Mark Reads ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’: Chapter 17

In the seventeenth chapter of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the students return to Hogwarts, where Harry resumes his “history” lessons with Dumbledore. This time, Harry learns more about the beginning of Goblet of Fire and why Dumbledore warned him about Horace Slughorn. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Harry Potter.

CHAPTER 17: A SLUGGISH MEMORY

As much as I am enjoying the many flashbacks to explain Voldemort’s rise to power, I was worried that the technique becoming slight stale as we kept revisiting the Pensieve in Dumbledore’s office. I should have had a little faith in Rowling, because she changes the dynamic of them with the final one in this chapter, which we’ll get to in a second.

I think that Harry’s insistence that there’s something wrong with Snape is slightly irritating and I wasn’t surprised (as Lupin said) that Harry’s story about Draco didn’t bother Dumbledore in the slightest. And I suppose that goes right back to the faith issue: I should probably have more faith in Dumbledore at this point, especially given the colossal mistake he made at the end of Order of the Phoenix and his desire to do things right this time.

In short, I’m hoping we’ll find out why Dumbledore trusts Snape so much soon, though I expect it won’t be until the next novel that we’ll find out

Ok, on to the first memory that Dumbledore shares with Harry. We’ve learned a lot about the character-building that went into constructing who Voldemort is today. We know he is fiercely loyal only to himself, has an unbearable desire for all things pure-blood, operates in secrecy, utilizes mistruths and manipulation to get what he wants, and now we learn his capacity for murder.

I’m sure you all remember, but back in the beginning of Goblet of Fire, Rowling finally opened with a point of view that was not Harry’s; Frank Bryce lost his life when he learned that Voldemort had taken up shop in the old Riddle house. When Voldemort was sixteen, he first visited that house after learning the truth about his mother being abandoned by Tom Riddle, Sr. It’s that that we also experience a memory that had been altered by Voldemort; Morfin perished inside Azkaban because he truly believed he had killed the Riddle family. (Again, it constantly surprises me when I know it shouldn’t, but man…this book is fucked up.)

The truth is that the Riddle family was killed by the end of their family line. And it’s very indicative of the kind of person Voldemort is: he wanted to avenge his mother’s death and eradicate his own Muggle past. And he did using one of the Unforgivable Curses, and at the age of sixteen.

Scary.

The second memory that Dumbledore shares with Harry is of a younger Horace Slughorn, who had gone to great attempts to mask his own memories, to cloud them with a sort of fog to make them appear greater than they were. Dumbledore surmises that this is out of guilt, not old age or any such thing; Slughorn simply wishes he hadn’t done what he’d done.

So here’s what we don’t know for sure about these memories. It seems Slughorn may have complemented Voldemort as a teenager? I can’t seem to guess what happened here, so we’ll just have to see. The second foggy moment happens when Voldemort asks Slughorn about a word I’ve seen online, but I don’t believe I’d been formally introduced to yet: Horcruxes. (Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t remember reading this word in the books yet.)

I don’t know what they are. But apparently they’re so terrible, Slughorn masked his own memories so know one would know what he told Voldemort that day.

And this is how Rowling changes the dynamic of these lessons: Harry gets his first “assignment” from Dumbledore: to get Slughorn to admit what he covered up in that memory. I think it speaks volumes about how much Dumbledore now trusts Harry and wants him to be a part of all this. I think it’s pretty spectacular.

On that topic, before I close out this review: there’s one thing in this chapter that totally shattered my heart into a million pieces. I was thinking of bringing back my “Most Depressing Sentence(s) in the English Language” for it, but it’s not really that depressing at all. It’s a moment of trust, happiness, and acceptance:

  • ”He accused me of being ‘Dumbledore’s man through and through.’”

    “How very rude of him.”

    “I told him I was.”

    Dumbledore opened his mouth to speak and then closed it again. Behind Harry, Fawkes let out a low, soft, musical cry. To Harry’s intense embarrassment, he suddenly realized that Dumbledore’s bright blue eyes looked rather watery, and stared hastily at his own knees. When Dumbledore spoke, however, his voice was quite steady.

    “I am very touched, Harry.”

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OH MY GOD I LOVE YOU FOREVER, DUMBLEDORE.