Half-Blood Prince’s Opening Chapter

by Tory

Okay – we’re all dying to start reading Half-Blood Prince (only 5 months left, guys!), so that’s what this editorial’s about – HBP’s start – the first chapter. I started thinking this over after reading a quote from JKR’s website, in which she said “I have come close to using a chapter very like this in Philosopher’s Stone (it was one of the discarded first chapters), Prisoner of Azkaban, and Order of the Phoenix, but here, finally it works, so it’s staying, and that’s all I’m going to say, but when you read it, just know that it’s been about thirteen years in the brewing.”

So, we’re looking for an ongoing theme or important aspect of PS, PoA, and OotP that the first chapter can relate to. As such, it cannot be anything in the present, because JKR had been planning to use it in Book One. So, the only logical thing left is a flashback of sorts. I was trying to think of what would have fit really well in Book One, and then it hit me – the night that Lily and James died. A full, detailed account of what happened – if you think about it, it really works well in PS and PoA, and could even somewhat fit into some of the revelations brought out in OotP.

If JKR had placed this first chapter in PS, it would have fit really nicely as how it all began, and it would have caught the reader’s interest right off the bat. More importantly, Lily’s sacrifice is what ultimately ends up saving Harry’s life, and Dumbledore brings the traces left of this sacrifice into light at the end. Instead, she left it a mystery, and focused on the Dursleys’ life – not as exciting, but an important beginning to what Harry’s life would be like for the next 10 years.

JKR then considered putting it in PoA. It would have worked well along side Harry’s flashes of what happened when the dementors came near him. After all, what happened to his parents never would have if Peter hadn’t betrayed them. Again, she left it out and I think the reason why was because in said flashback, when they found out Voldemort was coming, Lily or James would probably yell something like, ‘Peter backstabbed us, we should have kept Sirius secret-keeper,’ or something along those lines. This important little tidbit is something that we weren’t supposed to know about until the end of PoA, so again the first chapter was left on the cutting room floor.

Finally, it would have fit in OotP, because Voldemort had actually succeeded in his return to power and held an underlying fear within Harry. IN this book, Harry actually sees his father and mother in Snape’s memory, and he is forced to really think about the kind of people they were. Because of their deaths, Sirius becomes like a ‘mix of a father and a brother’ to Harry. In general, family is an important theme throughout the whole book. Also, Harry finds out pretty much everything about what he will be forced to do, and I have a feeling that a lot of that will have to do with the night Lily and James died.

The point is that all three of these books have important aspects of them revolving around Harry’s parents and – more importantly – their deaths, Voldemort, and Lily’s sacrifice. This makes it very possible that this ‘first chapter’ would be the same.

What we can expect from the first chapter:

  • We get to read the exact dialogue of what happened (fill in the blanks between the flashes Harry hears in PoA)
  • Probably some (maybe useless) background info – say for example, James is coming home from work – we might find out what he did for a living, whether or not Lily worked, what they were cooking for dinner, etc.
  • Depending on how far back it goes (it is an entire chapter, after all), we may see Lily and/or James preparing the protection/sacrifice charm. I do not believe magic this powerful and ancient could be invoked ‘unwittingly’ as Voldemort assumed. I think it would have to be carefully planned and executed to work properly. The Potters would have known that Voldemort was after their son (Dumbledore would have likely told them) and thus they would have time to prepare. However, I’m skeptical of this because it seems so important to how Harry might have to kill Voldemort in the end. If so, it would fit much better in Book Seven.
  • We see whether Peter was there as well (solving that whole wand mystery people have been talking about)

Why it may not work:

  • The main reason is that we rarely know what Harry doesn’t (however, there is the exception of the 2nd chapter in PS, and the 1st chapter in GoF – both of which were flashbacks – ahem)
  • This chapter would probably contain some very important info, especially if it had to do with Lily’s charm – something JKR may not want us to know about until the end.

All in all, this chapter was bound to come up sooner or later, and the only people who were there when it happened (as far as we know) are Lily, James, Harry, and Voldemort. Lily and James are both dead, Harry was too little to remember anything, and since Voldemort isn’t soon likely to have a nice, long detailed chat with Harry about it, a flashback only makes sense. The question we should be asking now is – what could happen in HBP that relates to sacrifice, love, Harry’s blood, or Voldemort?

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