Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - Reread Review (Mario)

The sixth book radically changes the course of the series, more than any previous book before it. Up to this point, Harry Potter has been a slice of life, wainscot fantasy series. For those who might be unfamiliar with the term, wainscot fantasy (or wainscot fiction in general) is a story in which there is a hidden world “hiding behind the wainscot”. The story often begins with the protagonist’s discovery of the hidden world. Another example of wainscot fantasy is Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman in which there is another London that exists below the city we all know from the real world. Unsurprisingly, it’s called London Below. Harry Potter falls into this category of fiction because the Wizarding World co-exists with the real world and this co-existence happens completely unbeknownst to those who are not part of the hidden world. Part of the popularity of the series has to do with the idea that, as described in the novels, the Wizarding World could be real. I know that I’m not the only person to have day dreamed about receiving my very own letter from Hogwarts, proving to me that I was a wizard but, more importantly, that the world depicted in Harry Potter is real. So, without a Hogwarts letter of our very own, the next best way of being part of that world was to read the books. The discovery of the hidden world and the exploration of the relationship between the Muggle world and the Wizarding Community is a fundamental component of the series. The sixth book changes that’s, not by eliminating that component but by shifting the focus away from it considerably.

A Rambling Second Look at the Series:
Let’s start by running through the series book by book and pointing out the use of wainscot fiction throughout the series, as well as how it played with the formula of the books. In the first book Harry is introduced to a hidden world, a world in which he is a famous boy wizard because of events that happened when he was a baby. Events he doesn’t even remember. The first novel is as much about the discovery of this hidden world as the re-emerging conflict of the second war against Voldemort. I would argue that the story that really hooked readers was the discovery of the new world. Hagrid and his magic umbrella, Diagon Alley, Platform 9¾, the Hogwarts Express, Hogwarts, Quidditch, magic lessons. Even small, everyday things are different and more exciting in the Wizarding World. Even candy! You might be wondering why this is such a big deal. There are a lot of differences between the real world and fictional worlds in fantasy literature. Well the big deal is that in Harry Potter the relationship between our world and the Wizarding World plays a crucial role in the establishment of the new fictional world. Harry’s point of view is key to the success of the first book because he knows absolutely nothing about the world of magic. Even someone like Aunt Petunia knows more about real magic than he does.

For the most part, the discovery of the hidden world is done through slice of life. If you remove Voldemort from the first book, the story that is left is about a young boy discovering he is a wizard and going to school. At the school he learns about magic, he makes friends, he fights a mountain troll in the toilets, he because a notably young and skilled Quidditch player and he ends his first year with a burning desire to fast forward through the horrible summer with the Dursleys and climb about the Hogwarts Express once more. I’m not suggesting that the Voldemort plot doesn’t play a role in making the book interesting. It does. I’m just trying to highlight the importance of what I haven’t talked about yet. If you want to know what I think about the inclusion of mystery in the series and the conflict with Voldemort, go reread my posts on the earlier novels in the series.

The second and third books are more of the same but expanded further. Harry and his friends attend school and more elements of the Wizarding World are added to the story (social classes, wizard novelists, werewolves, animagus, villages populated entirely by witches and wizards, etc.) Again, the structure of those books is part slice of life discovery of the Wizarding World and the mysterious happenings at Hogwarts and how those mysteries are tied to Harry’s destiny and the inevitable fight against Voldemort.

With the fourth book, The Goblet of Fire, Rowling takes the exploration of the Wizarding World and the conflict with Voldemort and kicks them up several notches. The inclusion of the Quidditch World cup introduces the reader to wizarding communities from other places around the world. We also learn about how such a large sporting event is organized to maintain a level of secrecy that will make Muggles more or less oblivious as to what’s happening. This gives the reader insight into certain functions of the Ministry of Magic. It also plays with the idea that there are things that the Wizarding World will be unable to keep completely hidden from Muggles.  Likewise, the Triwizard Tournament introduces the idea that there are other schools of witchcraft and wizardry. The conflict with Voldemort also moves ahead with his physical resurrection. I would argue that The Goblet of Fire is one of the most balanced books as far as the equal focus given to slice of life world building and advancement of the series overarching plot. With the fifth book there is another good balance between slice of life and the overarching plot. We learn more about the history of certain characters and how that informs the main confrontation with Voldemort, which is still to come. We get more familiar with the workings of the Ministry and we learn more about Voldemort’s plans, though that’s only made concrete later on in the book.

