s mothering.

See you next time for Chapter 5!

Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Chapter 3

HPHBP Banner

Chapter 3 – Will and Won’t

Hey, we finally made it to Harry! He is sound asleep and leaning against a window, which can’t be all that comfortable. His room is also a complete mess, with food, school books, clothes and owl feathers all over the place. It’s nice to see that while Harry is a wizard, he’s also still a typical teenager.

Among the mess are several newspapers, featuring headlines like “Harry Potter: The Chosen One?” and “Scrimgeour Succeeds Fudge.” That second one isn’t a surprise, since we met Scrimgeour in the last chapter, and to be frank, the first one isn’t surprising either. The wizarding world has been sensationalizing Harry’s story since he was a baby. They definitely aren’t going to stop now! The story about Scrimgeour also mentions the new security plans he intends to put around Hogwarts, including a brief statement from Neville’s grandmother.

The Ministry has also passed out leaflets with information about various Dark magic things to be on the lookout for and how to best protect yourself from them. Things like not going anywhere alone, being sure to be back home before dark, using security questions to verify that your friend isn’t being impersonated by a Death Eater. You know. Common sense stuff.

Back to Harry, who is still snoring on. He has a note in his hand from Dumbledore, which is part of the reason why he is sleeping on the window instead of in his bed.

Dear Harry,

If it is convenient to you, I shall call at number four, Privet Drive this coming Friday at eleven P.M. to escort you to the Burrow, where you have been invited to spend the remainder of your school holidays.

If you are agreeable, I should also be glad of your assistance in a matter to which I hope to attend on the way to the Burrow. I shall explain this more fully when I see you.

Kindly send your answer by return of this owl. Hoping to see you this Friday,

I am, yours most sincerely,

Albus Dumbledore

Yeah, Harry couldn’t answer that note soon enough. Of course he wants to leave Privet Drive! The problem is: Harry feels like it’s too good to be true. He’s only been at the Dursleys’ house for two weeks. This could just be a big joke or something. That’s why he hasn’t packed – he doesn’t want to be all ready to go and then be disappointed if Dumbledore doesn’t turn up.

He also hasn’t told the Dursleys, but I’m sure they’ll be fine with a wizard turning up unannounced on their doorstep.

A streetlamp flickers out and this wakes Harry up. He looks out the window and sees Dumbledore walking up the front sidewalk. Uh oh! He starts throwing his stuff across the room to his trunk and hears his uncle complaining about someone arriving so late at night. The juxtaposition between Vernon Dursley, who’s so uptight he can barely see past the end of his nose, and Albus Dumbledore, in his cloak, pointed hat, and half-moon glasses, is one of the absolutely funniest sights imaginable.

Dumbledore, being Dumbledore, brushes aside any rudeness or shock and just comments that their plants look very lovely. Vernon, on the other hand, is not interested in small talk.

“I don’t mean to be rude –” he began, in a tone that threatened rudeness in every syllable.

“– yet, sadly, accidental rudeness occurs alarmingly often,” Dumbledore finished the sentence gravely. “Best to say nothing at all, my dear man. Ah, and this must be Petunia.”

Dumbledore is such a sassy wizard! Love it!

He introduces himself to Petunia, mentioning that they have “corresponded,” which leads Harry to remember that Dumbledore had sent Petunia a Howler last year. He also introduces himself to Dudley. When none of the Dursleys say a word, he invites himself into their sitting room. Harry wants to know if they are leaving, which yes, they are Harry – hold your horses! – but there are a few things to discuss first.

Vernon is still not happy about any of this, but when he tries to challenge Dumbledore, their sofa comes forward, knocks into them so that they fall onto it, and then pops back into place. You know, since they didn’t offer Dumbledore a place to sit, he offered one to them. Heehee. During all of this, Harry notices that Dumbledore’s hand is black and shriveled, as though it had been badly burned. He tries to ask what happened, but Dumbledore waves him off and says that he’ll tell him later.

