"Is it true?" said Gaunt in a deadly voice, advancing a step or two toward the terrified girl. "My daughter – pure blooded descendant of Salazar Slytherin – hankering after a filthy, dirt-veined Muggle?" (10.149)
There's something infinitely interesting about the fact that Merope Gaunt, Voldemort's mother, succumbed to love and died of a broken heart. We see how abused she is in the Gaunt household, despite the fact that she is a pureblood witch. There seems to be a history of heartbreak in Voldemort's family. No real love to be found here.
"Again, this is guesswork," said Dumbledore, "but I believe that Merope, who was deeply in love with her husband, could not bear to continue enslaving him by magical means. I believe that she made the choice to stop giving him the potion. Perhaps, besotted as she was, she had convinced herself that he would by now have fallen in love with her in return. Perhaps she thought he would stay for the baby's sake. If so, she was wrong on both counts. He left her, never saw her again, and never troubled to discover what became of his son." (10.179)
Considering her heritage and her background, Merope Gaunt would have been a pretty powerful witch, no? And yet, she couldn't help but fall madly in love with a man she hardly knew but who she saw often. One would think that a witch of her caliber would have been able to control her feelings, to make Tom Riddle, Sr. fall in love with her permanently. But it would seem that the years of abuse and lovelessness that Merope had endured weakened her. Perhaps, then, the need for love and the lack of it is more powerful than magic.
Harry's thoughts strayed to Ginny as they trudged up the road to Hogwarts through the frozen slush. They had not met up with her, undoubtedly, thought Harry, because she and Dean were cozily closeted in Madam Puddifoot's Tea Shop, that haunt of happy couples. Scowling, he bowed his head against the swirling sleet and trudged on. (12.104)
In these scary, dangerous times, it is kind of nice to know that teenagers still get to do fun things like go on dates and that there are real date spots in Hogsmeade. Even wizards and witches crush bigtime. Why do you think Harry is so attracted to Ginny? She seems to us to be quite an independent lady with a mind of her own, quite different from the little girl who used to blush every time Harry was around.
"My mother can't have been magic, or she wouldn't have died," said Riddle, more to himself than Dumbledore. (13.167)
OK, evil as he is, we can't help but feel sorry for the young pipsqueak Riddle here. He is homeless, he's an orphan, and, here, we can deduce that he thinks about his parents often, that he has perhaps wondered why they left him. We see him convince himself that his mother was only human and, therefore, incapable of saving her own life, and yet we know the truth. We sympathize here with a little boy who can't imagine why his mom would leave him. Has Voldemort ever known love?
"I went into the girl's bathroom just before I came in here and there were about a dozen girls in there, including Romilda Vane, trying to decide how to slip you a love potion." (15.13)
Mad crushes are not the only obstacles getting in the way of friendships, Quidditch practice, and life at Hogwarts. There's something a little troubling about the fact that these girls manipulate love via potions bought at Fred and George Weasley's joke shop. When compared with the story of Merope's bewitching of Tom Riddle, Sr., we know that love potions are not to be laughed at – they can cause serious trouble when they interfere with real emotions and feelings.
"The old argument," he said softly. "But nothing I have seen in the world has supported your pronouncements that love is more powerful than my kind of magic, Dumbledore."
"Perhaps you have been looking in the wrong places," suggested Dumbledore. (20.172-173)
Where has Voldemort been looking for love? Has he been looking for love? This is an interesting moment, because, instead of laughing in Dumbledore's face, Voldemort seems to earnestly argue that love doesn't exist. He is being quite serious here. There is no such thing as love in Voldemort's world. In examining the exact words he uses here, it seems he is not choosing to believe love doesn't exist; he knows it does not exist. These two wizards could not be more different, and could not have a more different understanding of how the world works.
"I love you, Hermione," said Ron, sinking back in his chair, rubbing his eyes wearily. (21.20)
OK, so maybe Ron is simply responding in gratitude for Hermione's help with his malfunctioning spellchecker, but, to us, this is a breakthrough moment. Ron says the words that have been hovering over him for years. Teenagers though they may be, there's something very significant and important about the burgeoning romance between Ron and Hermione.
"I know!" said Harry impatiently. "I can love!" It was only with great difficulty that he stopped himself adding, "Big deal!" (23.141)
Harry may be the coolest wizard around, but here we realize just how young he is. He is still figuring things out, and his perspective on things is a bit skewed. He doesn't know yet what the power of being able to love means. Perhaps he is so well acquainted with the idea of love that he can't imagine a world without it, and, therefore, doesn't yet know its significance. But Dumbledore can and does. What is Harry's definition of love at this point in the novel?
"You are protected, in short, by your ability to love!" said Dumbledore loudly. "The only protection that can possibly work against the lure of power like Voldemort's!" (23.154)
OK, last time we checked Voldemort is a pretty powerful dude, with things like Death Eaters and werewolves at his beck and call. Is Dumbledore going a bit batty here? What kind of love is Dumbledore talking about, and how can it possibly be more powerful than Voldemort's powers? What does the ability to love entail?
"In spite of all the temptation you have endured, all the suffering, you remain pure of heart, just as pure as you were at the age of eleven, when you stared into a mirror that reflected your heart's desire, and it showed you only the way to thwart Lord Voldemort, and not immortality or riches. Harry, have you any idea how few wizards could have seen what you saw in that mirror? Voldemort should have known then what he was dealing with, but he did not!" (23.154)
This is a moment in which we are reminded of why Harry Potter is the coolest and most famous little wizard known to man – he is true to himself, he doesn't pretend to be anybody he's not, and he goes through life trying to be the best wizard he can. Perhaps this is what Dumbledore means by "pure of heart" – Harry is unusually mature and soulful. Despite being an orphan like Voldemort, he hasn't grown cold as a result of circumstances or as a result of the way the Dursleys have treated him. He makes lemonade and battles on.
"And without thinking, without planning it, without worrying about the fact that fifty people were watching, Harry kissed her." (24.133)
Not only is Harry brave in war, but he's brave in love. Check this scene out. It's funny to compare Harry's journey to secure the first Horcrux with this journey to kiss Ginny, but both are admirable and both take great courage. Love is scary sometimes! But not for Harry the Brave. There's something private about this moment too – how is that possible?
"Dumbledore would have been happier than anybody to think that there was a little more love in the world," said Professor McGonagall curtly. (29.68)
Remus Lupin doesn't think he's a good fit for Tonks, considering his werewolf side. And, what's more, talking about their love for one another seems irreverent so soon after Dumbledore's death. McGonagall, who's typically very straight edged, gives her good advice in this moment following Dumbledore's death, encouraging the two lovers to express their feelings for one another, reminding everyone of how important love was to Dumbledore. There's a comfort in knowing that, even in spite of this huge sadness, people will carry on with their lives and will make the world better with their kindness and affection.
"The point is, we're at war, Prime Minister, and steps must be taken." (1.69)
Cornelius Fudge doesn't sugarcoat anything when discussing the state of affairs with the Prime Minister. In the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, we learn that war will be the backdrop of the story that follows. What war is being fought? Who is on what side? What are the sides fighting for?
