A Very Frosty Christmas

chapter sixteen of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry spends his holidays at the Burrow, where on Christmas Eve he talks with Arthur and Lupin about Malfoy and Snape, and on Christmas Day, the Minister of Magic unexpectedly arrives and asks to speak with Harry. After a brief conversation, though, Harry realizes Scrimgeour wants to use him only for political gain – and Harry bluntly refuses the request.

A Very Weasley Christmas, by cambium

Christmas eve night… the Weasleys and their guests were sitting in the living room… listening to a Christmas broadcast by Mrs. Weasley’s favorite singer, Celestina Warbeck.

(by cambium)


Ron's Christmas Present, by Marta T

“It’s from Lavender,” said Ron, sounding revolted. “She can’t honestly think I’d wear….”

(by Marta T)


Rufus Scrimgeour, by haystax45

“No, no, my dear Molly,” said Scrimgeour…. “We’ve only looked in for five minutes, so I’ll have a stroll around the yard while you catch up with Percy. No, no, I assure you I don’t want to butt in! Well, if anybody cared to show me your charming garden… Ah, that young man’s finished, why doesn’t he take a stroll with me?”


A Very Frosty Christmas, by FrizzyHermione

I’ve wanted to meet you for a very long time,” said Scrimgeour, after a few moments. “Did you know that?”


Frosty Christmas, by Pen-umbra

“The idea that there is somebody out there who might be able, who might even be destined, to destroy He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named – well, naturally, it gives people a lift. And I can’t help but feel that, once you realize this, you might consider it, well, almost a duty, to stand alongside the Ministry, and give everyone a boost.”


Harry and Scrimgeour, by Tealin Raintree

They looked at each other, long and hard. Finally Scrimgeour said, with no pretense at warmth, “I see. You prefer – like your hero, Dumbledore – to disassociate yourself from the Ministry?”


Confrontation, by reallycorking

“I haven’t forgotten, Minister….”
[Harry] raised his right fist. There, shining white on the back of his cold hand, were the scars which Dolores Umbridge had forced him to carve into his own flesh:
I must not tell lies.
“I don’t remember you rushing to my defense when I was trying to tell everyone Voldemort was back. The Ministry wasn’t so keen to be pals last year.”


Dumbledore's Man, by Jenny Dolfen

“Dumbledore’s man through and through, aren’t you, Potter?”
“Yeah, I am,” said Harry. “Glad we straightened that out.”
And turning his back on the Minister of Magic, he strode back toward the house.


about the chapter


I have to confess I always feel a little badly for Fleur when I read this chapter. Admittedly, she’s really not trying very hard to assimilate into the family; her rudeness towards Mrs. Weasley’s favorite singer certainly didn’t earn her any brownie points, and it’s not like that’s the first time she’s been presumptuous around Molly. But even so, can you imagine coming down on Christmas morning to discover that everyone – including Harry and Lupin – has received a new Christmas sweater except for you? A first Christmas with your in-laws is never going to be an easy experience, but wow – you’d think Mrs. Weasley could at least give a little bit of effort, sometime.

Something You May Not Have Noticed

When I’m reading chapters like this one, I often forget that Scrimgeour is the Minister of Magic. I mean, I don’t literally forget that fact, but I do forget what it means – Harry sharply criticizes, bluntly refuses to help, and then turns his back on, the political leader of his world. Can you imagine having a conversation like that with your president, or prime minister, or king? It’s unfathomable to me, and it’s another interesting reminder of just how important Harry is to a nation of wizards. Nobody else, now or likely ever before, can say that the Minister of Magic has been dying (but unable!) to meet with them. For all that he wants to be an ordinary kid, Harry’s got a very special place in the wizarding world.

