“Half-Blood Prince” serves two major purposes in the “Harry Potter” series. First, it finally fully introduces us to the person who became Voldemort, Tom Riddle. It also finally defines Severus Snape as a character and brings him into the foreground, setting up one of the biggest plot twists in “Harry Potter” history (you’re going to have to wait until “Part 2” to find that one out).
The Unbreakable Vow
Unlike the previous “Potter” books, “Half-Blood Prince” starts off with a non-Harry Potter-centric scene, with previous Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge warning the Muggle Prime Minister of the dangers Voldemort poses. Then the story shifts to Narcissa Malfoy (mother of Draco), Bellatrix Lestrange and Severus Snape. Narcissa reveals that Voldemort has given Draco the task of killing Albus Dumbledore, and she asks Snape to help Draco if he cannot complete the task. She gets him to swear an Unbreakable Vow — if a person breaks the vow, they die — which he accepts.
From Potions to Defense Against Dark Arts
It has been stated throughout the entire “Harry Potter” series that Professor Snape, the Potions teacher, has always wanted to teach Defense Against Dark Arts. With the shoddy track record Hogwarts has had so far, it is finally in “Half-Blood Prince” that he gets his chance. Professor Horace Slughorn takes his place as Potions master, and he allows Harry to take the advanced level Potions class even though he didn’t get the best score on his O.W.L.S. Since Harry didn’t buy a book for the class, he is given a used copy that was previously owned by a person known as… the Half-Blood Prince.
The Half-Blood Prince
The Prince covered the Potions book with his own notes and scribbling, and had altered the majority of the recipes for the potions with his own suggestions. By following these, Harry quickly excels in the class and becomes Slughorn’s top student. Slughorn invites him into the Slug Club, which the professor had used to pick out the students he expected to excel during his previous term teaching at Hogwarts. One of the previous members of the Slug Club was none other than Tom Riddle.
Dumbledore, who always had a soft spot for Harry, takes a special interest in him in “Order of the Phoenix” and starts having special meetings with Harry to show him memories the headmaster has collected relating to Tom Riddle throughout the years. It starts off with Tom at an orphanage, and Harry learns of the terrible things Tom had done to the other kids there. Harry also learns of Voldemort’s witch mother, who fell in love with a muggle man (Voldemort’s father), Tom’s hidden cruelty at Hogwarts and his general hatred of muggles. Harry learns that Tom’s violence escalated from torturing his fellow orphans and keeping some of their items as memories to actually going out and killing his muggle father.
It is during these meetings that Dumbledore first introduces Harry to the idea of a “Horcrux,” which is dark magic that allows a wizard to split off a portion of their soul through the act of killing. Since the soul is not intact, the wizard is able to survive even if their corporeal body is destroyed. As it turns out, Tom originally found out about Horcruxes from Professor Slughorn, and that is how he decided to pursue invincibility. Just splitting the soul once requires an incredible amount of evil, but Voldemort split his soul seven times (seven is the most magical number) to increase his power, but also unconsciously decrease his humanity (obviously). Dumbledore explains that he thinks Voldemort stored each fragment of his soul in an object that was special to him. Harry already destroyed one of the Horcruxes — Tom Riddle’s diary — back in “Chamber of Secrets,” and Dumbledore destroyed another Horcrux, a ring that was an heirloom in Tom’s family, which means Harry only has five more to go. When all the seven Horcruxes have been destroyed, Voldemort finally can be defeated.
Because of Harry’s telepathic connection to Voldemort, Dumbledore orders Harry to take lessons in Occlumency, or the shielding of one’s mind, with Snape. Harry continually fails at the lessons and finds himself mentally tortured by Snape, but he is unwilling to give up his window into Voldemort’s mind. It is during one of these sessions that he lashes back at Snape for bringing up his worst memories, and delves into Snape’s own mind. There he finds Snape’s worst memory, which involves Harry’s father James, his three best friends Sirius, Remus and Peter, and Harry’s mother Lily, while the six of them were still students at Hogwarts. James and the rest of his friends were the popular kids at school and teased Snape for being a nerd, and Lily (pre-dating James) tried to defend Snape as James and Sirius magically made him hang upside down. As Lily tried to stand up for him, Snape angrily lashed out and called her a “filthy mudblood,” thus ending their friendship. Just wait until you hear the full story in “Part 2”!
Love Is In The Air
Meanwhile, Harry started to discover he had latent feelings for Ginny Weasley, who is dating around a bit in “Half-Blood Prince.” Ron also gets his first chance at love in the form of Lavender Brown, which makes Hermione extremely jealous and upset. The Ron/Lavender romance ends after Ron is injured in a mysterious attempt to poison Dumbledore, and mutters Hermione’s name in his sleep. The Harry and Ginny tension only continues to grow, though, until they end up smooching and start dating in the latter half of the book.
The Third Horcrux
Dumbledore discovers where a third Horcrux is and enlists Harry’s help to go find it. The Horcrux is hidden in a cave near the orphanage Tom stayed at, and after getting past several traps, Dumbledore and Harry get to the island in the center of a lake in the cave where the Horcrux — a locket — is located. The locket is in a pool of water that only can be gotten rid of by drinking it. Dumbledore decides to be the one to drink it, but the water makes him become incredibly thirsty and he begins to lose his sanity. Harry forces the water down Dumbledore’s throat, like the headmaster had demanded, until all of it is gone, and then he grabs the locket. To ease Dumbledore’s thirst, Harry scoops some water from the lake surrounding them and then gives it to Dumbledore, but in doing so he awakens another trap: the Inferi (think zombies) lurking under the lake. Harry and Dumbledore barely are able to escape the cave and make it back to Hogwarts safely.
When they return to Dumbledore’s office, they hear someone coming, and Dumbledore uses magic to immobilize Harry so he can’t make a sound or move. It turns out that Draco had found a way to sneak Death Eaters into Hogwarts, and now they had Dumbledore cornered. The Death Eaters urged Draco to make his killing move but, unable to, Snape comes up to deal the killing blow. Seeing Snape, a supposed alley of Dumbledore who he repeatedly said he trusted throughout the entire series, Dumbledore whispers, “Severus, please,” right before Snape casts the “Avada Kedavra” spell, killing Dumbledore.
“I Am the Half-Blood Prince”
There’s a whole battle scene between the Order of the Phoenix and the escaping Death Eaters that is left out from the “Half-Blood Prince” film, but needless to say the Death Eaters, Draco and Snape don’t get out of Hogwarts without a fight. Released from Dumbledore’s spell upon his death, Harry runs after Snape and starts casting injury-inducing spells he learned from the Half-Blood Prince. Snape, who is running on Hogwarts grounds towards his escape, turns to Harry and reveals that he in fact is the Half-Blood Prince, and flips out over the fact that Harry would dare use his own spells against him. Harry is disturbed that the person he had felt he could relate to, the Prince, is actually someone who is his enemy and who killed one of the adults who was closest to him. To make matters worse, Snape and the Death Eaters escape.
Another unfortunate omission from the “Half-Blood Prince” film was Dumbledore’s funeral, which was held on Hogwarts grounds. During this time, Harry decides he needs to break up with Ginny because he knows he won’t be returning to Hogwarts the next year and doesn’t want to put her in any more danger. He tells Ron and Hermione everything he knows about the Horcrux, and they realize that destroying the Horcruxes will be their next step in killing Voldemort once and for all.
What was your favorite part of “Half-Blood Prince”?