The Underground Lake #20: The Official Reader’s Guide to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Part 2

by Brandon

Without any further ado…

12. Double Time

Suddenly, everything seems to be moving in fast motion. When Christmas break is over, you will notice that in most books you are over two-thirds the way through the book and the school year is only half over. Generally speaking, “Double Time” occurs between the first day classes resume after Christmas Break and the final confrontation.

Because we zip through the second half of the year so fast, clues come larger, more frequently, and more pronounced. It is at this point in the story that we find out little tidbits like who Nicholas Flamel is, what the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone is, who Tom Riddle is, why Snape hates the Marauders, who Barty Crouch, Jr. is, and why Hagrid’s wounds never seem to heal.

13. Means to an End

During “Double Time,” JKR gives us the very thing Harry will need in order to defeat the villain. Now, here I must explain what I mean by “villain.” THE VILLAIN IS NOT VOLDEMORT!!! Voldemort is the constant looming overall antagonist of the entire series. The villain changes from novel to novel. The villain can be a minion of Voldemort or a host of Voldemort, but in all scenarios “VOLDEMORT” is “VOLDEMORT” and not Tom Riddle or any other incarnation. I classify the following as the five villains thus far: Professor Quirrell, The Basilisk, the Dementors, Barty Crouch, Jr., and Professor Umbridge.

In every novel except Book Three, there is some type of Harry/Voldemort showdown, but right before that, or in some cases after, Harry has to do battle with the “villain.” During the “Double Time” sequence, Harry is told or given the means to unmask and defeat this villain.

  • Book 1 – The Mirror of Erised
    Harry is told how the mirror works and it is this knowledge that helps Harry to trick Quirrell and Voldemort and stall them long enough for Dumbledore to arrive.
  • Book 2 – The Sorting Hat and Fawkes
    Harry takes a trip up to Dumbledore’s office where he has a little conversation with the Sorting Hat. He is also introduced to Fawkes who in turn brings the Sorting Hat to the Chamber of Secrets, pecks out the Basilisks eyes, and heals Harry’s poisonous wound.
  • Book 3 – The Patronus
    Harry is taught the Patronus and it aids him in defeating the Dementors and saving himself and Hermione.
  • Book 4 – Veritaserum
    Snape threatens Harry with Veritaserum, but he is really telling us what it does and also that it will be used later to unmask Barty Crouch, Jr.
  • Book 5 – Grawp and the Centaurs
    Not the name of a progressive rock band, but Hagrid shows Grawp to Harry and Hermione and we discover that the Centaurs are angry about Grawp’s presence. Both will be instrumental in Hermione’s cleverly conceived and hastily planned escape from Umbridge.

14. The DING!

I can think of no better way to describe this most important thing other than to call it a “DING!” I call it that because it is an event so important that it is as if JKR is ringing a bell inside our and Harry’s head saying, “Pay attention, stupid! This is hella important!”

In the simplest terms, it is the thing or sequence of things that happen that set the wheels in motion for the final confrontation. See the examples and you’ll see what I mean.

  • Book 1 – Harry discovers that Hagrid has revealed Fluffy’s weakness to a stranger in exchange for Norbert. They run to Dumbledore to discover he is gone. DING! Harry now has to go down the trapdoor… tonight.
  • Book 2 – Ginny is taken inside of the Chamber of Secrets. When Harry and Ron go to tell Lockhart where the entrance is they discover that he is a fraud and must go themselves to save her. DING! They go to Myrtle’s bathroom.
  • Book 3 – Harry is taking his Divination final when Trelawney has a prediction. Then, Harry discovers that the giant black dog he keeps seeing is not a grim or apparition but a real dog that kidnaps Ron and takes him to the Shrieking Shack. DING! Harry and Hermione follow in hot pursuit beneath the Whomping Willow.
  • Book 4 – Harry has a vision of Voldemort in Trelawney’s class. This takes him to Dumbledore’s office where he experiments with the Pensieve and discovers why his scar hurts. DING! We start the third task of the Tri-Wizard Tournament.
  • Book 5 – Harry has a dream during his History of Magic O.W.L. that Sirius has been kidnapped. DING! He must break into Umbridge’s office and see.

Now that you know what the five DINGs! were, I must explain about “THE QUESTION”.

