I wish I knew what took me over a month to write my response to this book. I’ve read it at least 10 times, if not more. I’m 95% certain not writing my response is non-book related and totally real world/job/life related, but there’s still that little bit that every time I re-read this series (and blog about it twice now) it could be the last time I read it. I didn’t realize it had been SIX years since my last read. It doesn’t feel that long!
Similar to all of my other re-reads of the series, I found myself focusing on different things. For some reason I got super stuck on the history of magic and how Hogwarts was founded in 990 A.D. and is somewhere in on a loch in Scotland and yet Scotland and England were basically at war (Wikipedia) from the mid-900s to the late-1500s give or take a few years and a few quiet periods and even today are jostling for independence! How did the magical communities work around this, were they impervious to it?
There weren’t really any governing bodies of the Wizarding World in Britain until the 1300s according to the Harry Potter Wiki, so what gives? There are 600 years of Scottish/English battles, 400 years of a non-governing (or at least less formal) body of wizards, and 749 years before the international Statute of Secrecy and we’re led to believe that people from all over the British Isles just said okay? Wow my brain can go to weird places when I let it roam free. I mean I’m going to keep reading it – I could honestly read the Harry Potter Wiki and Pottermore for hours and just lose myself, but hopefully someone else has the answer readily available?
Revisiting this book was another opportunity to appreciate how little we really knew about Dumbledore until this book. So much of the early series is about Harry and his school experience and about Voldemort and his connection/obsession with Harry. We learn about the wider Wizarding World, but we don’t really get a real glimpse at Dumbledore except in brief glances at the end of each book or after a particularly harrowing incident. In this book we find out how truly genius Dumbledore is, how whimsical and yet practical he can be, and ultimately we find out how inspiring he was/is to generations of wizards (and now muggles)! We find out more in the next book, but I still remember the awe I felt in getting to know Dumbledore the first time I read this book and these quotes stood out for me more than others this go around:
“‘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.” (39)
“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.” (46)
“And now, Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.” (47)
“‘I told you everything I know. From this point forth, we shall be leaving the firm foundation of fact and journeying together through the murky marshes of memory into thickets of wildest guesswork. From here on in, Harry, I may be as woefully wrong as Humphrey Belcher, who believed the time was ripe for a cheese cauldron.’ ‘But you think you’re right?’ said Harry. ‘Naturally I do, but as I have already proven to you, I make mistakes like the next man. In fact, being — forgive me — rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger.'” (165)
“Dumbledore would have been happier than anybody to think that there was a little more love in the world…” (520)
“‘He will only be gone from the school when none here are loyal to him,’ said Harry, smiling in spite of himself.” (540)
“Voldemort himself created his worst enemy, just as tyrants everywhere do! Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one who rises against them and strikes back! Voldemort is no different! Always he was on the lookout for the one who would challenge him. He heard the prophecy and he leapt into action, with the result that he not only handpicked the man most likely to finish him, he handed him uniquely deadly weapons!” (424)
The other thing that really stood out to me in this book is how quickly Harry is becoming a man in these books. Sure he’s 16 going on 17 in this book, but he’s not been given the opportunity to just have a childhood. I’ve talked about that previously, but it’s worth reiterating. He didn’t grow up with a typical childhood, he hasn’t even had a relatively safe adolescence so far, and by this point he’s faced Voldemort or his stand-in five times. What had you done that was this significant by time you were 16? Not this for me at least. Rowling’s writing of Harry and his black and white views of the world up until this point in the series were spot-on for me. There is the perfect mix of youthful naiveté, teen male cockiness, and been there done that arrogance. His interactions with authority and how he carries himself really show this perfectly,
“‘Oh, well, nothing at all onerous, I assure you,’ said Scrimgeour. ‘If you were to be seen popping in and out of the Ministry from time to time, for instance, that would give the right impression. And of course, while you were there, you would have ample opportunity to speak to Gawain Robards, my successor as Head of the Auror office. Dolores Umbridge has told me that you cherish an ambition to become an Auror. Well, that could be arranged very easily. . . .’ Harry felt anger bubbling in the pit of his stomach: So Dolores Umbridge was still at the Ministry, was she?” (288)
“But you seem cleverer than Fudge, so I’d have thought you’d have learned from his mistakes. He tried interfering at Hogwarts. You might have noticed he’s not Minister anymore, but Dumbledore’s still headmaster. I’d leave Dumbledore alone, if I were you.” (290)
“It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high.” (426)
There is so much more I could talk about, but I’d just be writing a play-by-play with I love you notes on every page.
