Study Guide

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Lies and Deceit

By J.K. Rowling

Lies and Deceit

"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 And Eloise Midgen has already been withdrawn.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.

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