Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

by

J. K. Rowling

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Chapter Nineteen: Elf Tails Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
That night, Harry sits by Ron’s bed in the infirmary with Ginny, Hermione, Fred and George. The twins, who arrived at Hogwarts to celebrate their brother’s birthday, ask Harry to repeat the story for the umpteenth time. Each time he thinks about what would have happened if there was no bezoar on hand, he goes cold. Ginny wonders if the Death Eaters are trying to intimidate Slughorn, but it’s also intriguing that the mead was originally intended for Dumbledore. Everyone has been speculating obsessively as to how the mead was poisoned except Hermione, who has been sitting white-faced and quiet all day. Suddenly Ron, who has been still all day, croaks out her name.
It’s telling that Harry can’t stop thinking about the bezoar – rather than seeing himself as a hero who can solve anything, he’s humble and appreciates the fact that he depended on luck to help him. Meanwhile, it’s clear that this crisis is going to cause a reconciliation between Ron and Hermione. Even though these successive breaches in Hogwarts security are a source of general anxiety, they also encourage people to examine their priorities and value their friendships.
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Hagrid strides into the room, having just received the news. He’s shocked that something so bad could have happened to someone so inoffensive as Ron. Next to arrive are Mr. Weasley and Mrs. Weasley. Hugging Harry, Ron’s mother says that he’s saved the lives of half their family. Harry is embarrassed and doesn’t know what to say.
Harry is uneasy when Mrs. Weasley describes the family as dependent on him because he wants to think of himself as sheltered by the clan, rather than having to protect it himself.
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As Harry walks out of the hospital wing with Hermione and Hagrid, the giant says that Dumbledore is “worried sick” about continuing attacks within the castle; it’s even possible that the Hogwarts board might try to shut down the school. Hagrid muses that it’s no wonder Dumbledore is mad at Snape – before realizing he shouldn’t speak of this to Harry and clamming up. However, when Harry presses him, Hagrid admits that he overheard an argument in which Snape said that Dumbledore was taking him for granted and Dumbledore retorted that Snape must perform investigations within Slytherin, as well as some sort of mysterious task.
Even though Dumbledore has been very forthright and honest with Harry, he still paints a picture in which Hogwarts’ safety and the general situation is under his control. Conversely, Hagrid’s remarks show that even Dumbledore is anxious and unsure about the future. Compounding the adult role Harry has just played in saving Ron, he has to accept that the strongest authority figures in his life might not be able to cope with the danger facing him.
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While Hermione goes to bed, Harry sits in the common room to think. He hypothesizes that Dumbledore is angry because Snape has failed to investigate Draco’s actions sufficiently. He wonders why Dumbledore told him that his trust in Snape is unshaken; maybe he feels that Harry is too young to know all his suspicions. He’s jerked out of his reverie by Cormac, who has already heard about Ron’s attack and is eager to take over his position on the Quidditch team. Reluctantly, Harry agrees.
Harry immediately interprets Hagrid’s comments as a sign of Dumbledore’s mistrust of Snape, even though there are many other ways to see the situation. In order to truly become an adult and fight Voldemort alone, he will have to overcome these personal biases and develop more clearheaded judgment.
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For once in his life, Harry doesn’t care that much about Quidditch; he’s too busy stalking Draco’s location on the map and wondering what he’s up to when he seems to vanish. However, he himself is being hounded by Cormac, keen to share Quidditch strategy and criticism of the rest of the team, and Lavender, who wants to have “in-depth chats with him about Ron’s feelings.” When she complains that Ron is always asleep when she visits the hospital wing, Harry realizes that his friend has been faking to avoid his girlfriend. Lavender even questions him about Hermione, whom she claims is only interested in Ron after his “interesting” brush with death.
Even though Lavender often appears silly, it’s hard not to pity her – she’s being ignored in favor of another woman, and she knows it. Harry’s complete disregard for her feelings reflects his tendency to dismiss people he doesn’t completely respect, rather than appreciating their complexity or identifying with their problems. After all, the object of his affection seems to be interested in someone else; he does have some concerns in common with Lavender
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On the morning of the match, Harry reassures Ron that he’s not going to keep Cormac as Keeper and advises him to break up with Lavender before she drives them both crazy. On his way down to the pitch he encounters Draco, accompanied by two young girls. Of course, Draco refuses to say where he’s going, but Harry doesn’t have time to follow him. In the locker room, Ginny scolds Harry for being distracted and Harry snaps at Cormac, who is busy giving instructions to the rest of the team.
Just as it did while Ron was opening his birthday presents, Harry’s obsession with Draco is distracting him from something that’s normally extremely important in his life: Quidditch. In a way, his unhealthy obsession and inability to focus mirrors Draco’s increasing air of sickness and paranoia. It’s another undesired similarity between Harry and his nemesis.
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Harry is shocked but amused to find that Luna has replaced Zacharias Smith as commentator. With her typical honesty, she reminisces about the last match, in which Ginny crashed into Smith on purpose. Busy criticizing everyone else, Cormac lets in several goals; in the middle of the game, Harry sees him grab a bat from one of the Beaters and demonstrate how to use it. He flies up to Cormac in fury, but the Keeper mishits an oncoming Bludger right into his face.
Even though Cormac is a Gryffindor, he emerges as an important foil to Harry. While Harry fosters collaboration on the Quidditch team and doesn’t trumpet his own abilities, Cormac’s conviction that he knows everything actively harms the team’s performance.
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Harry wakes up several hours later in the hospital wing next to Ron, who is thrilled at Cormac’s disgrace and still chuckling at Luna’s commentary. Ron mentions that Ginny came by to see him and Harry conjures up a dramatic scene in which she confesses her feelings for him and Ron gives his “blessing.”
It’s troubling that Harry’s dream of a relationship with Ginny is so contingent on Ron’s blessing. Ginny is entitled to date whomever he wants, and if Ron’s controlling behavior imperils his friendships that’s his fault, not his sister’s or Harry’s.
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However, it seems that Ginny only visited to tell Ron that Harry was almost late for the match. Harry confesses that he ran into Draco and almost followed him, and Ron scolds Harry for neglecting his duty as Quidditch captain and indulging this narrow-minded obsession. Harry wishes that he had powers like Scrimgeour’s, so he could assign people to tail Draco. Suddenly he remembers that he can do this – impulsively, he summons Kreacher.
Even though, as Hermione points out, Ron doesn’t always exercise good judgment, in this case he’s a voice of reason, encouraging Harry not to let his feelings run away from him. The fact that Harry actively wants to be like Scrimgeour, whom he regards as a tyrant, underscores the fact that acting on his feelings causes him to abandon his best instincts.
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Kreacher appears in the hospital wing in the midst of a fistfight with Dobby, who has apparently attacked him for insulting Harry’s honor. Harry pulls them apart and forbids them from fighting. To Dobby’s delight and Kreacher’s great disgust, Harry informs them that he’d like them to follow Draco and report on his actions. Kreacher is incensed that he has to spy on a pure-blood and Harry forbids him from contacting Draco in any way. Dobby eagerly promises to throw himself from a castle tower if he fails in his task.
Dobby is a free elf, so he’s doing Harry’s bidding as a favor, not out of compulsion. On the contrary, Harry is taking advantage of the fact that he legally “owns” Kreacher to make him do something he doesn’t want to do. In this sense, he’s reenacting Sirius’s imperious behavior towards the elf, which eventually led to his demise.
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