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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Spy game

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceChapter 19

Some plot moments you just see coming. Some also have a little unexpected twist, which keep you reading.

  • Saw it coming: Ron wants to break up with Lavender. Didn't see it coming: He's trying to weasel out of the relationship by pretending to be asleep. smh
  • Saw it coming: Hermione is worried. Didn't see it coming: So much so that she's being unusually quiet. 😲
  • Saw it all coming: McLaggen is a one-man wrecking crew against his own team, especially his captain. Know-it-alls are destined to fail. 🅵
  • For sure saw it all coming as soon as he showed up: Hagrid can't keep a secret and can't stop talking about it. 🙊
Then there are the full-blown, magic-wand-waving plot twists that apparate the story forward. Every chapter does this. I had just about given up on a way for Harry to keep tabs on Malfoy. Those mangy little house elves actually have a greater purpose.

Satisfaction comes in knowing that Kreacher has to obey Harry even though he doesn't want to. And more satisfaction comes in knowing that Harry has closed every possible loophole (at least it appears that way) Kreacher could use to disobey. Dobby, however, needs no convincing to do his master's will.

Theories abound about what Malfoy and Snape are up to. I'm going with Harry's theory in regards to Malfoy. No doubt he is up to evil. My trust in Snape, however, has not wavered. I'm sticking with the loyal-to-Dumbledore theory. I might be proven wrong, but this is fiction and I have nothing actually at stake.

This does mean more frustrating scenes with house elves fighting, Kreacher saying rude things and Dobby literally beating himself up. But that's the price you pay for a clever plot twist.

Both sides in this war of good magic and evil magic are deep into the spy game now. Who can we trust?

Those are the plot moments we don't get to see coming.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The crux of the matter

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceChapter 18

Horcruxes, it seems, have just become a major development. Exactly what kind of development I'm not sure.

Here's what I've gleaned so far:

  • They have an evil purpose and someone invented them or waved a wand and muttered something unintelligible. Poof, we now have Horcruxes.
  • People, at least the few who seem to know about them, are more afraid to talk about them than they are to say the name Voldemort.
  • Not much is known about them. If Hermione can't find a 10-pound, dusty book about them then there probably isn't a book to be found.
Here's what I don't know:

  • Is a Horcrux and animal, vegetable or mineral?
  • Is it a physical thing, a mystical thing, a spell, an abstract idea, the Latin word for Death Eater?
  • Whatever it is, does Harry have to kill it, find it, avoid it, learn how to use it, learn how to defeat it?
Those of you who finished these books ages ago are smiling because you were once clueless. Or you're making fun of me. "It's 2020 and you don't know what a Horcrux is? Dude, you are so behind the times." If J.K. Rowling is reading this — and who's to say she isn't — she's probably saying, "Just finish the books already." She would have a point.

I've been to the Harry Potter worlds at Universal Orlando. I've lived in a house full of Potterheads for years. And this is the first I'm hearing of Horcruxes? The entire universe has either done a masterful job of keeping a secret or Dumbledore's used some kind of spoiler-alert charm.

Just how will Harry get Slughorn to say more about Horcruxes? Hard to say, but events like Ron's love-potion seizure, Slughorn's failed potion and Harry's quick thinking to grab the bezoar might begin to break down Slughorn's reluctance. Ol' Sluggy is a fanboy of Harry, for sure, but building trust takes time. Maybe Harry finds out another way, maybe everyone finds out all at once or maybe Harry breaks Sluggy down honestly or by slipping him some veritaserum (that's a thing isn't it?).

My assumption is that Harry's actions saved Ron from something worse than a seizure. And maybe this episode will wake Won-Won up to his true feelings.

Or just make him dumber.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Memories of the way they were

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceChapter 17

Sign me up for Apparition lessons. Apparating from place to place is the most magical of all magic tricks. Sam did it on "Bewitched" all the time. Just think, with a little wiggle of your nose:
  • You would have shorter commute times.
  • You could work in a cold climate but spend the rest of your time in a tropical climate.
  • You could take a thousand short vacations without scheduling time off.
That's just a short list. I'm positive all of us could add to it with a little thought.

