The Underground Lake #19: The Official Reader’s Guide to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Part 1

by Brandon

Today is two-for-one day, and to make up for my horrible disregard for all things Underground Lake, I stand before you now with another editorial, this one not the fluff of the last one. The reason I posted the last one is that we are almost 90 days away from the release of HBP. We’ve seen the cover. We know the page count. We know three chapter titles. We’re still guessin’ ’bout that darn lion man (sorry to burst your bubble guys, but I think it is either the new DADA or more likely Ron after a bad transfiguration lesson – remember that in sixth year, we start animal transfigurations). But I digress. Everyone seems so on edge and tense about the imminent release of HBP, so I thought we all needed a quick breather from the searing debates. Contrary to popular opinion, I’m not the complete dork I seem to be. I’m only about 80% dork, thank you very much. But again, I digress.

Now we are in more serious territory. As I write this, the release of HBP is 91 days away. Now I know that we are all busy re-reading One through Five; we’re trying to gather a few more scraps of clues, those subtle hints, those infinitesimal specks hidden amongst the text that will help us unravel the mystery behind Harry Potter even just a few pages sooner than JKR reveals it.

I am an AP English graduate. For four and a half years of my life, all I did in English class was read books and analyze the crap out of them. I’m talking from long-winded Dickens to soliloquizing Shakespeare. All I did was read. We had to analyze for language, images, diction, detail, syntax and tone. We had to be able to spot metaphors and foreshadowing miles away. I have decided to devote this entry to my AP English teachers and actually put all that crap to good use and outline what I believe will happen in Book Six so that we will all be ready. I submit for your entertainment and consideration: THE OFFICIAL READER’S GUIDE TO HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE!


My mantra is, “THE WHEELS ARE IN MOTION.” But the wheels can’t be in motion without a road to drive on. This is where structure comes in. In order to know what’s going to happen, you have to know how things usually happen. Aside from the little additions every now and then the basic structure of the Harry Potter novel is as follows:

1. Introduction

In Books One and Four (and if the rumors are true, Book Six as well), we have a section that breaks the format by not being in Harry’s point of view. This POV break happens only in this chapter as well as the early sections of Books One and Two before Harry becomes self-aware. If you look at the language, you notice that the reasons Books One and Two are so much shorter is that Harry is not nearly as introspective in them. When we hit Book Three (puberty anyone?), Harry becomes much more introspective and mentally critical of himself and the strange predicaments he finds himself in (especially in regards to Cho).

In any event, the significance of my famously phrased “fake chapter one” is to let us know something that Harry doesn’t know. Every time, this segment is crucial. In Book One, we discover how Harry came to be a resident of Number 4 Privet Drive. And if you are a reader of my column, you know that Chapter 1 Book 1 may be the single most important chapter in the whole series (Lost day, anyone?).

If there is a false chapter 1, read it with a fine-toothed comb, because not only will we know something Harry doesn’t, but we also learn some piece of info that will be used later (Riddle House, anyone?).

2. The Real Chapter One a.k.a. The Dursley Episode

The real Chapter one will either be the first or second physical chapter of the book, but it will be very helpful. First off, we know that our old pal Harry will find some new way to infuriate the Dursleys – whether it’s blowing up aunts or dementing Dudley or dropping cakes on visitor’s heads.

But most importantly, we find out about the summer. You see, time never stops between school years. Things progress and feelings change and intensify. The summer between one and two was hell for Harry as was between two and three. The summer between three and four was excellent for him. He got to talk to his friends and get sweets and food as well as leave early to go the QWC. We won’t mention the summer between four and five ’cause it’s just too painful.

One thing is clear. The Dursley episode will be poignant, yet funny. Also look for something new about the Dursleys. Every Dursley episode, we discover something new about either Dudley or Petunia or both, because there is still a part of them both that is intrinsically linked to Harry.

3. And We’re Off

Here is the narrative hook. Something happens at the Dursleys that sets the wheels in motion and gets Harry out of the house (in order: Hagrid, Dobby, Aunt Marge, invitation to the Quidditch World Cup and Dementors). Harry is exposed to something new that takes him away from the Dursleys but also catapults the story into phase two by starting the mystery and suspense. Strange occurrences will begin at this point that we won’t have any clue about until much later, but recognize the oddity when you see it.

4. New Locations

After Harry leaves the Dursleys, he always gets to explore a new place he’s never been before that is good and comfortable to him. In Book One, he gets to explore Diagon Alley. Book Two takes us to the Burrow. Book Three is the introduction to the Knight Bus. Book Four takes us back to the Weasleys, but only for a brief rest on the way to the campsite of the QWC. Book Five, we get introduced to the very formidable 12 Grimmauld Place.

Count on a new place for Harry to explore. This place is usually where Harry receives a new bit of information, as well as where he gets to catch up with Ron and Hermione and find out what’s been happening over the summer in the magical world. LOOK FOR OWL SCORES TO POSSIBLY BE REVEALED HERE!


