Released on July 16, 2005, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the sixth book in the Harry Potter series. It has 30 chapters and is 607 pages long in the UK and 652 pages long in the US. It has sold around 65 million copies.
The war against Voldemort is not going well; even the Muggles have been affected. Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses. And yet… as with all wars, life goes on. Sixth-year students learn to Apparate. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Harry receives some extraordinary help in Potions from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince. And with Dumbledore’s guidance, he seeks out the full, complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort – and thus finds what may be his only vulnerability.
– Back cover description
- “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” House Editions Are Now Available - Are you ready to add another book to your ever-growing "Harry Potter" collection? Then you'll be happy to hear that the House editions of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" are now available.
- UK Spy Agency Worked to Prevent “Half-Blood Prince” Leaking Online in 2005 - Remember the extreme security and the fear of leaks surrounding the release of the last few "Harry Potter" books? We’re now learning that even GCHQ, the UK’s secret intelligence agency, was involved in helping prevent "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" from leaking online in 2005.
- A very Harry Christmas: A recap of Pottermore’s “Half-Blood Prince” release - We recap the new moments released on Pottermore over the past 12 days. As a part of their Christmas treat, Pottermore users could solve daily riddles to reveal new moments on the site.
Half-Blood Prince was originally the working title for Chamber of Secrets, though she decided that the information disclosed belonged better in Book 6 and therefore the two books have many parallels. Rowling had the book "planned for years," but she spent two months going over her plan before she began writing seriously. This was a lesson learned after she did not check the plan for Goblet of Fire and had to rewrite a third of the book. Rowling revealed the title of Half-Blood Prince on her website on June 29, 2004. On December 21, 2004, she announced she had finished writing it, along with the release date.
The first chapter, "The Other Minister," which features the meeting between the Muggle Prime Minister, the Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge, and his successor, Rufus Scrimgeour, was a concept Rowling tried to start in Sorcerer's Stone, Prisoner of Azkaban, and Order of the Phoenix, but she found it finally worked in Half-Blood Prince.
Before publication, 1.4 million advanced orders were placed for Half-Blood Prince on Amazon.com, breaking the record held by Order of the Phoenix, with 1.3 million. The initial print run for Half-Blood Prince was a record-breaking 10.8 million. Within the first 24 hours of release, the book sold 9 million copies worldwide, 2 million in the UK and about 6.9 million in the U.S., which prompted Scholastic to rush an additional 2.7 million copies into print. Within the first nine weeks of publication, 11 million copies of the U.S. edition were reported to have been sold.
There were some controversies surrounding the release of the book. In May 2005, bookmakers in the UK suspended bets on which main character would die in the book amid fears of insider knowledge. A number of high-value bets were made on the death of Albus Dumbledore, many coming from the town of Bungay, where, it was believed, the books were being printed at the time. Betting was later reopened. In early July 2005, a Real Canadian Superstore in Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada, accidentally sold fourteen copies of Half-Blood Prince before the authorized release date. The Canadian publisher, Raincoast Books, obtained an injunction from the Supreme Court of British Columbia prohibiting the purchasers from reading the books before the official release date or from discussing the contents. Purchasers were offered a Harry Potter T-shirt and an autographed copy of the book if they returned their copies before July 16. On July 15, 2005, less than twelve hours before the book went on sale in the Eastern time zone, Raincoast warned The Globe and Mail newspaper that publishing a review from a Canada-based writer at midnight, as the paper had promised, would be seen as a violation of the trade secret injunction. The injunction sparked a number of news articles alleging that the injunction had restricted fundamental rights.
The audiobook in the US is read by Jim Dale and Stephen Fry in the UK.
Lord Voldemort’s return has made life just as difficult for the muggle world as it has for the wizarding world. The muggle Prime Minister has been struggling to understand what he should do as Cornelius Fudge arrives one night to tell him that the Ministry of Magic has sacked him so that he can be replaced by Rufus Scrimgeour, the new Minister of Magic. Scrimgeour assures the muggle Prime Minister that they will keep him informed of developments. Meanwhile, Narcissa Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange meet with Severus Snape to discuss a dangerous mission with which Draco has been entrusted. Snape makes an unbreakable vow with Narcissa that he will protect Draco as he attempts to carry out Voldemort’s orders.
