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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

J. K. Rowling
  • Study Guide

Chapters 16 and 17

Summary Chapters 16 and 17


Back at the Burrow for Christmas break, Harry tells Ron what he overheard. Ron reminds Harry that Snape may have only been pretending to help Draco so he could learn more about Voldemort’s plans. At dinner, Harry learns that Remus Lupin has been living underground with the werewolves, spying on their interactions with Voldemort. Lupin tells Harry about Fenir Greyback, who positions himself near the homes of children on the full moon. Harry discovers that Greyback is the werewolf who bit Lupin. Harry asks Lupin if James Potter ever called himself the Half-Blood Prince. Lupin tells Harry that James never mentioned anything about princes. Harry is crushed. On Christmas morning, Mrs. Weasley spots her estranged Ministry-worker son, Percy, walking up the path and bursts into tears. Percy approaches the Burrow along with Rufus Scrimgeour, the Minister of Magic. Percy coldly apologizes for the intrusion, and Scrimgeour asks Harry to give him a tour of the grounds. Outside, Harry refuses to tell Scrimgeour about the prophecy. Scrimgeour asks Harry to stand alongside the Ministry and give the Wizarding community the illusion that they’re working together, but Harry refuses, explaining that he disagrees with the Ministry’s methods. Scrimgeour accuses Harry of being Dumbledore’s man, and Harry readily agrees with this characterization.

After New Year’s, the students return to Hogwarts. Hermione is waiting with a scroll from Dumbledore arranging their next lesson. Harry tells Hermione what he overheard between Draco and Snape. The next morning, a large sign is posted in the common room, announcing Apparition lessons for all students seventeen years of age. That night, Harry reports to Dumbledore’s office as scheduled. Dumbledore asks Harry about his meeting with the Minister. Harry tells Dumbledore that Scrimgeour accused Harry of being Dumbledore’s man and that Harry agreed. To Harry’s embarrassment, Dumbledore’s eyes fill with tears. Harry tells Dumbledore about everything he overheard between Snape and Draco, but Dumbledore seems unconcerned. First, Dumbledore tells Harry about Tom Riddle’s experience at Hogwarts. He was sorted into Slytherin almost immediately and showed no more signs of arrogance or aggression. He was talented and attractive and drew attention and praise from the faculty.

Tom was obsessed with his parentage, and after finding no traces of his father having ever been at Hogwarts, he realized he was a half-blood and adopted the name Lord Voldemort. After researching his middle name, Marvolo, Tom realized that he was a direct descendent of Slytherin. In the summer of his sixteenth year he returned to his mother’s home. Dumbledore and Harry enter the Pensieve. Harry realizes that they are in Gaunt’s house, but it is incredibly filthy. A man with an overgrown beard is slumped in a chair and lunges at Tom when he enters the house. Speaking Parseltongue, Tom commands him to stop, and he does. Tom asks for Marvolo, but Morfin explains that he is dead. Morfin accuses Tom of looking like the Muggle his sister loved. Suddenly, the room goes dark, and Harry feels Dumbledore’s hand on his arm. Dumbledore explains that Tom stupefied Morfin, stole his wand, and went to the town to murder the man who left his mother and his grandparents, destroying the last of the Riddle line. When he returned to Morfin, he implanted a false memory of the murders into Morfin’s mind.

Later, Morfin was convicted of the murders by the Ministry, who traced the magic back to Morfin’s wand. Dumbledore explains that in the last few weeks of Morfin’s life, he was able to use Legilimency to coax out his real memory. Morfin died before he could be released from Azkaban. Dumbledore pulls out another vial of memories, but it is unusually cloudy. They re-enter the Pensieve, and Harry sees a younger Horace Slughorn sitting with half a dozen boys, including Tom Riddle, who is wearing Marvolo’s ring. The students start to leave, but Tom lags behind and asks Slughorn about Horcruxes. As Slughorn answers, the room becomes extremely cloudy, and Slughorn’s voice sounds strangely loud, telling Tom he doesn’t know anything about Horcruxes. They return to Dumbledore’s office, and he explains that the memory has been tampered with by Slughorn, who did not want Dumbledore to know what really happened when Tom asked about Horcruxes. Dumbledore asks Harry to attempt to retrieve the real memory from Slughorn.


Rufus Scrimgeour comes to the Burrow to test both Harry’s integrity and his loyalty to Dumbledore. Scrimgeour assumes that Harry will be eager to pretend he is working alongside the Ministry. Scrimgeour believes that the allusion of an alliance between the Ministry and Harry will give the Wizarding world peace of mind, since everyone believes that Harry is, in fact, the Chosen One. Unfortunately for the Minister, Harry does not agree, and he refuses to support an organization whose principles he finds questionable. Harry’s righteousness is impressive as he steadfastly refuses to agree to Scrimgeour’s sneaky suggestion, even if it might make the public less terrified. Scrimgeour also tries his best to get Harry to betray Dumbledore and reveal the secrets of the prophecy and of what Dumbledore does while at Hogwarts. Harry pledges his allegiance to the headmaster, agreeing when Scrimgeour disdainfully refers to him as Dumbledore’s man. Rather than taking Scrimgeour words as an insult, Harry treats them as a badge of honor. This scene displays Harry’s unfaltering loyalty to those he loves. No amount of coercion by Scrimgeour will make him sacrifice his trusting relationship with Dumbledore, nor will it make him pretend to be a part of an organization he has nothing to do with and doesn’t trust.

As expected, everyone Harry tells about the conversation he overheard between Snape and Draco seems to think that Snape was simply pretending to be working with Voldemort so to not raise any suspicions about his supposed loyalties. Nevertheless, Harry continues to believe that Snape is plotting something terrible. When he confronts Dumbledore about Snape’s behavior, Dumbledore tells Harry once again that he trusts Snape completely. Dumbledore seems uninterested and a little bit annoyed by Harry’s persistent belief that Snape is betraying Dumbledore and the Order. At this point, Harry has no way of taking action against Snape and is powerless without Dumbledore’s support. Even though Harry has outwardly pledged himself to be Dumbledore’s man, his actual faith in his headmaster is finally beginning to wane. Harry slowly begins to see Dumbledore’s kindness and faith as weaknesses rather than strengths. This perception is consistent with Harry’s failure to understand why Dumbledore continues to insist that Harry’s ability to love is his greatest strength in the fight against Voldemort.