The Power of Magic

So here we learn that the penalty for breaking an Unbreakable Vow… is death. It does sort of make sense; how else could it legitimately be called Unbreakable? But wow, does this cast Snape’s scene at Spinner’s End in an interesting light. It’s easy to forget that chapter as Harry’s part of the plot unfolds, but thinking about it now is positioning Snape – and whether he’s on Dumbledore’s side, or Voldemort’s – as one of the central questions of this book. We don’t know what it was that Narcissa made him swear to help Draco do, but whatever it was, he was comfortable enough to wager his life on it. So what is it that’s going on here, that we’re missing?

The Boy Who Lived

Harry’s inclination to tell anybody and everybody his suspicions about Malfoy are quite a contrast with the way he acted when he was younger. For example, the last time he suspected Malfoy of doing something illicit was when the Chamber of Secrets opened – and then, even when Dumbledore asked Harry directly, he declined to give information that could potentially have been useful to the headmaster. Instead he and his friends broke about a thousand school rules to brew Polyjuice Potion, sneak into the Slytherin common room, and eventually head into the Chamber of Secrets more or less on their own. He’s grown enough now, though, to realize that asking for the help of others is a strength and not a weakness. The contrast between this aspect of his personality and Voldemort’s is becoming starker by the day, and it’s without question to Harry’s advantage.

40 Responses to “A Very Frosty Christmas”

  1. Never thought about Fleur being the only one who doesn’t get a sweater! That *is* harsh…although I can’t picture her wearing one.

    And re Power of Magic [spoiler]: The fact that we see Snape tell Dumbledore later that he doesn’t want to do it anymore, thus means that he would be choosing to die himself.

  2. I absolutely love this chapter! My favorite part is the conversation Scrimgeour has with Harry. I was impressed the way Harry kept his temper with this political figure who obviously had his own agenda. The nerve of Scrimgeour to even suggest that Harry help the MOM after the way they abused him. He handles the situation with a great deal of poise and maturity for a sixteen year old.

  3. I totally dislike politicians, and for what we can see the ones on the MOM are’nt that different from their Muggle colleagues. If we remember what have happened on previous chapters Harry almost had this conversation with Fudge, since it was his idea after the events in the Department of Mysteries (and THAT would really be nerve from the MOM).
    By the way: admitting that Fred and George somehow get their hands on a magic wand from one of their relatives, would they be able, at the age of seven, to perform the spell necessary to form an Unbreakable Vow?

  4. One thing I love about this chapter is JKR’s tribute to Jane Austen in Scrimgeor’s visit to the Burrow. It’s a scene inspired by Chapter 56 of Pride and Prejudice: if you’re familiar with the story, this is the scene where Lady Catherine de Bourgh barges into the Bennets’ house uninvited and secures a private conversation with Elizabeth by pretending she wants to be shown around the garden. The topic of Elizabeth & Lady Catherine’s conversation is different from the topic of Harry & Scrimgeour’s, but their conversation gets just as heated and ends just as badly. I’m a big Jane Austen fan, so I recognized the scene the first time I read it, and wasn’t at all surprised to learn that Austen is JKR’s favorite author. I’m sure JKR was chuckling to herself as she wrote this one!

  5. wow, Billie, great insight! I hadn’t linked those chapters together!
    You are right Josie, we do tend to forget that Harry is a kind of important person, just because the story get’s told from his pov. However, I don’t think the idea Scrimgeor is having is that strange. Don’t get me wrong, I totally undeerstand why Harry should never do it, but Scrimgeor never had anything personally to do with what happened to Harry last year. And you can’t blame him for trying to win Harry over, trying to make a fresh start. That he’s actually just as bad as Fudge is then again a bit of a dissapointment to Harry.

  6. Maybe Scrimgeour’s not directly involved on what’s happened to Harry, but he was a supporter of Fudge’s actions at that time. If you remember, the first time anyone mentioned Scrimgeour it was because he was making inconvenient questions about Kingsley and Tonks because he probabily suspected they were working with Dumbledore.

  7. The laughs in the whole of this chapter have a bitter edge: someone is always close to tears. Harry shines as the incorruptible Messiah. I love the way he keeps asking the Head Pharisee about Stan Shunpike.

