“It is the middle of the summer, but there is an unseasonal mist pressing against the windowpanes. Harry Potter is waiting nervously in his bedroom at the Dursley’s house in Privet Drive for a visit from Professor Dumbledore himself. One of the last times he saw the Headmaster was in a fierce one-to-one duel with Lord Voldemort, and Harry can’t quite believe that Professor Dumbledore will actually appear at the Dursley’s of all places. Why is the Professor coming to visit him now? What is it that cannot wait until Harry returns to Hogwarts in a few weeks’ time? Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts has already got off to an unusual start, as the worlds of Muggle and magic start to intertwine…”
‘The Half Blood Prince’ has always been special to me because it was the first ever book that I went to go get at a midnight premiere. I distinctly remember waiting in line in the cold but barely feeling it because I was so excited. I was only 9 when the book was published so it was a special treat for me, staying out that late just to get the book. But, by then I was already a huge Potter fan and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the next installment. I remember as soon as we got home my mother sent me to bed but I stayed up reading by torchlight. By bedtime the next day I had finished the book and I was emotionally wrecked by the tragic and heartfelt ending.
The main thing about this book that stuck with me for so long was the rawness of Harry’s character throughout. The loss of Sirius, his last chance at having a real parental figure, was clearly a huge blow to him and affected him deeply all through the novel’s events. His fixation on Malfoy and Snape as clear but underestimated threats were frustrating right up until the moment it seemed all Harry’s theories had been fairly spot on. Although his defence of the Prince turned out to be misplaced what I loved about this part of the series is that the development of Harry’s character has still stayed consistent. Harry’s first impressions of people invariably turn out to be right on the money and his instant dislike of both Snape and Draco are perfect examples.
The thing that really sticks in my mind whenever I think about this book though is how utterly fascinating and exceedingly well thought out and executed the scenes with Dumbledore’s lessons are. I find the exploration of Tom Riddle’s history through the various memories explored in the pensive completely enthralling and are some of my favourite scenes in the entire series. I love the way Rowling ties up all these loose threads to create a complete, complex picture of Tom Riddle in such a way that he is both brought to life as a potentially real and human character and yet also clearly established as someone not entirely human and most certainly evil. His youthful adventures torturing young children in caves and using his magic to influence them and control them show Voldemort’s manipulative mindset and stamp out any pity anyone might feel after reading of his parentage. The introduction of the Horcruxes was incredibly well planned and immediately hooked me in.
The only thing I will say is that I was never really a fan of the sideline romance with Tonks and Remus. It posed an interesting dilemma with regards to Lupin’s thoughts about relationships and whether or not he was ‘worthy’ but to me it’s never really felt right. I suppose it’s because most of the relationship develops away from Harry’s focus so that you never really get to grips with it. Harry doesn’t even go to the wedding in the final book and doesn’t meet his godson until after the Battle of Hogwarts so you never really get time to see the couple together. Perhaps some more clues earlier on would have helped but then again I suppose with a main character as imperceptive as Harry it’s not surprising that it took so long for them to emerge in print.
All in all I really do love this one, it’s not my favourite by a long shot but the pensieve scenes are so brilliant and will always remain at the top of my list of favourite Harry Potter moments.