Up to this point, none of the books have made more than short and sporadic, though very meaningful, contributions to the overarching plot of the series. The amount of new information we get regarding Voldemort and his personal goals is surprisingly slight when we consider the large number of pages where he is the principal antagonist of young Harry. In The Chamber of Secrets as well as The Prisoner of Azkaban Voldemort is only indirectly involved as the villain. By the time the sixth book begins, there are relatively few discoveries to be made about the Wizarding World. It’s been extensively setup during the previous book and the focus now shifts quite heavily towards the conflict between Harry and Voldemort. Specifically, it focuses on Voldemort’s past history, his motivations and the goals he has set for himself. In order to allow for that conflict to have meaning, depth and resonance for the characters and therefore the readers, Rowling had to setup the main players in that conflict. The best way to do so is to explore the one facet of the story we haven’t really been exploring for the first five books: Voldemort as a character and not just as a representation of evil in the series.

She could have left it at what we already knew from the previous books but, personally, that would have been ineffectual since we didn’t know much beyond the fact that Voldemort did terrible things in the past and today, he’s still doing terrible things. We needed to get some time inside of Voldemort’s head and Rowling delivered on this point. She also made it extra special and rewarding for readers by having us be introduced to Voldemort by Dumbledore. The time spent talking ‘round the pensieve are some of my favourite parts of the novel. One of the reasons I didn’t like the fifth book as much as I remembered is because the ending of the fourth book made it feel like the fifth book would be completely different from what came before. In some ways it was, in many more ways it wasn’t. The fifth book doesn’t follow the formula and structure of previous book but, in essence, it’s very similar. The sixth book isn’t. It’s different. It’s more closely aligned with my expectations and it advances the plot in a spectacularly interesting way. The final book in the series could not have had a better setup.

Danish edition cover.
In The Half-Blood Prince we learn much more about Voldemort and his goals than we learn new things about the Wizarding World. In fact, there are a lot of world building elements and characters introduced in previous books that make a significant return in this book. The focus of the series has shifted for the better. Malfoy is more important to Harry and the plot than ever before. Snape is also a focus both for Harry and for Dumbledore. Harry doesn’t just continue to dislike Snape and Malfoy, he’s convinced they’re plotting something and that makes him think about them way more than he normally does during the school year. Borgin and Burkes make a return, and after the absence of Diagon Alley in the fifth book, it makes another presence in this one. Extensive use of the Pensieve is made. Characters such as Fleur Delacour, Bill Weasley, Remus Lupin and Tonks all help to round out the cast. Some of the characters that played a larger role in the earlier books get their little moments to shine, almost to remind the reader that they’re still around and still have a role to play in the series (Hagrid, some of the teachers and members of the Order). At this point in the series, the elements of wainscoting are almost all gone but not completely, as evidenced by the first chapter “The Other Minister”. The slice of life aspects are doing as well as ever with an increased focus on Quidditch we haven’t seen since the third book, but mostly on the teen romance which gets quite a bit of exposure in this book. It’s a little crazy to think about just how much Ron and Hermione deal with romance related issues during this book. They’re less active in Harry’s adventuring than usual and they even routinely disagree with him when it comes to Malfoy and his work for Voldemort. Romance, the Slug Club, school and Quidditch keep Ron and Hermione pretty occupied and it’s only towards the end of the book that they get pulled into the conflicts of the Second Wizarding War where they plan an important role during the Battle of the Astronomy Tower.