"Now, as you already know, the wizard called Lord Voldemort has returned to this country. The Wizarding community is currently in a state of open warfare. Harry, whom Lord Voldemort has already attempted to kill on a number of occasions, is in even greater danger now than the day when I left him upon your doorstep fifteen years ago, with a letter explaining about his parents' murder and expressing the hope that you would care for him as though he were your own." (3.99)
Listen to the words Dumbledore uses in this moment: open warfare, kill, danger, murder, doorstep, parents, hope, care. Dumbledore's words are filled with both vivid violence and with messages of peace, a fact that says much about the great wizard. He is both realistic and hopeful. He does not delude himself that times aren't troubling, but he also believes the good of people will prevail. It is this constant struggle of violence and peace, despair and hope, chaos and order that colors Harry's life.
"In Madam Malkin's. She didn't touch him, but he yelled and jerked his arm away from her when she went to roll up his sleeve. It was his left arm. He's been branded with the Dark Mark." (7.16)
If evil presents itself tangibly in the form of a mark on the arm or a mark over the castle tower, how does love present itself tangibly? Does love ever present itself in physical form? Is love at war with evil in this story, or is it way more complicated than that?
"Your defenses," said Snape, a little louder, "must therefore be as flexible and inventive as the arts you seek to undo. These pictures" – he indicated a few of them as he swept past – "give a fair representation of what happens to those who suffer, for instance, the Cruciatus Curse" -- he waved a hand toward a witch who was clearly shrieking in agony – "feel the Dementor's Kiss" – a wizard lying huddled and blank-eyed, slumped against a wall – "or provoke the aggression of the Inferius" – a bloody mass upon the ground. (9.57)
What can we learn about Snape from the way in which he describes these portraits? What does he teach his students this year? Why does he have these portraits of suffering on the wall? It would seem we know more about Voldemort than we do about Snape. Why is that?
"But she could do magic!" said Harry impatiently. "She could have got food and everything for herself by magic, couldn't she?"
"Ah," said Dumbledore, "perhaps she could. But it is my belief – I am guessing again, but I am sure I am right – that when her husband abandoned her, Merope stopped using magic. I do not think that she wanted to be a witch any longer. Of course, it is also possible that her unrequited love and the attending despair sapped her of her powers; that can happen. In any case, as you are about to see, Merope refused to raise her wand even to save her own life." (13.31)
Does Merope's refusal to save her own life, and, therefore, to love her son (Voldemort) indicate that she is evil? Do you feel pity or anger or ambivalence toward her in this moment? Here again we see how magic can be no match for the power of love (and the lack of it). Can a loveless life inspire evil? Can love be connected to evil in this story?
"'You can't kid me! The asylum, that's where you're from, isn't it? "Professor," yes, of course – well, I'm not going, see? That old cat's the one who should be in the asylum. I never did anything to little Amy Beson or Dennis Bishop, and you can ask them, they'll tell you!'" (13.114)
Little Tom Riddle is terrified of being considered crazy, of being put in a place for people who are rejected by society. This indicates to us the people in the orphanage have treated him as an outsider and have made him feel "different." Can we blame his distrustful defensiveness in this moment? Little Tom is a loner, he has no friends, and we can't help but feel a little happy for him when Dumbledore reveals to him that he has magical powers that make him quite "special." Even though these powers eventually lead him to do terrible acts of violence and cruelty, they begin as a source of pride and hope for Tom.
"But you should know that Hogwarts can expel students, and the Ministry of Magic – yes, there is a Ministry – will punish lawbreakers still more severely. All new wizards must accept that, in entering our world, they abide by our laws." (13.153)
What can law do when evil is at work? What examples of the law do we see in this story, and what is the purpose of laws? Dumbledore is able to be a great wizard while working within the rules and regulations of the society in which he lives. Why is Voldemort unable to do this?
"I know Dumbledore's tried appealing directly to Scrimgeour about Stan…I mean, anybody who has actually interviewed him agrees that he's about as much a Death Eater as this Satsuma…but top levels want to look as though they're making some progress, and 'three arrests' sounds better than 'three mistaken arrests and releases'…but again, this is all top secret…." (16.61)
What exactly is the Ministry of Magic doing to combat Voldemort? Why do they want to "appear" to have everything under control? Why can't they identify the right people to arrest? It would seem that they don't have a clue about what this war is about, which is strange and unsettling, considering it is the most powerful place of leadership in the Wizarding community. If Scrimgeour doesn't know what's going on, then who does? And, when Dumbledore dies at the end of the story, is there anyone left, besides Harry, who understands Voldemort?
"He is not very happy with me either. We must try not to sink beneath our anguish, Harry, but battle on." (17.74)
Dumbledore comments on Scrimgeour. You know things aren't good when the Minister of Magic doesn't know how to talk or listen to the two greatest wizards in the world. What do we learn about Scrimgeour in this moment? What kind of leader is he? How is he helping to win or lose this war?
"Certainly," said Voldemort, and his eyes seemed to burn red. "I have experimented; I have pushed the boundaries of magic further, perhaps, than they have ever been pushed – " (20.169)
"Boundaries of magic" – now there's a phrase we could sit up all night discussing. Magic, to us, involves making anything happen or not happen. But, clearly, that is not the case. There are limits to what magic can do – it cannot, for example, bring Dumbledore back to life. This simple fact alone helps us to understand magic as not a tool wizards and witches use to become omnipotent, but rather as a tool to live and survive, just as Muggles do without it. In the world of Harry Potter, magic is defined in part by what it cannot do. So, what do we call Voldemort's work to push the boundaries of magic? Can we still call his powers magic, or are they something else entirely?
"And now, Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure." (3.110)
Harry and Dumbledore seem to share a similar bravery and taste for adventure. Even knowing the risks that certain events, outings, and quests entail, they do not hesitate to press onward. We see this in their attempt to steal the first of Voldemort's Horcruxes. We see this in Harry's quest for Slughorn's memory. We see this in Harry's resolve to destroy Voldemort, no matter what. The two wizards seem to possess a love and reverence for the unknown, for "that flighty temptress, adventure."
"Anyone we know dead?" asked Ron in a determinedly casual voice: he posed the same question every time Hermione opened her paper. (11.25)
You know it's not good when high school students are discussing which of their acquaintances have died. This single moment tells us a lot about how the culture at Hogwarts has changed. Death and tragedy lurk everywhere, even in the Great Hall over breakfast. There is no hiding from heartbreak or grief in a time of war.
Harry and Ron did not answer, but Harry knew that they were all thinking the same thing. There had been a horrible incident the day before, when Hannah Abbott had been taken out of Herbology to be told her mother had been found dead. They had not seen Hannah since. (11.41)
Can you imagine knowing that someone in Biology class had just lost a mother? This kind of loss is one that Harry knows so well. Family is one of the most universal ideas in the world – everyone can relate to the idea of what a family is and means. And so when someone at Hogwarts loses a member of her family, everyone can empathize.
