The Unbreakable Vow

chapter fifteen of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Ron and Hermione stop speaking as Harry tries to avoid hordes of girls, finally asking Luna to Slughorn’s Christmas party. The party is interesting (especially as Hermione attends with McLaggen), but when Draco shows up uninvited, Harry follows him and Snape down the hall – and overhears Snape trying to convince Draco to let him help with whatever he’s doing.

Mistletoe, by reallycorking

Large groups of girls tended to converge underneath the mistletoe bunches every time Harry went past, which caused blockages in the corridors….


Romilda, by lberghol

“Hi, Harry!” said Romilda Vane, the moment he had climbed through the portrait hole… “Take these… Chocolate Cauldrons, they’ve got firewhisky in them.”


Party Invitation, by gerre

“How would you like to come to Slughorn’s party with me tonight?”
The words were out of Harry’s mouth before he could stop them; he heard himself say them as though it were a stranger speaking.
Luna turned her protuberant eyes upon him in surprise. “Slughorn’s party? With you?”

(by gerre)


Luna Ready 4 Slughorn's Party, by Cambryn

Luna… was wearing a set of spangled silver robes that were attracting a certain amount of giggles from the onlookers, but otherwise she looked quite nice. Harry was glad, in any case, that she had left off her radish earrings, her butterbeer cork necklace, and her Spectrespecs.

(by Cambryn)


 Slughorn Snatches up Harry at his Christmas Party and Drags Him to Meet Distinguished Guests, with Luna in Tow, by Drew Graham

Gripping Harry’s arm so tightly he might have been hoping to Disapparate with him, Slughorn led him purposefully into the party; Harry seized Luna’s hand and dragged her along with him.


Slughorn's Party, by gerre

“I’ve just escaped – I mean, I’ve just left Cormac,” [Hermione] said. “Under the mistletoe,” she added in explanation, as Harry continued to look questioningly at her.

(by gerre)


Slughorn's Christmas Party, by Marta T

“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.”

(by Marta T)


Career Counseling, by anguinea

“Listen to me,” said Snape, his voice so low now that Harry had to push his ear very hard against the keyhole to hear. “I am trying to help you. I swore to your mother I would protect you.”


Half-Blood Prince, by Sanna Lorenzen

Harry remained crouched down as Snape emerged slowly from the classroom. His expression unfathomable, he returned to the party. Harry remained on the floor, hidden beneath the cloak, his mind racing.


about the chapter


Life at Hogwarts

I love the people that Slughorn is able to invite to his functions, in spite of all the crazy security measures at Hogwarts. Gwenog Jones; a famous author; a vampire; the Weird Sisters; “several elderly warlocks”…. where do these people come from? They’d almost certainly have to have been approved by Dumbledore to be invited past the boundaries, and it makes sense that he’d okay it to keep Slughorn happy. But can’t you just imagine Dumbledore chuckling to himself and rolling his eyes after hearing the request? The stuff he allows to happen in his school is just crazy sometimes.

The Boy Who Lived

Luna’s reaction when Harry asks her to Slughorn’s Christmas party is funny. We’ve gotten the impression that almost any girl in the school would give anything to go on a date with Harry Potter, but when he asks Luna to the party, she at first simply seems stunned:

“How would you like to come to Slughorn’s party with me tonight?”
The words were out of Harry’s mouth before he could stop them; he heard himself say them as though it were a stranger speaking.
Luna turned her protuberant eyes to him in surprise.
“Slughorn’s party? With you?”
“Yeah,” said Harry, “We’re supposed to bring guests, so I thought you might like… I mean…”

There’s a long pause in which Luna says nothing while Harry stammers on a bit. Until finally he clarifies his intentions, and she promptly gushes:

“I mean, just as friends, you know. But if you don’t want to…”
He was already half hoping that she didn’t want to.
“Oh no, I’d love to go with you as friends!” said Luna, beaming as he had never seen her beam before. “Nobody’s ever asked me to a party before, as a friend!”

There are multiple ways to read this if you try hard enough, but it seems apparent enough to me that while Luna considers Harry a great friend, she has no romantic interest in him – and is rather shocked when confronted with even a remote possibility that he might be interested in her. Harry may not have given this much thought ahead of time, but as long as Ginny was taken, he might have just picked the perfect person to invite. Can’t you imagine the reactions of his many admirers when they learned he was taking Loony Lovegood?

Something to Remember

So Snape doesn’t seem to know for sure, but suspects that Malfoy might have been behind the attack on Katie Bell. Meaning that Harry, who suspected Malfoy from the word ‘go,’ must at least be on to something, given that Snape almost certainly knows more than he does. Can you imagine what Snape’s internal reaction must have been when he heard that Harry had accused Malfoy of planting the necklace – and with no real evidence? Yikes.


