Mark Reads ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’: Chapter 22

In the twenty-second chapter of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, we are once again completely blindsided by the most obvious answer to Harry’s problem with Slughorn: Felix Felicis. When Harry fails yet again to get Slughorn to talk, he takes a drink of the potion and attends Aragog’s funeral, where shit gets so real that a certain person may have nearly peed their pants with excitement. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Harry Potter.


Saying that shit just got real is an understatement.

We’ve been making progress through the multiple narratives at such a snail’s pace. That’s not a complaint, by the way, but it’s merely stating how this feels. I’m glad that things aren’t progressing slowly like they were in Order of the Phoenix, though; that book contained enough frustration and disappointment to last me a lifetime. But as Dumbledore’s lessons with Harry became more ambiguous, less certain, and constituted far more guesswork on the part of him and Harry, the importance of obtaining Slughorn’s full memory forced me to feel so urgent about the story. And it’s not only because Dumbledore guilt-tripped Harry about it; at this point, Rowling had piqued my curiosity to previously unforeseen levels. I didn’t even really seem to care what the memory held as much as I just wanted Harry to get it period.

The chapter starts off with a bit of distraction on Rowling’s part, though I don’t want to trivialize Hagrid’s despair: Aragog has died and Hagrid tells the trio he simply cannot face Aragog’s burial alone. We know how reluctant Hagrid can be about sensitive moments like these, so the fact that he outright admits to them how much pain he is in is pretty heartbreaking. So is this:

  • Harry took the note back and stared down at all the inky blotches over it. Tears had clearly falled thick and fast upon the parchment.

I’d like to institute a federal law that it is impossible for both Hagrid and Hurley (who sort of look like each other, now that I think of it) to ever cry ever for all time. Because I don’t know what it is about big burly men with manes of hair crying, but it sets me off. So please stop thanks a whole bunch.

It’s unfortunate for Ron and Harry that they never told Hagrid exactly what Aragog did to them in Chamber of Secrets because they’re now faced with a pretty difficult situation. Obviously, they want to support Hagrid, but Aragog did attempt to eat them. On top of that, security has never been more stringent at Hogwarts; surely, they’ll get in trouble for going. DECISIONS, DECISIONS.

But when Hermione makes an offhand comment about Harry’s continued failure at obtaining Slughorn’s memory, everything suddenly clicks.

  • ”Look, Potions will be almost empty this afternoon, with us all off doing our tests….Try and soften Slughorn up a bit then!”

    “Fifty-seventh time lucky, you think?” said Harry bitterly.

    “Lucky,” said Ron suddenly. “Harry, that’s it—get lucky!”

    “What d’you mean?”

    “Use your lucky potion!”

    “Ron, that’s—that’s it!” said Hermione, sounding stunned. “Of course! Why didn’t I think of it?”

The better question is WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THIS EITHER. Beyond wondering what Harry would eventually use that potion for (I honestly expected it wouldn’t happen until the next book, because Rowling is just the kind of author to do something like that).

This lead me to wonder: How on earth was she going to describe how it worked? Would lucky things just happen? Did Felix Felicis make you feel any different?

Harry agrees that if he can’t talk to Slughorn in Potions, he’ll take the potion that night and try again. While Ron and Hermione are off taking their Apparition tests, Harry is left to attend potions with only two other students: Draco Malfoy and Ernie Macmillian.

This stuck out to me as strange:

  • Was it his imagination, or did Malfoy, like Tonks, look thinner? Certainly he looked paler; his skin still had that grayish tinge, probably because he so rarely saw daylight these days. But there was no air of smugness, excitement, or superiority; none of the swagger that he had had on the Hogwarts Express, when he had boasted openly of the mission he had been given by Voldemort…There could be only one conclusion, in Harry’s opinion: The mission, whatever it was, was going badly.

I’m not quite ready yet to say I sympathize with Draco, because if he’s taken a mission from Voldemort, it’s inevitably something horrible and terrible and it’s not like I want Draco to be happy for that. But, then again, he is a 16 year-old teenager. What is he up to that’s affecting his physical health so much? And what does it have to do with how Tonks appears the exact same way?

Harry doesn’t get a chance to speak with Slughorn after class, which wasn’t surprising. He finds out that Hermione passed her Apparition test, but Ron failed—though it was because he merely left an eyebrow behind. (That counts as failure? That’s at least a B in my book.)