Harry Potter is visited one night at Privet Drive by Albus Dumbledore, who informs him that Harry has inherited everything that once belonged to his godfather, Sirius Black. Since this includes the house-elf Kreacher, Harry sends Kreacher to work in the kitchens at Hogwarts. After informing the Dursley’s that Harry need only return to their home one last time, they depart and go to visit an old colleague of Dumbledore’s, Horace Slughorn. Slughorn, who taught at Hogwarts for over 50 years, has since retired and has been running from the Death Eaters. With some help from Harry, they persuade him to come out of retirement and return to the teaching staff at Hogwarts. Before taking Harry to the Burrow for the remainder of his summer holidays, Dumbledore informs Harry that they will be sharing private lessons starting this year.
The Weasleys are thrilled to have Harry staying with them for the summer, where Hermione is staying as well. Though most of the Weasley family seem less thrilled that Fleur Delacour, who is now engaged to Bill, is staying with them also. Harry, Ron, and Hermione discuss Harry’s lessons with Dumbledore while also wondering what the next year will hold. They receive their O.W.L. results and are fairly satisfied with their marks, though Harry is disappointed that his Potions mark will not allow him to continue on his path to become an auror. They take a trip together to Diagon Alley to get their new school materials and to visit the joke shop Fred and George have opened, which seems to be one of the only thriving shops in the area. Harry, Ron, and Hermione spot Draco sneaking off on his own and follow him. They see that he is making threats to the owner of Borgin and Burkes, which Harry takes to mean that he is up to something very dangerous. He starts to believe that Draco has now become a Death Eater, but he is unable to convince the others.
Harry shares what he knows with Mr. Weasley as they board the Hogwarts Express so that he may investigate. Harry is noticeably more popular with the other students this year than he was the previous year. As they all settle on the train, Harry, Neville, and Ginny are invited to a compartment by Professor Slughorn, who appears to have invited powerful and well-connected students into a sort of private club. Once they leave the compartment, Harry siezes the chance to follow Malfoy and eavesdrop on his conversation with the other Slytherins. He does not learn much, and Malfoy catches him as they are arriving at Hogsmeade Station. Malfoy leaves Harry frozen and injured and gets off the train, but Harry is rescued in the nick of time by Tonks, who has been stationed at Hogsmeade to help protect the school. Tonks escorts Harry to the school gate, and they are greeted by Snape. Snape takes advantage of the chance to dock points off of Gryffindor for Harry’s situation and Harry arrives in the Great Hall just as dinner is finished. Dumbledore makes his usual announcements and encourages the students to be very careful in these dangerous times.
The new school year begins and Harry is surprised to find that Slughorn will actually be teaching potions because Snape has been named the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Snape’s lessons prove to be as difficult as ever, but potions quickly becomes Harry’s best subject thanks to a textbook he finds in the classroom with many helpful tips written in the margins. His performance in their first potions lessons is so impressive, Slughorn rewards him with a bottle of felix felicis, a potion designed to make you lucky for up to 24 hours. The only clue he has for the previous owner is that they called themselves “the Half-Blood Prince.” Harry also begins his private lessons with Dumbledore, which turn out to be a series of memories detailing how Voldemort became what he is now. This knowledge, according to Dumbledore, will help Harry understand his enemy so that he will be better prepared to fight him. In the first memory, Harry sees that Voldemort’s parents both came from very different, though equally unpleasant, families. Dumbledore explains that Voldemort’s mother gave his father a love potion and they ran away together, but his father eventually abandoned her and returned home.
In addition to everything else that has changed this year, Harry is now the captain of the Gryffindor quidditch team. When he calls trials, he realizes that the team is quite popular all of a sudden because of how much more popular he is now. He is able to find good candidates for all the positions, but he runs into some trouble when he chooses Ron as the keeper rather than the large and somewhat arrogant Cormac McLaggan, who has also been chosen as a favorite of Professor Slughorn. Slughorn begins throwing occasional dinner parties for a select group of students known by some as “the Slug Club,” but Harry keeps looking for excuses not to attend.
During the first Hogsmeade visit of the year, they find out that Mundungus Fletcher has been stealing from 12 Grimmauld Place and selling Harry’s inheritance. Harry attempts to confront him, but is stopped by Tonks before it leads to trouble. After a short visit to the Three Broomsticks, they are on their way back to school when they see that Katie Bell, a keeper on the Gryffindor quidditch team, is having an argument over a package she is supposed to be delivering. When the package tears and she touches the necklace inside, a curse is activated and she is nearly killed, but they are able to get her back to school in time. Harry suspects Draco, but Professor McGonagall says Draco was in detention rather than going to Hogsmeade.