"It's….Aragog….I think he's dyin'….He got ill over the summer an' he's not gettin' better….I don' know what I'll do if he…if he…We've bin together so long…" (11.115)
Aragog's death reminds us of the sadness and inevitability of death, even outside of the context of war. Death is something that everyone must endure, and, thus, it can bring people together and remind them of their humanity.
"Meanwhile in the village of Little Hangleton, a maid was running along the High Street, screaming that there were three bodies lying in the drawing room of the big house: Tom Riddle Senior and his mother and father." (17.152)
How does Voldemort get to a point where he is able to murder his father and grandparents? What in his childhood and in his schooling has allowed him to kill so easily his only remaining family? We later learn that Voldemort gains immortality by killing others.
"Well, you split your soul, you see," said Slughorn, "and hide part of it in an object outside the body. Then, even if one's body is attacked or destroyed, one cannot die, for part of the soul remains earthbound and undamaged." (23.55)
Oh, Slughorn, way to spill the beans. If Slughorn had never told Voldemort what a Horcrux is, do you think Voldemort would have discovered its purpose on his own? Here, we learn that a Horcrux is an outlawed form of magic in which one kills others in order to become immortal.
"By an act of evil – the supreme act of evil. By committing murder. Killing rips the soul apart. The wizard intent upon creating a Horcrux would use the damage to his advantage. He would encase the torn portion – " (23.62)
If you rip a soul apart, wouldn't you damage it? Doesn't ripping a soul apart sound like a violent way to treat your soul? If Voldemort's soul is divided seven times, we can't imagine that any one piece is very healthy or happy. How can it be powerful, then, if it is a weak fraction of a soul?
"Well, Harry," said Dumbledore, "I am sure you understood the significance of what we just heard. At the same age as you are now, give or take a few months, Tom Riddle was doing all he could to find out how to make himself immortal." (23.78)
Why does immortality appeal to Tom Riddle and not to Harry Potter?
"'Further than anybody.' And I thought I knew what that meant, though the Death Eaters did not. He was referring to his Horcruxes, Horcruxes in the plural, Harry, which I do not believe any other wizard has ever had. Yet, it fitted: Lord Voldemort has seemed to grow less human with the passing years, and the transformation he has undergone seemed to me to be only explicable if his soul was mutilated beyond the realms of what we might call 'usual evil'…" (23.92)
So, if Voldemort has gone "beyond the realms of what we might call 'usual evil,' where has he gone? There's a competitive streak in Voldemort, a desire to be better, stronger, and more creative than any other wizard. It would seem he found the most difficult task a wizard could ever assume, and he proved that he could master this task. He is a talented wizard who is in search, constantly in search.
"But firstly, no, Harry, not seven Horcruxes: six. The seventh part of his soul, however maimed, resides inside his regenerated body. That was the part of him that lived a spectral existence for so many years during his exile; without that, he has no self at all. That seventh piece of soul will be the last that anybody wishing to kill Lord Voldemort must attack – the piece that lives in his body." (23.98)
We wonder what this soul must be like. What does a soul look like? What does it do? What does it provide a person? If Voldemort operates with only a seventh of his soul within his body, what must he be like? Can he be happy, or do you think he cares about happiness?
"What he meant, I am sure, is that he had been under an enchantment that had now lifted, though I daresay he did not dare use those precise words for fear of being thought insane. When they heard what he was saying, however, the villagers guessed that Merope had lied to Tom Riddle, pretending that she was going to have his baby, and that he had married her for this reason." (10.175)
If you were in Merope's place, would you have practiced magic on Tom Riddle, Sr. in order to get him to love you? Is all magic a form of deception, or are there ways of using magic that is honorable and honest in the world of Harry Potter? In order to find love and comfort, Merope resorts to deception. What does that tell us about her life?
He pulled the old copy of Advanced Potion-Making out of his bag and tapped the cover with his wand, muttering "Diffindo!" The cover fell off. He did the same thing with the brand-new book (Hermione looked scandalized). He then swapped the covers, tapped each, and said, "Reparo!" (11.21)
Do you think Harry is being dreadfully dishonest by keeping and using the Half-Blood Prince's textbook? If you were him, would you have done the same thing? Though he likes coasting through a difficult class, it doesn't seem to us like Harry keeps the textbook for the sole purpose of getting good grades. He seems to be more drawn to the kind of magic found inside and to the information that the textbook provides. He is a wizard, one who has fought the Dark Lord before and will likely fight him again, and, therefore, he needs all the help he can get to hone his skills. Still, should he have turned that textbook in to Slughorn? We later learn that had he done so, he might have given Dumbledore a big clue about Snape.
"They probably want to look as though they're doing something," said Hermione, frowning. "People are terrified – you know the Patil twins' parents want them to go home? And Eloise Midgen has already been withdrawn. Her father picked her up last night." (11.36)
Hogwarts is not the same. It's no longer the haven it once was. It is no longer the safest place for young wizards and witches. This makes us feel a little queasy in our stomachs. If Hogwarts isn't safe, where is? Then again, in spite of it being a school, Hogwarts carries a lot of important and ancient magic within its walls. It's a powerful place. Dumbledore remained at Hogwarts, even refusing the opportunity to become the Minister of Magic three times. Voldemort tried twice to become a teacher at Hogwarts. There is something super powerful about this school. What big secrets or magical things have we discovered over the course of the Harry Potter series that had been buried or hidden within the school?
To Harry's surprise, Hermione turned a very deep shade of pink at these words. Ron noticed nothing; he was too busy describing each of his other penalties in loving detail. (11.75)
Hermione rigged the Gryffindor tryouts so that Ron could make the team and become keeper! Gasp! Our jaw has dropped. This is very uncharacteristic behavior for Hermione Granger. And, as she constantly rails on Harry for using the Half-Blood Prince's textbook, we can't help but think about this moment of dishonesty. She's a great witch, but she knows when to use and when not to use her magic. The Quidditch field is definitely a place not to use magic. What does this moment tell us about Hermione?
"I didn't put it in!" said Harry, grinning broadly. He slipped his hand inside his jacket pocket and drew out the tiny bottle that Hermione had seen in his hand that morning. It was full of golden potion and the cork was still tightly sealed with wax. "I wanted Ron to think I'd done it, so I faked it when I knew you were looking." He looked at Ron. "You saved everything because you felt lucky. You did it all yourself." (14.178)
How much did you love this moment in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? We agreed with Hermione at first and got ourselves worked up a bit thinking that Harry would use such a priced possession as a good luck potion on a Quidditch match. Not only is that illegal and bad sportsmanship, it's kind of a waste of good luck. But the fact that Harry only pretended to put the potion in Ron's pumpkin juice tells us that he knows his best friend to be capable of greatness on the Quidditch field. And Ron's performance during this particular match shows us that he has greatness inside of him. Most importantly, Ron learns what he's capable of, he learns that success is almost entirely due to confidence and the belief that you can and will win. Harry is so darn clever sometimes, and we love that he used deception in a good way.
