Mark Reads ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’: Chapter 1
In the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Rowling surprises us again by having only one mention of Harry at all; the entire scene is between the Muggle Prime Minister and Cornelius Fudge. Oh, and shit gets real IMMEDIATELY. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Harry Potter.
CHAPTER 1: THE OTHER MINISTER
It’s apparent we’ve reached both a new chapter in this series and in Rowling’s writing. And perhaps her success, which was overwhelming at this point, allowed her to feel as if she could take more liberties with her writing and do what she felt was right. Whatever it was, I am very happy that this is so different from what we’ve seen in the past.
That being said…I felt things were a tad shaky to start off with. And maybe it’s because my expectations are really high after the last book and perhaps it’s also because the second part of this chapter does what I actually wanted. It’s ok, though, because ultimately, this book starts off wonderfully because, like Order of the Phoenix, it wastes no time setting up the tone of the novel.
We’re introduced to a nameless Prime Minister of Britain, and I suppose that’s what initially throws me off. It feels like Rowling goes to great lengths to keep his identity pretty ambiguous. I don’t know if she was attempting to make him nondescript in order to avoid people making comparisons to any current or past Prime Minister. But he feels like a holding place of sorts at first.
The real interesting information comes after the introduction when a portrait inside the PM’s suddenly comes to life and begins to speak to him. It surprised me, but it didn’t surprise the Minister, who we learn has come to expect Cornelius Fudge.
And here’s what’s really awesome: Rowling manages to summarize the major events of the past five novels without once making me wish she’d get on with it. The method in which she does this is to flashback in the Minister’s life to show how, upon winning office years ago, Cornelius Fudge started visiting.
When Fudge arrives in the present, he’s got some shocking news:
- “I’ve been having the same week you have, Prime Minister. The Brockdale Bridge…the Bones and Vance murders…not to mention the ruckus in the West Country…”
“You–er–your–I mean to say, some of your people were–were involved in those–those things, were they?”
Fudge fixed the Prime Minister with a rather stern look. “Of course they were,” he said. “Surely you’ve realized what’s going on?”
I don’t realize what’s going on, but Rowling makes us wait a few pages. At this point, she flashes back to when the Prime Minister first met Fudge. She cycles through many of the major events of the past few books, such as Sirius Black’s escape (oh god, my heart is still raw just hearing his name), the Azkaban breakout, and the Triwizard Tournament. I won’t focus on any of these parts, since we all know what happened; I just wanted to commend Rowling for finding such an interesting way for us to look back.
Fudge returns this time to inform the Prime Minister of the events at the end of Order of the Phoenix:
- “Yes, alive,” said Fudge. “That is–I don’t know–is a man alive if he can’t be killed? I don’t really understand it, and Dumbledore won’t explain properly–but anyway, he’s certainly got a body and is walking and talking and killing, so I suppose, for the purposes of our discussion, yes, he’s alive.”
Can you imagine how bizarre this must be to hear this? Also…I thought Dumbledore said he was going to explain it all to Fudge. I am confused.
- “Is Serious Black with–er–He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?”
“Black? Black?” said Fudge distractedly, turning his bowler rapidly in his fingers. “Sirius Black, you mean? Merlin’s beard, no. Black’s dead. Turns out we were–er–mistaken about Black. He was innocent after all. And he wasn’t in league with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named either. I mean,” he added defensively, spinning the bowler hat still faster, “all the evidence pointed–we had more than fifty eyewitnesses–but anyway, as I say, he’s dead. Murdered, as a matter of fact. On Ministry of Magic premises. There’s going to be an inquiry, actually….”
I honestly could not find a sad enough GIF to express how I felt reading this.
I know quite a few of you said that during the break between the fifth and sixth books, a lot of people hoped that there would be some method in which Rowling would be all, “JUST KIDDING, HE’S NOT DEAD!” Yeah, here’s the paragraph that basically punches you in the face with sad. Jesus.
- While the Prime Minister surreptitiously touched the wood of his desk, Fudge continued, “But Black’s by-the-by now. The point is, we’re at war, Prime Minister, and steps must be taken.”
Well, holy shit. That’s abrupt.
- “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has now been joined by those of his followers who broke out of Azkaban in January,” said Fudge, speaking more and more raidly and twirling his bowler so fast that it was a lime-green blur. “Since they have moved into the open, they have been wreacking havoc. The Brockdale Bridge–he did it, Prime Minister, he threatened a mass Muggle killing unless I stood aside for him and–“
I guess my prediction about Muggle deaths is already true. But seriously, this is so horrible. What did Fudge refuse to stand aside for? He never completes this thought. Regardless, this is a frightening thought. The end of the last book culminated in death, whereas this one starts off with it.