44 Responses to “The Unbreakable Vow”

  1. I love Luna’s conversation at the Christmas party. I laughed out loud when she talked about the MOM and the Rotfang Conspiracy. Marta’s depiction of the scene is classic.

  2. The Snape/Draco conversation is one of those unnerving ones that can be played in any direction. Snape could be innocent or guilty; Draco could be competent or incompetent; they could be honest with one another or deceiving… It’s one of those ultimate false-clue situations that only gives us any information at all after we already know how the story will end.

  3. Grace has Victory, I LOVE that about this conversation (and Snape in general). But it does give us one important definitive clue: as Harry will later tell Hermione, “you can’t deny that Malfoy is definitely up to something.”

  4. “Yesssssss!” was me at that part with Malfoy and Snape: Harry finally had some evidence to show Hermione, and could convince her that he was right all along! I had been SOOOOO mad at Hermione all throughout the book because I knew she was WRONG. She is a sensible girl, but she just can’t accept that she can go wrong sometimes. Although, Harry has that same problem quite often, so I guess I can’t blame her…

  5. this was one of those moments where i’m proud of harry he could’ve invited anyone he wanted but he intited luna when he knows she doesn’t have many friends he took someone he was close friends with i’m proud of harry for inviting luna
    josie we’ve seen snape’s internal reaction to harry accusing malfoy it was in the movie harry said he “just knew” then snape repeats what he said in a harsh tone like he either didn’t believe harry or wondered how harry knew

  6. Something You May Not Have Noticed:
    While Draco and Snape were arguing, Snape says that “If your friends Crabbe and Goyle intend to pass their Defense Against the Dark Arts OWL this time around, they will need to work a little harder than they are doing at pres[ent]”.
    So, Crabbe and Goyle failed their OWLs in the previous year and are now doing it again :)
    This also validates a previous declaration from JKR about Slytherin’s captain Marcus Flint: if Crabbe and Goyle are allowed to repeat their OWLs, why not something alike for Marcus and his NEWTs?

  7. I had never thought of that, Jose! That’s hilarious, although it does make sense. They were never too bright… which leads me to another point… which I’ll bring up in the final chapters of the Deathly Hallows, if somebody else doesn’t.

  8. I also couldn’t help wondering if Romilda Vane had an idea that Harry knew she was trying to give him a love potion. Did she know that Hermione overheard her that night in the bathroom? If so, she should’ve also known that Hermione would tip Harry off about what the girls were doing.

  9. I love Harry’s inviting Luna to the party, but I found the party itself a bit disappointing. JKR wrote outstandingly successful party scenes for the Yule Ball and for Bill and Fleur’s wedding. In those scenes there were a lot of characters in and out of the picture and odd, funny snippets of conversation – all of it very entertaining, with clues and bits of important information buried in the jumble. Slughorn’s Christmas party doesn’t work in quite the same way for me, because so much of it seems to be filler. We don’t need another scene with a drunken Trelawny (I got pretty tired of those), and the author and the vampire don’t contribute anything to the plot. I expected them to have some kind of significance later in the series, but they never did. They do establish that trashy celebrity biographies are popular in the wizarding world, but I’m not sure that had to be spelled out for us before book 7.

  10. Yes, Harry inviting Luna to the party was brilliant. I love that he sees that she’s a good person (which is what I think the reason is for him inviting her, not pity).

    If Harry doesn’t want Snape to know about the Potions book, why doesn’t he avert his eyes when Snape stares at him intensely? Harry knows Snape is a good Legilimens and he himself very bad at Occlumency.

  11. I LOVE this chapter – mostly because we see so much Luna goodness! We all know she really wanted to go with Neville, but Harry and her oging as friends was incredibly sweet!

    Billie, I disagree with you. We had to have an introduction to the author so Rita Skeeter in DH would be credible. Otherwise people would go like, “Wait, what? How did anyone let her publish such a piece of trash?” But now we have a precedent. The vampire is just a foil for that – and Jo’s way of having a vampire in the book without it being about vampires.

    Bella, I thik Romilda knew Hermione had heard, but probably thought she wouldn’t tell cuz of “girl code” or whatever. Shows Romilda!

  12. It was a bit un-Hermione-ish of Hermione to ask Cormac out just to annoy Ron; She should’ve at least have asked someone that she would have a good time with… and she learned her lesson… hence Gerre’s second picture.