"Yeah, well, never mind that," said Harry quickly. "The point is, Filch is being fooled, isn't he? These girls are getting stuff into the school disguised as something else! So why couldn't Malfoy have brought the necklace into the school – ?" (15.26)
If Filch is the only surveillance system at Hogwarts, we're a little troubled. Disguise is another form of deception that someone within the Hogwarts walls is using to his or her advantage. But this brand of deception isn't good, as it is causing harm to others.
"I don't think you should be an Auror, Harry," said Luna unexpectedly. Everybody looked at her. "The Aurors are part of the Rotfang Conspiracy, I thought everyone knew that. They're working to bring down the Ministry of Magic from within using a combination of Dark Magic and gum disease."
Oh, Luna. A party is never boring if you are around. Here, we get an interesting glimpse into the idea of truth-telling. After witnessing the Ministry of Magic arrest people in order to deceive the community into believing they're winning the war against Voldemort, Luna presents an even more extreme version of truth. Luna's conspiracy-loving cautiousness seems ridiculous at first, but also makes us think twice about what we know for sure and about what Harry knows for sure. Her dedication to seeing beyond the surface makes us perk up and pay closer attention to what "truth" is and means in the world of this story.
"Well, of course, to you it will matter enormously," said Scrimgeour with a laugh. "But to the Wizarding community at large…it's all perception, isn't it? It's what people believe that's important." (16.189)
Whoa, whoa, whoa. This Scrimgeour dude is really a fan of "perception," which, might we add, conveniently rhymes with "deception." We know he has fought Dark Magic and Dark wizards all of his life, so why is he having such a hard time with Voldemort? What gives, Scrimgeour?
"If you were to be seen popping in and out of the Ministry from time to time, for instance, that would give the right impression. And of course, while you were there, you would have ample opportunity to speak to Gawain Robards, my successor as Head of the Auror office. Dolores Umbridge has told me that you cherish an ambition to become an Auror. Well, that could be arranged very easily…" (16.194).
Hold the phone, is Scrimgeour trying to bribe Harry Potter? This guy is crazy. Here he goes again talking about "the right impression." Does the Minister of Magic care about the reality or the truth of what is going on? Why is he talking to Harry Potter rather than working on figuring out how to defeat Voldemort's army? We somehow get the feeling that this guy hasn't finished manipulating Harry. Something tells us he is desperate to get Harry on the Ministry's side. But, that's just the Luna Lovegood conspiracy theorist in us.
"However, he had the sense never to try and charm me as he charmed so many of my colleagues." (17.115)
Dumbledore relates the story of young Tom Riddle at Hogwarts. Are we talking about a magical kind of charm here, or a natural kind of charm? Did Tom Riddle use magic to excel at Hogwarts, or was he really an upstanding citizen and a kind man? If he was anything like what he was at the orphanage all of those years ago, we would think teachers at Hogwarts would be kind of wary of him. One major thing does change between the orphanage and his time at Hogwarts – instead of fearing constantly that there's something wrong with him, Tom knows he is special. His ability to muster up a group of followers while in school tells us that he is not such a loner after all, but rather a skilled manipulator.
He had never had a proper conversation with the headmaster outside of Hogwarts before; there was usually a desk between them. (4.1)
Harry and Dumbledore's friendship changes and deepens throughout the course of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. They become more like colleagues, equals. Dumbledore trusts Harry enough to let him in on all of the details of his top-secret quest to find Voldemort's Horcruxes. The two trust each other implicitly.
"Or perhaps, to confess that you yourself are worried and frightened? You need your friends, Harry. As you so rightly said, Sirius would not have wanted you to shut yourself away." (4.212)
Dumbledore knows that friendship is the key to life; we cannot exist without good friends to help us and to love us. Harry cannot carry the prophecy by himself – it would be too much of a burden. Dumbledore knows this and knows that all humans need support. Harry, Ron, and Hermione's friendship is pretty rare and deep. Voldemort does not have any friends, making him extremely different from Harry.
"A warmth was spreading through him that had nothing to do with the sunlight; a tight obstruction in his chest seemed to be dissolving. He knew that Ron and Hermione were more shocked than they were letting on, but the mere fact that they were still there on either side of him, speaking bracing words of comfort, not shrinking from him as though he were contaminated or dangerous, was worth more than he could ever tell them." (5.203)
If Harry is "pure of heart," than we argue that Ron and Hermione are too. They do not hang out with Harry in the hopes of finding great wealth, fame, and fortune. They do not always agree with Harry or support what he does. They are friends with Harry because they like him as a person, they have similar likes and dislikes, and they have fun together. Harry never once seeks out friends that will make him seem cool or popular or edgy. He stays true to himself, and, as a result, we get a glimpse of one of the greatest friendships in all of literature.
"Hi, Harry, I'm Romilda Vane," she said loudly and confidently. "Why don't you join us in our compartment? You don't have to sit with them," she added in a strange whisper, indicating Neville's bottom which was sticking out from under the seat again as he groped around for Trevor, and Luna, who was now wearing her free Spectrespecs, which gave her the look of a demented multicolored owl.
"They're friends of mine," said Harry coldly. (7.103-104)
Hogwarts is not immune to the petty drama and to the silly cliques that we experience all the time in school. We've seen Gossip Girl. There's something about the process of growing up that makes people terrified of being left out or of being considered "uncool." It's kind of comforting to know that even wizards and witches struggle with their own sense of coolness and sense of self sometimes.
It was a mark of the strength of their friendship that Ron did not laugh. (8.116)
Ron doesn't laugh at the fact that Malfoy froze Harry and then broke his nose with his foot. At the time of the attack, this seemed like a pretty violent thing for Malfoy to do, and we were really worried for Harry. But, at the same time, it was kind of silly of Harry to wrap himself in his invisibility blanket just to sit in the luggage rack of the Slytherin compartment on the Hogwarts Express – his foolishness in this regard is a bit laughable. And yet, we've got to hand it to Harry for being in it to win it. He's willing to try anything in order to get the right information. Ron must recognize that too at this moment.
Exactly what Hagrid would say when he realized his three favorite students had given up his subject, he did not like to think. (8.137)
Do you agree with the way Harry, Hermione, and Ron deal with Hagrid at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? Are they being good friends to Hagrid? What could they have done to be a better friend to him? What is the nature of the three's friendship with Hagrid: how long have they been friends, what have they experienced together, how have they helped each other?
"Lord Voldemort has never had a friend, nor do I believe that he has ever wanted one." (13.188)
Again, we see here a big difference between Voldemort and Harry. Voldemort wants to separate himself from the people around him, while Harry's friendships are the thing that sustains him. If Voldemort had had a friend at one point in his life, what kind of friend would it have had to have been?
He and Cho were now too embarrassed to look at each other, let alone talk to each other; what if Ron and Hermione started going out together, then split up? Could their friendship survive it? Harry remembered the few weeks when they had not been talking to each other in the third year; he had not enjoyed trying to bridge the distance between them. And then, what if they split up? What if they became like Bill and Fleur, and it became excruciatingly embarrassing to be in their presence, so that he was shut out for good? (14.33)
Ruh roh. Love is getting in the way of friendship, or at least that's at the top of Harry's worry list right after "Defeat Lord Voldemort" and "Figure out what Draco is cooking up." Ron and Hermione don't get together in this story, but does that preserve the dynamic between the triumvirate (Harry, Ron, and Hermione)? How does love affect their relationships? And, what has happened between Harry and Cho?
