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Posted on 01 November, 2022

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607 pages

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince begins as a gloomy tale. After denying Voldemort’s comeback for more than a year, Cornelius Fudge resigns as Minister of Magic, as he judges himself not worthy of his political role. His successor, Rufus Scrimgeour, has to govern a world ruled by terror. The Death Eaters attacked wizards’ society, helped by Dementors, with some repercussions on the muggle world, too. Even before returning to Hogwarts, Harry knows it will be a hard time.

The sixth and penultimate book of Joanne K. Rowling’s fantasy saga was published in 2005. Bloomsbury and Scholastic released it simultaneously and it sold nine million copies in the first twenty-four hours. It won several awards, including the 2006 British Book of the Year. In 2009 David Yates directed the homonymous movie.

Piece after piece

Growing up, wizards receive greater assignments. Voldemort tasks Draco Malfoy with killing Dumbledore; Narcissa Malfoy, Draco’s mother, asks Snape to make an Unbreakable Vow, swearing to protect him. An Unbreakable Vow is a powerful, dark spell, bonding two people until they honor their promise. On the other side, Dumbledore demands that Harry accompanies him on the first of many missions. They have to persuade Horace Slughorn, a former professor, to come back to teach Potions: Snape will become Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts, a role he has wanted for years. During Slughorn’s lesson, Harry uses a second-hand book, which reports many corrections on recipes. Those bear the signature of the Half-Blood Prince, a mysterious student with a special intuition for potions. Using his suggestions, Harry makes his notes better.

Harry receives also particular training sessions from Dumbledore himself. Through the Pensieve, he shows Harry some memories of Voldemort’s past, when he was a child and a student. Harry learns also that, during the years, Voldemort created various Horcrux: objects containing a fragment of his soul. Until the Horcrux exist, there is no possibility to kill Voldemort, as a piece of his soul will still be alive. Harry already met one during his second year: Tom Riddle’s diary. Now, Dumbledore needs his help to find and destroy the others.

Demanding challenges concern not only high goals, though. Some of them involve deep feelings and carry changes in friendships: Ron and Hermione feel attracted to each other, but refuse the idea of being in love. So, when Ron starts dating another girl, they don’t talk for a long time. And when Harry understands he has a crush on Ginny, he fears Ron could be jealous; only when he dares to kiss her, he discovers a loyal and brave alley.

You sort of start thinking anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.

Sides of the same coin

In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, similarities between Harry and Voldemort become more and more evident, and the boy is aware of that. Both orphan with half-blood origins, they grew up vexed until Dumbledore revealed them to be a wizard. So, they were both enthusiastic as Hogwarts students and they had an inclination of breaking rules. They are also both powerful wizards, using two identical wands. Yet, while Voldemort became the evilest wizard the magic society remembers, Harry seems devoted to good.

Due to all the things he has in common with the Dark Lord, Harry feels tormented. He starts doubting about his own personality and thinking he could turn into an evil wizard, too. While taking Occlumency classes, Harry discovers his father was a bully; but also that the Half-Blood Prince, who saved his career as Potion student, was no less than Professor Snape. He also suffered vexation when at school: not by chance Harry feels a sort of connection to him, too. And when he overreaches himself to true evil and reveals he has always been a Death Eater, Harry feels stunned, even though he never liked him.

Shaped by their past

Past shapes people. For example, traumatic events left their mark on Travis in the movie Taxi Driver by Martin Scorsese and Ferdinand in Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s novel Journey to the End of the Night. Glances at characters’ past in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince show how much context influences one’s personality and behavior. Draco seems scared for the first time: his parents always manipulated him, making him believe in virtues and actions that now terrify him.

One believes even Voldemort himself could be a gentle person: maybe, the problematic child wouldn’t become the darkest wizard the world remembers if only someone had loved him. According to Mindhunter‘s investigators, even the majority of serial killers had a problematic childhood. An influence that seems to affect also superheroes and wizards world. As Voldemort grew up alone, so DC’s antagonist Homelander in The Boys spent his first years in a lab, developing an aggressive character. But nobody knows who they would have become, if they had a lovely family.

Even Horcrux are bonded to Voldemort’s past. All the objects he chose to save a piece of his soul are strictly connected with his past and Hogwarts’ history. Horcrux are slightly different and more complicated than the usual magical objects. As Dumbledore and Slughorn explain to Harry, just a few wizards could create a Horcrux. Not only because it is a very difficult spell, but also because immortality has a great cost: the spell is made effective by a murder. Only breaking a life can split someone’s soul, and grant survival. Voldemort is the only wizard who created more than one Horcrux: his life will be safe until the last one will be destroyed. For his soul, it is far too late.

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