    Culturally, the British Prime Minister is never revered as much as the American President (British schoolchildren do NOT learn a list of every Prime Minister since Pitt, and they would have a hard time naming more than three or four). In fact, the PM is usually universally reviled within six months of his election, regardless of party! However, for a sixteen-year-old boy to stand up to a middle-aged authority figure who is in some way his guardian is definitely a sign of moral fibre.

    Jose, I don’t think F&G could really have cast an Unbreakable Vow, but their parents were right to restrain them from trying (even if the level of violence in “happy” wizarding families is hard to take!). Risking their brother’s life really was a very serious infraction ON PRINCIPLE.

    Finally, here is another example of JKR’s crazy calender concepts. Lupin should not have been sitting in front of the fire talking about how some people don’t like werewolves because 24 December 1996 was a FULL MOON. JKR could have written a very touching scene about how Arthur cleaned his workshed out specially and then – moonrise being at around 4pm – Molly led her guest out to his prison; and the how the rest of the evening was punctuated by his lonely howls…

  8. kim and Jose Lopes, don’t forget also that Scrimgeour has continued to make Dolores Umbridge an important figure in his government (and offers to use her as a connection to get Harry a job!). The mention of her name is the moment the conversation really turns bitter, at least the way I read it. Whether Scrimgeour was directly responsible for Fudge and Umbridge’s actions against Harry last year or not, he’s condoning them the moment he brings up Umbridge that way.

    Grace has Victory, Rowling’s stories never link to a real calendar in terms of things like full moons or days of the week. It’s pretty clear that when she wrote the stories she didn’t give any thought to “oh, this is 1996,” even though she did put dates in occasionally (twice). I could probably write something under the “Oops” heading for half the chapters in the series if I included calendar problems, so I don’t bother. I heard somebody once describe her calendar as “impressionistic rather than literal,” which I love – if she needs the full moon to be on a certain day, then it is, and so be it! :)

  9. Josie, I know that’s what she’s doing. I just feel she lost an opportunity here. Showing Lupin’s monthly problem would have been so much more impressive than having him repine about it and risk the accusation of self-pity.

  10. Grace – what a coincidence that is. Besides his regular presence in PoA, we don’t see Lupin *that* often, so I find it almost ironic that one of the few dated moments we see him is, in the non-fiction world, a full moon. Regardless of its neglect, it’s an interesting fact to know, so thanks for bringing that up.

  11. In regards to Fred, George, and the Unbreakable Vow, I don’t think that the twins would have truly appreciated the possible consequences of their actions at the age of seven. Certainly, they could have intellectually understood that a person who breaks an Unbreakable Vow dies, but to them that would have likely just meant that if they got Ron to swear one, he would have had to do what they wanted no matter what. When does it ever occur to a seven year old that something could go wrong, or that a scared five year old might freeze instead of doing the action required.

    And that of course leads to the fact that in JKs universe, little children are given super powers when they do not have the mental capacity to use them wisely, or with any self control (not that there are many adults that I could feel comfortable with granting super powers). Granted, even after two years at Hogwarts, at the age of twelve, Harry is still relatively useless with a wand. At the end of that year, it’s a sword and a fang that save him, not his wand. But we have to remember that young children possess uncontrollable, and seemingly limitless, accidental magic. Whether it is making oneself bounce, apparating, vanishing items, or turning your teacher’s hair blue, children have a potentially lethal power that they have no control over.

    We have to wonder just what influence the nature of the child has over their magic. Did Harry never wish, in a fit of justified anger, his relatives dead or harmed? We never hear of Aunt Petunia being bludgeoned by a frying pan, nor of Uncle Vernon having a heavy object fall on him, nor of Dudley tripping and falling in front of an automobile; no Omen like contrivances. No, his teachers hair turned blue, and I’ll bet she was a real piece of work, too. At the end of the day, I like to think that blue hair is the worst Harry’s imagination could conjure.