Ah, fuck. I am not prepared, am I?
- “So I suppose you’re going to tell me he caused the hurricane in the West Country too?” said the Prime Minister, his temper rising with every pace he took. It was infuriating to discover the reason for all these disasters and not be able to tell the public, almost worse than it being the government’s fault after all.
“That was no hurricane,” said Fudge miserably.
“Excuse me!” barked the Prime Minister, now positively stamping up and down. “Trees uprooted, roofs ripped off, lampposts bent, horrible injuries–“
“It was the Death Eaters,” said Fudge. “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s followers. And…we suspect giant involvement.”
WHAT THE FUCK!!!!!
- “I won’t deny that morale is pretty low at the Ministry,” said Fudge. “What with all that, and then losing Amelia Bones.”
OH FUCK, ARE YOU SERIOUS. Oh my god what the fuck is going on
- “Amelia Bones. Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. We think He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named may have murdered her in person, because she was a very gifted witch and–and all the evidence was that she put up a real fight.”
Oh jesus fuck, we barely saw her in the last book. This is horrible.
- “And as if all that wasn’t enough,” said Fudge, barely listening to the Prime Minister, “we’ve got dementors swarming all over the place, attacking people left, right, and center….”
Once upon a happier time this sentence would have been unintelligble to the Prime Minister, but he was wiser now.
“I thought dementors guard the prisoners in Azkaban,” he said catiously.
“They did,” said Fudge wearily. “But not anymore. They’ve deserted the prison and joined He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. I won’t pretend that wasn’t a blow.”
“But,” said the Prime Minister, with a sense of dawning horror, “didn’t you tell me they’re the creatures that drain hope and happiness out of people?”
“That’s right. And they’re breeding. That’s what’s causing all this mist.”
I spoke too soon. THIS is horrible. Fucking hell, guys, this is a disaster.
- “Now see here, Fudge–you’ve got to do something! It’s your responsibility as Minister of Magic!”
“My dear Prime Minister, you can’t honestly think I’m still Minister of Magic after all this? I was sacked three days ago! The whole Wizarding community has been screaming for my resignation for a fortnight. I’ve never known them so united in my whole term of office!” said Fudge, with a brave attempt at a smile.
I–I just—I cannot believe how much has happened in between these books. Who took Fudge’s place????
- The Prime Minister’s first, foolish thought was that Rufus Scrimgeour looked rather like an old lion. There were streaks of gray in his mane of tawny hair and his bushy eyebrows; he had keen yellowish eyes behind a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles and a certain rangy, loping grace even though he walked with a slight limp. There was an immediate impression of shrewdness and toughness; the Prime Minister thought he understood why the Wizarding community preferred Scrimgeour to Fudge as a leader in these dangerous times.
HOW DO YOU PRONOUNCE THAT NAME. Also WHERE DID THIS MAN COME FROM. Also AT LEAST HE IS NOT DOLORES UMBRIDGE.
This new Minister immediately gets to work, ordering that the Prime Minister improve his security, starting with his outer office:
- “I’m not getting rid of Kingsley Shacklebolt, if that’s what you’re suggesting!” said the Prime Minister hotly. “He’s highly efficient, gets through twice the work the rest of them–”
“That’s because he’s a wizard,” said Scrimgeour, without a flicker of a smile. “A highly trained Auror, who has been assigned to you for your protection.”
WHAT THE FUCK. Kingsley works for the Prime Minister???? Oh god HOW MUCH MORE MINDFUCKERY CAN I HANDLE BEFORE WE ARE EVEN DONE WITH THE FIRST CHAPTER.
This is so awesome. Scrimgeour tells the Prime Minister that Fudge is staying in an “advisory capacity” and will visit him in the future to discuss anymore developments. On their way out, the Prime Minister flips out.
- “But for heaven’s sake–you’re wizards! You can do magic! Surely you can sort out–well–anything!”
Scrimgeour turned slowly on the spot and exchanged an incredulous look with Fudge, who really did manage a smile this time as he said kindly, “The trouble is, the other side can do magic too, Prime Minister.”
And with that, the two wizards stepped one after the other into the bright green fire and vanished.
We are only one chapter into this book and shit is more real than ever before.
I love it.