The reason for this chapter, not coincidentally I'm sure, has a lot to do with now-you-see-me, now-you-don't.

Harry's first post-Christmas "lesson" with Dumbledore are about memories that act a lot like my own dreams. They're fuzzy, in and out of focus and difficult to remember.

Tom Riddle, aka Voldemort, murdered his muggle father and grandparents while a prefect at Hogwarts. There must be a word or phrase in the magical world for juvenile delinquent. Of course, Voldemort was already much worse than that, and he was building a following like a cult leader does.

Imagine if the ministry had dug deeper after those murders. Instead, it accepted Morfin's confession and moved on while the real killer went free. Voldemort at that age probably wouldn't have been powerful enough to stay out of Azkaban. Would've saved everyone a lot of trouble if Columbo had been on the case.

Don't know what to make of the second memory starring Slughorn and the murderous young Tom Riddle. What did Riddle say that caused Slughorn to bury the memories?

Don't ask me. That's Harry's job to discover. Maybe he'll start going to all of those Slughorn parties he's been working so hard to dodge. That's what Columbo would do.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Good for you, Harry

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceChapter 16

First, another chapter in which we learn unexpected things. Some propel the plot, some just add to our knowledge of the way of life for magical folk or a little of both.

So you die if you break an unbreakable vow. (Did I know this already. Can't remember.) That puts double-agent-man Snape in some tight spots around the Malfoys.

Everyone, it seems, trusts Snape because they trust Dumbledore who trusts Snape. This could put Harry in a tight spot. (I just watched "O, Brother, Where Art Thou," and Everett says "tight spot" like four times in one scene. It's funny.)

Celestina Warbeck punishes magical folk with awful Christmas songs like the one we're forced to hear every December: Last Christmas I gave you my heart, the very next day you gave it away. What does that even mean?

Lupin has been undercover with other werewolves. And the appropriately named Greyback is a general in Voldemort's growing army of mercenaries. Good to know for when the moon is full.

And Lupin, so he says, knows nothing about a Half-Blood Prince.

Second, 100 points to Gryffindor on behalf of Harry for standing up to the scheming Minister of Magic and knowing who to trust. With a name like Rufus Scrimgeour what else would he be but a schemer. The war has three sides: Voldemort/mercenaries, Dumbledore/the Order of the Phoenix and the Minister of Magic/minions.

The Order and the Ministry would presumably be allies. But they're not playing nice right now. The Ministry is building a political house of cards, and no one wants to be aligned with a house destined to collapse. Yes, it will be the Order that brings down Voldemort. And the Ministry of Magic will always be a step (or many steps) behind. But Schemegeour, or whoever replaces him in the meantime, will swoop in to take the credit. That's what my crystal ball says.

Oh, and I wish garden gnomes were real. But I'm not sure why.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Bad dreams are made of this

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceChapter 15
For most of this chapter, how many of you – and be honest – felt like you had just awakened from a bad dream about junior high? Then you replayed the events in your head as you brewed your morning coffee and smirked.

I rarely remember enough of a dream to be able to repeat it. But it's all trapped in my head, and I know some of this stuff happens. We could all write a junior high memoir that ain't pretty.

Some chapter highlights:

  • Harry dodging the mistletoe traffic. I can relate to Harry as a shy young teen, but some guys I knew would have walked right into the middle of this.
  • Harry the teen idol. Yes, there was always one or two. I have no idea what that feels like as much as I have no idea what it's like to be in a boy band.
  • Ron and Hermione talking to Harry about their troubled relationship. We've all been Harry in this one. And I never knew what to say. Dr. Phil's the one with the PhD. Go ask him.
  • Girls hoping to slip Harry a love potion? Well, love potions aren't real, but I remember girls at times going to great lengths to be noticed. Of course, guys can also plead guilty to that.
  • Hermione's sweet-sounding sentiments about her date meant to stab Ron in the heart. As blunt as she usually is, that was smooth.
  • Hermione's jealousy. We've all seen it. But to be fair, the worst cases I ever saw were the guys being jealous.
  • Harry is worn out by this feud/lover's quarrel between Ron and Hermione. He'd probably be OK with some forehead burning about now.
  • So Harry invites Luna Lovegood to the party and friend zones her. Classic. And the gossip of it spreads faster than a Quidditch snitch.
Meanwhile, back to the major plot theme. Harry does his best James Bond and follows a villain out of the party, presumably with no one noticing. Harry ... Harry Potter, has a gadget Q never invented for Bond – an invisibility cloak.

