Sunday, July 17, 2005

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Finished “The Half-Blood Prince” today and I have to J.K. Rowling better write book #7 up fast, because my head’s just exploded.

I can’t possibly say anything more meaningful about book #6 without giving away major plot points, so be forewarned: everything you read after this paragraph is going to assume that you’ve finished reading HBP. I’m inserting several line breaks to shield you from unwanted spoilers.

Scroll down at your own risk...

Getting closer...

Last warning...



So we now know who the Half Blood Prince is. But that revelation pales in comparison to the really earth-shattering event that preceded it. Truth be told, I’m still reeling a little from the shock.

Not so much of the event itself: I’ve been predicting all along that Dumbledore was going to pull an Obi-Won by or before the end of the series, though I thought it would be more likely in the last book. What I could *not* have predicted, in a bezillion years, was that it would be Snape, rather than Voldemort, who would kill him. The moment he did it, I internally screamed “NOOO!!”...and read the rest of the book in a bit of a daze.

But upon reflection I’m more than ever convinced that Dumbledore really did pull an Obi-Won: that is, he knew full well that Snape was going to kill him, set it up to happen, and had planned it thus.

What’s less clear is whether Snape, in killing him, was following his orders or Voldemort’s. At first blush, it looks like the rankest kind of treachery. But I’ve always believed Snape would end up fighting (and dying) for the right side. And I can’t believe that Dumbledore, for all his supposed tendency to trust, to give second chances, etc., would be so willfully blind to the dangers of using Snape as a double agent. There has to be some kind of pact between him and Snape that the latter wouldn’t dare betray. Remember that conversation Hagrid overhears between Snape and Dumbledore, where Snape says Dumbledore “took too much for granted” and that maybe he (Snape) “didn’t want to do it anymore”? Do what? Dumbledore holds him to it, whatever it is. I think Dumbledore may have made Snape promise to kill him, at the appropriate moment.

And so—when Dumbledore, at the critical moment, says “Severus” in that pleading tone, he just may have been pleading with Snape to do it, that is, to kill him. Snape’s expression of “revulsion and hatred” may have been for the deed and the man who was driving him to it, not its target. (It would also explain why he reacts so wildly when Harry calls him a coward for killing Dumbledore.) I think Dumbledore made him do it either to prevent Malfoy from being forced to do it, or to seal Voldemort (and the Death Eaters)’s trust in Snape and bring him closer to the Dark Lord. Which would also explain why Snape enters into that Unbreakable Vow with Malfoy’s mum so early on. Perhaps he’d already made the same promise to Dumbledore.

Or perhaps that’s just wishful thinking...

It does worry me that Dumbledore himself admits, at one point, that “being...rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger.”

Still, there has to be some very good reason—the “ironclad reason” McGonagall refers to—why Dumbledore believed so deeply that Snape really turned away from the dark side (unless Dumbledore himself was lying to fool everyone, but I don’t think he was). And I’m starting to believe the reason is this:

I think Snape loved Harry’s mother.

Or there was at least some kind of secret connection between them—perhaps they were secretly related, like half-brother or sister, or something.

Oh, it’s a totally cheesy explanation, and one that I’ve previously rejected. But consider Dumbledore’s response when Harry confronts him about the fact that it was Snape who carried the news of the prophecy to Voldemort. Dumbledore says, “You have no idea of the remorse Professor Snape felt when he realized how Lord Voldemort had interpreted the prophecy, Harry. I believe it to be the greatest regret of his life and the reason that he returned.”

Harry, of course, points out that (1) Snape hated his father like poison, and (2) Snape’s a master of Occlumens, so how can Dumbledore be sure he’s on their side? Later on, after Dumbledore’s death, the other members of the Order echo these very same (and very reasonable) doubts. The only possible explanation, the one that Dumbledore kept between Snape and himself, has to relate to Lily. And, I think, to love. For love, as Dumbledore repeatedly emphasizes, is the one area of magic that sets Harry apart from Voldemort, and that Voldemort continually underestimates.