In the second memory Dumbledore shows Harry, the revisit the day Dumbledore went to inform young Tom Riddle that he was a wizard who had earned a place at Hogwarts. There are many unusual things about this encounter, but the things that Dumbledore says bothered him most are his instincts for cruelty, control, and torture. Dumbledore also points out that when young Tom Riddle would engage in acts of cruelty, he collected trophies that he would keep. This, according to Dumbledore, is highly significant. Harry tries to process what he has seen as he prepares for the first quidditch match of the year. Ron is having problems with nerves, and Harry decides to trick Ron into thinking he has spiked his juice with felix felicis. Ron performs very well and Gryffindor wins the match. Unfortunately, Ron and Hermione have a fight over the use of the potion as Harry reveals what he did and Hermione becomes even angrier after spotting Ron snogging with Lavender Brown at the afterparty.
Slughorn throws a Christmas Party and makes absolutely sure that Harry will be able to attend. Since everyone who is invited is allowed to bring a guest, Hermione invites Cormac to get under Ron’s skin. Harry receives strong hints from several girls that they would like to be invited by him, but Harry’s only romantic interest, Ginny, is already going. One female Gryffindor, Ramilda Vane, attempts to bribe him with a box of chocolate cauldrons that Hermione suspects are spiked with love potion. So, Harry invites Luna Lovegood instead. During the party, Slughorn attempts to introduce Harry to several important ex-students of his, but Harry is not interested. At one point, Filch arrives and informs the party that he discovered Draco attempting to gatecrash the party. Slughorn is inclined to allow him to stay, but Snape escorts him out. Harry follows them and overhears Draco talking about his mission and Snape explaining the unbreakable vow that he has made. Though Harry does not yet find out all the details, he resolves to tell Dumbledore as soon as he sees him again.
Harry still can’t get Ron or Hermione, who are still fighting, to take him seriously that Draco is up to something or that Snape is now on his side. Harry even attempts to explain this to Mr. Weasley and Lupin during a Christmas get-together at the Burrow, but they are convinced that Snape is just trying to get close to Draco on Dumbledore’s orders. On Christmas Day, they receive a surprise visit from Percy and the Minister of Magic. The Minister asks Harry to take a walk with him, during which he makes an appeal to Harry to give the Ministry his public support in exchange for a leg-up in becoming an auror. Scrimgeour also attempts to find out from Harry what Dumbledore has been up to, as Dumbledore has been leaving the school for long periods of time, but Harry makes it clear he will not cooperate with the new Minister and his plans.
Once Harry and the others are back at Hogwarts, his friends become preoccupied with their respective relationships (Ron with Lavender and Ginny with Dean Thomas). Harry resumes his lessons with Dumbledore, who is already aware of both Harry’s encounter with the Minister of Magic and Snape’s encounter with Draco. Dumbledore shows Harry two memories: the day Tom Riddle murdered his father and grandparents, and a meeting between Tom and Professor Slughorn in which Tom asks Slughorn about horcruxes. When Harry sees the memory has been tampered with, Dumbledore tasks Harry with convincing Slughorn to give up the true memory because, according to Dumbledore, it is the most important memory they will have collected.
Harry tries to get the real memory from Slughorn directly, but he refuses. Slughorn becomes distant and avoids Harry so as to limit his chances of asking for it. The sixth-year students begin apparition lessons, but most of them are unsuccessful at first. Hermione has been avoiding Harry and Ron because of her frustration over Ron and Lavender’s relationship. On Ron’s birthday, he eats the chocolate cauldrons that Ramilda Vane gave to Harry by mistake and is influenced by the love potion. Harry takes him to Slughorn’s office for an antidote, and they celebrate his birthday with mede that turns out to be poisoned. Harry is able to save Ron just in time by using a bezoar. The Weasley family come to see him in the hospital wing and even Hermione is willing to forget her frustration with Ron as he recovers.