Dumbledore is having too much fun playing the host in the Dursleys’ house.

“I would assume that you were going to offer me refreshment,” Dumbledore said to Uncle Vernon, “but the evidence so far suggests that that would be optimistic to the point of foolishness.”

A third twitch of the wand, and a dusty bottle and five glasses appeared in midair. The bottle tipped and poured a generous measure of honey-colored liquid into each of the glasses, which then floated to each person in the room.

Given what Dumbledore knows about the Dursleys, he has to be enjoying himself, especially when the Dursleys won’t touch the glasses at all and try to ignore them, even when the glasses are tapping them on their heads. These drinks just want to be drunk! Um, drank? Drinked? Whatever.

First order of business is Sirius’s will. He has left everything he owned to Harry, which makes sense, since Harry was the only family he really had left that wasn’t evil. Any money was transferred to Harry’s account at Gringotts, so that’s easy, but Sirius also left Harry number twelve, Grimmauld Place. Harry immediately says that the Order can keep using it, but Dumbledore tells him that the Order has left it for now to make sure that it does, in fact, belong to Harry now.

See, the Black family, with their obsession with blood purity, may have put some sort of enchantment on the place to make sure that no one but a pureblood could own it. Sirius and his younger brother, Regulus, are both dead and neither one had any children. Sirius’s will is clear, but that may not be enough. If the house was enchanted though, it would have passed to the oldest living Black relative, no matter what Sirius’s wishes were – and that person is Bellatrix Lestrange.

The Dursleys have been listening to all of this, not understanding half of it, but Vernon does understand that Harry’s big, scary godfather is dead now and that Harry has inherited some property. This interests him a bit in his little greedy heart. He doesn’t say much about it, although he does finally blow up about the glasses that are still hovering around their heads.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” said Dumbledore politely, and he raised his wand again. All three glasses vanished. “But it would have been better manners to drink it, you know.”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

Lucky for Harry, there is a very simple test to see if he is the owner of 12 Grimmauld Place. Dumbledore summons Kreacher, which freaks the Dursleys completely out. Kreacher is having a temper tantrum, stamping his feet and shouting that he will absolutely not go to “the Potter brat,” that he intends to go to “Miss Bellatrix” instead. Harry, remembering Kreacher’s involvement in Sirius’s death, wants nothing to do with Kreacher, but Dumbledore points out that it’s not a good idea for Kreacher to go live with the Lestranges after everything he has seen and heard living at the headquarters of the Order for a year.

On to the test: all Harry has to do is give Kreacher an order and see if Kreacher follows it. If he belongs to Harry, he will have to obey him. With Kreacher still yelling his head off, the only thing Harry can think of to say is to tell him to shut up. And it works! Kreacher immediately becomes silent, which only makes him angrier, but he can’t make a sound. Dumbledore is happy – this means that Harry is definitely the owner of Grimmauld Place and Kreacher. Harry really doesn’t want to keep Kreacher around, and who can blame him, so Dumbledore tells him to send Kreacher to Hogwarts and he can work there.

Also bound for Hogwarts – Buckbeak! Or, to be clear, Buckbeak is already at Hogwarts being taken care of by Hagrid, and Harry is perfectly happy for him to stay there. This will make both Hagrid and Buckbeak very happy.

Now, onto the last bit of business, this time with the Dursleys. Dumbledore explains that Harry comes of age next year (at seventeen in the wizarding world) and that Voldemort is back, which makes things even more dangerous than when Dumbledore first left Harry with the Dursleys all those years ago. He had left them a note asking them to care for young Harry as if he were their own.

Dumbledore paused, and although his voice remained light and calm, and he gave no obvious sign of anger, Harry felt a kind of chill emanating from him and noticed that the Dursleys drew very slightly closer together.

“You did not do as I asked. You have never treated Harry as a son. He has known nothing but neglect and often cruelty at your hands. The best that can be said is that he has at least escaped the appalling damage you have inflicted upon the unfortunate boy sitting between you.”

