Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the sixth book in the Harry Potter series written by J.K. Rowling. Throughout the series, Harry goes through a series of events such as finding out his parents were murdered by a powerful wizard named Voldemort, discovering that he himself was a wizard, finding his god-father who had been accused of being part of Voldemort’s force, participating in the Tri-Wizard Tournament, and much more. In this installment of the series, Harry is introduced to a man named Horace Slughorn, a potions professor that had once taught Tom Riddle, alternatively known as Lord Voldemort. Professor Slughorn, also having taught James Potter(Harry’s father) and Lily Evans Potter(Harry’s mother), was wary because of his tight-knit bond with Tom when he was a student. Professor Slughorn also holds a memory of Lord Voldemort in which Professor Dumbledore, the headmaster of Harry’s school, believes would help Harry achieve his ultimate destiny: Ridding the world of Voldemort.
In Harry’s attempt to gain the memory from his potions professor, he joins Slughorn’s class on the first day of school, and due to that, must borrow a potions book. In the book, spells are written, instructions to making potions are written, and also in the back is written ‘The Half-Blood Prince’. Because of the Prince’s added guidance to the potion-making process, Harry excels in Slughorn’s class without trouble. Slughorn grows fond of Harry, and for Harry’s first attempt at retrieving the memory, he approaches his professor as Tom Riddle had, asking “Sir, I wondered what you know about… about Horcruxes?”(370, 379). Upon hearing this question, Slughorn demands to know whether Dumbledore has put Harry up to asking him this, also refused to answer him.
In the mean time, Draco Malfoy, a boy of the Slytherin house that Harry does not get along with, and is believed to be a Death Eater by Harry. Harry tries to follow Draco around, attempting to see what has consumed nearly all of the boy’s free time, and why—or how— he somehow disappears off the Marauder’s Map, a map that shows the location of everyone in or in the proximity of Hogwarts. Draco is really in the Room of Requirement repairing a vanishing cabinet, whose twin cabinet is located at Borgin and Burkes. With this vanishing cabinet, Malfoy can transport anything or anyone placed in one cabinet to the other without charms stopping the transportation.
During one encounter with Draco, Harry uses a spell from the Half-Blood Prince’s book, one labeled ‘For Enemies’. Harry casts this spell ‘sectumsempra’ on Draco during their encounter, harming Draco. Promptly after the spell was cast, Professor Snape, Harry’s Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, arrives to where the duel had occurred and rescues Draco.
Before this, Harry had won a potion in his first potions class called Felix Felicis, better known as ‘liquid luck’. Harry drinks some of this potion thinking it would help him convince Slughorn to surrender the memory to Harry. Harry travels to Hagrid’s hut after drinking the potions, despite the protests from his two best friends who are focused on him finding Slughorn, and during his walk to Hagrid’s Harry has a run in with his professor. Slughorn also follows Harry to Hagrid’s upon hearing that there had been a death of an Acromantula, hoping to get a few vials of venom before it dries up completely. After the three bury the body of the spider, they celebrate in Hagrid’s hut, and at the end of the celebration, Harry once again asks for the memory, and is now successful.
Near the end of Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts, Dumbledore had discovered a Horcrux and invited Harry to join him so he could destroy it. A Horcrux was described in Slughorn’s surrendered memory. Slughorn said, “A Horcrux is the word used for an object in which a person has concealed part of their soul. . . you split your soul . . . and hide part of it in an object outside the body. Then, even if one’s body is attacked or destroyed, one cannot die, for part of the soul remains earthbound and undamaged”(497). Together, Dumbledore and Harry travel to an isolated cave and retrieve the Horcrux, and once they return, they are faced with Draco and many other Death Eaters that have arrived through the vanishing cabinet.
Eventually, all of the Death Eaters make their way up the stairs to the Astronomy tower, where Dumbledore and Harry were located, however they only see Dumbledore as Harry was hiding beneath his invisibility cloak. Draco Malfoy’s task from the Dark Lord, or Voldemort, was to kill Albus Dumbledore. Snape, earlier on, had made an Unbreakable Vow, a promise which if it was broken, would kill whoever had made the promise. The vow was to assist Draco in killing Dumbledore, and to kill the headmaster if Draco could not.
Draco did not kill Dumbledore in the end, and finally, Snape was the one to kill him. After this event, Harry’s hate of his former potions professor and current Dark Art’s professor grew, and he chased him down to Hargrid’s hut, where he and the other Death Eaters were destroying Hagrid’s home. During their encounter, Harry attempted to use the sectumsempra spell on Snape which led to the revelation of Snape being the Half-Blood Prince, the original owner of Harry’s potions book.
At the end of the story, Harry reminisces on his time at Hogwarts with his deceased headmaster, and admits to his friends that he will not return to Hogwarts the upcoming year, instead he will search for the remaining Horcruxes.
1. During Harry’s first attempt to collect the memory from Professor Slughorn he uses the same words that Tom Riddle had used. What do you think the significance was when Harry approached Professor Slughorn the way Tom Riddle once had?
2. Snape had made an unbreakable vow to assist in the killing of Professor Dumbledore, and a promise to be the one to kill him if Draco had not killed him. Had it not been for the Unbreakable Vow, do you believe he would kill Dumbledore? Why or why not?