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 Twenty-Nine: Phoenix Lament Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ginny appears and gently leads Harry away from Dumbledore’s body. She says that McGonagall has ordered everyone from the Order to assemble at the hospital wing. Although she reassures them that no one from their side has been killed, Greyback has bitten Bill. She says that they were helped by the Felix Felicis potion, which seemed to make the curses bounce off them.
In taking charge of Harry now, and in having fought alongside the order, Ginny quietly demonstrates that she too is becoming an adult, rather than the vulnerable girl her brother – and, to some extent, Harry – believe her to be.
Themes
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
In the hospital wing, they find Neville passed out and Ron, Hermione, Luna, Tonks, and Lupin gathered around Bill, whose face is maimed almost beyond recognition. Lupin says that Bill won’t become a werewolf since Greyback wasn’t transformed when biting him, but his wounds will be cursed and he might have some “wolfish characteristics.”
While the presence of so many Order members lends this scene a sense of security and is a reminder of happy days at Grimmauld Place, Dumbledore’s absence differentiates it starkly from the more positive era that preceded this novel.
Themes
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Politics and Paranoia Theme Icon
Ron says hopefully that Dumbledore might know a cure, forcing Ginny to reveal that Dumbledore is dead. Devastated, Lupin staggers into a chair; Harry has never seen him “lose control” and feels as though he’s watching something “indecent.” They hear Dumbledore’s phoenix singing a beautiful lament outside the castle.
Not only does Dumbledore’s death rob Harry of his greatest protector, it triggers new displays of vulnerability in other adults around him. Moreover, Harry’s feeling that this reaction is “indecent” reflects his belief that, like love, grief is a weakness best hidden from others.
Themes
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Bloody from the battle, McGonagall enters the hospital to announce that Mr. Weasleyand Mrs. Weasley are on their way. Again, Harry has to tell her that Snape killed Dumbledore. McGonagall is astonished, since the headmaster always implied he had an “ironclad reason” to trust Snape. Harry reveals that Snape passed Voldemort the information about the prophecy and then claimed to Dumbledore that this is his biggest regret. No one can understand why Dumbledore believed this, since Snape always hated Lily and James.
The fact that Harry is delivering this crucial information to other adults underscores the leadership position he’s reluctantly adopting. Meanwhile, the night’s events cause the group to lose faith in Dumbledore’s decision-making process, rather than investigate his reasons for trusting Snape more deeply.
Themes
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
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McGonagall says that the whole thing is her fault, relating that she was patrolling the halls with other members of the Order when the Death Eaters arrived and she summoned Snape for extra help. Harry explains that they used the Vanishing Cabinet to enter the castle. Ron and Ginny admit that, although they were tracking Draco on the map, he managed to get past them, even using some of Fred and George’s Instant Darkness Powder to incapacitate them while the Death Eaters rushed into the castle.
Even though almost everyone was on alert the night of the breach, they all feel that they’ve been tricked. This reflects a sense that they’re not being attacked by outside forces so much as betrayed by formerly trustworthy people and failed by the previously formidable defenses of Hogwarts. The atmosphere of paranoia creeping through the Wizarding world has at last penetrated its safest places.
Themes
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Politics and Paranoia Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Hermione says that she and Luna were lurking outside Snape’s office when Flitwick burst inside to alert him about the Death Eaters. Snape came rushing out of the office and ordered Hermione to take care of Flitwick, who had collapsed; but now it’s obvious that Snape Stupefied Flitwick in order to distract them.
While Snape hoodwinked Hermione and Luna and prevented them from stopping him, he also kept them from joining the battle, and thus out of harm’s way.
Themes
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Ron, Ginny, and the other Order members discuss the details of the battle, while Harry imagines Snape running towards the battlements. When he emerged from the tower, none of the Order members stopped him because they thought he was being pursued by Death Eaters. Harry wonders what will become of Dumbledore’s body.
Harry’s fragmented thoughts at this point emphasize his own grief, which he’s either unable or embarrassed to articulate.