It makes me so unbelievably happy that finally, FINALLY, someone is calling the Dursleys out on the horrible behavior towards Harry over the years. I cannot imagine being given a baby and asked to take care of it, only to make it live in a tiny closet, barely feed it, and treat it like dirt under my shoe. The Dursleys have done all of that to Harry and more, and it’s disgusting. They are also so completely oblivious to life in general that they don’t understand Dumbledore’s last bit that he said about Dudley. They didn’t mistreat Dudley in an abusive way, but letting Dudley grow up with no discipline, giving in to his every want and whim, never setting boundaries – Dudley is going to have a very difficult time once he has to live in the real world on his own. It’s not abuse in the classic sense that everyone thinks of, but it’s toxic all the same.

Dumbledore’s last request of them is that they let Harry return one last time after his sixth year at Hogwarts and before he turns seventeen to ensure that the magic protection from his mother will last until that time. The Dursleys are silent and Dumbledore takes that as acceptance of his terms. Harry gets his things and Dumbledore sends them on to the Burrow, all except the Invisibility Cloak, which might come in handy where they are going. And then they are off . . . to “pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”

I love Dumbledore!

See you next time for Chapter 4!

Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Chapter 2

HPHBP Banner

Chapter 2 – Spinner’s End

Another chapter outside of Harry’s point of view! We don’t usually get two of these right up front! I particularly like this chapter because it deals with one of my favorite characters in the whole series: Severus Snape. Now, to be clear, I do NOT think Snape is a good person. He’s a terrible teacher who belittles his students. I do, however, find him fascinating as a character. There are lots of complex layers to this guy, and this chapter shows a few of them. Plus, the fact that he was played in the films by one of my all-time favorite actors doesn’t hurt either (RIP Alan Rickman, gods above, I miss him!).

We start out in a very run down neighborhood next to a dirty river next to an old mill. Two hooded figures appear and head into town, one of them very determined and the other trying to stop the first. The second one is very jumpy and actually kills a fox because she heard a sound and was afraid it was an Auror.

The first woman is named Narcissa, the second is named Bella, and it’s pretty clear that this is none other than Narcissa Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange, who we have learned are sisters as well as cousins to Sirius. Narcissa is on the verge of hysteria and is heading into this town to find someone who can help her with something. Bellatrix is not happy about any of this. She keeps trying to stop Narcissa from entering the dirty Muggle town and she definitely doesn’t want Narcissa to seek out the person she is looking for.

“Cissy, you must not do this, you can’t trust him –”

“The Dark Lord trusts him, doesn’t he?”

“The Dark Lord is . . . I believe . . . mistaken,” Bella panted, and her eyes gleamed momentarily under her hood as she looked around to check that they were indeed alone. “In any case, we were told not to speak of the plan to anyone. This is a betrayal of the Dark Lord’s –”

“Let go, Bella!” snarled Narcissa, and she drew a wand from beneath her cloak, holding it threateningly in the other’s face. Bella merely laughed.

“Cissy, your own sister? You wouldn’t –”

Yeah, it turns out that she will. Narcissa shoots what is probably a Stinging Hex at her sister and keeps walking to a street called Spinner’s End down to the last house on the street. Before Bella can stop her, Narcissa knocks on the door. The door opens to reveal . . . Snape. This is his house, although it is clear from the threadbare conditions that he doesn’t spend a great deal of time there. He greets the sisters and lets them in. Another thing that’s clear: he and Bellatrix do not like each other AT ALL.

After they are seated (except for Bella, who chooses to stand), Narcissa asks to make sure they’re alone. They are, except for Wormtail, who is just outside the room behind a hidden door, which Snape blasts open. It seems Wormtail just enjoys eavesdropping, maybe left over from so much time spent as a rat. Snape sends him off to fetch drinks. He and Wormtail don’t particularly like each other either. Wormtail was sent to “assist” Snape and resents being treated like a servant instead. He brings out the wine and then scurries away, Snape slamming the door behind him.

