Mark Reads ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’: Chapter 20

In the twentieth chapter of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry returns to another lesson with Dumbledore. For the first time, the memories they visit don’t contain all the answers, but what they do have to say about Voldemort are surprising. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Harry Potter.


After reading this chapter, there’s only a few things I felt necessary to discuss, so please excuse me if this review is kind of brief. Though…I probably shouldn’t have said that because now the review will end up being a couple thousand words when all is said and done.

There are a couple great moments before Harry meets up with Dumbledore, one of them being Harry’s marked concern about Ginny’s and Dean’s relationship. I’m still not sure how I feel about the whole thing; I liked how Harry’s realization of his attraction to her was sudden. I can certainly say that I relate and I’ll bet a few of you can as well. (This type of sudden attraction to someone you’ve known for years just happened to me a couple weeks ago, but the guy is straight WHY IS MY LIFE UTTER TRAGEDY AT ALL TIMES) I haven’t really considered what a Harry/Ginny pairing would be like, but I don’t know if this is something that’ll last beyond this book. So far, I’m into it, I like the dynamic it brings, and I would totally date that fierce redhead if I was into girls. LOOK IT IS TRUE STOP JUDGING ME.

It also looks like Ron and Hermione are heading towards being real friends again and I seriously cannot wait for this moment, mostly because I do not know many other ways to review their feud. I’m selfish. SUE ME.

But Ron’s (hopefully) newfound attitude also gets extended to Luna, where he finally tells her what we all know already.

  • ”Nice commentary last match!” said Ron to Luna as she took back the green onion, the toadstool, and the cat litter. Luna smiled vaguely.

    “You’re making fun of me, aren’t you?” she said. “Everyone says I was dreadful.”

    “No, I’m serious!” said Ron earnestly. “I can’t remember enjoying commentary more! What is this, by the way?” he added, holding the onionlike object to eye level.

    “Oh, it’s a Gurdyroot,” she said, stuffing the cat litter and the toadstool back into her bag. “You can keep it if you like, I’ve got a few of them. They’re really exciting for warding off Gulping Plimpies.”

    And she walked away, leaving Ron chortling, still clutching the Gurdyroot.

    “You know, she’s grown on me, Luna,” he said as they set again for the Great Hall. “I know she’s insane, but it’s in a good—“

I don’t think she’s insane and I think it’s weird for Ron to qualify her as such (actually, isn’t it kind of ableist?), but otherwise, I’m glad that at least someone is acknowledging how awesome Luna is. AMIRITE AMIRITE?

But let’s talk about something far less pleasant. At the beginning of Harry’s lesson with Dumbledore that evening, Dumbledore immediately asks him if he completed his first bit of homework. Honestly, given what had happened since that last lesson, I had forgotten about that task as well. Dumbledore, however, didn’t see things this way:

  • ”—which, naturally, made you forget all about trying to retrieve the memory; I would have expected nothing else, while your best friend was in danger. Once it became clear that Mr. Weasley was going to make a full recover, however, I would have hoped that you returned to the task I set you. I thought I made it clear to you have very important that memory is. Indeed, I did my best to impress upon you that it is the most crucial memory of all and that we will be wasting our time without it.”

Well…this isn’t awkward at all.

  • A hot, prickly feeling of shame spread from the top of Harry’s head all the way down his body. Dumbledore had not raised his voice, he did not even sound angry, but Harry would have preferred him to yell; this cold disappointment was worse than anything.

No, this is worse than anything. Now I’m sad that Harry didn’t do this and somehow I feel guilty. WHAT IS THIS BOOK DOING TO ME.

  • Silence fell between them again, the most uncomfortable silence Harry had ever experienced with Dumbledore; it seemed to go on and on, punctuated only by the little grunting snores of the portrait of Armando Dippet over Dumbledore’s head. Harry felt strangely diminished, as though he had shrunk a little since he had entered the room. When he could stand it no longer he said, “Professor Dumbledore, I’m really sorry. I should have done more….I should have realized you wouldn’t have asked me to do it if it wasn’t really important.”

