Happy Insomniac's Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince Corner

by Karen Gsteiger...and others?

Karen Gsteiger's Two Knuts

Since I have become one of those rabid adult Potter fans, I thought, hey, why not devote a little space to a mini-discussion of the newest book? If any of my cohorts are interested in commenting, I'll be happy to add their observations and arguments here. If you, dear reader, have something to say, send it to us, and upon review, you may just get published! WARNING: heavy spoilers here...if you haven't read Book 6 yet, piss off, and don't come back til you have! Trust me, you'll be happier that way. (And if you haven't read any of the books, none of this will make sense anyway.)

I didn't get into Harry Potter until the summer between my first and second years of grad school. The series was highly recommended to me by a friend, and when I decided to give it a chance, I was amazed at how imaginative and detailed the world of Hogwarts was. It was all quite unusual with the magical lingo and currency and invented sports, but at the same time, J.K. Rowling happened to precisely recreate the best parts of being in school...social dramas, young love and angst, the sheer terror that a single irrationally hateful teacher can inspire. I have not so much read as devoured this series.

Now, astoundingly, we have finally come to the penultimate book in the series, and holy cow, is this one a doozy! It may be shorter than Order of the Phoenix, but there's a LOT going on here. By the end of the book, it felt as though J.K. Rowling was perversely trying to tear apart this world that she had so carefully crafted. Instead of the feeling of closure one usually feels at the end of a Harry Potter book, I was left with a sense of dread and unease.

So I'll just address some of the major themes featured in this book, and we'll see where the discussion goes from there.

Well, the personal, romantic relationships seem to be shaping up according to the popular internet theory of "One Big Happy Weasley Family." (I can't take credit for the name of this theory, but I'm not sure where it originates.) That is, Ron with Hermione and Harry with Ginny. It's not unexpected or disappointing...and who even knows how these characters will end up, let alone if they'll even survive Book 7. However, I think I would have liked a bit more romantic tension. Maybe a love triangle or two. It's probably a bit premature to assume that all of those loose ends are tied.

Harry's first kiss was fantastically written and quite unexpected...who would think he would take the plunge in front of everyone else! That scene left me with a sense of OOH! As if I had been one of the kids in the room: "OMG, did you see that?!" Harry and Ginny have a nice, obligatory Spiderman moment at the end of the book. My prediction (also bandied about on the web): Harry will stupidly and stubbornly refuse Ginny's help throughout all of Book 7 until he realizes that oh, Dumbledore wasn't just talking out of his ass about the concept of Voldemort being defeated by love, love, love.

Speaking of Dumbledore. Holy shit.

I wasn't really surprised that Jo killed off poor Dumbledore. Let's face it, every good hero has to painfully lose his/her mentor before he/she can assume his/her quest alone, and J.K.R. does seem to have a perverse desire to violently destroy every parental figure Harry has ever had. But the way in which Dumbledore was killed off...holy shit! One of the biggest WTF moments in my literary experience. Why, why, why did it have to be Snape?

I didn't even realize that I liked Professor Snape until I felt the sting of this apparent betrayal. There is not much that is loveable about the Snape found in the books. (Although I have always loved Alan Rickman so much that I can't find his Snape portrayal terribly intimidating and there is, ahem, a certain resemblance...) He is a crabby, prejudiced, vengeful bastard of a teacher, and we have all been at the mercy of an atomic bomb just like him in our youths--someone who seems so inexplicably pitted against us, someone who just revels in the power that he or she can wield over us. But at least in Books 1-5, Snape usually took some measure to protect the children who so despised him and was never, ever, ever thanked for his troubles. Harry invades his memory in Book 5, and we find Snape being publicly humiliated at the hands of Harry's father and his friends. Snape never quite wins our sympathy (using the dreaded epithet "mudblood" against Lily ensures that we won't turn against James and Sirius entirely), but there seems to be a reason that he is the way he is.