While Harry figures out what to do about his quidditch team now that both Katie and Ron are incapacitated, Hagrid shares with him that he overheard Dumbledore being frustrated with Snape. Harry is cornered by Cormac in the common room, and Cormac insists that he become the new Gryffindor keeper while Ron is unable to play. Cormac’s behavior is overbearing and he makes the entire team unhappy with him. Lavender also gets on Harry’s nerves, as she won’t stop trying to talk to him about her relationship with Ron. During the quidditch match between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff, Cormac accidentally takes Harry out with a bludger and they lose the match. Harry wakes up in the hospital wing next to Ron, and he has the idea that he should send Kreacher to follow Malfoy and find out what he’s up to. When Kreacher and Dobby arrive, in the midst of a fight, he assigns both of them to tail Malfoy and report back to him.
During Harry’s next meeting with Dumbledore, he admits he has not been able to get the memory from Slughorn. Dumbledore is disappointed, but Harry resolves to do better. In the meantime, Dumbledore shows Harry another two memories: Tom Riddle discovering Slytherin’s locket at Hepzibah Smith’s house before her murder, and a slightly transformed Tom Riddle attempting to secure a job from Dumbledore to teach at Hogwarts. Dumbledore explains that, after that meeting, they have not been able to keep a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher for longer than a year since then. He also tells Harry that they will not be having another meeting until Harry manages to secure the memory from Slughorn.
When Dobby and Kreacher report back to Harry, they inform him that Malfoy has been spending a lot of time in the Room of Requirement with lookouts at the door. Harry tries to find out what he is doing there, but he is unsuccessful. Ron and Hermione help Harry to come up with a plan to get the memory from Slughorn: use the felix felicis. Harry makes one last attempt to persuade Slughorn while Ron and Hermione test for their apparition licenses, but when that does not work he takes the felix felicius. That same day, he learns from Hagrid that Aragog has died and that Hagird would like company during the burial. Under the influence of felix felicis, Harry goes down to the burial and brings along Professor Slughorn, whom he met along the way and persuaded to go. After the burial, they are sharing a drink in Hagrid’s hut to celebrate Aragog’s memory, and Harry waits as the two men drink themselves into a stupor. Harry, still under the influence of the potion, persuades Slughorn to be brave and help him defeat Voldemort by sharing the memory.
Harry takes the memory straight to Dumbledore and they examine the contents. In the true memory, Slughorn shares information about horcruxes, which are objects in which a person has concealed a part of their soul after committing murder in order to become immortal. Tom Riddle also inquires about what would happen to someone who made seven horcruxes, which confirms the theory Dumbledore has had for some time that Voldemort succeeded in creating several horcruxes. Harry is made to understand what he must do: find and destroy all of Voldemort’s horcruxes so that he can destroy him once and for all.
Both Ron and Ginny break off their respective relationships, which puts Harry in a dilemma as to whether or not he should ask Ginny out. Katie Bell returns to the school and things appear to be getting better. Then, Harry notices Malfoy hiding out in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom one day and he goes to confront him about what he has been up to. Malfoy and Harry end up fighting, and Harry uses a spell, sectumsempra, that he found in the Half-Blood Prince’s potion book. The spell slashes Malfoy and he almost bleeds to death, but Snape arrives in time and saves him. Snape realizes what Harry has done and punishes him with detention every Saturday for the remainder of the term. This puts Harry out of the last quidditch match and Dean Thomas takes his place. During his first detention, Gryffindor wins the final match and the quidditch cup. In the euphoria of the post-match party, Harry kisses Ginny and their relationship officially begins.
A few weeks later, Harry is summoned to see Dumbledore and runs into Professor Trelawney on the way. She explains that she was just thrown out of the Room of Requirement by someone who was cheering, and Harry knows Malfoy must be close to finishing his secret plan. Trelawney reveals as they walk to Dumbledore’s office that the day she interviewed Dumbledore, the same day she made the fateful prophecy about Harry and Voldemort, Snape overheard them. Realizing he was the one who told Voldemort and sent him after Harry’s parents, Harry rushes to Dumbledore’s office and confronts him. Dumbledore insists that Snape is remorseful for this and does not allow the matter to go any further because he tells Harry he may have found a horcrux and they are going to go and recover it.
Harry gives the rest of his felix felicis potion to his friends and leaves the castle with Dumbledore. Once they are outside the castle grounds, they apparate to a cave near a seaside cliff. This, according to Dumbledore, was a place where young Tom Riddle once tortured some of his fellow children from the orphanage. They make their way past the obstacles inside, including a lake full of infiri, and find Slytherin’s locket, which is now a horcrux, in a basin in the center of the lake. To recover it, Harry must force Dumbledore to drink a potion that tortures him and makes him think that he is reliving horrors from his past. Once they have the horcrux, they are almost overcome by the infiri in the lake, but Dumbledore subdues them and he and Harry make their way back to Hogwarts.