  13. hermiones heart-broken over the whole ron lavender thing. shes not expecting to go out with him any longer than a party shes gonna be miserable at anyway, she might as well try to guilt trip ron. I think she convinced herself the cormac episode would be a good idea.

  14. I agree it was great that Harry asked Luna.

    And I never thought about Luna thinking Harry might fancy her and NOT being interested, then him clarifying it for that reason. I always figured he was clarifying it because he didn’t want to lead her on.

  15. Anna, I agree that he clarified not wanting to lead her on, when you read from Harry’s perspective – I just think that if you read it from Luna’s perspective (she’s totally silent until he clarifies that it’s as friends), she seems rather surprised. I don’t know if it was written that way intentionally, but it immediately made me think, “she thinks he’s asking her out!”

  16. Kim – I’m repeatedly annoyed with Harry, once he knows Legilimency exists, for virtually *never* looking away from Snape. I think he’s just got that frustratingly defiant Gryffindor spirit, and it doesn’t always serve him well.

  17. If there is a better piece of fanart than Marta T’s take on the party, I hope I never see it lest I die laughing. No, I don’t: I’ll take the chance. Harry’s face! Snape’s face! The goggle-eyed tiddliness of Trelawney! The earnest disapproval of Luna! Slughorn, trying to get close to Snape with his arm around those distant, chilly shoulders! The guests in the background, all different but all beautiful. Oh, perfection.

  18. Jose, that didn’t phase me (a Brit) because I took it for granted that Crabbe and Goyle were not bright enought to take ANY NEWT subjects. Among Muggles, our OWLs (called GCSEs) are effectively the school leaving certificate. Average students pass them easily enough, but only the abler students take NEWTs (called A levels). It does make sense that wizards who are too stupid even to pass their OWLS should be sent back to school to try again. Crabbe and Goyle would be completely wasting their time in a NEWT class.

    Josie and Bella, I agree that it was a great moment for Harry finally to pin something concrete on Draco… But didn’t the reader know all along that Harry was right? The way Draco sneaked around in Diagon Alley and talked on the Hogwarts Express HAD to be more than a self-important teenager showing off.

    I was very ashamed of Hermione for inviting Cormac to the party simply out of spite. Granted he’s a totally unsympathetic character, that still doesn’t justify the way she used him as a “handbag”, and did so, not out of vanity, but to hurt Ron. Did Hermione stop to think that she might hurt Cormac more than she could hurt Ron? No, because she arrogantly assumed that Cormac had no feelings to hurt. That is not a safe assumption about anyone once you have agreed to “go out” with him. Yes, Hermione actually told Parvati, “I’m going out with him.” In case you didn’t catch the British idiom, that does NOT mean, “Yes, we’re going to the party together.” It’s the closest a Brit can come to saying, “Yes, we’re dating” (which we don’t say unless we’ve watched too much American TV).

    Someone else pointed out to me that Parvati’s stake in the Ron/Lavender romance is almost as big as Hermione’s. It has caused both Hermione AND Parvati to lose their best friend’s attention. It’s not surprising that Parvati hails Hermione as an ally!

  19. Josie, I was saying that now that you pointed it out to me, I can see Luna’s perspective on the conversation and I do agree with you. Sometimes I write too fast! :)

  20. I notice that as the characters grow up, they encounter more and more alcohol use and abuse. At Slughorn’s party, adults are getting drunk at a school event attended by students. And several times in this book, responsible adults offer alcohol to Harry and his friends, and that seems to be something that’s okay. Are attitudes toward alcohol and minors significantly different in Britain? In my part of the U.S., parents are literally sent to jail for making alcohol available to their underage kids and their friends, and the alcohol use at Slughorn’s party would be a public scandal.

  21. Grace has Victory: In America, we say, “We’re going out” to mean, “we’re dating” or “I’m his girlfriend” as well as in the UK. Or at least in my part of the US.

  22. Billie, do you think that’s a cultural thing? Meaning attitudes are different from ours in AMerica? I have no idea if that’s true, never having been to Europe, but perhaps that’s why it seems so amazing to us. Maybe a Brit could let us know?

  23. Yes, I agree with Jennifer C.’s request.

  24. Alcohol in the UK

    Although it is illegal for under-18s to buy alcohol, or for adults to buy it specifically for minors (e.g. in a bar or off-licence) and there are rules about children in bars, it is only illegal to give alcohol to children at home if they are under 5 – no, I haven’t missed out a digit, that’s right: five years old.

    No official school event would allow children to be served alcohol, but Slughorn’s is a private party, in his private quarters, at which children and teachers both happen to be present.