Harry, Voldemort, and the Quest:
At this point you might be asking yourself why any of his matters. I’ve written a lot about the structure and formula of individual book and how they compare to one another, but I haven’t yet written about the structure of the series as a whole. I wanted to do that in order to better present just how different and important the sixth book is to the series. By doing so I can also better explain why I enjoyed it so very much. It’s might be a little early to make a declaration of it considering I haven’t reread the final book in the series, but The Half-Blood Prince might be my favourite Harry Potter book. I might have to revise that later but as it stands now, it’s one in the top three for sure.

One of the key components of The Half-Blood Prince, and also one of the more interesting, is that Rowling takes the time to develop and define Voldemort as a person and as a character. Before this, he was a vaguely defined villain. We knew of him and what he’s done in the past (he did bad stuff and people died) and we also knew what he’s done in the present story (more bad stuff, people died) but aside from that, the reader didn’t have much more information than that. I realize I’m simplifying things for the sake of argument, but the sheer amount of knowledge we gain when reading the sixth book is a rather astonishing leap forward in our understanding of Voldemort and his motivation.

He is motivated by his experience as a child as well as his introduction to and his understanding of the Wizarding World. When Dumbledore tells him that he is a wizard, one of young Tom Riddle’s first thoughts is that his father must have been the one of his parents to wield magic. His thought process was based on the fact that his mother died shortly after giving birth and surely she would not have died if she could use magic. This flawed concept of magic acted as the foundation of Riddle’s introduction to magic. All of his years of study at Hogwarts weren’t able to correct that incorrect notion of how powerful magic is and how easily death can be thwarted. After discovering that his father was a Muggle and his mother a Witch, Voldemort’s fear of death was amplified and his desire to avoid it at all cost became his primary goal in life. To defeat death, a person must become immortal and immortality is what he’s after.

I think it’s important to point out that Voldemort doesn’t attempt to become master of death by acquiring and the three Deathly Hallows. Of course, to be the Master of Death is not only to possess all three items, but also to understand that there are things much worse than death. Voldemort’s relationship with death is one based on fear and it makes sense that he would choose to run away from death instead of trying to understand it.

His search for immortality led him down the path of dark magic and that eventually led to the knowledge of Horcruxes. He pursued his interest in studying Horcruxes to a point where he was even able to put it to practice. We still do not know everything that is required for the production of a Horcrux but we do know some of the key components. A witch or wizard needs to tear their soul apart with the goal of hiding one part in an object. By doing so, a person can prevent themselves from completely dying. Their physical body can be completely destroyed but if they have a Horcrux anchoring their soul, they cannot past beyond the Veil (the afterlife in Harry Potter). The person will remain alive but it’s “a half-life, a cursed life”. They can eventually get another body, either through possession (Quirrell) or by creating a body like Voldemort succeeded in doing at the end of The Goblet of Fire. As long as there is one Horcrux left, that person can ideally never die.

We also learn that traditionally, the creation of Horcruxes was never really attempted beyond one or two because of the difficulties inherent in producing just a single Horcrux. In addition to this, splitting your soul into several pieces will affect you physically and mentally. It’s a big price to pay. Splitting a soul requires one of the most evil acts imaginable, the act of murder. I do not believe that each murder equals a Horcrux. I think it’s more the idea that by murdering someone your soul gets damaged. A person who is creating a Horcrux will take advantage of that damage and use it to clearly separate their soul into separate pieces. Rowling informed the reader that murdering someone causes near-irreparable damage to the soul. The only way to repair that damage is to repent and feel remorse for the actions that cause the soul to rip apart. Doing so will cause the witch or wizard great pain. Emotional catharsis, essentially, is what would repair damage to the soul. The whole idea of Horcruxes reinforces once more that the most powerful types of magic are closely tied to emotions.

French cover.

Voldemort’s goal was to create seven Horcruxes, based on the fact that seven is a powerful number in the realm of magic. He never reached that goal. While he managed to create seven Horcruxes, he never had seven of them at the same time (Tom Riddle’s diary is destroyed before Nagini is made a Horcrux). This new information on one of Voldemort’s life long goals is extremely welcome at this point in the series. Since the very first book we’ve heard a lot about Voldemort but very little of it had anything to do with what Voldemort wants and what his plans are. Based on the information from the first five books once can surmise Voldemort’s goal is the most clichéd goal of them all: amassing power and ruling the (Wizarding) world. Maybe? This ambiguity in the motivations of Harry Potter’s villain has been kind of frustrating for me during the reread. When I was waiting for the books to be release I was just so thrilled to have hundreds of pages to read and I didn’t worry so much about how those books fit together in a larger structure.