Wow. Despite that Dumbledore had to guilt him into this, I think this is a big moment for Harry. OUR LITTLE HARRY IS MATURING BEFORE OUR EYES oh god never grow up, please.

The first memory Dumbledore shares with Harry involves another period in Voldemort’s life, after he left Hogwarts, and before he disappeared. We see how Voldemort’s Slytherin roots take over as he works at Borgin and Burkes. Which…that is a surprising revelation. Given that Draco is doing something at Borgin and Burkes, I wonder what this has to do with Voldemort’s mission for him.

Anyway, this first memory deals with a woman named Hepzibah Smith. (Zacharias Smith???) Voldemort visits her, on order from his boss at Borgin and Burkes, in order to attempt to obtain some items to sell in the store.

I didn’t really understand the point of this memory until the end: Hepzibah pulls out a necklace with the Slytherin mark. Voldemort…oh shit.

  • There was no mistaking it this time: Voldemort’s eyes flashed scarlet at the words, and Harry saw his knuckles whiten on the locket’s chain.

Whoa, what the fuck? What just happened?

Dumbledore tells Harry that Hepzibah Smith died two days later and two Hogwarts-associated items she owned went missing. Harry correctly guesses that Voldemort murdered her and it demonstrates a new idea about the Dark Lord: His obsession with ancient magic and with Hogwarts will motivate him to kill.

Jesus. That certainly puts the past few books into a frightening perspective.

But it’s the final memory that Dumbledore shares (and it’s his own) proves to be the strangest and, ultimately, the most chilling: Voldemort visits Dumbledore in his office after his disappearance.

First important thing: Dumbledore refuses to call Voldemort by any other name than Tom:

  • ”I know what you are known as,” said Dumbledore, smiling pleasantly. “But to me, I’m afraid, you will always be Tom Riddle. It is one of the irritating things about old teachers. I am afraid that they never quite forget their charges’ youthful beginnings.”

    He raised his glass as though toasting Voldemort, whose face remained expressionless. Nevertheless, Harry felt the atmosphere in the room change subtly: Dumbledore’s refusal to use Voldemort’s chosen name was a refusal to allow Voldemort to dictate the terms of the meeting, and Harry could tell that Voldemort took it as such.

Even that long ago, Dumbledore knew how fear and intimidation could control and distort the world. And he knew he had to tackle it in any way he could.

I found it interesting that at that point, Voldemort was already gathering Death Eaters. What for? Why was he doing this? I WANT TO LEARN MORE.

Anyway, the kicker here: Voldemort requests to return to Hogwarts and teach Defense Against the Dark Arts. It’s a strange request at this point; it wasn’t when he asked it before he went to work at Borgin and Burkes, but now, after demonstrating what he could do, why would he think Dumbledore would ever accept him? I realize a lot of what Voldemort had been up to since his disappearance wasn’t shared explicitly, but it seems that he’s been up to nothing but horrible things.

Voldemort doesn’t seem to want to explain why he asked such a thing, even after Dumbledore speaks frankly on the issue. I’m not sure I really understand why, but it’s an interesting revelation. Except…well, Rowling makes it even more mind-melting:

  • ”Was he after the Defense Against the Dark Arts job again, sir? He didn’t say….”

    “Oh, he definitely wanted the Defense Against the Dark Arts job,” said Dumbledore. “The aftermath of our little meeting proved that. You see, we have never been able to keep a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher for longer than a year since I refused the post to Lord Voldemort.”

HOLY SHIT!!!!!!!!! OH GOD. I have goosebumps just re-reading this line again. This is…holy shit. I thought this phenomenon was just an ongoing joke for Rowling, but the job is actually FUCKING CURSED????? What does this mean for Snape? OH GOD I DON’T EVEN WANT TO IMAGINE.

What the fuck, guys!!!!!

PS: I just noticed this review is not short at all. OH WELL.[/CUT]