  12. I always wondered, does an Unbreakable Vow need to specify a time frame? I could make an Unbreakable Vow to mow the lawn, but I could never die, because I never said _when_ I’d do it, just that I’d do it at some point in the future. Just a thought…

  13. I had never thought about that, Sean. I suppose that the person undertaking the Unbreakable Vow would be so scared of the possibility of a time LIMIT that they would hurry to finish the task. Although, this does contradict the plot in HBP. I dunno… any other ideas?

  14. In HBP, at least, I believe that Draco had a time limit to complete his task. Therefore, Snape had one too.

  15. I think it wouldn’t be worthwhile to get someone to make an unbreakable vow about something if you didn’t close the loopholes (kind of like how Harry has to tell Kreacher, “I order you to answer honestly.”).

    Just to continue with the theoretical example above, if you really wanted the lawn mowed enough to ask for an unbreakable vow, I would think you would be certain to specify a time frame.

  16. I agree, Bella. I don’t think Voldemort would wait forever for Draco to carry out the deed.

  17. Josie, I just went back and read your comments in the recent updates for this chapter, and I totally agree about the line “Dumbledore’s Man through and though”. Awesome line! I get goose bumps every time I read that, it’s just so right on.

  18. the “next chapter” link on this page doesnt seem to work… :/

  19. wait….is this the last one?? ok ok ok i get it…cant wait for more! :)

  20. Harry just gets awesomer and awesomer in this book – I love it!!!

    As to the Vow, at least the one we see, has time specified. Snape watched over Draco “as he tries to carry out the task.” Either he’ll stop trying, or it’ll be carried out, or something, but Snape clearly doesn’t have to babysit Draco for all eternity.

  21. Spoiler: Anna, to your first comment about Snape being willing to die rather than kill DD. It seems to me Snape was always flirting with the I-would-die line. After all, he’s been after the DADA job for years and years, and it fairly well known as being cursed. Before Voldy came back, how did he imagine he’d handle the curse? Either he’d die or he’d be removed from the one position he needed to be in to continue his work protecting Lily’s son. He was such a miserable, self-loathing man, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a bit of him that was somewhat suicidal, if only the smallest nagging in his mind.

  22. I remember reading an interview Rowling did that she said there were only 1000 wizards/witches in Britain. IMO it’s more like Harry is talking to the mayor rather than like the President. Because with the President when he came in like 1 mile of my school to talk to the governer all the teachers made a big deal about it. I don’t think it works like that for the MoM. Fudge walked into Rosmerta’s bar and no one even Really said anything.

  23. Sure, poor Fleur. But also: poor Molly. She was so happy to see Percey back and then to find out the real reason for his coming home…

    Anna, Snape saying that he doesn’t want to do it anymore might mean, that he wants to leave it to Malfoy. If Malfoy succeeds, Snape didn’t break his vow.

    Billie, thanks for pointing that out! I thought I know P&P quite well, but I hadn’t caught this.

    About Fred and George and the unbreakable vow. Mr. Weasley was so mad, Fred’s buttocks were never the same. Wow, I couldn’t believe this. JKR loves the Weasleys and she made the Dad hit on of his children?

    When Harry checked the book of the Half-Blood Price for it’s publishing date I first thought it might have been Voldemorts.

  24. I never really saw Fleur not getting a sweater as an act of cruelty from Mrs. Weasley, but more as an “I’m not going to waste my time” kind of thing. Never in a million years would I think Fleur would have come down the stairs with that sweater on if she received one. More likely she would’ve made fun of it and never wear it, probably even throwing it away. So why, in knowing this, would Mrs. Weasley waste her time and effort towards a sweater that’ll just get her scrutinized in the end?

  25. @The Minister Meeting: It is brilliant. I love this scene. It shows how much Harry has grown. He is able to keep his cool (Better than Scrimgeour for sure) but still be very firm and get his point across. Very Dumblodoreish I might add. I also thing the Dumbledore’s man quote is one of the best in the series.