Learning about Voldemort’s fear and desires has provided valuable information to explain his motivation in previous books. When Voldemort was seemingly killed by the unsuccessful killing curse on Harry, he didn’t actually die because of the existence of several Horcruxes. Because of this he was a misty presence, floating around. It took him several years to get to grips with his new reality, leading the reader to believe that being kept alive by the existing of a Horcrux is painful, both physically and mentally. Still alive but in a weird and unsatisfying way, Voldemort’s task was to find a body. Before he possessed Quirrell he took over the bodies of small animals along the way. He couldn’t possess just anyone because he was still very weak. Once a part of Quirrell’s body, Voldemort had to strengthen himself and that’s why he went after the philosopher’s stone. I’ve wondered why Voldemort didn’t just take over Quirrell’s body and the answer I’ve given myself is that he was likely too weak and maybe he didn’t want to possess that particular body permanently. Quirrell was just a tool.

During the second book, one of the Horcruxes nearly achieves independent sentience form the object it was hidden in. Tom Riddle’s diary sapped the life energy from Ginny for almost an entire school year and, according to interviews with Rowling, had Harry not destroyed the diary, Ginny would have become fully possessed by the soul fragment of Voldemort’s teen self. That’s a pretty horrific idea. Horcruxes, even on their own, are very dangerous magic. The search for a new body ended quite spectacularly in the fourth book where Voldemort created a body with the help of Wormtail, which replaced his tiny baby-like body which he acquired . . . somewhere.

All of this led to the second part of Voldemort’s arc in the series. Now that he’s gotten all of his power back, what will he do? His goals are twofold: 1) kill Harry Potter and 2) Create a complete set of 7 Horcruxes. Both of these goals are about preventing death and really, they’re just a continuation of what he started during the First Wizarding War. He’s tried to kill Harry several times and he’s been unsuccessful. In the fifth book he attempts to acquire the prophecy in the hopes of gaining additional knowledge on how to kill Harry. That’s all well and good but what made it interesting to me was learning why. Why and how did he do what he did? That’s where the sixth book comes in and during Dumbledore’s special trips into the Pensieve, many, many answers were provided.

The fear of death and the desire to evade it at all costs dominated Voldemort’s life but that part of his life isn’t public. People know of Voldemort for his immense power in the dark arts and his psychopathic behaviour. He likes to terrorize others to make himself feel superior. He also uses people as a means to get what he wants. People are objects and opportunities to him and he manipulates them with fear. Draco Malfoy’s inability to kill Dumbledore when he finds him injured and defenceless in the Astronomy Tower is telling. Draco is not a murderer. He’s a bully and an opportunist, but he’s not so evil as to murder someone. Yet he did what Voldemort ordered because he feared for his life but also for the wellbeing of his parents. Voldemort was threatening to kill him if he didn’t succeed in bringing Death Eaters into Hogwarts and Draco had all the reasons in the world to believe that Voldemort would act on his threat. Learning about Voldemort through trips in other people’s memories didn’t just give us Voldemort’s biography. We learned about him and that meant a lot. It explained his past and current behaviour, it reinforced his public persona, but most importantly it gave us insight into the mind of a madman which gave Harry the better understanding on his enemy. By defining the evil of the series, Rowling also defined the hero’s journey and mission for the final book.

Harry’s Quest:
In opposition to the news of Voldemort’s goals and purpose in life, Harry now has a very clear plan of attack. The slice of life elements are pushed aside more than ever and the focus is now on the completion of a quest. I’ve already explained the shift in focus from the first and second half of the series but I want to emphasize that the further shift that occurs in The Half-Blood Prince brings the story of Harry Potter much closer to the traditional fantasy story, in both structure and plot. In traditional fantasy stories, the hero often has a quest to accomplish. On that quest he is helped by a mentor and friends and the end goal is often the destruction of a character who is the living embodiment of Evil. While some of these elements have been in place since early on in the series, Harry’s quest as a hero has never been so clearly defined as it is in this book.

