Half-Blood Prince, Chapter Twenty-Six

I seriously doubt I will ever again have a reading experience quite like the one I had when I first read this chapter.

To begin with, I should confess that I’m something of a latecomer to the series; I didn’t begin reading the books until five had already been published. That meant, though, that Half-Blood Prince was my first *new* book, and my first midnight release. Mine was somewhat complicated, though, by the fact that my dad had ordered a copy for us through Amazon, which was to be delivered to our doorstep. It seemed wasteful to end up with three books, so my wife and I went to the midnight release and bought just one. I stayed up all night reading while she went to bed.

Things got complicated around 6am, though, when I had to take my wife to the airport to leave town for a few days – naturally, she took the book with her. I’d only read about two-thirds of the book (I can’t imagine I’ve ever read anything else that fast in my life, knowing that my time was limited like that), but I sent her off with our lone copy, and waited for several painful hours, trying unsuccessfully to sleep, before our second copy arrived around mid-day. Since I’d rushed through the part I had read, I started over from the beginning and took a little more time with things. And when I got to the chapters I hadn’t yet reached: Oh. My. Goodness.

In my first new chapter (twenty-two), Harry took Felix Felicis, and it ended with his finally getting the memory from Slughorn:

“Thank you very much, Professor.”
“You’re a good boy,” said Professor Slughorn, tears trickling down his fat cheeks into his walrus mustache. “And you’ve got her yes…. Just don’t think too badly of me once you’ve seen it….”
And he too put his head on his arms, gave a deep sigh, and fell asleep.

Harry then ran off to meet Dumbledore, where he learned about Horcruxes – a chapter that ends thus:

But he understood at last what Dumbledore had been trying to tell him. It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew – and so do I, thought Harry, with a rush of fierce pride, and so did my parents – that there was all the difference in the world.

At this point, I leapt up onto my feet on the futon I was lying on, reading, and screamed. I couldn’t believe this was happening. But wait – next chapter, Harry kisses Ginny! And:

The creature in his chest roaring in triumph, he grinned down at Ginny and gestured wordlessly out of the portrait hole. A long walk in the grounds seemed indicated, during which – if they had time – they might discuss the match.

And then Snape was the one that overheard the prophecy! And then Dumbledore is taking Harry to find a Horcrux! Culminating in:

Harry turned…. and then, just when he thought he must suffocate… he was standing in cool darkness, breathing in lungfuls of fresh, salty air.

And finally, after entering the cave and battling Inferi:

“I am not worried, Harry,” said Dumbledore, his voice a little stronger despite the freezing water. “I am with you.”

I will never forget the drama that I experienced reading these passages for the first time, jumping up onto my futon and screaming after the end of each new chapter, after a full day of waiting and wondering how the book was going to end. I’m critical at times of J.K. Rowling’s writing, or her planning, or the flaws in the world that she created. But you will never, ever hear me criticize her storytelling. She’s one of the best storytellers our generation will ever know, and nothing encapsulates that for me better than the end lines of these chapters. It’s for that reason that I still call Half-Blood Prince my favorite Harry Potter book, even though saying so is sure to elicit groans among certain legions of Potter fans. It’s not perfect, of course. But what an absolutely unbelievable story.

Oh yes, and the next chapter has a rather dramatic ending as well, doesn’t it?

Finally: many thanks to Laurence Peguy for the beautiful, beautiful artwork that now graces our banner (longtime readers may recognize it as the banner I used when this site debuted many moons ago!).

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, chapter twenty-six: ‘The Cave’

~ by Josie on September 22, 2010.

5 Responses to “Half-Blood Prince, Chapter Twenty-Six”

  1. HBP is my favorite too! High-five!

  2. Yay! It’s my favourite too! After the depressing number five, this one’s just perfect.

  3. I was also a late comer to the series. :)

    This is a very good book. One of my favorites but I still think it is a tad to short. I think they missed certain Off screen moments. Like Harry and Ginny. And Lupin and Tonks. And there could have been more to explore with Voldermort past. It would have been nice to see a few more memories. BUT all in all this is one of the best books and it is the book that moves me the most emotionally (for obvious reasons).

  4. It’s probably my second favorite (The fourth, third and seventh are my first favorites.) But the sixth is just awesome after the very depressing fifth. I’m a newcomer to the series too- I started reading them just after the sixth one came out. Also, I really like Half Blood Prince, because some of my best HP pictures that I drew came from the sixth book.

  5. HBP is my second favorite, but close to a tie:D This got me saying WHAT???!!! a LOT of times. Then I cry. (Same thing w/ DH, because I was still mad at Snape killing Dumbledore. sooo, most emotion comes frome here XD )

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