"Nobody's ever asked me to a party before, as a friend!" (15.72)
Oh Luna, once again, you rule. There's something totally charming and winning about the fact that Harry dodges the love darts aimed at him by the likes of Romilda Vane by asking out a girl who is not considered to be the coolest kid on the block. Luna's earnest glee at being able to go to a party in this moment is infectious. Did anyone notice that a Slughorn party is kind of like a mini prom or a Blair Waldorf party (Gossip Girl, anyone)? It's all about who you are with and what you wear, and not everyone gets invited.
[Harry:] "He accused me of being 'Dumbledore's man through and through.'"
[Dumbledore:] "How very rude of him."
[Harry:] "I told him I was."
Dumbledore opened his mouth to speak and then closed it again. Behind Harry, Fawkes the phoenix let out a low, soft, musical cry. To Harry's intense embarrassment, he suddenly realized that Dumbledore's bright blue eyes looked rather watery, and stared hastily at his own knees. When Dumbledore spoke, however, his voice was quite steady. (17.83-86)
Harry expresses his ultimate loyalty and devotion to Dumbledore in this moment. We are moved by just how moved Dumbledore is. He is the greatest wizard around, and yet he's not without an understanding of how rare and valuable true friendship and loyalty are. We imagine him to be quite an impressive sight in all of his bearded glory and star-flecked robes. But to see him cry makes us wonder whether Dumbledore has many friends. Does his job make it impossible for him to have friendships with others?
"Ah, Harry, how often this happens, even between the best of friends! Each of us believes that what he has to say is much more important than anything the other might have to contribute." (17.104)
As much as we want to believe that Harry and Dumbledore have a friendship that is unshakeable and unflappable, it gets severely rattled in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and all because of Snape. At first, we do think that Harry is being a bit pushy with Dumbledore, and we assume that Dumbledore must know something that Harry doesn't know about Snape and Draco. He is the greatest wizard in the world, after all. In retrospect, it is strange and eerie to think that Dumbledore would not listen to Harry's warnings and suspicions, that he even asserted his authority over Harry in order to squelch them. Had he listened to Harry, he might not have died.
"Yes, I think it is time that I took a greater hand in your education." (4.215)
What kind of education does Harry receive at Hogwarts? What does he learn to do, what skills does he hone? Do you consider learning everything there is to know about Voldemort "education"?
"I know I messed up Ancient Runes," muttered Hermione feverishly, "I definitely made at least one serious mistranslation. And the Defense Against the Dark Arts practical was no good at all. I thought Transfiguration went all right at the time, but looking back–" (5.220)
Hermione is one intense cookie when it comes to school, but that's why she's the best in her year, as Harry tells Slughorn. What does her feverish desire to learn and excel tell us about Hermione? Does she only care about grades, or is she concerned about learning too? How do Ron, Hermione, and Harry's approaches to school differ?
"Harry looked back down at his results. They were as good as he could have hoped for. He felt just one tiny twinge of regret….This was the end of his ambition to become an Auror. He had not secured the required Potions grade. He had known all along that he wouldn't, but he still felt a sinking in his stomach as he looked again at that small black E." (5.248)
Why does Harry want to become an Auror? We all know the feeling of what it's like to get a bad grade, but Harry hasn't gotten a bad grade, he just hasn't gotten the best grade needed in order to advance. We think Professor McGonagall is pretty awesome for mentoring and advising Harry to continue his path toward becoming an Auror.
"Mother wants me to complete my education, but personally, I don't see it as that important these days. I mean, think about it….When the Dark Lord takes over, is he going to care how many O.W.L.s or N.E.W.T.s anyone's got? Of course he isn't….It'll be all about the kind of service he received, the level of devotion he was shown." (7.215)
Draco does have a point here; school seems irrelevant when one considers the Dark Lord's powers and potential harm. What are the Hogwarts students learning, exactly, and is all of Slytherin in support of Voldemort? Are there seriously people aside from Draco who want to fight for Voldemort? Why doesn't anyone around Draco say, "Yeah, but the Dark Lord isn't going to take over"? Has Draco charmed his friends into being supporters?
"I love being a sixth year. And we're going to be getting free time this year. Whole periods when we can just sit up here and relax." (9.6)
Oh silly Ron, with great privileges come great responsibilities. And those responsibilities happen to be in the form of heaps of difficult homework, stressful Apparition classes, and girl trouble.
"This book is the property of the Half-Blood Prince." (9.198)
You'd think Harry would have learned by now not to tamper with any book belonging to someone else (think back to Book 2), but "the Half-Blood Prince" is a kind of catchy, exciting name. We kind of don't blame him for wanting to know more. If the Half-Blood Prince had taken the time and effort to write his name in his book and to make sure no one else would mistake it for theirs, why has it been left so carelessly behind in Potions class? You'd think that someone calling himself "the Half-Blood Prince" would have wanted to keep that book.
"Firstly, and very importantly, Voldemort was, I believe, more attached to this school than he has ever been to a person. Hogwarts was where he had been happiest; the first and only place he had felt at home." (20.67)
Why did Voldemort feel at home at Hogwarts? What kind of home had he known before? It's always fun to be really good at something, and if Voldemort had really been such a great wizard at a young age, that would have made him a Big Man On Campus (BMOC). He and Harry have that in common.
"I am surprised you have remained here so long," said Voldemort after a short pause. "I always wondered why a wizard such as yourself never wished to leave school." (20.159)
Now that we think about it, why has Dumbledore remained at Hogwarts? What is the appeal of teaching? Dumbledore, like Harry, seems uninterested in fame or money. He seeks to produce leaders who will affect the Wizarding community for the better.
"Of some kinds of magic," Dumbledore corrected him quietly. "Of some. Of others, you remain…forgive me…woefully ignorant." (20.170)
Oh, snap. Dumbledore sasses Voldemort. But he does so in the most polite way. Notice how, as Voldemort asks for a teaching position at Hogwarts, Dumbledore never raises his voice or gets overly emotional. He remains rational. He treats Voldemort with the respect he would treat any guest, and yet, he doesn't forget his role as teacher. He tries to teach Voldemort in this moment, which tells us that he still has hope that Voldemort might come around.
"Yes…for homework," said Professor Flitwick, reemerging from under the table and pulling shards of glass out of the top of his hat, "practice." (24.20)
We get a good chuckle out of the fact that Harry, a great and brave wizard in his own right, still has to practice and do his homework. He has to put his pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us.
People stared shamelessly as he approached. They even pressed their faces against the windows of their compartments to get a look at him. He had expected an upswing in the amount of gaping and gawping he would have to endure this term after all the "Chosen One" rumors in the Daily Prophet, but he did not enjoy the sensation of standing in a very bright spotlight. (7.76)
How in the world is Harry not affected by his own fame and popularity? It takes a special and steadfast person to be able to stay true to oneself in the face of such public awe and curiosity. Harry remains a private person, even though he has the opportunity to be public about things. How has he changed since he learned about the prophecy?