After learning that the only way to defeat Voldemort is to first destroy all of his Horcruxes, Harry must set out to find them and destroy them. This knowledge, as well as the knowledge and development of his powers (magic) have been given to him by a host of mentors. Because one of the main aspects of the series is a school, it stands to reason that Harry had many teachers along the way to acquiring impressive magical abilities. They range from Hagrid (introduction to the Wizarding World and magic) and his other professors (McGonagall, Snape, etc.) as well as Dumbledore who, more than any other character, personifies the traditional idea of a mentor. It’s never been clearer as Dumbledore spent a considerable amount of his time in this book teaching Harry about Voldemort and Horcruxes. They even accomplish a part of the quest together during Harry’s first conscious trip to find and destroy a Horcrux. Dumbledore’s role as a mentor in the vein of traditional fantasy stories is solidified by his death. It’s common in fantasy stories for the mentor to die or to disappear. This serves a couple of functions, such as inspiring the hero to face his destiny and complete his quest. Dumbledore’s death isn’t just an emotional character moment, it also plays a crucial role for the plot and the structure of the entire series.

Another component of traditional fantasy stories is that the hero is destined to be the hero. It’s not something he choose, it’s something external that is imposed on him. Trelawney prophesized that there would be a half-blood wizard who will one day defeat Voldemort and through Voldemort’s choosing of Harry as that prophesized threat, Harry was destined to become the hero of the Wizarding World. As far as quests go, heroes are nearly always accompanied by close friends. Harry’s had his friends along with him since the very first book and while he’s faced some of the earlier threats alone (the first two books), Hermione and Ron play a larger role in the climactic events of later books. While these elements are familiar to regular readers of fantasy literature, the story is still gripping due to the originality of their delivery as a cohesive story throughout the series. Some of these elements come late in the game (the prophecy and the quest, specifically) while others have been present since the very beginning. Rowling manages to keep things interesting by using the seldom used sub-genre of wainscot fantasy which increased the level of familiarity with Harry’s personal experience (his discovery of a hidden world of witches and wizards) and allowing the author to create a world that is fascinating on its own (as it makes up for a very large portion of the first few books).

Perhaps it’s because The Half-Blood Prince is the penultimate novel in the series that the sixth book feels so different than anything that’s come before it. The first five books work very well on their own. Each book tells a cohesive story from beginning to end even if there are significantly more elements add to each additional book that fits within the larger context of the series. The sixth book takes that to a higher level than ever before. I personally find that the ending, while rather gloomy, works very well but it’s not an ending to the story of the sixth book. It’s an ending to the formulaic “one year at Hogwarts” books that precede it. As such, The Half-Blood Prince book can be viewed as a novel in which the final confrontations of the seventh and last book in the series are setup. Well, yes. That’s exactly what it is and in my opinion it’s about one book too late and that’s why it’s so satisfying to me. The feeling and tone of the ending of the sixth book is similar to the end of the fourth. Something very important has changed in the Wizarding World. It announces change for the world the characters inhabit and also for the structure of the upcoming novel. The fourth book was about the return of the most evil wizard in modern times and the sixth book is about the loss of the most benevolent wizard of the same era. The fourth book hinted at darker times to come and the sixth book has the same message but it’s for days that will be even darker still.