Recommendation: I cannot reiterate this enough, READ THESE BOOKS. Don’t read them for the cultural zeitgeist they’ve become for a generation (is that even remotely used right?), but instead read them for what they can become for you. There are so many wonderful minor characters, side stories, and humorous situations that didn’t make it into the film adaptations that are worth the read alone! And yes I cried again reading this book, out of happiness and sadness and I will again in the future. I can’t wait to revisit these again to see my reaction then, and the likelihood of that is increased dramatically now that I own them on Kindle 😀
Opening Line: “It was nearing midnight and the Prime Minister was sitting alone in his office, reading a long memo that was slipping through his brain without leaving the slightest trace of meaning behind.”
Closing Line: “His hand closed automatically around the fake Horcrux, but in spite of everything, in spite of the dark and twisting path he saw stretching ahead for himself, in spite of the final meeting with Voldemort he knew must come, whether in a month, in a year, or in ten, he felt his heart lift at the thought that there was still one last golden day of peace left to enjoy with Ron and Hermione.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
“The trouble is, the other side can do magic too, Prime Minister.” (16)
“Dumbledore says people find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right…” (81)
“Harry woke early on the morning of the trip, which was proving stormy, and whiled away the time until breakfast by reading his copy of Advanced Potion-Making. He did not usually lie in bed reading his textbooks; that sort of behavior, as Ron rightly said, was indecent in anybody except Hermione, who was simply weird that way.” (198)
“You will hear many of his Death Eaters claiming that they are in his confidence, that they alone are close to him, even understand him. They are deluded. Lord Voldemort has never had a friend, nor do I believe that he has ever wanted one.” (231)
“It was not as though he was really surprised, thought Harry, as he wrestled with a thorny vine intent upon throttling him; he had had an inkling that this might happen sooner or later. But he was not sure how he felt about it. . . . He and Cho were now too embarrassed to look at each other, let alone talk to each other; what if Ron and Hermione started going out together, then split up? Could their friendship survive it? Harry remembered the few weeks when they had not been talking to each other in the third year; he had not enjoyed trying to bridge the distance between them. And then, what if they didn’t split up? What if they became like Bill and Fleur, and it became excruciatingly embarrassing to be in their presence, so that he was shut out for good?” (235)
“Oh, come and stir my cauldron, And if you do it right, I’ll boil you up some hot strong love To keep you warm tonight.” (275)
“Greatness inspires envy, envy engenders spite, spite spawns lies. You must know this, Dumbledore.” (369)
“‘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.'” (371)
“Harry looked around; there was Ginny running toward him; she had a hard, blazing look in her face as she threw her arms around him. And without thinking, without planning it, without worrying about the fact that fifty people were watching, Harry kissed her.” (444)
“There is nothing to be feared from a body, Harry, any more than there is anything to be feared from the darkness. Lord Voldemort, who of course secretly fears both, disagrees. But once again he reveals his own lack of wisdom. It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.” (471)
“He had known there was no hope from the moment that the full Body-Bind Curse Dumbledore had placed upon him lifted, known that it could have happened only because its caster was dead, but there was still no preparation for seeing him here, spread-eagled, broken: the greatest wizard Harry had ever, or would ever, meet.” (506)
“The crowd continued to swell; with a great rush of affection for both of them, Harry saw Neville being helped into a seat by Luna. Neville and Luna alone of the D.A. had responded to Hermione’s summons the night that Dumbledore had died, and Harry knew why: They were the ones who had missed the D.A. most . . . probably the ones who had checked their coins regularly in the hope that there would be another meeting.” (534)
“‘You said to us once before,’ said Hermione quietly, ‘that there was time to turn back if we wanted to. We’ve had time, haven’t we?’ ‘We’re with you whatever happens,’ said Ron. ‘But mate, you’re going to have to come round my mum and dad’s house before we do anything else, even Godric’s Hollow.’ (542)