Anyway, Harry decides it’s time for his lucky potion. When he drinks it, I was surprised by the description Rowling gave for the sensation it caused:

  • Then, slowly but surely, an exhilarating sense of infinite opportunity stole through him; he felt as though he could have done anything, anything at all…and getting the memory from Slughorn seemed suddenly not only possible, but positively easy….

    He got to his feet, smiling, brimming with confidence.

    “Excellent,” he said “Really excellent. Right…I’m going down to Hagrid’s.”

    “What?” said Ron and Hermione together, looking aghast.

    “No, Harry—you’ve got to go and see Slughorn, remember?” said Hermione.

    “No,” said Harry confidently. “I’m going to Hagrid’s, I’ve got a good feeling about going to Hagrid’s.”

Never did I expect Felix Felicis to embue a person with confidence. It’s actually brilliant, when you think about it; when we feel we are having a lucky day, when everything seems to go right for us, our confidence lifts. So it only makes sense that a potion that increases luck would thereby increase a person’s confidence as well.

The path that Harry takes to get to Horace Slughorn is totally wild, by the way.

· Harry sneaks out of the castle because Filch forgets to lock the front door.

· Harry suddenly feels it would be “right” to take the path via the vegetable path to Hagrid’s.

· He runs into Slughorn there, luckily. (lol is that a pun)

· He outright tells Slughorn the truth: he is going to help bury Hagrid’s giant spider (called an “acromantula”), which piques Slughorn’s interest because acromantula venom is incredibly valuable. Always a Slytherin, eh, Slughorn?

· Slughorn agrees to show up at Hagrid’s and help “send-off” Aragog.

· Harry convinces Hagrid that Slughorn is coming simply give his last respects to Aragog, quelling any mistrust Hagrid might have.

· After they bury Aragog (prior to this is when Slughorn steals venom), Harry proceeds to enable some severe drunkenness between Slughorn and Hagrid. It’s actually one of the funniest scenes in the entire series, especially when Slughorn becomes so inebriated that he refers to Harry as “Parry Otter.”

What happens next isn’t funny at all; it’s creepy, troubling, and proves how Harry will go to great lengths to do right by Dumbledore’s request. When Hagrid references the death of Harry’s parents, Harry takes the opportunity to press the issue with Slughorn, who didn’t know the details of their death. I cannot imagine, even under the effects of Felix Felicis, how difficult it must be for Harry to have to recount their murder to someone who probably does not care in order to get something in return. It’s brave and slightly stupid, but I’ll definitely cut him as much slack as possible: it takes a lot of courage for him to talk about him the way he does.

  • “That’s enough!” said Slughorn suddenly, raising a shaking hand. “Really, my dear boy, enough…I’m an old man…I don’t need to hear…I don’t want to hear…”

    “I forgot,” lied Harry, Felix Felicis leading him on. “You liked her, didn’t you?”

    “Liked her?” said Slughorn, his eyes brimming with tears once more. “I don’t imagine anyone who met her wouldn’t have liked her….Very brave…Very funny…It was the most horrible thing….”

    “But you won’t help her son,” said Harry. “She gave me her life, but you won’t give me a memory.”


  • He knew he was safe: Felix was telling him that Slughorn would remember nothing of this in the morning. Looking Slughorn straight in the eye, Hary leaned forward a little.

    “I am the Chosen One. I have to kill him. I need that memory.”


  • ”You don’t want to get rid of the wizard who killed Lily Evans?”

    “Harry, Harry, of course I do, but—“

    “You’re scared he’ll find out you helped me?”

    Slughorn said nothing; he looked terrified.

    “Be brave like my mother, Professor….”

How chilling is this? In a way, it parallels the uncanny ability Voldemort had at that exact same age to be manipulate, to be forceful, to be vindictive, and to do whatever needed to be done to get what he wanted. Granted, Harry’s confidence does not come from his lack of faith or the evil that is flowing through his veins; still, it’s a totally fucked up scene regardless.

  • “You’re a good boy,” said Professor Slughorn, tears trickling down his fat cheeks into his walrus mustache. “And you’ve got her eyes….Just don’t think too badly of me once you’ve seen it….”

    And he too put his head on his arms, gave a deep sigh, and fell asleep.

I take it back. I know I said I was more interested in the method with which Harry obtained the memory. No, the memory itself is way more important to me.

And now it’s time to finally find out what Slughorn wanted so desperately to hide from the world.