At this point in the story, once Harry is settled in, RIGHT BEFORE WE GET TO PLATFORM NINE AND THREE QUARTERS, a crucial event will take place or a piece of information will be revealed that will affect the outcome of the entire book. Sometimes it’s so small you miss it, and other times it’s so huge that it leaps off the page and bites you. Let’s recap, shall we:

  • Book 1 – Harry receives a “special wand” and learns who killed his parents
  • Book 2 – Ginny is given Tom Riddle’s diary; the gang meets Gilderoy Lockhart
  • Book 3 – Hermione buys Crookshanks and he and Wormtail become fast friends; Harry is told not to go looking for Sirius Black
  • Book 4 – Harry’s wand is stolen, the Dark mark is conjured, Mad-Eye Moody is attacked at his home, and we learn about the Death Eaters
  • Book 5 – Harry goes to the Ministry of Magic and has his trial; Harry learns about the order.

This section of the book has and will have so many important pieces that can easily be missed. Watch for anything out of the ordinary and remember it. Make connections and remember that the wheels are in motion!

6. The Journey to Hogwarts

Be it train or Ford Anglia, Harry’s got to get to Hogwarts. The journey is always important because something always happens that challenges Harry’s group dynamic and sets him apart from the rest of the students. Book One, he shares with Ron and rejects Draco Malfoy. Book Two, Ron and Harry have to spend a lot of time in that car alone but that time is bonding time. Book Three gives us a Dementor attack and the fact that Harry faints and NO ONE ELSE faints. Book Four, we learn about Durmstrang and Hogwarts security and interschool politics that will come into play with the Triwizard Tournament. In Book Five, not only is Sirius seen, but also since Ron and Hermione are prefects, Harry must sit with Neville and Ginny; he also meets Luna Lovegood.

7. The First Feast

WATCH THE WEATHER! In Books One and Two, it doesn’t rain during the feast, but in Books Three, Four and Five (much “darker” years at Hogwarts), it is raining. Remember the weather to see when and if it clears up because the weather at the feast sets the tone for the rest of the book.

Also IMPORTANT: MEET YOUR NEW DADA PROFESSOR. With the exception of Book Two, we meet our new DADA professor and get our first taste of him or her as well as how they are received by the rest of the staff (yes, I know we always hear of or see the new DADA beforehand, but here is where it is confirmed). Pay attention to how they are treated by the rest of the people in the room.

8. First Week Jitters

We discover what the trio’s classes are and when, and we also get a glimpse into what they will be studying as well as seeing the new DADA professor in action. This one is crucial because at least one of the lessons will figure prominently into the mystery storyline (Mandrakes, Boggarts, and Unforgivable Curses! Oh My!)


Halloween is always important in giving us a real glimpse at the foe of the book, who will reveal himself in some way. Halloween also has some event that brings everyone together to witness something massive.

  • Book 1 – TROLL IN THE DUNGEON! You know what else happens. If not, shame on you.
  • Book 2 – Death-Day Party and the first basilisk attack. THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED!
  • Book 3 – First Sirius Black break-in
  • Book 4 – Harry becomes the fourth champion in the Tri-Wizard tournament.

Interestingly enough, Book Five does not include Halloween. If it did though, it would have taken place on page 401. But around that time was the first official meeting of the D.A., as well as the first Quidditch match.

Who knows if Halloween will reappear as a prominent Book Six holiday? Just watch the months. If it happens on Halloween, it’s huge.

10. Competitions Galore

After Halloween, we have our first Quidditch match, which is invariably Gryffindor versus Slytherin. The only exception is Book Four where we have the Tri-Wizard Tournament’s first task.

Look for school rivalry to ensue and for Harry to be at conflict with himself as well as his friends as he negotiates his studies with the necessity to prepare of the upcoming competition. What will be interesting with Book Six is seeing whether or not Harry will be able to or even want to play Quidditch again.

11. The Twelve Trials of Christmas

Christmas always brings with it a Weasley sweater and an important piece of information discovered. With the exception of Book Five, Harry invariably spends Christmas at Hogwarts.

  • In Book One, we get the invisibility cloak and the discovery of the Mirror of Erised.
  • In Book Two, the trio uses Polyjuice Potion and discovers some fascinating info about the Chamber of Secrets and Draco Malfoy.
  • In Book Three, Harry gets the Marauders Map and discovers that Sirius Black “betrayed” his parents to Voldemort and is his godfather.
  • In Book Four, we get the Yule Ball, which entails so much: the discovery of Madame Maxime and Hagrid’s little secret, the discovery of the Room of Requirement (though we don’t know it yet), the discovery of a “connection” between Snape and Karkaroff, the discovery that Hermione is hot, the discovery that Percy is moving up in the Ministry ranks, the discovery that Barty Crouch, Sr. has been MIA for quite a while, and the discovery that Cedric is really an okay guy.
  • In Book Five, we learn that a snake attacked Arthur Weasley that Harry was possessing as Voldemort, and that Harry must now learn Occlumency.

Well, that ends the semester. Tune in next week for second semester and see how the year ends. Remember, the wheels are in motion!!

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