It was as Harry suspected. Everyone here seemed to have been invited because they were connected to somebody well-known or influential – everyone except Ginny. (7.160)
To Slughorn, identity is all about who you know and who you are. He's a bit superficial in that way and likes to be around "greatness." Why is Ginny Weasley invited to his parties?
[…] he could not press the point, because so many people were trying to listen in to his conversation, not to mention staring at him and whispering behind their hands. (9.4)
Harry really can't escape his nosy, curious classmates. He has to take shortcuts at Hogwarts in order to avoid people gaping at him and asking him all kinds of questions. Can you think of any other famous people or people in power who have had to contend with the pitfalls of fame? It must be frustrating having to work so hard for a bit of privacy.
"Not all wizards can do this, of course; it is a question of concentration and mind power which some" – his gaze lingered maliciously on Harry once more – "lack." (9.64)
Oh, Snape. You are so good at hating Harry Potter. Did you get a Ph.D. in that subject? Last time we checked, Harry definitely has concentration and mind power. If only Snape knew what kinds of defense against the Dark Arts Harry had single-handedly taught his cronies last year, he'd be eating his words.
"Well, I have decided that it is time, now that you know what prompted Lord Voldemort to try and kill you fifteen years ago, for you to be given certain information." (10.26)
Why is now a good and appropriate time for Dumbledore to teach Harry about Voldemort? What has Harry learned in the past that has made him ready for this next lesson? Do you think anybody else in the world knows Voldemort as well as Dumbledore? It's almost as though Dumbledore is arming and outfitting Harry with the tools and information necessary to go into battle: he's teaching Harry about his enemy.
"So!" said Gaunt triumphantly, as though he had just proved a complicated point beyond all possible dispute. "Don't you go talking to us as if we're dirt on your shoes! Generations of purebloods, wizards all – more than you can say, I don't doubt!" (10.125)
More often than not, wizards and witches in the world of Harry Potter build their identity around who their family is, whether they are a pureblood, a half-blood, or Muggle-born. Why is lineage important? Why is pureblood ancestry valued? In one of the few examples we have of a pureblood family, we find abuse, maliciousness, and hatred. What does this tell us about family lineage and tradition?
Ron was not the only one to be excited at the prospect of Apparition. All that day there was much talk about the forthcoming lessons; a great deal of store set by being able to vanish and reappear at will. (17.66)
Just like learning how to ride a bike, learning how to swim, or learning how to drive are big cornerstones of growing up for us, learning how to Apparate is a huge rite of passage for the students in Harry's year. Apparition implies greater mobility and freedom, and it signals the beginning of adulthood.
"As he moved up the school, he gathered about him a group of dedicated friends; I call them that, for want of a better term, although as I have already indicated, Riddle undoubtedly felt no affection for any of them. This group had a kind of dark glamour within the castle." (18.116)
It's interesting that when Voldemort was first building his identity at Hogwarts, he found it necessary to give the impression that he had friends. He recognized that having alliances was important to his success, even though, by nature, he would rather operate completely alone. He may have never had a true friend in his life, but he does know that he can only be truly successful with the help of those willing to fight for him.
It took Harry only five minutes to realize that his reputation as the best potion-maker in the class was crashing around his ears. (17.28)
Do you agree with Harry's use of the Half-Blood Prince's notes and scribblings? How much of Harry's interest in this textbook lies in the fact that he is able to coast through potions? How much has to do with the fact that he is arming himself with valuable information? If you were to interview a random third year student at Hogwarts and to ask her who Harry Potter is, what would she tell you?
"I know what you are known as," said Dumbledore, smiling pleasantly. "But to me, I'm afraid, you will always be Tom Riddle. It is one of the irritating things about old teachers. I am afraid that they never quite forget their charges' youthful beginnings." (20.157)
What's in a name? Truckloads. Names may be superficial things we attach to ourselves, but they play a huge role in forming our identities. One of the first things we learn about people are their names, and names lead to a whole list of assumptions about where a person is from and what the person is like. Voldemort's rejection of his father's name reveals his desire to cut himself off completely from his family, and reveals his desire to be super scary.
We don't know about you, but we find the name "Voldemort" to be pretty chill-inducing. It has something to do with that "vol" sound – it makes your mouth get all small, round, and kind of like you are about to say something sinister. "Vol" means flight in French. Plus v's are pretty rare – not many names begin with the letter "v" (we can think of Virginia, Vernon, Velma, Veronica, Violet, Voltron, Victor). The "de" in between ensures that this name has three syllables, because one must go big or go home. "De" means "of" or "from" in French. And then, of course, there's the "mort" which means "death" in French. Put them together, and Voldemort has assembled a name for himself that reveals his greatest goal: "flight from death." Obvious much, Voldy?
"Malfoy, revenge? What can he do about it?"
"That's my point, I don't know!" said Harry, frustrated. "But he's up to something and I think we should take it seriously. His father's a Death Eater and–" (7.8-9)
Malfoy seems to be on a revenge mission, and it's strange that no one besides Harry seems to be keeping a close eye on him. Is everyone distracted, or do they not think a Hogwarts student capable of executing orders from the Dark Lord?
"You took that from Sirius's house," said Harry, who was almost nose to nose with Mundungus and was breathing in an unpleasant smell of tobacco and spirits. "That had the Black family crest on it."
"I – no – what – ?" spluttered Mundungus, who was slowly turning purple.
"What did you do, go back the night he died and strip the place?" snarled Harry. (12.78-80)
Harry really sees red in this moment when he realizes that people are stealing from his godfather (the former Sirius Black). We can't blame him, but we are glad that Harry's friends are able to keep him from doing anything drastic in this moment. This is one of those times when we see that Harry is capable of great anger and fury. If he didn't have such a capacity to love and to empathize with others, we wonder if Harry would be kind of dangerous.
"She wouldn't even stay alive for her son?"
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. "Could you possibly be feeling sorry for Lord Voldemort?"
"No," said Harry quickly, "but she had a choice, didn't she, not like my mother--"
"Your mother had a choice too," said Dumbledore gently. "Yes, Merope Riddle chose death in spite of a son who needed her, but do not judge her too harshly, Harry. She was greatly weakened by long suffering and she never had your mother's courage." (13.32-35)
Here, we see Dumbledore's great capacity for compassion and empathy as he imagines what Merope Riddle must have been going through. This moment reveals to us the real suffering and sadness that lies at the foundation of Voldemort's life. Harry seems almost outraged by Merope's offense against her son, and, therefore, Harry shows compassion for his mortal enemy. Do you think Dumbledore believes it's important that Harry sympathize with Voldemort? How can this knowledge possibly help Harry defeat his enemy?
Harry was left to ponder in silence the depths to which girls would sink to get revenge. (15.102)
Well, now, Harry, not all girls are full of revenge. Isn't Harry the one trying to go about incriminating Malfoy? Hey, wait a minute, doesn't Ron show signs of inflicting revenge on Hermione after he finds out she went on a date with Cormac? Hmm… your theory is being tested, Mr. Potter.
