Book Title: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre/Audience: Fantasy, fiction, young adult
Worth the read?: Is that even a question?
This book, it wrecks me. (As per usual, spoilers ahead…)
I started crying about 25 pages before it happened, and when it finally did, I had to whisk tears away from my eyes three times before I could finally finish the paragraph. Much like last time I read the book, I took a moment to cry it out and then forced myself to keep going. “The faster you finish the book, the faster you can move on…” That’s what I kept telling myself, anyway.
It seems quite insufferable when you’re crying so heavily that the book continues another 50+ pages. The tears ebbed and flowed in those final moments of Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s final year at Hogwarts…but mostly, all I could think was how awful it all was. I have felt the pain of losing a loved one before, I daresay more times than any 21-year-old deserves, and so losing one of the most beloved storybook characters of all time feels kind of like a personal loss, too. Dumbledore, broken as he was, was golden. Golden, you see, just like his most trusted companion, Fawkes.
Fawkes’ lament was responsible for a high percentage of my tears today. My heart is all clenched up just wondering what the Phoenix’s song sounded like, and I can think back to a few times in my own life when I would have gladly welcomed Fawkes’ song, if it meant that for a moment I could more deeply understand the reality of grief.
When his song ends, Fawkes makes his final departure. Multiple times in the series, Fawkes is seen acting as an extension of Dumbledore—you could say he was the first to be Dumbledore’s man through and through. So what is left for him at Hogwarts when Dumbledore is gone? The answer, of course, is nothing. Knowing this breaks my heart, and I often wonder where he goes once he leaves Hogwarts.
I was really afraid of reading the end of Half-Blood Prince this time around, because last time I read it (read about that here) I was inconsolable for an hour once I finished. I was so afraid of facing those emotions again that I stopped reading the book just before Harry and Dumbledore watch Slughorn’s real memory about horcruxes, telling myself I could finish while I was home with my parents. That way, at least, my mom could console me (what a cruel thing for me to do to my mother!). But then, when I went home last week, I ended up being so busy that I didn’t have a chance to read at all, and then this week I was overloaded editing photos…but today, I finally did it. I sat down and barreled through.
I was sitting on my front porch when I started to cry, and I remained until after Dumbledore fell from the tower. I realized when someone walked past with a baby stroller that perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to continue sobbing in a semi-public space, so I headed back inside and continued my sob-fest there.
I think I’m writing this blog too soon after finishing the book to offer any insight worth reading, to be honest. I’m just so caught up on the end of the book. I’m still right in the midst of the grief that, although thankfully not involving a person whom I really know, feels close enough that it seems wrong to talk about anything else.
For me, this book is by far the most tragic in the series. Deathly Hallows, emotional as it is at times, just doesn’t hit my soul in quite the same way as Half-Blood Prince.
What I love about this series, and this book especially, is how real it is. I mean, yeah, the book is a fantasy novel about witches and wizards and magical creatures like Fawkes, but beyond all of that, at its heart, the overarching story and the smaller stories within each book are so real and so relevant.
All around us is a battle, a fight between good and bad, right and wrong, love and evil. And sometimes, such as in moments where our Dumbledores die and our Fawkeses lament beside us, it sure as heck seems like the evil is finally going to do us in. Sometimes it sure feels like the bad is going to overcome us, that it is going to win the war. But we have to listen to our Dumbledores, and we have to hold on tight to our Fawkeses—these champions in our lives who refuse to let love go unheard. When Harry didn’t want to hear one more time that his ability to love was his most important weapon, Dumbledore refused to stop talking. And when all seemed hopeless, like there was no way out, time and time again Fawkes reminded Harry that love always finds a way.
And, beyond just listening to our supporters, we must also remember that nobody (except for maybe Voldemort) falls completely on one side or the other of this battle. Even Harry came to realize this when he saw Draco falter, clearly unable to kill Dumbledore. And Harry will soon realize it again when he falls into a Pensieve of memories that will convince him of Snape’s bravery. We’ve all got a mess inside of us—and, in the end, it comes down to our choices. It all comes down to how much we love.
Harry Potter, goodness gracious, I love thee. It’s going to take a day or two before I can resume and finish off the series, I think. I’m in serious need of emotional rest.
All of my love, and until next time,