Mark Reads ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’: Chapter 14
In the fourteenth chapter of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, there’s trickery abound, but it doesn’t really matter because of Hermione’s heartbreak. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Harry Potter.
CHAPTER 14: FELIX FELICIS
Man, this chapter broke my heart.
I wanted to initially talk about how eerily parallel Hermione’s life is to mine, how I grew up the overachieving nerd too willing to trust authority, who watched as all my friends got girlfriends and boyfriends and I was left entirely by myself. Truth is, I never experienced teenage romance in any capacity. No relationships, no dating, none of that. I lived in an environment where coming out meant a guarantee that the bullying I already faced would increase in frequency, tenacity, and cruelty. I had had enough. The bullies won that round. It was until I nearly turned 19 that I got to experience the joy of kissing someone else I was attracted to.
But…you know what? I don’t want to write another SOB SOB MY LIFE IS TRAGIC story, mostly because it was kind of fun to tell you about something that wasn’t utterly depressing. But this chapter was difficult to read because I empathized with Hermione so much.
Let’s talk about Ron first and the interesting way Harry deals with his sensitive nerves. The first Quidditch match of the year is coming up fast, and Harry is increasingly worried about Ron’s inability to perform under any sort of pressure. What isn’t helping Ron is the increased stress he feels over his relationship with Hermione. First, during Herbology, they argue incessantly over Slug’s Club; Ron, as usual, immaturely pokes fun out of jealousy. But then Hermione reveals she can bring a guest and she was going to take Ron.
- Harry suddenly wished the pod had flown a little farther, so that he need not have been sitting here with the pair of them. Unnoticed by either, he seized the bowl that contained the pod and began to try and open it by the noisiest and most energetic means he could think of; unfortunately, he could still hear every word of their conversation.
“You were going to ask me?” asked Ron, in a completely different voice.
“Yes,” said Hermione angrily. “But obviously if you’d rather I hooked up with McLaggen…”
There was a pause while Harry continued to pound the resilient pod with a trowel.
“No, I wouldn’t,” said Ron, in a very quiet voice.
Harry missed the pod, hit the bowl, and shattered it.
“Reparo,” he said hastily, poking the pieces with his wand, and the bowl sprang back together again. The crash, however, appeared to have awoken Ron and Hermione to Harry’s presence. Hermione looked flustered and immediately started fussing about for her copy of Flesh-Eating Trees of the World to find out the correct wait to juice Snargaluff pods; Ron, on the other hand, looked sheepish but also rather pleased with himself.
JESUS. GUYS. MAKE OUT ALREADY.
Despite Ron’s smug joy motivating him the rest of the day, he performs poorly at the second to last practice before the first Quidditch match of the year, against Slytherin. As per usual, he lashes out at everyone around, acting out his anger and frustration. It gets so bad that he accidentally punches someone in the mouth.
- ”It was an accident, I’m sorry, Demelza, really sorry!” Ron shouted after as she zigzagged back to the ground, dripping blood everywhere. “I just—“
“Panicked,” Ginny said angrily, landing next to Demelza and examining her fat lip. “You prat, Ron, look at the state of her!”
“I can fix that,” said Harry, landing beside the two girls, pointing his wand at Demelza’s mouth, and saying, “Episkey.” “And Ginny, don’t call Ron a prat, you’re not the Captain of this team—“
“Well, you seemed too busy to call him a prat and I thought someone should—“
Harry forced himself not to laugh.
WELL, IT IS ABOUT TIME SOMEONE CALLED HIM OUT FOR HIS ACTIONS. Not only does this serve that purpose, it also sets up the next scene, which is (strangely) one of my favorite scenes in the entire book.
Ron and Harry accidentally run into Ginny and Dean making out. At first, I was totally surprised by Harry’s jealousy and anger (OMG SHIPPING WARS ARE BEGINNING), but the explosive combination between the siblings is far more interesting.
- ”Right,” said Ginny, tossing her long red hair out of her face and glaring at Ron, “let’s get this straight once and for all. It is none of your business who I go out with or what I do with them, Ron—“
“Yeah it is!” said Ron, just as angrily. “D’you think I want people saying my sister’s a—“
“A what?” shouted Ginny, drawing her wand. “A what, exactly?”
“He doesn’t mean anything, Ginny—“ said Harry automatically, though the monster was roaring its approval of Ron’s words.