Narcissa accepts the glass of wine. Snape raises his and toasts the Dark Lord, which the sisters do as well in response. Narcissa begins to talk to Snape, but he stops her, casting a spell towards the door Wormtail just left through. You hear a yelp and then footsteps running away. Snape apologizes and asks Narcissa to continue. She begins by admitting that she shouldn’t be there and were told not to say anything. Bellatrix jumps on this, saying that it proves that Narcissa should keep her mouth shut, especially in front of Snape, because she absolutely does not trust him.

“Narcissa, I think we ought to hear what Bellatrix is bursting to say; it will save tedious interruptions. Well, continue, Bellatrix,” said Snape. “Why is it that you do not trust me?”

“A hundred reasons!” she said loudly, striding out from behind the sofa to slam her glass upon the table. “Where to start!” Where were you when the Dark Lord fell? Why did you never make any attempt to find him when he vanished? What have you been doing all these years that you’ve lived in Dumbledore’s pocket? Why did you stop the Dark Lord procuring the Sorcerer’s Stone? Why did you not return at once when the Dark Lord was reborn? Where were you a few weeks ago when we battled to retrieve the prophecy for the Dark Lord? And why, Snape, is Harry Potter still alive, when you have had him at your mercy for five years?”

Jeez, Bella! Do you feel better now that you have all that off your chest? None of this fazes Snape. He tells her that he will definitely answer all her questions, but also, does she really think that Voldemort didn’t have the same questions for him? And does she really think that Snape would still be here if Voldemort wasn’t satisfied with his answers? Does she really think that Snape was able to fool her hero?

Which is actually funny because, yes, Snape did fool Voldemort. But that’s neither here nor there. Bellatrix doesn’t know that.

First question: where was Snape when the Dark Lord fell? He was at Hogwarts, right where Voldemort told him to be, assigned to spy on Dumbledore.

Second question: why didn’t he find Voldemort when he vanished? He thought Voldemort was gone, just like Lucius, Avery, and many others did. Voldemort has chosen to forgive those who doubted.

Third question: why did he stay at Hogwarts if Voldemort was gone and he no longer needed to be a spy? Why not stay at Hogwarts? He had a good job and Dumbledore’s protection to keep him out of jail. What’s more, Voldemort himself is very happy that Snape stayed because it meant he could go back to spying once he returned.

Fourth question: why did Snape prevent Voldemort from stealing the Sorcerer’s Stone? Simple. Voldemort wasn’t sure Snape was still loyal and, as such, did not reveal himself. Snape only saw Quirrell trying to steal the Stone and, yes, tried to stop him. According to Snape, if Voldemort had trusted him, he would have returned to power three years ago. Think about that for a second. Would have made the first book in this series a whole lot different, wouldn’t it!

Fifth question: why didn’t Snape return when Voldemort was reborn? He did not return immediately . . .

“Correct. I returned two hours later. I returned on Dumbledore’s orders.”

“On Dumbledore’s –?” she began, in tones of outrage.

“Think!” said Snape, impatient again. “Think! By waiting two hours, just two hours, I ensured that I could remain at Hogwarts as a spy! By allowing Dumbledore to think that I was only returning to the Dark Lord’s side because I was ordered to, I have been able to pass information on Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix ever since! Consider, Bellatrix: The Dark Mark had been growing stronger for months. I knew he must be about to return, all the Death Eaters knew! I had plenty of time to think about what I wanted to do, to plan my next move, to escape like Karkaroff, didn’t I?

“The Dark Lord’s initial displeasure at my lateness vanished entirely, I assure you, when I explained that I remained faithful, although Dumbledore thought I was his man. Yes, the Dark Lord thought that I had left him forever, but he was wrong.”