    @Wizard Music: I am a musician so I have always been interested in wizards’ music. Do they use the same instruments? Are there wizard guitar makers? Wizard Guitar Centers? What is popular? Is there Wizard Hip Hop (Which BTW would be quite hilarious). Dumblodore says “Ah, music a magic beyond what we all do here”. I would be really intrested to see what the Wizard music scene was like. We see the sporting world and, albeit briefly, see the writing world, but we never see the Music/Acting/Modeling world.

  26. @The Unbreakable Vow: This was a shocking scene. When I read this I thought Snape had to be Voldermort’s man. B/c Malfoy is obviously doing something with Dark Magic that is very taxing. And it is obviously very difficult and on Voldermort’s orders. I thought that Snape had go be on Voldermort side because I believed he wouldn’t risk death for it. *Spoiler* Obviously I was wrong because he WAS willing to choose death over doing what he did to Dumblodre. (I know I’m tipping around the ending but somebody ruined it for me so I don’t want to ruin it for others)

    @Jose’s thought on the Unbreakable Vow: I agree that this is odd because they have had no training at this age. But they have shown themselves very skilled wizards so I could see little Fred and George stealing Charlie’s wand and practicing spells.

    @Respecting your authority figures: I guess it’s because I’m a bit anti-authority but I would have no problem doing what Harry did to my President. I have never been a fan of putting anybody on a pedastool. And Harry wasn’t in the wrong. He acted calm and rational. He simply said no and here is why.

  27. About children and accidental magic: Somehow I doubt that a small child could even unintentionally kill anyone. I mean the young Voldemort killed a rabbit, but he nevr killed any of the other orphans (though what he did to those children in the cave was really disgustingly sick).

    And why is it so shocking that M. Weasley hits Fred? I mean, seriously, it was his butt! And Fred was probably exagerrating, as usual. Plus, Ron could’ve DIED, What parent wouldn’t have flipped out?!

  28. I don’t like how you show Mrs. Weasley in such a bad light…Sure she didn’t make a sweater for Fleur, but that’s only because she didn’t want to waste effort into something that she was sure that Fleur would never wear (and I mean really? Could you see Fleur wearing a homemade SWEATER?!?!)

  29. Fiery Ginny, I don’t mean to be disrespectful to the character, and I’m sure you’re right that it’s unlikely Fleur would wear the sweater (heck, for all we know, Molly DID make her one and she’s just not wearing it… Harry’s assumption could be wrong). But assuming Molly did skip Fleur, I still think it’s pretty low to make one for every person in the house but one. I mean, that’s a real slap in the face. If I were Fleur in that situation, I’d have a hard time showing my face at the dinner table, with everyone else dressed in matching sweaters, just because the gesture is so mean – whatever I thought of the sweaters themselves.

  30. Of course, the classiest thing Mrs. Weasley could have done would have been to get/make Fleur something she WOULD like (she seemed pretty attached to her scarf the first time we see her in GoF). But I just can’t feel too sorry for Fleur. From the first day we see her at Hogwarts, loudly scoffing at Dumbledore as he welcomed them graciously to the school, it was clear that she is at best obliviously tactless and at worst intentionally mean. No matter what subject is being discussed, she has to somehow get in a dig at Britain, the Weasleys, and/or life at the Burrow. While she may be a loyal supporter of the Order, I can see how she would be a real PITA in day-to-day life.

  31. I’ve wondered about Wizarding entertainment myself. We see they have music (wireless sets playing Warbeck or the Weird Sisters), and comics (I seem to remember some “Mad Muggle” or something) but is that it? Do they have Wizard Theatre? Reenactments of famous bits of history?

    Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry proudly presents our spring production of “What’s A Little Fur Among Friends?”, the story of a young werewolf trying to make his way in the world.

    I hear the special effects are fantastic!
    While the bits between Molly and Fleur are understandable, there’s one line of Molly’s that has always bothered me:

    “Please, come in, sit down, Minister!” fluttered Mrs. Weasley, straightening her hat. Have a little purkey, or some tooding….I mean–”

    And, do you want to know why that line bothers me? The missing quotation mark and the extra period in the elipses. :)

  32. Lesharo, in Tales of Beedle the Bard, Dumbledore tells the story of a Hogwarts dramatic production of ‘The Fountain of Fair Fortune,’ and how it went disastrously awry. So drama must happen on some level, though it doesn’t seem common (or seem to enter Harry’s consciousness).