“Oh yes he does!” she said, flaring up at Harry. “Just because he’s never snogged anyone in his life, just because the best kiss he’s ever had is from our Aunt Muriel—“
OH MY GOD!!!!!! Ginny, I love you so much right now. Not only did you call him out for his poor attitude on the Quidditch field, but you’ve gotten right to the root of his problem: Ron’s unbearable sexism towards his sister (and, inevitably, Hermione) is rooted in his jealousy of their experiences. Good for you, Ginny. And good for Rowling for making her female characters stand up to this bullshit. This makes me so happy. GUYS, GUESS WHICH SERIES I MIGHT HAVE READ WOULD HAVE NEVER DONE THIS oh lol we all know lol
- ”Shut your mouth!” bellowed Ron, bypassing red and turning maroon.
“No, I will not!” yelled Ginny, beside herself. “I’ve seen you with Phlegm, hoping she’ll kiss you on the cheek every time you see her, it’s pathetic! If you went out and got a bit of snogging done yourself, you wouldn’t mind so much that everyone else does!”
Seriously, this is such a transformative moment for Ginny as a character in this series. I AM IN LOVE, YOU ARE SUCH A BAMF, GINNY.
This, however, begins to backfire for everyone else. Ron performs horribly in that final Quidditch practice, taking his anger out on everyone. RON, GROW UP. But his own stress compounds and complicates and Harry realizes that he might have the right answer for Ron to hopefully turn the match around and give Ron a good day:
I found it interesting that Hermione was so angry that she caught Harry dumping it into Ron’s pumpkin juice, considering she confounded McLaggen in order to help Ron; she storms off when Harry calls her out on this.
UGH COULD YOU ALL STOP FIGHTING. Kthx
Almost immediately after this, the potion appears to be working wonders. Ginny mentions that the Slytherin keeper was injured, so they are going to be playing a much worse goalkeeper. On top of that, Malfoy isn’t playing either. Then, the weather proves to be perfect for a game of Quidditch.
I’m glad that Harry feels guilt over this, despite that it’s pretty shady of him to do it in the first place. But almost instantly, he sort of regrets what he’s done.
Ron’s luck proves to be beneficial because Gryffindor crushes Slytherin in the game, and then we get one of the coolest reveals in the series:
- “I didn’t put it in!” said Harry, grinning broadly. He slipped his hand inside his jacket pocket and drew out the tiny bottle that Hermione had seen in his hand all morning. It was full of golden potion and the cork was still slightly sealed with wax. “I wanted Ron to think I’d done it, so I faked it when I knew you were looking.” He looked at Ron. “You saved everything because you felt lucky. You did it all yourself.”
Despite that the placebo trope is pretty overused, I liked this. Harry’s a great friend to Ron and it shows how much respect he has for him that he wouldn’t actually let him cheat at Quidditch. It’s a vote of confidence, in a way.
Hermione, however, is the one who loses in this situation. Ron’s ego swells to now legendary levels and she’s left feeling cheap for being mad at Harry for what ultimately turned out to be nothing.
It gets worse. At the Gryffindor Quidditch celebration, Ron is found making out with Lavendar Brown, having taken his sister’s advice. Immediately, Harry realizes (finally!) how shit Hermione has been treated throughout this. He tries to comfort her, but it’s obvious how shattered she is. When Ron walks into the common room with Lavendar, it sets off Hermione:
- She walked very slowly and erectly toward the door. Harry glanced at Ron, who was looking relieved that nothing worse had happened.
“Oppugno!” came a shriek from the doorway.
Harry spun around to see Hermione pointing her wand at Ron, her expression wild: The little flock of birds was speeding like a hail of fat golden bullets towards Ron, who yelped and covered his face with his hands, but the birds attacked, pecking and clawing at every bit of flesh they could reach.
“Gerremoffme!” he yelled, but with one last look of vindictive fury, Hermione wrenched open the door and disappeared through it. Harry thought he heard a sob before it slammed.
I don’t condone Hermione’s actions, but I understand them. I know what it feels like to be left out of that sort of experience, to feel a burning desire for someone and never being able to act on it, reduced to being the third wheel and the forgotten friend.
I’m not upset or disappointed that she lashed out at Ron. I’m heartbroken because I know exactly how she feels.