"No, I did not. Though he had shown no hint of remorse, it was possible that he felt sorry for how he had behaved before and was resolved to turn over a fresh leaf. I chose to give him that chance." (17.112)
Dumbledore has always hoped and continues to hope for the best in people, regardless of their track record. When Voldemort returns to Hogwarts ten years after his graduation, asking for a job, Dumbledore wants to believe that he has had a change of heart. This hopefulness and willingness to believe in the good of people is what makes Dumbledore both powerful and vulnerable. And yet, we feel comforted that someone as important as he is would have this philosophy.
"Voldemort Stupefied his uncle, took his wand, and proceeded across the valley to 'the big house over the way.' There he murdered the Muggle man who had abandoned his witch mother, and, for good measure, his Muggle grandparents, thus obliterating the last of the unworthy Riddle line and revenging himself upon the father who never wanted him. Then he returned to the Gaunt hovel, performed the complex bit of magic that would implant a false memory in his uncle's mind, laid Morfin's wand beside its unconscious owner, pocketed the ancient ring he wore, and departed." (17.156)
Here we not only get a glimpse of Voldemort's greatest and most personal act of revenge, but we also see a lack of loyalty to his own Gaunt family – pureblood wizards. He doesn't want anything to do with anybody. He flies solo. What other acts of revenge, if any, do we see Voldemort execute? What does this act of revenge tell us about who he is and what he is capable of?
"This time, as you will have seen, he killed not for revenge, but for gain." (20.136)
Voldemort now has become capable of killing for all different kinds of reasons. Killing out of revenge means killing out of hurt or out of emotional trauma. Killing for gain means something entirely different. What does this most recent murder tell us about Voldemort and how he has changed?
"I am the Chosen One. I have to kill him. I need that memory." (22.201)
Harry plies Slughorn with short, direct sentences. The simplicity of his words in this moment coupled with the weight of what he is saying make for a cocktail of complexity and significance. It's no wonder that Slughorn is persuaded to give the memory to Harry. This is one of the few times that Harry actually utters the words, "I am the Chosen One." As we learn from Dumbledore, the prophecy doesn't mean anything, doesn't have any significance unless Harry chooses to listen to it and to accept it. He is not the Chosen One unless he wants to be. Here, we see him accepting that role in very clear terms.
"But Harry, never forget that what the prophecy says is only significant because Voldemort made it so. I told you this at the end of last year. Voldemort singled you out as the person who would be most dangerous to him – and, in doing so, he made you the person who would be most dangerous to him." (23.144)
Here's where things get interesting and complex. The prophecy, the one that we've been paying attention to since 1998 when Harry Potter first arrived in the world, is powerful only because Voldemort chose to make it powerful, only because he chose to believe it. If this is so, then perhaps there is no such thing as absolute truth – there is only the ways in which people interpret the truth. This unsettles us, because we've watched Harry struggle and fight so hard, and all because he was special, because he was, by a stroke of fate, bound to Voldemort forever. Voldemort has created his own worst enemy. Is your head reeling? Because ours are.
"If Voldemort had never murdered your father, would he have imparted in you a furious desire for revenge?" (23.150)
We think the answer to this question is most likely a resounding, no. Yes, Harry's quest to kill Voldemort is a personal one. But we also know that Harry understands the threat that Voldemort poses to humanity. Beyond the Dursleys, Harry has no blood relatives left, and so revenge perhaps comes more easily to him than it would to others.
"Voldemort himself created his worst enemy, just as tyrants do everywhere! Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one who rises against them and strikes back! Voldemort is no different." (23.150)
Here is an interesting moment that causes us to put the story on hold and turn on the History Channel. Can you think of any other tyrants in history or literature that fit Dumbledore's description? What were these tyrants' childhoods like and what kind of power were they seeking? It would seem that Voldemort's desire for isolation and power might be his greatest weakness.
"The situation is fraught with complications. We do not know whether the enchantments we ourselves have placed upon it, for example, making it Unplottable, will hold now that ownership has passed from Sirius's hands. It might be that Bellatrix will arrive on the doorstep at any moment. Naturally, we had to move out until such time as we have clarified the position." (3.57)
Throughout Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, we really begin to understand that magic has its boundaries and that even the greatest wizard in the world, Dumbledore, can't do everything. For example, the magic that Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix placed on Sirius Black's now empty house might be trumped by a greater, ancient magic that comes from within the house itself.
"The magic I evoked fifteen years ago means that Harry has powerful protection while he can still call this house 'home.' However miserable he has been here, however unwelcome, however badly treated, you have at least, grudgingly allowed him his houseroom. This magic will cease to operate the moment that Harry turns seventeen; in other words, at the moment he becomes a man. I ask only this: that you allow Harry to return, once more, to this house, before his seventeenth birthday, which will ensure that the protection continues until that time." (3.104)
It is interesting that Dumbledore's powers can only protect Harry until he comes of age. Why do you think Dumbledore will not be able to protect Harry after this? How does magic in Harry Potter protect children?
"Lord Voldemort has finally realized the dangerous access to his thoughts and feelings you have been enjoying. It appears that he is now employing Occlumency against you." (4.24)
Occlumency is a kind of magic used to ensure that no one can read your mind or your thoughts. Harry has an ability to read Voldemort's mind and thoughts as a result of his encounter with the Dark Lord when he was just a baby.
Hermione had managed to squeeze through to a large display near the counter and was reading the information on the back of a box bearing a highly colored picture of a handsome youth and a swooning girl who were standing on the deck of a pirate ship.
"One simple incantation and you will enter a top-quality, highly realistic, thirty-minute daydream, easy to fit into the average school lesson and virtually undetectable (side effects include vacant expression and minor drooling." (6.95-96)
Even Hermione, the one who knows everything and who is cautious about much in life, can't help but be lured in by the promise of a love potion. The fact that magic can interfere with love seems troubling to us considering all of the emotions that get tied up with falling in love. What happens when people take love potions in this story?
"That's right….Well, we thought Shield Hats were a bit of a laugh, you know, challenge your mate to jinx you while wearing it and watch his face when the jinx just bounces off. But the Ministry bought five hundred for all its support staff! And we're still getting massive orders!" (6.112)
The fact that the Ministry of Magic is buying supplies from Fred and George's joke shop does not inspire the greatest of confidence in us. Seriously, though, the Ministry of Magic is supposed to be very powerful and full of all kinds of information. This fact tells us a lot about the state of affairs in the magical headquarters. Things must not be good. Fred and George show us another side of magic: its playful, silly, and prankster side. Yet, we also know that when mixed with the wrong kind of magic, even this playful magic can be dangerous.
"The Dark Arts," said Snape, "are many, varied, ever-changing, and eternal. Fighting them is like fighting a many-headed monster, which, each time a neck is severed, sprouts a head even fiercer and cleverer than before. You are fighting that which is unfixed, mutating, indestructible." (9.55)
Has Harry ever encountered Dark Magic that proved Snape's point right? Has he ever fought something that was like fighting a "many-headed monster"?