Themes
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Mr. Weasley and Mrs. Weasley burst into the hospital ward, followed by Fleur. Sobbing over her son, Mrs. Weasley starts dabbing at his wounds. When she sobs out that Bill “was going” to be married, Fleur interrupts loudly, asking if she wished – or hoped – that Fleur would abandon him because of his wounds. Tossing her hair, Fleur proclaims that she is “good-looking enough for both of us” and pushes Mrs. Weasley aside to tend to Bill herself. After a long silence, Mrs. Weasley offers to lend her the family’s ancient goblin-made tiara for the wedding. Suddenly, both women begin crying and hugging each other.
In her first appearances, Fleur ranked among the novel’s unpleasant characters. However, her actions now are a testament to the enduring nature of love, forcing the others to reconsider their assessment of her as superficial and snobby. The emotional reconciliation between the two women shows that changing one’s mind doesn’t indicate weakness or lack of integrity; rather, it’s sometimes the brave and noble thing to do.
Themes
Good vs. Evil Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Seeing this, Tonks grabs Lupin by his robes and says it doesn’t matter to her that he’s a werewolf, just as Fleur doesn’t care about Bill’s bites. Suddenly, it becomes clear to Harry why Tonks has been so low and why her Patronus has changed. Looking at the floor, Lupin protests that he is too old and poor for her and this isn’t the moment to discuss such things. Sternly, McGonagall points out that Dumbledore would have been happy to know that “there was a little more love in the world.”
Even though they’re in the middle of the crisis, many of the characters feel called to address problems in their love lives. This impulse shows that romance isn’t ancillary to the fight against Voldemort; rather, the freedom to love is exactly the reason they’ve embarked on this battle.
Themes
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Hagrid comes into the ward, announcing that he’s moved Dumbledore’s body and Slughorn has informed the Ministry of the disaster. Professor McGonagall beckons to Harry and brings him into Dumbledore’s office – which now belongs to her. It’s strange to see it looking exactly as usual. McGonagall wants to know what Harry and Dumbledore were doing together, but Harry refuses to tell her; he just warns her that Madam Rosmerta is under the Imperius Curse.
Besides being disillusioned with the Ministry, Harry feels that he shouldn’t even involve other Order members in his quest. In creating an individualistic and uniquely competent heroine, Rowling wishfully conjures up a fantastical solution to a political crisis that, in the real world, cannot be resolved singlehandedly.
Themes
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Along with Hagrid, the three other Heads of House arrive in the office. McGonagall asks for their opinions on the future of the school, wondering if it’s safe to stay open. Professor Sprout says staunchly that Dumbledore would want things to go on as before, while Slughorn argues that after this no parents will want their children to return. Remarking kindly that Dumbledore always valued his views, McGonagall solicits Hagrid’s thoughts as well. The giant says that Hogwarts has always been his home and he’ll stay to take care of the school. The one thing on which everyone agrees is that Dumbledore’s funeral must take place at Hogwarts and the students should stay to say goodbye.
Rather than abusing her new position of power, McGonagall takes care to include other faculty members in important decisions – even Hagrid, who is often dismissed. While her behavior mirrors Harry’s usual tendency to work collaboratively, it contrasts starkly with his new feeling that he needs to operate alone – hinting that the night’s events are forcing Harry to fundamentally change his outlook and plans.
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From the window, McGonagall sees Scrimgeour arriving with his entourage; not wanting to see the Minister, Harry ducks out and returns to Gryffindor Tower, which is packed with people. Without talking to anyone, Harry goes upstairs to find Ron and tells him that he didn’t even find a real Horcrux. He sows him the fake locket and Ron wonders who wrote the note. Harry feels that he’ll never be curious about things like that again. Outside, the phoenix’s lament stops and Harry knows he has forsaken the school, just as Dumbledore has left Harry.
Growing up should inspire a new zest for life and the possibilities of the adult world. However, although Harry is more a man than ever before he seems to have lost all feeling except a sense of duty. This moment emphasizes that, for him, coming of age is not a celebratory thing, but a deeply traumatic and destabilizing process.
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Coming of Age Theme Icon