See, this is what makes Snape such a fascinating character. Even here, even listening to him spell it out bluntly before two of Voldemort’s faithful followers, we still don’t know for sure what side he’s on. He could be telling the absolute truth. He could be lying his face off. No way to know for sure.

I also love his little stab at Bellatrix when she demands what information he’s brought, and he says that he reported directly to Voldemort and it isn’t any of his business if Voldemort decides not to share it with her.

Sixth question: why didn’t Snape fight with them at the Ministry? See, Bells, this is why you aren’t in charge of planning things. Don’t you think the Order would have noticed if all of a sudden Snape started fighting against them? Voldemort wants his spy in place and ordered Snape to stay out of it.

Seventh and final question: why has Snape not taken out Harry Potter? You know, for a Slytherin, Bellatrix has no sense of subtlety whatsoever. Imagine. Voldemort is believed to be gone. Snape is under Dumbledore’s protection, which is keeping him out of jail. Sure, let’s go ahead and murder Dumbledore’s favorite student. That’s a good idea! Also, and this is new, when Harry first survived Voldemort’s attack as a baby, there were rumors that Harry was a powerful Dark wizard and that was how he did it. The Death Eaters wondered if Harry would rise up to be their new master one day.

Of course that didn’t happen, and isn’t likely to, but they didn’t know any better at the time. Snape can’t stand Harry and has tried to get him thrown out of school on numerous occasions, but can’t do any more than that with Dumbledore keeping such a close watch. Bellatrix is still skeptical. If Snape is loyal to Voldemort, how has he been so good at fooling Dumbledore all these years?

“I have played my part well,” said Snape. “And you overlook Dumbledore’s greatest weakness: He has to believe the best of people. I spun him a tale of deepest remorse when I joined his staff, fresh from my Death Eater days, and he embraced me with open arms — though, as I say, never allowing me nearer the Dark Arts than he could help. Dumbledore has been a great wizard — oh yes, he has,” (for Bellatrix had made a scathing noise), “the Dark Lord acknowledges it. I am pleased to say, however, that Dumbledore is growing old. The duel with the Dark Lord last month shook him. He has since sustained a serious injury because his reactions are slower than they once were. But through all these years, he has never stopped trusting Severus Snape, and therein lies my great value to the Dark Lord.”

Bellatrix is flummoxed for the moment, so Snape turns to Narcissa for her to continue her request. Narcissa didn’t know where else to turn since Lucius is in prison. Voldemort has a plan, but has forbidden her to speak of it. Bellatrix leaps on this to convince her to keep her mouth shut, but turns out Snape also knows about the plan. He doesn’t think he can change Voldemort’s mind though, and it would be foolish in the extreme to try.

Narcissa starts to cry. Whatever this plan is, it involves Draco, her only son. Bellatrix thinks Draco should be proud for this assignment, but Narcissa knows that it is only because Draco is young and doesn’t know the dangers involved. She frets that sending Draco into peril is vengeance for Lucius failing in his attempt to retrieve the prophesy. There is no way for Draco to succeed in this mission. Voldemort’s intent is for Draco to die trying. He is furious that the prophesy slipped through his hands.

Snape can’t risk Voldemort’s wrath and can’t get him to change his mind, but he can do his best to help Draco and protect him. Bellatrix sneers that sure, Snape may try, but that is meaningless. Narcissa falls at his feet and asks him to make the Unbreakable Vow. At first Bellatrix starts to laugh, but stops when Snape agrees. He kneels on the ground across from Narcissa and asks for Bellatrix to be their Bonder.

The Vow is spoken over their clasped hands, red flames encircling them. Snape swears to do the following: to watch over Draco as he attempts his task, to do his best to protect Draco from harm, and if necessary, if Draco should fail, to carry out the task Draco has been ordered to do. This last one in particular surprises Bellatrix, but the spell has been cast, and Snape is now bound to this responsibility. She can’t argue with that!