Harry had already attempted a few of the Prince's self-invented spells. There had been a hex that caused toenails to grow alarmingly fast (he had tried this on Crabbe in the corridor, with very entertaining results); a jinx that glued the tongue to the roof of the mouth (which he had twice used, to general applause, on an unsuspecting Argus Filch); and, perhaps most useful of all, Muffliato, a spell that filled the ears of anyone nearby with an unidentifiable buzzing, so that lengthy conversations could be held in class without being overheard. (12.4)
What kind of magic is Harry learning from the Half-Blood Prince? Is it good magic, bad magic, helpful magic, pointless magic, outdated magic, dangerous magic? Are you glad that Harry has found this book and is learning these tricks? Is he changing as a result?
"I can make things move without touching them. I can make animals do what I want them to do, without training them. I can make bad things happen to people who annoy me. I can make them hurt if I want to." (13.125)
There is something eerie about the way in which Tom Riddle can, at such a young age, perform powerful magic without really knowing what it is or what he is doing. He is talented but in a dark way. He has been abandoned, doesn't have any family, and hasn't had the happiest childhood. To mix this kind of unhappiness with such power seems dangerous.
"His powers, as you heard, were surprisingly well-developed for such a young wizard and – most interestingly and ominously of all – he had already discovered that he had some measure of control over them, and begun to use them consciously. And as you saw, they were not the random experiments typical of young wizards: He was already using magic against other people, to frighten, to punish, to control. The little stories of the strangled rabbit and the young boy and girl he lured into a cave were most suggestive….'I can make them hurt if I want to….'" (13.181)
Just as many little kids play with dolls, LEGOs, or blocks, little Tom Riddle played with his magic. Imagine having that much power as a small child. Imagine having the power to get exactly what you want. Here, we begin to see that there is no one kind of magic; it seems to always change based on who is wielding it and how they are wielding it. It is a creative thing.
"What does it matter?" said Malfoy. "Defense Against the Dark Arts – it's all just a joke, isn't it, an act? Like any of us need protecting against the Dark Arts –"
Who is Malfoy referring to when he says "any of us"? And why don't they need protecting against the Dark Arts? What is he getting at? Is he suggesting that anyone who fights against Voldemort won't wield Dark Magic? Is he suggesting that there is only one person or one group capable of wielding Dark Magic?
"You understand him, I'm sure, Harry?" said Dumbledore quietly.
"Yes, of course," said Harry, slightly nonplussed. "Why can't Ogden--?"
But as his eyes found the dead snake on the door again, he suddenly understood.
"He's speaking Parseltongue?"
"Very good," said Dumbledore, nodding and smiling. (10.65-69)
Parseltongue is the language that snakes speak. One of the original founders of Hogwarts, Salazar Slytherin, was a powerful and power-hungry wizard who could speak Parseltongue. He handpicked students for Slytherin house way back in the day, favoring those who could speak to snakes. Both Voldemort and Harry are Parselmouths.
The post owls arrived, swooping down through rain-flecked windows, scattering everyone with droplets of water. Most people were receiving more post than usual; anxious parents were keen to hear from their children and to reassure them, in turn, that all was well at home. (11.8)
There is no e-mail, no TV, no text messaging, and no Tweeting going on at Hogwarts. The students communicate with the outside world via owls, and they hear about what is going on outside castle walls via the Daily Prophet, a newspaper.
Hermione pressed her lips together, looking angry and disapproving, but was distracted by a third owl landing in front of her carrying that day's copy of the Daily Prophet. She unfolded it hastily and scanned the front page. (11.25)
Hermione is very aware of what is going on in the world. She takes it upon herself to be informed. Everyone at Hogwarts is pretty isolated from the outside world, and the Daily Prophet helps them stay connected. As the wizards and witches in Harry's year get closer and closer to graduation and to the knowledge that they will be released into the outside world, they begin to understand that their education is teaching them how to survive in the real world, how to use their magic to the best of their abilities.
Harry stepped forward and bowed low to the hippogriff without breaking eye contact or blinking. After a few seconds, Buckbeak sank into a bow too. (11.79)
Part of being a good wizard has to do with knowing how to communicate with creatures of all different kinds. This takes great awareness, compassion, and a willingness to get to know a perspective different from one's own. Harry seems to be good at this.
"Yes, I certainly do know that you have seen and done much since leaving us," he said quietly. "Rumors of your doings have reached your old school, Tom. I should be sorry to believe half of them." (20.166)
Rumors and gossip are a huge part of how information gets passed around in the world of Harry Potter. We almost think that rumors and gossip play a bigger role in Harry's world than it does in our own, but you might disagree with us. What do you think?
Voldemort's expression remained impassive as he said, "Greatness inspires envy, envy engenders spite, spite spawns lies. You must know this, Dumbledore." (20.167)
Lies and deception form the glue between the obstacles that stand in Harry and Dumbledore's way. One must often sift through such lies when one communicates with someone in the Wizarding community in order to find out what truth is at the heart of the matter. Voldemort seems to know this and is able to manipulate communication well.
"I need you to become the place you became for Draco Malfoy…" (21.102)
Harry tries to activate the Room of Requirement by using his thoughts only. Throughout Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the young witches and wizards begin to learn how to conduct magic silently, using their mind alone. Here, we see Harry struggle with this complex kind of magic.
"It is Voldemort's fault that you were able to see into his thoughts, his ambitions, that you even understood the snakelike language in which he gives orders, and yet, Harry, despite your privileged insight into Voldemort's world (which, incidentally, is a gift any Death Eater would kill to have), you have never been seduced by the Dark Arts, never, even for a second, shown the slightest desire to become one of Voldemort's followers!" (23.152)
It is Voldemort who gives Harry access into his Dark mind and to his Dark thoughts. Harry and Voldemort share an intense connection precisely because Voldemort built that connection. Harry communicates with Voldemort in a way that no other person is able to.
As they flew over the dark, twisting lane down which they had walked earlier, Harry heard, over the whistling of the night air in his ears, Dumbledore muttering in some strange language again. He thought he understood why as he felt his broom shudder when they flew over the boundary wall into the grounds: Dumbledore was undoing the enchantments he himself had set around the castle so they could enter at speed. (27.45)
Language is used to not only communicate feelings, wants, and needs in Harry Potter, but it is also used to perform magic. It is a means of survival.
"Tell me, how have you been communicating with Rosmerta? I thought we had all methods of communication in and out of the school monitored."
"Enchanted coins," said Malfoy, as though he was compelled to keep talking, though his wand hand was shaking badly.
"Isn't that the secret method of communication the group that called themselves Dumbledore's Army used last year?"(27.187-189)
Malfoy is able to penetrate Hogwarts with Dark Magic by manipulating means of communication.
Harry wondered where Dumbledore had learned Mermish. There was so much he had never asked him, so much he should have said…. (30.123)
A huge chunk of Dumbledore's wisdom has to do with his ability to communicate with and, therefore, to understand so many different kinds of wizards, witches, and magical creatures. He is a true leader because, rather than isolate himself from the Wizarding community, he has sought to educate himself on the diversity within it. He values the various cultures, beliefs, and languages that exist within this community.