Study Guide

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Love

By J.K. Rowling

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"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.

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