Chapter 1: The Other Minister
The Prime Minister of Muggles is having a very rough week. In addition to being blamed for deaths and freak hurricanes that aren't his fault, he's just been informed by Cornelius Fudge, the former Minister of Magic, that the havoc his country is going through is the result of Lord Voldemort, who has returned to power. When he's introduced to Fudge's successor, Rufus Scrimgeour, the new Minister does not make him feel better about the grim situation.
When Severus Snape opens his door to find sisters Narcissa Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange on his stoop, he's unsurprised and immediately invites them inside. Narcissa is frantic for Snape's help in spite of Bellatrix's distrust of Snape's true loyalties. Snape, in his usual wry manner, invites Bellatrix to clear the air by asking him whatever she wants. Snape frankly answers her questions about his role as a Death Eater and proclaims his loyalty to the Dark Lord. When Narcissa is finally free to entreat Snape for help, he finds that she's worried about her son, Draco, and the task Voldemort has required him to accomplish. Snape makes an Unbreakable Vow with Narcissa, promising that he will help Draco on his mission and protect him.
Harry Potter has been waiting for Dumbledore for what feels like ages. Having received a letter that the Headmaster would be arriving at the Dursley's to pick him up, he hadn't even started packing in case the plan fell through or it turned out to be a trap. When Dumbledore shows up, however, Harry is more than surprised and rushes downstairs to greet him. Dumbledore's arrival is less-than-welcome to the Dursley's, however, and when Dumbledore walks into the living room to talk to Harry the air is thick with Uncle Vernon's ill will.
Harry finds out that Sirius left him everything in his will, including Kreacher, the house-elf that betrayed Sirius right before he died. Harry loathes Kreacher, and sends him to Hogwarts so he can work in the kitchens. As Harry and Dumbledore are leaving, Dumbledore reprimands the Dursley's for never showing Harry any kindness, and asks that Harry be allowed to come back one more time before he comes of age next year. When they get outside, they set out together into the warm summer's night.
They don't walk far when Dumbledore stops suddenly and takes Harry along for his first Apparition. Harry decides quickly that he doesn't like it, and will always prefer to travel by broom. As they walk down an unfamiliar street on a mysterious errand, Harry questions Dumbledore about what's been going on in the wizarding world while he's been stuck at the Dursley's. Harry finds out that the reason his scar hasn't burned once is because Voldemort is now practicing Occlumency against him. He also soon finds out what they're doing in the strange village; Dumbledore is going to try to talk an old colleague, Horace Slughorn, out of retirement to come to Hogwarts to teach.
When they get to Slughorn's house, things look very grim. All signs point to a vicious attack, and as they walk around the living room Harry is horrified by all the blood. Dumbledore knows better, however, and quickly unmasks Slughorn, who staged the whole scene and was in fact in the room hiding in the living room as an armchair.
As they sit for tea, Slughorn is revealed to be a nice, fussy old man who likes to be associated with famous and powerful people. Harry gets the feeling that Dumbledore wants to keep him front and center for Slughorn to see. When Dumbledore leaves to use the restroom Harry is able to, inadvertently, convince Slughorn to come back to work at Hogwarts. When Harry and Dumbledore leave Horace's house for the Burrow, Harry realizes that he is not sure he likes Slughorn or not.
When Dumbledore and Harry Apparate to the Burrow Dumbledore informs Harry that they'll be taking private lessons together, and he also praises Harry on how well he seems to be dealing with Sirius's death. He lets Harry know that he should tell Ron and Hermione about the prophecy regarding him and Voldemort, because he needs his friends.
When Molly Weasley, Ron's mother, makes Harry some late dinner she tells him excitedly that her husband, Arthur, has recently been promoted in the Ministry. As soon as Mr. Weasley gets home from a very long day at work Harry goes to bed, exhausted from the night's events.
Ron and Hermione wake Harry up early the next morning. Before they have the chance for a good conversation though, a blindingly beautiful woman appears in Harry's doorway carrying a full breakfast tray. The woman is Fleur Delacour, the part-veela contestant from the TriWizard Tournament. Harry is shocked to find out that she and Ron's brother, Bill, are engaged to be married.