Every Harry Potter novel asks a certain number of questions. The most overriding question usually isn’t asked UNTIL WE GET TO HOGWARTS. At that point, all of the clues we get in each of my little sections are used to answer these questions. Here is what I think the five overriding questions are:

  • Book 1 – What is the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s stone; who wants it and why?
  • Book 2 – What is the Chamber of Secrets and what is in it?
  • Book 3 – How and why did Sirius Black escape from Azkaban?
  • Book 4 – Who put Harry’s name in the Goblet of Fire and how?
  • Book 5 – What is this “weapon” that Voldemort wants in the Department of Mysteries?

What is significant about the DING! is that it is JKR’s way of telling us to STOP! Because by the time we get to the DING!, we know everything we need to know to answer those questions… we just don’t realize it yet. Everything we need to know is given to us prior to the DING! Then we have the DING!, which is an event that not only tells us to stop and collate our clues but also sets the wheels in motion for…

15. The Journey to the Final Confrontation

Once that DING! sounds, everything moves fast but not in fast motion as is “Double Time.” We have kicked the novel into fifth gear and we are climbing that rising action in a non-stop route to the climax. The journey is a long trek, full of trials and tribulations that Harry must overcome before he can meet Bowser in the final level and jump on him and knock him into the vat of lava. Book One, Harry has to journey through all the different traps set by the teachers. Book Two, Harry must get past Lockhart, open the bathroom entrance to the CoS, avoid the rock slide, and find Ginny. In Book Three, it is the pursuit of Ron into the Shrieking Shack. In Book Four, it is the third task of the TWT. In Book Five, it is REALLY LONG and involved: into the forest to dump Umbridge, onto the thestrals to the MoM, down to the DoM, through the room of doors, and finally, into the Prophecy Hall. However, the trek ends abruptly when Harry surely stumbles into a kidnap trap that spells certain doom for our hero, but…

16. “You Got Me Monologuing”

Harry finally makes it to the final confrontation only to be trapped by a nemesis or two. They have him cornered. Surely he’s going to be killed, but oh, wait! We have to stop and have a chat. This is the part that we all love the first time because it’s all new information, but the second time, you want to stab yourself because the person or persons holding Harry captive begin to monologue. And because they monologue, they tell us and Harry information that really helps us as reader out, but really just gives Harry enough time to rest before the final confrontation.

17. The Twist

Prior to or during the monologuing, THE TWIST will be revealed. The “twist” is that one shocker that unless you were really clever, you didn’t see coming or you completely forgot about until they brought it back up. Watch out for the twist because it can come before the final confrontation as it does in Books 1, 2, and 5, during as in Book 3, and after as in Book 4.

  • In Book 1, the twist was the fact that Quirrell, and not Snape, was the traitor.
  • In Book 2, the twist was that Lockhart made up all that stuff in his books (though that wasn’t really news to us, the old fraud) and that Tom Riddle and Voldemort are the same person.
  • In Book 3, the twist happens before, during, and after the final confrontation. There are so many twists before the Final Confrontation that it’s hard to keep up: 1) Lupin is a werewolf, 2) Peter Pettigrew is alive, 3) Sirius is innocent, and 4) Harry and Hermione are saved by “Harry’s dad”. During the Final Confrontation, we discover that 5) Hermione has a Time-Turner which is why Ron keeps noticing her disappear and reappear which enables her to travel backwards in time. Finally at the end, Harry discovers that 6) it was he who conjured the Patronus and saved them all.
  • In Book 4, the twist is that Moody is really Barty Crouch, Jr. under the Polyjuice Potion, and that Harry has never met Moody and that Imposter Moody put his name in the Goblet of Fire. This twist is revealed after the final confrontation.
  • In Book 5, the twist is that Umbridge sent the Dementors after Harry and set all the wheels of expulsion in order.

18. The Final Confrontation

This is where Harry gets to throw down. See the spells and special skills he has learned earlier in the book suddenly come into play (D.A. anyone? How about Imperius Curse or Expelliarmus?) This is the action-packed climax (or climaxes in the case of Book Three, where the climax happens twice).

The confrontation ends and Harry manages his escape having defeated whatever threat he was facing. It is then time for a trip to the headmaster for…

19. The Denoument

This is Harry’s one-on-one time with Dumbledore. We’ve just been through H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks and now we need a breather. Let Dumbledore explain everything that has happened while we rest. And lastly…

20. Another Year Gone…

The year is over. Time to go home. Let’s tie up a few loose ends on the train (Rita Skeeter, anyone?), and there you have it. That’s all she wrote.

This is meant to be a guide to help you as you read so that you can spot things and figure out what is happening next. The one thing I can say is that every single story is different, but the overall style in which the novels are written has not changed. Now hindsight is 20/20, but how are we to know where to go if we don’t know where we’ve been.

Remember the wheels are in motion!