Reading The Half Blood Prince left me on tenterhooks. The book ended on a precipice that leaves you trying to grapple with some shocking circumstances – Dumbledore’s death, Snape’s debatable betrayal of the Order – and, at the same time, guessing at the events that will take shape with the clues and hints that Rowling has sprinkled throughout the book. (Came across some plausible scenarios, and not too badly written, by fans while nursing a withdrawal after finishing HBP).
For example, the remaining four horcruxes and their hiding places, the fate of Hogwarts, and whether the students will return to Hogwarts, as well as who else will be sacrificed in the battle against darkness. IMO, all the clues point to the inevitability of Harry having to return to Hogwarts even when he has declared that he won’t in the last page. Dumbledore has already hinted on several occasions that Voldemort is trying to either get back or gain something from the school.
The last confrontation where Snape was seen to betray the Order with the killing of Dumbledore — an act of mercy IMO as Dumbledore was already in great pain and doubtless, would not have long survived the battle –- serves only to make the truth even harder to discern. Especially to a righteous teen wizard who started off seeing the world as black and white, but who’s starting to detect and understand the shades of grey and the nuances of goodness within evil and even evil existing within good. Can you believe that Snape acted for the greater good by trying to gain Voldemort’s trust with the killing of Dumbledore — the better to aid Harry in the next book? Or has the double spy really turned against the Order?
One of the bright sparks in the generally somber and tense atmosphere was the blossoming of Harry’s and Ginny’s relationship. Ginny was a joy to note as she came into her own, as witch and young woman. She’s confident, loyal and all grown-up. The perfect wake-up call to Harry’s burgeoning feelings towards the fairer sex, which wasn’t given much space and time to progress during his brief brush with Cho in Order of the Phoenix.
It is also gratifying to see Harry maturing and becoming more circumspect, even though there were moments of recklessness, and self flagellation. Though his birth and circumstances have made him wary, and a little bitter, they have also made him stronger and all the more determined to rid the world of evil. It is this indomitable fighting spirit, and his unyielding faith and loyalty towards Dumbledore that humbles you and makes you rejoice in the resilience of the human spirit and marvel at the power of love.
For it is LOVE — his parent’s love, Dumbledore’s love, Hermoine and the Weasley’s love for him — that has taken him this far, and equipped him to go even further in his quest to vanquish darkness and restore light in the magical world. I have no doubts that even as he face the ultimate evil i.e. Voldemort, in the last book, he will be empowered by the outpouring of love and support from his friends. Didn’t Dumbledore himself declare that the greatest power of all is Love?
And I thought Rowling couldn’t possibly top herself. Well, Half Blood Prince surpasses even Order of the Phoenix.