    In most of Europe you can’t drive a car until you are 18, although it’s 17 in the UK. I gather children as young as 14 are allowed to drive in some parts of the USA: now, to my mind, that’s almost as frightening as the ease with which you can obtain a firearm over there!

  25. I’m NOT A BRIT but another Usan, but here’s my understanding:

    In many countries outside the US, including the UK, the legal age for alcohol consumption is 18, not 21. Meanwhile, remember that in the Wizarding World, people are considered to come of age younger still, at 17, not 18. So the “American equivalent” might be college professors having some wine with students in their early twenties, not caring if they happen to be a few months shy of the Big Twenty-One. In context, it’s not nearly as “underage” as it first seems.

    (Plus, since we are talking about a magical institution, perhaps there’s some simple way for Hogwarts to prevent underage consumption altogether, even when you’re holding the glass in your hand. Although I suppose such a thing would prevent more than a few Weasley Wheezes, so never mind…)

  26. Don’t forget the wizarding world also tends to be fairly lenient when it comes to alcohol consumption in general. Harry and his friends were allowed to buy butterbeer on their own when they were thirteen years old (as third years are allowed to visit Hogsmeade), and while butterbeer is much lighter, it’s still got some alcohol content – enough for Winky to be consistently very drunk off of it.

  27. I do remember Dobby saying that the alcohol in butterbeer affected house-elves FAR more strongly than it did humans, but good point. I suppose the affects of alcohol would much stronger for muggles than for wizards, as wizards can cure the affects faster and with better quality. This might be why young witches and wizards are allowed alcohol.

  28. My impression was that butter beer had no alcohol content, per se (like root beer), but that something else in it reacted badly with house elves’ constitutions. Like how chocolate can kill dogs (not that house elves are dogs; just a different species food comparison).

  29. Anna, you’re right. Butterbeer is effectively a magically brewed “ginger beer” (do you call this “root beer”?) – a very mild drug, and not alcholic. Chocolate is a good parallel.

    The drinking age across Britain is 18, so it’s probably 17 for wizards. But, as Timbo says, this is only about drinking in public places. It’s at the guardians’ discretion in private homes. Many otherwise responsible parents would offer a beer or half a glass of table wine to a 16-year-old, or even to a 14-year-old, although not a stronger drink or a larger quantity.

    Knowing what I now know about neural formation, I cringe to think that I was one of those parents. My parents considered 16 to be a reasonable drinking age, so I blindly followed their example. Fortunately, my son hated the taste and never finished his first and only half-glass. It isn’t generally known, because it’s very new research, that the neurons really aren’t mature enough to take an alcoholic assault until at least age 18.

    Total abstinence is much rarer in Britain than in the USA, and is found mainly among Muslims. Drinking alcohol (among adults) is far more socially acceptable than, say, smoking tobacco. Note that JKR’s characters drink freely but despise smoking.

    So, yes, Slughorn is only moderately permissive in allowing his students to drink. If we assume all his guests are at least 14, that they won’t be driving anywhere, and that wizards may have access to a greater variety of only mildly alcoholic drinks… the party is not particularly shocking to a British reader. As a parent, I would be more worried about the vampire!

    Obviously a drunk teacher is unacceptable (and, yes, I know of at least one real-life school party at which the chaperoning teacher was sloshed!) but I think that is rather JKR’s point. Someone less indolent than Slughorn WOULD have taken steps to restrain Trelawney, perhaps by persuading a house-elf to lead her away for an early night.

  30. Here’s the quote I was thinking of when I described butterbeer as mildly alcoholic. It’s when Harry and Dobby are talking about Winky in GF28:

    “Winky is getting through six bottles a day now,” Dobby whispered to Harry.
    “Well, it’s not strong, that stuff,” Harry said.
    But Dobby shook his head. “‘Tis strong for a house-elf, sir,” he said.

    Harry isn’t surprised that the butterbeer affects Winky, he’s surprised that it’s strong enough to. So my assumption was that it was alcoholic, but only mildly so – and the reason it affects house-elves is because they’re probably about 1/10th the size of the kids, so drinking the same amount of any alcohol would affect them ten times as strongly.

  31. Thank you to all the Brits who weighed in on the alcohol-and-minors issues – that gives us Americans a much clearer picture. And Grace, I TOTALLY agree about the vampire!

  32. Well, Josie, it could also be “strong” but not alcoholic. I mean, coffee can be “strong” but that’s from caffeine, an entirely different process (upper instead of downer). :)

  33. Except that the conversation is about the fact that Winky is drunk, which implies to me that alcoholic content is what they’re talking about….

