“Harry did not really listen. A warmth was spreading through him that had nothing to do with the sunlight; a tight obstruction in his chest seemed to be dissolving. He knew that Ron and Hermione were more shocked than they were letting on, but the mere fact that they were still there on either side of him, speaking words of comfort . . .”
In the middle of Chapter 4, immediately after Harry tells Ron and Hermione about the contents of the prophecy revealed to him after the fight at the Ministry last year, Harry begins to feel enormous relief. Before Dumbledore left Harry at the Burrow, he suggested that Harry fill his friends in on the prophecy Professor Trelawney created, which states that Harry must destroy Voldemort, as neither can live while the other survives. Even though Harry knows that his friends must be shocked by his revelation, he is delighted that they are sticking by him and dedicating themselves to solving the problem. Harry has had to spend most of his life without the care and confidence of a real family, and now, at sixteen, Ron and Hermione effectively function as his family, supporting him unconditionally and constantly looking out for his best interests. Harry is finally able to stop keeping things inside and start sharing the burden of his birthright. Dumbledore knows that telling Ron and Hermione the contents of the prophecy will not only be extraordinarily cathartic for Harry, it will also give his friends the opportunity to help him sort out his newfound responsibilities. Ron and Hermione try to convince Harry that Dumbledore wouldn’t be offering him private lessons if he didn’t think Harry had a solid chance of defeating Voldemort. Harry’s relief at his friends’ reactions is priceless.
“Well, it is clear to me that he has done a very good job on you,” said Scrimgeour, his eyes cold and hard behind his wire-rimmed glasses. “Dumbledore’s man through and through, aren’t you, Potter?”
At the close of Chapter 16, Rufus Scrimgeour interrupts the Weasleys’ Christmas dinner and corners Harry in a place where Harry ordinarily feels safe and secure. Hardly anyone at the Weasleys’ table is surprised when Scrimgeour asks Harry to show him around. Scrimgeour encourages Harry to ignore his convictions and pretend to align himself with the Ministry, so as to give the Wizarding world the allusion that the Harry and the Ministry are working together to stop Voldemort’s return. Regardless, Harry, like Dumbledore, does not wish to support the Ministry’s haphazard, often unfair attempts at appearing like they are successfully thwarting Voldemort. Clearly, Rowling thinks it is wise to have healthy distrust of government and to ask questions about what one’s leadership is actually doing. Harry is fundamentally opposed not only to the Ministry’s ridiculous campaign but is also offended by Scrimgeour’s suggestion that Harry lie to his friends and peers.
When Scrimgeour accuses Harry of being Dumbledore’s man, Harry is proud to accept the title. Harry later learns that Scrimgeour has been pestering Dumbledore to set up a private meeting with Harry and that Dumbledore has refused him every time, just as Dumbledore has refused three offers to become the Minister of Magic. Both Harry and Dumbledore have an inherent distrust of the Ministry, and Scrimgeour’s questionable tactics to recruit Harry confirm their suspicions.
“By attempting to kill you, Voldemort himself singled out the remarkable person who sits here in front of me, and gave him the tools for the job.”
When Harry is finally able to see Slughorn’s uncorrected memory at the end of Chapter 23 and realizes that he needs to destroy all seven Horcruxes to rid the Wizarding world of Voldemort, Dumbledore once again reminds him of the one great power he possesses that Voldemort does not: Harry has the ability to love. Dumbledore points out that this is the only protection that can possibly be used against powers as strong as Voldemort’s, and it is the reason why Harry has never been lured to the Dark side. Because Voldemort destroyed his own soul, tearing it into seven pieces by way of seven deaths, he no longer understands the incomparable power of a soul that is whole and untarnished. Dumbledore insists that it is Harry’s love—for his parents, for his friends, for his godfather—that propels him to face Voldemort, and not the prophecy, which Dumbledore believes to be essentially meaningless. Dumbledore eventually gets Harry to admit that, even if he had not heard the contents of the prophecy, he would still want to destroy Voldemort, for all of the pain and suffering he has caused Harry’s loved one. By Voldemort choosing Harry and marking him as his equal, he proved the prophecy—because as long as Voldemort continues to hunt Harry, hurting his friends and killing his family, Harry is guaranteed to fight back.
“I take you with me on one condition: that you obey any command I might give you at once, and without question.”
Dumbledore speaks these words to Harry at the end of Chapter 25, before he agrees to take Harry with him to destroy the locket Horcrux. Harry responds by giving his word, which Dumbledore later holds him to, demanding that Harry pour the poison potion down Dumbledore’s unwilling throat, no matter how difficult it might be for Harry to see Dumbledore in such pain. Because Harry trusts Dumbledore so deeply and would never break a promise, he forces Dumbledore to drink the hideous potion. Once again, Dumbledore places Harry’s well-being before his own and must be certain that he can fully protect Harry before he agrees to let Harry accompany him on such a terrifying journey. Although Harry is a powerful young wizard, Dumbledore still feels enormously responsible for his well-being, and occasionally must step up in his role as elder. This happens again when Dumbledore freezes Harry in the astronomy tower, effectively rendering him useless to help save Dumbledore. Harry is unable to even attempt to stop Draco or Snape, which keeps him safe. Still, the decision to freeze Harry ultimately proves fatal for Dumbledore.
Readers may recall this quote at the end of the book, when Dumbledore is weak, toppled over, and without a wand and mumbles, “Severus, please,” at Snape, who has pointed his wand directly at Dumbledore—although Rowling makes no explicit suggestion that Dumbledore had, in fact, asked Snape to kill him to save Draco from becoming a murderer, it suddenly seems oddly possible, given Dumbledore’s selfless, self-sacrificing nature.
“Harry looked around; there was Ginny running toward him; she had a hard, blazing look in her face as she threw her arms around him. And without thinking, without planning it, without worrying about the fact that fifty people were watching, Harry kissed her.”
After months of pining after his best friend’s little sister, Harry finally succumbs to his urges and kisses Ginny Weasley at the very end of Chapter 24. Even though Harry has spent weeks worrying about what Ron’s reaction might be, he ultimately finds his attraction to Ginny too strong to fight off. This kiss is one of a handful of times in the series that Harry puts his own wants and desires over his friends’ needs. Throughout Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, readers are reminded that Ron, Hermione, and Harry are growing up and beginning to entertain thoughts about members of the opposite sex. Although Harry’s relationship to Ginny seems charmed at first, and they enjoy their time together immensely, Harry cannot revel in her company for very long. Because of Harry’s unique position as the “Chosen One,” he knows that Voldemort will only use those close to him for Voldemort’s own gain or to blackmail Harry into submission. Harry is forced to end his relationship with Ginny prematurely because of the threat of retribution by Voldemort. In Voldemort’s eyes, having a girlfriend is a significant weakness for Harry and something Voldemort can easily exploit. Once again, Harry’s destiny interferes with his heartfelt desire to just be a normal Hogwarts student, whose priorities are Quidditch, classes, and girls. Instead, Harry must constantly be worrying about the fate of the entire world and must sacrifice the one good thing that’s happened to him this year.