The Half-Blood Prince’s Second-Hand Potions Book
Were we all so shocked to learn that Severus Snape was the Half-Blood Prince that we missed some very important clues about his Advanced Potion-Making books provenance and its important future purpose? What else is there to know about this book?
We were first introduced to the Half-Blood Prince’s copy of Advanced Potion-Making in Chapter Nine of HBP when Professor Slughorn dug two battered old copies of the text out of a corner cabinet in the Potions dungeon and gave one each to Ron and Harry.
To his annoyance he (Harry) saw that the previous owner had scribbled all over the pages, so that the margins were as black as the printed portions.
Yet, by following the previous owners handwritten suggestions and ignoring the instructions of the text, Harry produced a perfect Draught of Living Death potion (which annoyed Hermione to no end).
After a time, Harry grew somewhat fond of this mysterious Half-Blood Prince and his clever and useful spells and potions recipes. He began to hope that the Half-Blood Prince might somehow be his father, helping him through school via the old Advanced Potion-Making textbook. Lupin disagreed and then helped Harry work through the logic of finding the books original owner:
”How old is this book, Harry?”
“I dunno, I never checked.”
”Well, perhaps that will give you some clue as to when the Prince was at Hogwarts,” said Lupin.
And this was an excellent suggestion. Harry later checks the publication date and finds that his book is 50 years old. Harry decides that this must mean it could not have been James Potters textbook. James was at Hogwarts 25 years ago, not 50. But by that same misguided logic, Severus Snape could not have been the owner, as he was a contemporary of James Potter. Snape was, it turned out, its previous owner, but in all likelihood, only one of its previous owners, given its age and tattered-look.
The Half-Blood Prince, a.k.a. Severus Snape, was not the first owner of the book, but the second owner of the book. Who do we know who was a Hogwarts student 50 years ago? Eileen Prince, Rubeus Hagrid, Tom Riddle? I can think of only two logical possibilities as the book’s first owner: Eileen Prince, Severuss mother, or the young Tom Marvolo Riddle.
Did Severus inherit this copy of Advanced Potion-Making from his mother? We havent seen any precedent set for parents passing their generation(s)-old school books down to their children at Hogwarts. Everyone seems to trundle off to Flourish & Blott’s each August to buy their books (new or used) for the upcoming school year. And there is no mention so far of Eileen Prince having any particular skills at potion-making. She was the president of the Gobstones Club, married a very abusive man who fathered Snape, and may have disappeared from sight completely (although I really do love the theory that Madam Pince, the librarian, is really secretly Madam Prince, Snape’s mother ). But there is nothing to connect Eileen Prince with exceptional potion-making talent.
Or could this copy of Advanced Potion-Making be another one of Lord Voldemort’s old school things, left behind so many years ago, like the diary that showed up in Chamber of Secrets? Was this, as Hagrid would say, The Chamber of Secrets all over again?
Meanwhile, the Hogwarts library had failed Hermione for the first time in living memory. She was so shocked, she even forgot that she was annoyed at Harry for his trick with the bezoar.
“I haven’t found one single explanation of what Horcruxes do!” she told him. ”Not a single one! I’ve been right through the restricted section and even in the most horrible books where they tell you how to brew the most gruesome potions — nothing! All I could find was this, in the introduction to Magick Moste Evile — listen — ’Of the Horcrux, wickedest of magical inventions, we shall not speak nor give direction .’ I mean, why mention it then?” she said impatiently, slamming the old book shut; it let out a ghostly wail.
”Oh, shut up,” she snapped, stuffing it back into her bag.
Perhaps there is no published reference to Horcruxes at the Hogwarts library, but I am beginning to suspect that there is a book in the castle that has, written by hand in the margins, the recipe for the potion or a particular spell that will create a Horcrux. The book is currently stuffed behind a cage in a large cupboard that has a bust of an ugly old warlock wearing a wig and a tiara on its top — in the Room of Requirement.
Harry’s copy of Advanced Potion-Making (previously owned by Severus Snape and owned prior to that by Tom Riddle?) may be the only reference to Horcrux making that Harry and Hermione will ever have access to.
As Harry hid the book, he was determined to return and retrieve it, as he was sure to make the hiding spot as distinctive as possible. Perhaps, despite events that occurred soon after, he is planning to go back to Hogwarts to retrieve it after his summer visits to The Burrow for Bill and Fleurs wedding and to Surrey for his requisite stay at the Dursleys house.
It will be interesting to see what use the book, if any, will be for Harry in Book 7. For starters, I believe he will find the answers to his questions about Horcruxes there. Will there be even more unwitting help for Harry from Voldemort in Book 7? Well have to wait and see.
Contact the author at artspanard at aol dot com.