When everyone else leaves the room Harry plucks up the courage to tell Ron and Hermione about the prophecy, and is more comforted than he can say when they keep their horror in check and offer words of support.
He's also happy with his O.W.L. results that come by owl later that day. His burning desire to become an Auror, however, looks like it will remain just that. Harry does not secure a high-enough Potions grade to continue with the required course, and in his heart of hearts he's very disappointed.
Harry spends the next few weeks happily sequestered at the Burrow. It would have been a perfect break except for the daily reports of deaths and disappearances that keep coming in. When booklists finally arrive, they all head out to Diagon Alley to pick up school supplies. Harry's is thrilled when he discovers that his "bodyguard" is Hagrid, and the group split up in order to get their shopping done quickly. Mrs. Weasley is frantic over everyone's safety, and urges Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Hagrid to come back as soon as they're done at Madam Malkins.
While they get inside Madam Malkin's they are unpleasantly surprised to find Draco Malfoy in there getting fitted for robes with his mother. They narrowly avoid brawling with Malfoy, and Harry catches him acting strangely when Madam Malkin tries to touch his arm. Malfoy and his mother storm out of the shop soon after. As soon as Harry, Ron, and Hermione are done shopping they meet the rest of the Weasleys and head over to Fred and George's new joke shop, which is lit up like a Christmas tree and packed to the gills with people. As they check out all the new products, Harry sees Draco walk past the shop alone, and decides to follow him under his Invisibility Cloak.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione follow him to Knockturn Alley, where he goes into Borgin and Burkes, a Dark shop. With a pair of Ron's Extendable Ears, they listen as Malfoy threatens Borgin to fix something of his. When Malfoy leaves, Hermione goes into the shop to see if she can find out any more information, but Borgin quickly realizes what she's up to and throws her out.
Draco's meeting with Borgin is on Harry's mind constantly the last week leading up to school. He becomes convinced that Malfoy has replaced his father as Death Eater, although he's unable to convince Ron and Hermione.
Right before they all leave on the Hogwart's Express, Harry tells Mr. Weasley of Malfoy's foray in Knockturn Alley, and while Mr. Weasley doesn't seem convinced either, he promises to check out Malfoy's house. Harry gets a compartment on the train with Neville and Luna, and tries to ignore the fact that, once again, everyone on the train is staring at him. Right around lunchtime he and Neville both receive invitations from Professor Slughorn asking them to come to his compartment for a bite to eat. When they show up they're surprised to find the compartment full of well-connected and rich students that Slughorn has also invited. Harry is questioned about his night at the Ministry but gives nothing away.
On his way back he rashly decides to slip into Malfoy's compartment under his Invisibility Cloak to hear what Malfoy's up to. He hears a number of interesting things, but things go downhill when the train stops at Hogwarts and Malfoy discovers Harry's hiding in there. He jinxes Harry and leaves him on the train, frozen, with a bloody nose, and headed back towards
Harry's in a right fix -- he can't move, and the train is starting back towards
. Luckily Tonks realizes he doesn't get off at Hogwarts and discovers him just in time. They're able to jump off the train and walk up to Hogwarts together. Snape meets them both at the gate and wastes no time humiliating Harry for being bloody and late to the Feast, plus taking 70 points from Gryffindor although the term hasn't even started. London
As Dumbledore gives his traditional speech at the end of the Feast, Harry and the rest of the school are shocked to find that Snape has finally achieved his burning ambition to become Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, and that Slughorn will be taking his place as Potions Professor.
As his first day back at school starts, Harry gets a lift when he realizes his ambition to become an Auror isn't out of his reach after all. Slughorn will accept him into Potions with his O.W.L. grade. First, though, he must get through his class with Snape in Defense Against the Dark Arts. He isn't surprised when he gets into an argument with Snape and lands himself in detention.
Right after that he gets a note from Dumbledore with the date and time of their first private lesson. Harry, Ron, and Hermione spend their break discussing what Dumbledore could possibly teach Harry that could help in his fight with Voldemort.