That brings us to the unbreakable vow. I knew the vow (based on the title chapter) would have nothing to do with teenage relationships, but I had no clue what it would actually be.

Draco speaks to Snape as a peer, not as a professor. That's revealing. An unnamed master is mentioned, but his identity seems obvious.

Snape's unbreakable vow to Draco's mother is intriguing. How does this affect my Snape is a double-agent-loyal-to-Dumbledore theory? From what or whom is Snape actually protecting Draco? The answer can be assumed, but it's not clear.

As Harry sits under his cloak with his mind racing, I'll go to bed tonight hoping I don't dream about junior high.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Love is in the mist

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceChapter 14
Hermione loves that Harry is learning the traits of a young and psychopathic Voldemort. As she says, Harry just might discover some of the Dark Lord's weaknesses. But that's a competition for another day.

We learn in this chapter that competition definitely brings out something in people. Not sure it's always the best. In fact I'm sure it's not.

However, the Quidditch match did bring out the best of the Gryffindor team in its domination of the Slytherins. Nice motivational technique by Harry. Ron, of course, would succumb to the placebo trick. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if Ron's confidence disappears before the next match. It doesn't take much to send Ron into spiraling self-pity. Harry might have to slip the mickey for real next time.

The true competition in this chapter concerns hormones and snogging.

Hermione likes Ron, and Ron likes Hermione. But neither will admit it or do anything about it. This relationship has your typical rom-com plot written all over it. Ron's fling with Lavender Brown will end as quickly as it began. Will Ron and Hermione be snogging in the final scene? Grab the tissues.

While the Ron-Hermione match is no secret to Harry, he suddenly has a big secret. His gut quite literally tells him that he has special feelings for Ginny. He is denying it, of course, and I'm quite sure he will continue to do so for quite some time. Even when he admits it to himself, he won't want anybody to know. Harry has to have a secret to carry around of some kind or else he wouldn't be Harry.

So where does all of this teenage angst lead in the cold, misty air of Hogwarts? Will love potions be slipped into pumpkin juice? Will love spells be cast?

Sunday, March 22, 2020

More riddles to be confounded by

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceChapter 13
Yes, it's been a while since you've heard from me. But with entertainment options limited and no games to go to, now seems like a good time to renew my quest. The coronavirus (which sounds strangely like a magic spell) can't take away all of our fun.

Speaking of magic spells, make that curses, Katie Bell is thankfully recovering from whatever curse was on that necklace. In time (not to sound like Dumbledore, but I do), I suppose we will find out who was the intended target of the curse. And maybe who sent it.

Snape has Katie's recovery under control we're told. As a double-agent truly working for Dumbledore (that's my current opinion; see my post on Chapter 2 of this book for why), he might be able to conjure a way to figure out who it was meant for and who sent it.

Harry's eagerness for his face-to-face "lessons" (no distance learning required at Hogwarts) will be interesting to follow. There is a heavy nature to these encounters with memories swirling about in the Pensieve that could be mentally taxing for Harry. But his curiosity always pushes him forward even if it sometimes betrays him.

Harry is convinced that Draco Malfoy is a death-eater-in-training. He might be, but it seems that Dumbledore would be attuned to the future of Draco based on his experiences with a young Tom Riddle.

I would be judgmental to accuse Dumbledore of having been naive with the fledgling and orphaned (at least by his mother) Voldemort. No doubt he believes he should have seen darkness coming in young Tom Riddle. I'm sure he's had his wand up ever since those days when a student like Draco shows up. He knows, I assume, what to watch for.

What are we to watch for? Who is the Half-Blood Prince? What more will the Pensieve reveal? Who is Snape's true master? As always, there are more questions than answers.

And I'll keep trying to answer them.