Further clues—inconclusive in and of themselves, but suggestive of a connection between Snape and Lily:
(1) Lily stood up for Snape when James and Sirius were hexing him (see Book 5). Even though he thanked her by calling her “Mudblood,” that insult means nothing now that we know he’s a half-blood himself.
(2) Lily’s talent in potions, apparently equal to Snape’s. Mere coincidence? I think not.
(3) Snape’s intense antipathy towards Harry—could be fueled not just by his hatred of James, but by the fact that (a) James married Lily, (b) Harry is their son, (c) Lily died for Harry, but also because of Snape, (d) every time Snape looks at Harry, he sees James, but he also sees Lily’s eyes. (to quote a song from “The Secret Garden.”)

My alternate theory of Snape’s apparent betrayal, and Dumbledore’s willingness to be betrayed, is what I call the “Gollum” theory: that Snape’s weakness and desire for power, or revenge, or whatever, is fated to help the Order in bringing down Voldemort. However, I’ve always thought it would be Peter Pettigrew, aka Wormtail, who would end up filling any Gollum-type role, because he owes that life-debt to Harry. Guess we’ll see.

As usual, Rowling ratchets up the drama and tension in the final few chapters to an almost unbearable pitch, so that you literally can’t put the book down. Also as usual, even as the narrative foreshadows and lurches towards its dark conclusion, she sprinkles it with plenty of light humor, all revolving around the trials and tribulations of being a high school student. (Alas, we’re probably going to see much less of that in book #7 if, as it seems, Harry isn’t returning to Hogwarts.) Loved the explosion of hormones—about right for sixteen-year-olds, I guess—though am getting impatient waiting for Ron and Hermione to hurry up and seal the deal.

At least Harry-Ginny fans (of which I am one) can rejoice; there’s not a doubt in my mind that they will end up back together, as they’re so clearly meant to be. But isn’t that last scene between them a total ripoff of “Spiderman”? Graveyard, funeral, “I can’t be with you because I’m going where you can’t follow,” blah blah...

Lupin and Tonks seemed a bit gratuitous. Liked the Fleur-Bill coupling, though. And loved every appearance by Luna Lovegood.

Have no idea what the deal is with the fake Horcrux, or who “R.A.B.” is. Looks like Harry’s got his work cut out for him. Or rather, Rowling has. She’s got a lot to pull together in book 7.

But that just makes me all the more impatient for it. And sad that it will be the last one. I only hope Rowling doesn't end by killing off Harry...


Blogger Daniel said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:45 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

My theories, which I'm bouncing off as any people as possible are that either that R.A.B. is, in fact Tonks, who could have the last name Black in some way shape or form, and who had ample opportunity, cause, etc . . .

Or, that it is three people, say, for example, Remus (Lupin), Arthur (Weaseley) and Bill (Weasley), though that latter pair seems improbable together. Anywho.

I'd love to hear what people who've genuinely thought about this think.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Roma said...

Hi Daniel,
Could RAB be Regulus Black, Sirius' brother? He was a death eater and tried to change back to the good side. Maybe he knew he was going to die for crossing Voldemort and decided to take at least one Horcrux and leave a note. Just at thought,

6:47 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Maybe, indeed? There are a lot of characters to choose from, but I definitely like your theory best.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Simon said...

My first thought after reading the book was that it was indeed Regulus Black. In the letter he left it says the he will be dead by the time voldemort finds out about the missing horcrux. Maybe that's the real reason voldemort killed him at all. He found out that Regulus was trying to destroy all of the horcruxes. I think in book seven there will be more horcruxes that have already been destroyed by R.A.B.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Kaitlena said...

I like Daniel's theory about 3 different people, but I think that the most likely explantation is that Regulus Black.
The idea that Snape and Lily had a connection is a theory I haven't heard before, but I think that it is definitely possible. As for Dumbledore being dead, I refuse to believe it!!!:(

12:38 AM  

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