So where has Harry Potter been through all this? See you next time for Chapter 3!

Chapter-A-Long

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Chapter 1

HPHBP Banner

Chapter 1 – The Other Minister

I’ve decided to start including the chapter titles in these, which I hadn’t done before, just because some of them are either very funny or very poignant. Or both, as the case may be.

Also, welcome to Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince everyone! I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for five books now!

This book opens not with Harry, but with the Muggle Prime Minister in a chapter that I actually find quite interesting. You always assumed that the Ministry of Magic had to have some sort of contact with the Muggle authorities and/or government, but here we actually get a chance to see it in action.

The Prime Minister, who we never learn his name, is in his office late at night waiting for a call from another country. He’s had a rough week. His political opponents are pointing out all these horrible things that have been happening all over the country, things like a large bridge that collapsed, two very nasty murders, freakish weather, and one of his Junior Ministers, Herbert Chorley, acting bizarre and leaving to spend time with his family.

“A grim mood has gripped the country,” the opponent had concluded, barely concealing his own broad grin.

And unfortunately, this was perfectly true. The Prime Minister felt it himself; people really did seem more miserable than usual. Even the weather was dismal; all this chilly mist in the middle of July . . . It wasn’t right, it wasn’t normal . . .

He’s right. This isn’t normal. Not at all. He stands up to stretch and look out the window when he hears a cough behind him. He knows this cough. He’s heard it before and it never is good news. In the far corner of the room is a painting of an ugly little man in an old-fashioned silver wig. This man starts to speak, telling the Prime Minister that Fudge has requested to meet with him and that it’s urgent. The Prime Minister doesn’t want to meet right now and tries to use an upcoming telephone call as an excuse, but the painting tells him that the call will be rearranged, that the President calling will forget and instead call him the next night. Finally, the Prime Minister decides to just get it over with and says he will meet.

Fudge steps out of the fireplace using the Floo Network, which is apparently connected to the Prime Minister’s office. He looks terrible and says that he has had a bad week, mentioning all this issues the Prime Minister had been worrying about: the bridge, the murders, the weird weather. Fudge cops an attitude and says that surely the Prime Minister realized that magic was involved, didn’t he? This is why the Prime Minister doesn’t like Fudge — his arrogant air of superiority.

He remembers the first time he met Fudge, right after he took office. He was standing there, so happy to finally have achieved such a triumph, when he heard the portrait cough. Fudge had appeared in the fireplace and explained everything about the Ministry of Magic and all the ways that they ensure that the non-magical community doesn’t hear about them. He also tells the Prime Minister that it is very unlikely that he will see him much. When the Prime Minister seems skeptical, Fudge turns his teacup into a gerbil.

“But,” said the Prime Minister breathlessly, watching his teacup chewing on the corner of his next speech, “but why — why has nobody told me –?”

“The Minister of Magic only reveals him or herself to the Muggle Prime Minister of the day,” said Fudge, poking his wand back inside his jacket. “We find it the best way to maintain secrecy.”

“But then,” bleated the Prime Minister, “why hasn’t a former Prime Minister warned me –?”

At this, Fudge had actually laughed.

“My dear Prime Minister, are you ever going to tell anybody?”

That’s a fair point. The Prime Minister tries to make himself forget about Fudge’s appearance. He gives the gerbil to his niece and tries to have the portrait removed from his office. Yeah, that doesn’t work – the portrait is permanently affixed to the wall. Numerous people try to get rid of it, including carpenters and an art historian, so the Prime Minister just tries to ignore its presence as much as possible.

Despite Fudge’s assurances that he wouldn’t be around much, he showed up three years ago to warn the Prime Minister about Sirius’s escape, which if we remember, was actually mentioned back in Prisoner of Azkaban. The Daily Prophet quotes Fudge as saying that he got a lot of heat from the magical population for alerting the Muggle authorites, but that Sirius Black was a threat to everyone and they needed to be warned. Fudge also used that time to explain to the Prime Minister all about Voldemort and Harry Potter and the whole story.