  34. Has anyone ever asked JKR what butter beer contains, that we know of? Surely she must have thought it through at some point.

  35. I would estimate, that butterbeer has approx. the same content as a beer-soda-mix (, so approx. 2-3%.

  36. This just out, from the article referenced below…

    “Potter author J.K. Rowling is a stickler for details, and Universal worked hard to get her OK. So many recipes were offered to find the perfect look, texture and taste for the heretofore fictitious butterbeer that Woodbury lost count.

    “We had to package up all the ingredients and rent a hotel kitchen in Scotland so that we could put it all together,” he said.

    The result? A tasty, thickheaded (and nonalcoholic) brew reminiscent of cream soda, which has proven wildly popular with the fans who bought special tickets to preview the Potter park ahead of the June 18 public opening.”

    Doesn’t prove the original was entirely non-alcoholic, but adds to the debate. :)

  37. It’s hard to argue butterbeer is non-alocoholic; a simple understanding of the way human conversation works shows that “not strong” = “not very alcoholic.” Is it that hard to believe that Wizarding society has lax standards about restricting alcohol to children? This would hardly be the first time we saw Wizarding moral standards deviate from those of muggles; see, for instance, the muggle insistence on fair trials featuring prosecutors independent from the judiciary.

  38. Take it from a 47 year old American, the butterbeer at the theme park is non-alcoholic so it can be sold freely to anyone. If it has any alcohol at all, it can only be sold in an area restricted to adults over age 21. This does not mean that the butterbeer in the books has no alcohol, I am convinced that it is intended to have a low alcoholic content. (See the argument from Jonathan.) Mead, wine, and of course fire whiskey are all alcoholic as well. That the books characters drink never really surprised me.

    In the U.S. how alcohol is viewed varies considerably depending on someone’s region, religion, and/or ethnic heritage; as well as what generation they are. For example, Catholic families living in the mid-west or Eastern region often have a completely different tradition regarding alcohol and minors than in a strict Baptist area in the South (these are stereo-types, but they tend to hold true even today.) The drinking age has also changed over time: right after prohibition (repealed in 1933) each state set its own age from 18 to 21. Than, right around the Vietnam Era (1960-1975), many states changed to 18 or 19. Then in 1984 it was mandated by the federal government all states had to raise the age to 21. So some of us were able to legally drink at 18 or 19 while others it is/was 21.

  39. Ah, so it’s Reagan’s fault your students can’t feel properly like adults, is it? Quel surprise…

  40. Not that I want to get too political or cynical: this is an HP site, after all. It does shock me though that the US drinking age is 21. Every time I see some lawperson on TV taking drinks away from 18-year-olds, I think “How dare you! Mind your own business!”

  41. I like to imagine all those “Harry Potter fan club” girls following Luna around trying to figure out what it is about her that Harry likes and even trying to emulate her. Its hilarious to think of, all those girls who were mean to her asking her all sorts of questions about him and what its like to go out with him. Its makes me smile to think about it.

  42. Anyone besides me suspect that once Luna learns about Hermione’s parents being dentists, she’ll seek their help against the “Rotfang Conspiracy”?

  43. I’m far from a Brit, but still want to make a little contribution to the alcohol-related topic. I’m from Sweden and the Scandinavian countries do have a strong traditon of alcohol – in Sweden the age limit for drinking in a pub is 18, but you need to be 20 to buy it in store (a law with several flaws, but those shouldn’t be discussed here). In our neighbouring country Denmark, on the other hand, the age limit is only 16, causing teenagers to travel over the border to party a lot.

    The alcohol consumption is very tangled with the traditions here, and illegal drinking from a very early age is extremely common. I, for instance, drank my first alcohol on a party at the age of 16, which, I’m sorry to say, was years after some of my friends made it a habit. I know lots of parents who rather give their children their own alcohol illegally, to prevent them from buying illegal stuff from strange people that could be dangerous.

    To me, Slughorn’s party is a pretty well-behaved one, and nothing I think twice about – even though I will admit nothing of the sort would be tolerated at a school here, where there almost always is a non-tolerance policy against alcohol. My school wouldn’t even allow students to put up information about the school prom because there would be alcohol involved with it.

    On the subject of butterbeer, I’m also thinking it contains alcohol, but very, very little. I’m also judging by the state of Winky and Harry’s comment on it.

  44. Hi there, this is a great site you’ve got going :)

    What’s the difference between a wizard and a warlock? I always thought those were interchangeable terms, but in this chapter it sounds like wizard and warlock are two distinct types in the magical world.

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