The series as a whole has a plot and a story all its own and it’s been more or less tied to the story and plot of each individual novel. The sixth book, more than any, more clearly defines what the overarching story has been and will be. It’s about Voldemort and Harry, specifically their introduction to the world of Wizardry and how that impacted them. For Voldemort, the discovery of the Wizarding World was akin to the discovery of a toy or a prize that he can take away from others and enjoy for himself. It’s a trophy to be had. For Harry, it’s a wondrous discovery to be shared with others and cared for in order to allow for future generations to be able to enjoy again. He, and all the other characters his age and younger, have been living in a very dark world. Similarly to how the Wizarding World is hidden from Muggles, there is a world of Dark Magic that has been bubbling under the comforting reality of Hogwarts and it has burst to the surface. It’s Harry’s world view of love, compassion, friendship and growth versus Lord Voldemort’s much darker, sinister and stifling world view. That we now understand Harry and Voldemort better than we’ve ever understood them before, the scene is set, not for the last Harry Potter book in the sense of a slice of life year at Hogwarts studying magic, but for Harry Potter the series about the battle against Lord Voldemort and the end of a cultural phenomenon. I cannot recall another book in any genre that so skilfully setup the climax of a series while also adding depth of character for some of the main players in the saga other than Harry, that heretofore had only been hinted at. I’m amazed that Rowling provided so many answers to dozens of questions I had about the series while simultaneously explaining or shedding new light on events of previous books. The humanization of Voldemort is also noteworthy. During his quest for immortality, fuelled by a fear of death, he created several Horcruxes. This caused him to become increasingly dehumanised. Through some stellar writing in the sixth book, Rowling managed to humanise this monster by giving us an informative look into his past and psyche. If you want to really understand Voldemort, you need to read the sixth book. He’s never been so terrifying as well as fascinating to read about.

Random Thoughts:
You might be thinking that I left a lot of good stuff out of my post and you’d be right. There are really good moments involving tons of characters. I love the romance between Tonks and Lupin, the inclusion of Fenrir Greyback, Snape and Malfoy both get some really good moments. Even though most of the internet disagrees, Ron and Hermione are delightful as the couple-to-be and being incredibly awkward with their feelings. I’d love to talk about all of the stuff I loved but I had a pretty big thoughts on the structure of the series and how the sixth book fits into that while also streamlining the direction of the end of the series. I just didn’t have enough room for it all. I’ve got two solutions: 1) go read Myriam’s post from earlier in the week and 2) enjoy my larger than usual random thoughts section. 

Random Thought: On their way to the Burrow, Dumbledore brings Harry to meet Horace Slughorn. It's a bit cruel of Rowling to give us these buddy cop moments with Harry and Dumbledore in the same book in which she kills him.

Random Thought: Like most books in the series Rowling piles mystery upon mystery. A lot of them begin early on in the book. What is Draco up to? Where do Snape’s true allegiance lie? What happened to Dumbledore’s hand? Why is Lavender Brown so incredibly annoying as a romantic interest for Ron? What kind of lessons will Dumbledore give Harry and what are their purpose? What is Voldemort up to? Who is the Half-Blood Prince?

Random Thought: Rowling’s surprise twist that Slughorn won’t be teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts but Potions is great. Particularly because Snape gest to teach the subject he’s been after for years.

Random Thought: Dumbledore is without a doubt a great character, but what was he doing during the First Wizarding War? I’m asking because his past is closely related to Voldemort’s (as close as you can get, essentially) yet a lot of these memories he shares with Harry appear to have been recently acquired. I say this because he went after a Horcrux during the summer and I’m certain that if he knew of the existence of Horcruxes years ago he would have attempted to destroy them years ago. As knowledgeable, skilful and wise that he is, he appears to be really late on the pick-up with defending the Wizarding World against Voldemort. Maybe it’s because he knows about the prophecy and so he left it up to Harry, realizing that he’ll play a supporting role. Even if that’s the case, he didn’t do too good a job because it took him years to get to a point where he’s actually teaching Harry stuff that will be specific to his role as the Chosen One.

Random Thought: Am I the only person who’s sad that Aragog is dead? It would have been awesome if he would have led a charge against Voldemort’s troop during the battle at Hogwarts.

Random Thought: Does anybody else feels Hagrid was a bit underused in this book? That’s actually a critique I would make of a lot of characters and I think it has to do with the more streamlined focus of the story. It’s the before last book and I don’t think Rowling has the luxury of exploring the Wizarding World and hanging out with all of our favourite characters.

