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-One: The Unknowable Room Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
For the next week, Harry wonders how he can achieve success with Slughorn. He takes to leafing through his Potions book for advice, even though Hermione thinks it has nothing useful to say. Ignoring her, he notices an incantation labeled “for enemies” and earmarks the page. The trio are sitting in the Gryffindor common room, finishing homework and fretting over their upcoming Apparition tests.
Harry’s adult task – evading the defenses of a faculty member – contrasts with the trio’s familiar activity of sharing homework and anxieties. Even though he’s excited to take on a bigger role in fighting Voldemort, Harry understandably feels like a teenager and doesn’t want to give up the routines that are comforting to him.
Themes
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Hermione argues that if Dumbledore thinks only Harry can acquire the memory, the task has to do with his personal characteristics, not with figuring out some obscure spell or potion. She turns her attention to Ron, whose quill is malfunctioning and causing him to spell every word wrong. She begins magically correcting his essay while he lies back tiredly, saying he loves her. Tersely, she warns him not to let Lavender hear things like this. Ron says he hopes she does; then she’ll ditch him rather than clinging to him like a “giant squid.”
The newly warm dynamic between Ron and Hermione bodes well for their romantic future as well as the tranquility of their friend group. It’s especially positive to see Ron appreciating Hermione’s intelligence (if only for his own benefit) rather than deriding it. However, the trio’s shared derision towards Lavender shows that they’re much better at empathizing with each other than with people outside their insular group.
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When everyone has gone to bed except the trio, Kreacher and Dobby suddenly appear in the common room. Harry hasn’t told Hermione about his investigations, since she strongly disapproves of house-elf labor; indeed, she’s incensed that, because Harry casually told them to follow Draco around the clock, they haven’t slept in a week. Kreacher praises Draco’s bearing and “nobility,” but Dobby says that Malfoy is often “keen to avoid detection” and uses many other students to keep watch while he sneaks into the Room of Requirement. Harry realizes that this is why he hasn’t been able to see Draco on the map.
As always, Hermione acts as the group’s moral compass, encouraging Harry to examine the ethical implications of his actions. While it’s clear that Kreacher has a bias towards Draco and Dobby is the more trustworthy witness, the house-elves’ differing accounts also emphasize the extent to which the same actions can be viewed in radically different lights.
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It’s impossible for Dobby to get into the Room of Requirement without knowing why Draco is using it, so Harry releases the elves for now. Hermione kindly commends Kreacher on his work, but he calls her a Mudblood before disappearing. Hermione wonders why Draco is using so many different students as lookouts – but suddenly Harry realizes that Draco has been simply using Slughorn’s Polyjuice Potion to disguise Crabbe and Goyle. The small girls who have appeared with Draco, as well as the student whose scales Hermione repaired, were actually his sidekicks in disguise.
While almost everyone has given up on “reforming” Kreacher, Hermione insists that he has the potential to change. Her belief in personal redemption likens her to Dumbledore. While Kreacher doesn’t appear for the rest of this book, in the seventh installment he’ll prove Hermione correct, changing his own behavior and providing critical help to the trio.
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Before going to bed, Hermione reminds Harry that his job is to get Slughorn’s memory, not track Draco. Still, he lies awake all night wondering why Draco is using the Room of Requirement. The next day, he decides to follow him during his free period; after all, he still has no idea how to approach Slughorn, so he might as well use this time productively. At breakfast, Hermione reports several new attacks and the imprisonment of Mundungus Fletcher for burglary.
The increasingly casual nature in which Hermione and the novel itself document these attacks shows how inured the trio has become to the danger in their lives. For them, coming of age doesn’t mean learning about the possibilities of adult life but “toughening up” to face the outside world.
Themes
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Under the Invisibility Cloak, Harry approaches the Room of Requirement and paces outside of it, thinking determinedly that he needs to see what it becomes for Draco. However, no matter how many formulations of this request he tries, no door reveals itself in the wall. Arriving late to Defense Against the Dark Arts he loses ten points for Gryffindor and is taunted by Snape for insufficiently answering a question on the difference between ghosts and Inferi.
Harry’s obsession with Draco is now interfering even with his class attendance. Although this might seem foolhardy on Harry’s part, it also reflects his growing awareness that the skills he learns in class and his Hogwarts qualifications in general have limited utility in the immediate fight against Voldemort.
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Coming of Age Theme Icon
Trying to ditch Lavender after class, Ron and Harry duck into a bathroom, where they run into Moaning Myrtle. She’s disappointed to see them, having expected another boy who had promised to visit her. Ron is amused by the idea of Myrtle having a crush on someone, but Myrtle resentfully says that she has a lot of common with him: they’re both sensitive and have been bullied, and they both cry in the bathroom sometimes. When Ron insults her again, she vanishes in disgust.
Typically, Ron views other people’s emotions as embarrassing weaknesses – even though he himself has suffered over a crush and has felt vulnerable to social pressure. Ron’s inability to identify with others does him a disservice here – Myrtle could have revealed some crucial information right now, but she chooses not to because he alienates her.
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Love and Friendship Theme Icon
That weekend, Ron and Hermione go to Hosgmeade for additional Apparition practice. Since he can’t take the test until he turns seventeen later in the summer, Harry tries to enter the Room of Requirement again – even though Hermione insists he should talk to Slughorn instead. Under the Invisibility Cloak, Harry frightens Goyle away from the wall where he’s standing guard; but he’s again unable to gain entry to the room.
By normal Wizarding standards, Harry has a long way to go to become an adult; the fact that he won’t be able to legally Apparate for months shows how young he is, even compared to his classmates. But at this moment he’s trying to track down the people who have infiltrated Hogwarts for nefarious purposes – showing how irrelevant those standards have become in marking adulthood.
Themes
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Just as he’s losing hope, Harry sees Tonks walking towards him. He’s surprised to find her in the castle, but she says she’s come to see Dumbledore, who’s away. She absentmindedly asks if he’s heard from anyone in the Order recently, but when Harry says he hasn’t gotten mail since Sirius dies her eyes fill with tears and she strides away. When Ron and Hermione return from practice, Harry tells them of this strange encounter. He wonders aloud if she was in love with Sirius – after all, any mention of him upsets her and her Patronus is something furry and four-legged, not unlike his dog form.
This line of thinking is more characteristic of Hermione than Harry – he’s displaying awareness (however misguided) of Tonks’ emotions and approaching the subject without embarrassment. Perhaps the fact that he too has grieved deeply for Sirius that allows him to empathize with the idea that Tonks is doing so, as well.
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Coming of Age Theme Icon
Hermione is still confused as to why Tonks is coming to visit Dumbledore instead of remaining at her station in Hogsmeade. Ron shrugs and says that women are “easily upset.” Hermione sharply points out that Ron is the one who spent the morning sulking because Madam Rosmerta didn’t laugh at his stupid joke.
Ron’s reductive approach to what he considers “female” emotions is especially laughable given how easily upset and angered he himself is.
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