And even after the ultimate betrayal, the cold-blooded murder of Professor Dumbledore, I still can't believe that there's not more to the story. Why create all this drama and the endless red herrings about Snape's loyalties for six whole books only to have him turn out evil in the end? Is he now irredeemable? I think that no matter what Harry may discover about Snape in Book 7, everyone's still going to hate him until the end of time for killing Dumbledore.

I'm not the first person to suggest that the Unbreakable Vow may be more important than it may seem. I agree with those who have posited that Snape may have been acting on Dumbledore's orders--perhaps to fool Voldemort more convincingly, perhaps to save Draco's innocence, perhaps for reasons that have not been presented to us yet. After all, when Harry confronts Snape at the end of Book 7, Snape seems to go out of his way not to hurt Harry, merely brushing off Harry's fumbled curses and ordering the other Death Eaters to leave him to Voldemort. Snape seems to be tutoring Harry, snidely reminding him of the importance of the Occlumency that Harry abandoned way back in Book 5. "Blocked again and again and again until you learn to keep your mouth shut and your mind closed, Potter!" Regardless of the truth of the situation, we all know how single-minded Harry can be, and I feel that nothing is going to prevent a mortal combat between the two before Book 7 is finished, with Snape ending up the loser. Sigh. I feel as though it just could have turned out better for Severus.

The end of HBP seems so...apocalyptic. We are faced with a prospect of a Hogwarts without Dumbledore and a world without Hogwarts, perhaps. (At least temporarily.) I was brokenhearted when Harry stated his intention not to return; Hogwarts is actually my favorite character in the series. I not only love Harry and his friends and their adventures, I love the feeling of being at the school with them. A magical world without the safety of Hogwarts is a world where all bets are off, I'm afraid.

There are those who are already speculating about who's going to get knocked off in the last book. There are no wars fought without painful losses, after all. As long as it's not Hagrid, I'd like to think I could withstand almost anything.

In the meantime, focusing on love once again, I was pleased to see Remus Lupin get a girlfriend in the spirited Tonks (and I'm glad she wasn't in love with her dearly departed cousin, which would have been kind of creepy). I have long felt that Remus deserved a little action. Also, I could not have predicted the wonderful way that Fleur proves her devotion to Bill Weasley. "I am good-looking enough for both of us, I theenk!"

So, like millions of others, I am eagerly awaiting the concluding novel. Well, not that eagerly, exactly. I am loath to see it all come to an end.

Comments, anyone? Send them to our email address. No big rush--we've got at least a couple of years to wait before Book 7!

Catherine Dixon Responds...

I actually felt that it was good that Harry wasn't going back to school. JKR makes it pretty clear that he doesn't have all that much left to learn in his 7th year at Hogwarts, and it would be really hard to finish up the whole series within the last hundred pages of the book. Better to have to whole book devoted to getting rid of Voldemort than have most of it be about all his school problems. I have no doubt in my mind that Harry will at least be visiting Hogwarts during that seventh year. Besides, now he has a quest that will certainly take him all year to complete. Those Horcruxes won't be easy to track down.

Mandy Adds...

Karen, are you forgetting the triangle of Ron/Hermione/Lavender Brown? Tension between Ron and Hermione was palpable. She could barely stand him while he was dating Lavender. I also love the scene that launched this triangle wherein Ginny tells Ron to get snogged. Hilarious.

Re: Snape

Oh, who else is going to kill Dumbledore? It had to be a big gun. It's not like readers would be satisfied if Malfoy had been the killer. And, I might add, this scene really humanized (muggled?) Malfoy. He's also growing up. He's capable of taking Harry on (as he did on the Hogwarts Express), solving difficult problems (how does one get death eaters into Hogwarts when apparating is not allowed?) but he's also showing some depth. He had all of the opportunity in the world to kill Dumbledore. But he couldn't do it. And I think that had more to do with decency and respect than fear. I mean what has Dumbledore ever done to him, personally?

Karen sez...keep the comments coming, people!