  33. And ever since that day, Hogwarts never had another school play. Small wonder wizard drama didn’t enter Harry’s consciousness.

  34. @lesharo I believe you are remembering the comic: “The Adventures of Martin Miggs the Mad Muggle,” of which Harry glimpses a stack of on the floor of Ron’s room in CoS, Ch. 3, The Burrow. I assume there are other comics in the Wizarding World– that cant be the only one– I do seem to remember a mention of either Crab or Goyle reading a comic on the Express in HBP, though I don’t think a title was given. There was also a comic called Loony Nonby vs. Cornish Pixie that appeared only in the films. Also, with your question about theatre, there is of course the famous tapestry that depicts Barnabas the Barmy’s attempt to “train trolls for the ballet;” which presumes that there is ballet in the Wizarding World and likely a theatre in which to do ballet. I would guess that if wizards had ballet, they are likely to have other theatre such as opera and orchestra and such.

  35. I was also thinking about how much Harry has matured when reading this chapter – not only the fact that he asks for help these days, but also the whole conversation with Scrimgeour in the garden. I always find a deep respect for his character when finshing this chapter in particular.

  36. The thing is, because we don’t see Molly’s and Fleur’s first meeting, the question is who is the one responsible for the rift. Fleur is certainly very stuck up, but to me it always looked like the main cause for her behavior at the burrow is some sort of self-defence towards Molly, who doesn’t think that she is “good enough” for her precious son. Fleur doesn’t really seem to try to appease Molly, but then, one thing Fleur certainly is not is a suck up.

  37. I don’t usually have much to say against Molly, but Molly’s actions towards Fleur regarding a Weasley jumper aside; she has committed another quite obvious attempt to make Fleur feel unwelcome. The Weasley family gather for Christmas and she refuses to allow Bill and Fleur to sleep in the same room(Bill sharing room with the twins, Fleur sharing with Ginny)? I understand parents might want to separate teenage children from their partners when staying under their roof, but by this time Bill is over 25. It stands out as an attempt to make Fleur feel uncomfortable and indicate to Fleur that Molly does not accept Fleur as suitable for her first born.

  38. @amanda I so agree! I always feel immense satisfaction after reading Harry and Scrimgeour’s conversation in this chapter. The Harry in book five would never have said those things to Scrimgeour and certainly not have said them in the way he did in HBP. Harry almost has this casual, light-hearted tone when speaking to Scrimgeour….It reminds me of Dumbledore’s calm manner. Harry has definitely matured!
    @david I don’t see Molly refusing to let Fleur and Bill share a room as a way to make Fleur feel unwelcome… To me it’s more the issue that they are unmarried in this chapter, and while some may think that’s no big deal, to Molly I think it would be. I see Molly as a very traditional woman and I don’t think she is naive to what could have happened had she not insisted on these arrangements… Also, I wonder if Molly *actually* insisted on splitting up BIll and Fleur or if they already knew Molly wouldn’t go for them sharing a room and just decided between themselves to split up as sort of a respect thing while they were staying in Bill’s parents’ home. I’m sure all Molly had to do was give Bill a look and say how ‘nice it was that Ginny wanted to share with Fleur,’ (even though we know that Ginny wasn’t!) I can totally picture something like that happening.

  39. @Wevi. Hitting your child is much, much less common and accepted in the UK than it seems to be in the US so that’s why it is fairly shocking I have noticed many fanfics written mainly by Americans refering to it. Some of which would probably require a call from social services. Please never have children those people. Also the Dumbledore’s man through and through line so brilliant.

  40. I’ve always wondered why Scrimgeour got mad when Harry showed him “I must no tell lies” any thoughts as to why he gets mad

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