Random Thought: Harry correctly guesses who the villain (or culprit) of this novel is by guessing the Draco is plotting something. . I have a few thoughts on this. Harry continuously thinks Malfoy is the culprit of everything. It was fine early on in the series because then Malfoy was actually able to be a good school rival or enemy equal to the same level (of close to the same level) of ability as Harry. Now that Harry has faced Voldemort and other serious and gravely dangerous situations, Malfoy seems insignificant in comparison. Also, Malfoy's superiority complex and self-importance make him equally dangerous to himself as he is to others in this time of the Second Wizarding War.

The other reason it's annoying is that I get a feel that Rowling is making Harry focus on Malfoy so much to trick the reader into thinking Malfoy isn't the main villain at Hogwarts this year. The reason she might have to trick the reader is that so far, Harry has been wrong about the Hogwarts mystery villain every year (in all the books). That can make your protagonist look less than capable of being the Chosen one. Harry has a lot of good and heroic qualities but he's also very good at being wrong. He's had a lot of luck so far and succeeds as much because of the support of his friends (ain't nothing wrong with that) than because of his own skills. So maybe, Rowling wants Harry to be right about the villain so she sets up specific situations in the book that make Harry suspicious of Draco and has the other characters be more convinced of Draco’s innocence.

Random Thought: I like Slughorn as a character. He’s an opportunistic collector of pseudo-friends and he brings an interesting dynamic to the relationship of characters in the book. It’s a good thing that Rowling made him mostly friendly and jovial; otherwise he would likely have turn out to be unlikeable. 

Random Thought: Young Tom literally has no money and we learn that there is a fund for students who do not have the means to buy what he need for school. Is that a Hogwarts fund or a Ministry fund? If it’s a Ministry fund it adds another dimension to the governing body of the Wizarding World. It means the ministry isn't just policing their citizens; it also helps them through social programs such as educational funding. Also how poor do you have to be to be eligible for this fund? The Weasleys could use it most likely. Does it still exist in the present day?

Random Thought: Dumbledore is interesting as a disciplinarian. He has softened with age. Harry gives him lip from time to time and he's also very inquisitive but Dumbledore never seems to mind. It could be because Dumbledore likes Harry and knows the difficult life he's had. Young Tom is angry and rude with Dumbledore and he makes it quite clear that he doesn’t stand for that kind of nonsense. At least not back then.  

Random Thought: I like that Rowling is showing memories that do not distinctly reflect what Voldemort is up to. They do not present as complete a picture as the memories we’ve seen in previous books (the Ministry hearings in The Goblet of Fire for example). It's good for a few reasons. One, we learn of who Dumbledore got these memories from (Morfin, Hokey, etc) and they're more difficult to get than other memories so far because Voldemort used Legilimency and other memory altering magic to hide his actions and prevent being pursued by the Ministry of Magic. They also force Dumbledore and Harry to figure out what happened by filling in the blanks. The more you understand the young Tom Riddle the better you can hypothesis what Voldemort was up to later in life. Dumbledore’s commentary and analysis of the memories are as interesting and informative as the memories themselves.

Random Thought: There is an Auror named Proudfoot. Is that an homage to Tolkien?

Random Thought: A copy of Advanced Potion-Making costs nine Galleons. What?! That seems really expensive, even for a textbook. According to Harry Potter Wiki, one Galleon is equivalent to $10.17 in US dollars. That means the book costs $91.53 in US dollars. I also found a Wizarding World Currency Converter and according to that, 9 Galleons is equivalent to $96.21 Canadian dollars or $90.63 US dollars (I’m not sure what currency rate they’re using). Either way, $90+ dollars for a potions textbook? Pfft!

Random Thought: What are first years doing at the Gryffindor Quidditch tryouts? I thoughts only second years and up could play on the teams.

Random Thought: Lupin says that spells and jinxes come in and out of vogue. Well that just seems to make sense, doesn't it? I quite like that idea.

Random Thought: I wish we could have had more Quidditch commentary from Luna. You know, that Rowling mentioned she's not a fan of Ron and Hermione as a married couple; I would love to see Ron and Luna as a married couple. That would be great. Quick, to your keyboards fan fiction writers!

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