The next year, Fudge appears again to tell the Prime Minister about the problems at the Quidditch World Cup, but that the situation was handled. Oh and also they are importing three foreign dragons and a sphinx. Two years after THAT, Fudge comes back to tell him about the mass breakout at Azkaban.

So much for hardly ever seeing him.

Back in the present day, Fudge tells him that the issues the Prime Minister is dealing with are also related to the magical world.

“We have the same concerns,” Fudge interrupted. “The Brockdale Bridge didn’t wear out. That wasn’t really a hurricane. Those murders were not the work of Muggles. And Herbert Chorley’s family would be safer without him. We are currently making arrangements to have him transferred to St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. The move should be effected tonight.”

Fudge also has to admit that Voldemort is indeed back and that his followers are behind all these problems. Voldemort had threatened Fudge with a mass Muggle killing unless he stepped aside, which obviously Fudge didn’t do, so Death Eaters destroyed the bridge. The Prime Minister is furious that this problem was actually Fudge’s fault, but then concedes that he wouldn’t have stood down due to blackmail like that. Every Auror is working to find Voldemort and his Death Eaters, but this is also one of the most powerful wizards of all time. He’s not going to be easy to catch.

Also, those freak hurricanes? Not weather. Death Eater attacks, possibly aided by giants.

One of the murders? Amelia Bones, from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and one of the witches who stood up for Harry at his trial last year. She’s dead now. The other murder was Emmeline Vance, one of the members of the Order.

The unseasonable chilly mist? Dementors, now completely outside Ministry control. Creating feelings of hopelessness and unhappiness all over the country. The mist means that they’re breeding. I so don’t want to know how they do that.

The Prime Minister is horrified and demands that Fudge do something. He’s the Minister of Magic after all! This is his responsibility! Here’s the thing though. Fudge isn’t the Minister anymore. The wizarding world is not happy at all about being intentionally misled about Voldemort’s return and all the fallout that happened after. They screamed for him to resign. The new minister, Rufus Scrimgeour, arrives shortly to introduce himself.

The Prime Minister’s first, foolish thought was that Rufus Scrimgeour looked rather like an old lion. There were streaks of gray in his mane of tawny hair and his bushy eyebrows; he had keen yellowish eyes behind a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles and a certain rangy, loping grace even though he walked with a slight limp. There was an immediate impression of shrewdness and toughness; the Prime Minister thought he understood why the Wizarding community preferred Scrimgeour to Fudge as a leader in these dangerous times.

After a brief introduction, Scrimgeour says they need to talk about the Prime Minister’s security, starting with the new secretary outside. The Prime Minister doesn’t want to get rid of his new secretary, as he’s so efficient he does twice the work of everyone else. That’s because the new secretary is a wizard, and not just any wizard — Kingsley Shacklebolt! He has been put there for the Prime Minister’s protection.

The next item of business is the Junior Minister, Herbert Chorley, who apparently just randomly started behaving like a duck in public. This was due to a badly performed Imperius Curse. Someone tried to use him to get to the Prime Minister, but it “addled his brains” instead. He is being examined by Healers and has tried to strangle several of them. Clearly he is dangerous at the moment, but will be treated at St. Mungo’s. They don’t know if he will recover or not.

Scrimgeour gets up to leave and says that he will keep the Prime Minister posted, or at least send Fudge, who is acting as an advisor. At this point, it has all been too much for the Prime Minister. He catches them both before they disappear into the Floo.

“But for heaven’s sake — you’re wizards! You can do magic! Surely you can sort out — well — anything!”

Scrimgeour turned slowly on the spot and exchanged an incredulous look with Fudge, who really did manage a smile this time as he said kindly, “The trouble is, the other side can do magic too, Prime Minister.”

Touché, Fudge.

That’s it for Chapter 1. See you next time for Chapter 2!