When they arrive back at Hogsmeade village, they see the Dark Mark set over the castle. Using two brooms they borrow from Madame Rosmerta, Harry and Dumbleore race to the astronomy tower. As soon as they arrive, Dumbledore orders Harry to go fetch Snape. Harry is under the invisibility cloak when Dumbledore freezes him because Draco arrives at the top of the tower, disarming Dumbledore. Dumbledore confronts Draco about the cursed necklace and the poisoned wine, both of which were failed attempts by Draco to murder Dumbledore on Voldemort’s orders. Draco insists he must murder Dumbledore or he and his family will be killed, though Dumbledore tries to persuade him they can be saved. Several more Death Eaters arrive at the top of the tower and try to goad Draco into killing Dumbledore, but the one who ends up doing the deed is Severus Snape.
As Dumbledore’s body disappears over the edge of the astronomy tower, Harry unfreezes and runs after Snape. The castle is in disarray as the members of the Order of the Phoenix and the teachers, along with Harry’s friends, attempt to fight off the Death Eaters. Harry encounters Snape on the grounds, but is unable to fight him because Snape is too powerful. Harry attempts the sectumsempra spell again, enraging Snape so much that he reveals he is, in fact, the Half-Blood Prince. Then, Snape and the others manage to get away. Hagrid manages to escape his hut as it burns to the ground, and together they make their way to the spot on the grounds where Dumbledore’s body has fallen. Harry is barely able to process what is happening when he sees that the horcrux locket has broken open and there is a note inside. The note, signed “RAB,” explains that the locket is a fake and the real horcrux was taken by someone else who has discovered Voldemort’s secret.
Ginny leads Harry to the hospital wing where the family is gathered as the ones who have been hurt, including Bill Weasley, are recovering. It turns out that Bill was attacked by a werewolf named Fenrir Greyback, but he had not transformed, so he will live but be changed in some ways. Fleur declares that nothing will stop her from loving Bill, and she is able to reconcile with his family. Harry tries to explain as much as he can regarding the death of Dumbledore without giving too much away about what they were doing. Most of the adults are shocked by the betrayal of Snape, but Harry insists he knew all along Snape was evil. McGonagall, now interim-headmistress, tries to get details from Harry about what happened, but he refuses to tell because Dumbledore made him promise he would not. The teachers of Hogwarts collectively decide that the students may be sent home after they hold a funeral on the grounds for Dumbledore.
Witches and wizards from all over gather at Hogwarts for Dumbledore’s funeral. After the ceremony, attended by nearly every person in the wizarding world that Harry has ever met, Harry makes the difficult decision to break up with Ginny in light of what he must now set out to do. Rufus Scrimgeour attempts once again to get information from Harry and offer him protection, but Harry refuses again. Harry explains to Ron and Hermione that he will not return to Hogwarts the following year so that he can pursue the horcruxes. Ron and Hermione insist that they must attend Bill and Fleurs wedding, but after that the three of them will set off together. Harry is reluctant, but encouraged that his friends are willing to stay by his side.
To Mackenzie, my beautiful daughter, I dedicate her ink and paper twin.
Mackenzie Jean Rowling Murray, Jo's third child, was born on January 23, 2005. Rowling was pregnant with Mackenzie while writing Half-Blood Prince. Mackenzie was born around the same time the book was published; hence, this book is her "ink and paper twin."
- ALA Best Book for Young Adults, 2006
- Anthony Award for Best Young Adult Mystery, 2006
- Best Science-Fiction/Fantasy Novel Award, From Disney Adventures magazine, 2006
- Booklist Editor's Choice, 2005
- British Book Awards,Book of the Year, 2006
- CCBC Choice, 2006
- Chicago Public Library, "Best of the Best", 2006
- New York Times Notable Book, 2005
- Nickelodeon's Kid's Choice Awards, Book of the Year, 2006
- Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Seal, 2006
- Publishers Weekly Cuffie, Best Sequel, 2005
- Quill Award, Children's Chapter/Middle Grade Book of the Year, 2005
- Royal Mail Award for Scottish Children’s Books, Best book for readers aged 8–12 years, 2006
- Indian Paintbrush Book Award, Nominee, 2006-2007
- New York State Children's Choice Award, Nominee, 2006