Chapter 7 – The Slug Club
- Harry’s annoyance at Ginny leaving him on the train is the first proper hint that he’s developing new feelings for her. This could be because he’s now had a long period of exposure to the more mature and fun Ginny – she certainly shows off more of her sense of humour in this book – and in the comfortable setting of the Burrow, rather than Grimmauld Place.
- Last year, Cho Chang came into Harry’s compartment and he wished he could be seen with cooler people than Neville and Luna. This year, he gets the chance to hang out with some female admirers, but not only would he rather stick with Neville and Luna, he’s not afraid to call them his friends. Nice to see character development in that way.
- I know the door’s pretty much closed on Harry’s relationship with Cho Chang, but it still feels a bit unsatisfying that her darting out of his way on the train is the closest they come to interacting in the whole of this book.
- Completely paralysed and covered by his own Invisibility Cloak – there are few worse places to be at the end of a chapter.
Chapter 8 – Snape Victorious
- Rowling keeps finding excuses not to write Quidditch matches – and apparently she doesn’t want to make up a new Sorting Hat song for every book either, as Harry’s missed a few Sortings.
- I remember having a suspicion beforehand that Snape would be teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts in this book, given that a) Dumbledore’s chances of finding a new external candidate were unlikely to be any better and b) Harry probably wouldn’t be able to take Potions and become an Auror otherwise.
Chapter 9 – The Half-Blood Prince
- With the visual aids that Snape has put around his DADA classroom, it’s easy to imagine that he’s been thinking about how he would teach the subject for a while, given his personal interest in the subject.
- In any other year, Slughorn would probably be keen on ‘collecting’ Malfoy for his father’s contacts, but presumably Lucius’s arrest and confirmation as a Death Eater has caused Draco to lose points that his average talents can’t make up for.
- How did the Half-Blood Prince come up with his many improvements on the original text? Did he just experiment a lot, in which case, there must have been a lot of time spent on failed attempts? Or did he have a natural feel for Potions and was able to make good guesses?
- Given what we know about the Half-Blood Prince in Deathly Hallows, I’m wondering a couple of things. First, Slughorn goes on about how good Lily was at Potions – was that because Snape helped her? (Or did she help him? Hmmmm.) Second, could Lily have maybe come up with the nickname ‘Half-Blood Prince’ because Snape was sensitive about his parentage and she wanted him to feel better about it?
Chapter 10 – The House of Gaunt
- Dumbledore’s choice to reveal Voldemort’s backstory gradually to Harry obviously serves the story structure, and may help him to learn better, but it does seem risky that Dumbledore knows he’s dying. Maybe Dumbledore’s portrait can fill Harry in if the real Dumbledore dies too early?
- I like Dumbledore’s indulgence in alliteration here: “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.”
- The realisation that the Gaunts are Voldemort’s family comes gradually: as well as the use of Parseltongue, and the mention of Salazar Slytherin making it certain, Marvolo Gaunt is described as resembling a monkey, which is also how Slytherin’s statue was described in Chamber of Secrets. It’s interesting to see this family who, over the generations, have taken their determination to not associate with the wrong people (as seen in the recent material about Ilvermorny) so far that they’ve become totally insular, and extremely proud despite how pitiful their lives really are. As well as this, it’s certainly exciting that we’re finally getting more details on the origins of our main antagonist.
- So, love potions. They generally get portrayed quite light-heartedly in the series, despite the fact that they technically brainwash a person and rob them of consent. It might be possible to suggest that love potions don’t go so far as to make the affected person willing to go all the way with the object of their affections – but what happens between Merope Gaunt and Tom Riddle Senior clearly suggests otherwise! (I can’t help but think of this scenario whenever I hear Little Mix’s “Black Magic” on the radio.) It’s very ethically questionable, and I just hope the Ministry has laws on the subject.
Chapter 11 – Hermione’s Helping Hand
- Funny how in the last two books, Harry and Ron defended Hagrid’s teaching from his critics, yet now Ron freely admits that they didn’t enjoy his lessons (though not to Hagrid himself).
- Good thing Harry’s already had experience of being a leader, with Dumbledore’s Army – it seems to help him in his new role as Quidditch captain.
Chapter 12 – Silver and Opals
- This is the first time I recall Rowling using ‘DADA’ to refer to Defence Against the Dark Arts. Did she get that from the fans?
- Harry briefly thinks about Ginny again, and is unhappy when he imagines her with Dean, yet he doesn’t consciously consider why he feels that way – this build-up is low-key.
- As with Prisoner of Azkaban, much of the focus is just on normal Hogwarts life, with the main source of danger apparently some distance away – and then suddenly there’s an indication that the threat is much closer. In POA, it was the Fat Lady’s portrait being slashed; here, it’s the accident with Katie Bell.
- Harry may be more mature, but he still hasn’t changed in some ways: once an idea’s in his head, it takes a lot for him to let go of it. Malfoy must be plotting some evil scheme, and nothing will dissuade him from that! At least he still has a good sense of humour: “(The Death Eaters)’d love to have me. We’d be best pals if they didn’t keep trying to do me in.”