His first Potions class with Slughorn is interesting. He and Ron both have to borrow books and supplies from Slughorn because they didn't know they'd be able to take the class. Slughorn sets the class a challenge on their first day. Whoever produces the finest example of Draught of Living Death wins a tiny bottle of Felix Felicis potion, which makes you have a lucky day. Harry badly wants to win the potion, and is dismayed at first to find his book has been scribbled in. When he bends down to read the instructions, however, he finds that the previous owner wrote their own instructions. Taking a chance, he follows the handwritten ones and is amazed to find they work much better than the book's. To the astonishment of everyone in the class, Harry wins the Felix Felicis. As he's walking out he sees on the back cover that the book once belonged to someone called the Half-Blood Prince.
For the next week Harry continues to follow the Half-Blood Prince's instructions over the book's instructions and becomes the star of the Potions class, much to Hermione's disgust.
When Saturday night comes he eagerly heads off to his private lesson with Dumbledore. He's surprised to find out that Dumbledore does not plan to teach him to fight. They're going to be learning about Voldemort's past. With some trepidation, Harry slides into the Pensieve with Dumbledore to look at a very important memory.
The memory follows a man named Bob Ogden, who is a Ministry official on a errand to see the Gaunt family. When he gets to their hut he is threatened by the son, Morfin, and then follows the father, Mr. Gaunt, into the hut, which is dark and filthy. He informs the Gaunts that Morfin will have to go to trial for hexing Muggles. He catches a glimpse of the daughter, Merope, and then is threatened so heartily from Mr. Gaunt that he runs for his life.
Harry discovers from Dumbledore that Merope is Voldemort's mother, and she enchanted a Muggle, Tom Riddle, to marry her. With his head swimming with tons of new information about Voldemort's past, he says goodnight and heads back to the Common Room to fill in Ron and Hermione with everything he's learned.
As the weeks slip by everyone's workload is almost too much to bear. Lessons are harder than ever, and Harry feels that all he ever does is homework. As a result, he's been unable to go visit Hagrid and explain why he didn't sign up for Care of Magical Creatures again. Hagrid has not spoken to him once since the first day back, and Harry knows he's furious.
The day of Quidditch team try-outs is a long one for Harry. As the new Team Captain he's stressed out by all the people that show up to get on the team, and gets furious when he discovers most of them are from other Houses and can't play for Gryffindor anyway. He leaves the Keeper try-out till the end, hoping Ron will have an empty field to try out in front of, but to his dismay there's even more people there as the afternoon wears on. A big burly hopeful, Cormac McLaggen, gets furious when Harry chooses Ron over him, but Ron outflew him. Harry gets suspicious over Hermione's behavior and starts to wonder if she jinxed Cormac so Ron could get on the team.
After try-outs they go and try to talk to Hagrid. He's furious with them at first, but quickly bursts into tears and tells them that the giant spider, Aragog, is dying. He softens up after they tell him that they couldn't fit his class into their busy schedules.
On their way to dinner later Harry finds out that Hermione did indeed confund McLaggen, and he's amazed she'd do something so questionable, in spite of McLaggen's bad personality. Slughorn invites Harry and Hermione to a little dinner party he's throwing next Saturday, and is dismayed when Harry tells him he has detention with Snape and can't make it.
Harry has a terrible time out in Hogsmead when their first visit finally comes around. He catches Mundungus Fletcher hawking some of Sirius's possessions that he stole from
Grimmauld Place, but before Harry can explode on him he Disapparates. Slughorn invites Harry to another party, but he can't make it this time because he's got another lesson with Dumbledore. The weather is cold and snowy, and the three friends all agree it wasn't a fun day out on the town.
As they trudge back up to the school, they are surprised to see Katie Bell and one of her friends arguing over a package that Katie is holding. Katie's friend tries to grab the package out of her hands and it rips and falls to the ground. Suddenly Katie floats eerily up into the air, and then starts to scream in the most horrible way. Harry, Ron, and Hermione rush forward and tug her back to the ground, but Katie won't stop screaming. Harry runs for help and finds Hagrid, who quickly carries Katie back up to the school. Harry wraps the package in his scarf and they rush back to check on Katie.
Professor McGonagall meets them on the front steps and gives the package, containing an ornate opal necklace, to Professor Snape in the hopes that it will help him cure Katie. She questions Harry, Ron, Hermione and Leanne, Katie's friend, in her office, wanting to know exactly what happened. Harry is convinced that Malfoy is behind the whole ugly scene, and is furious with his friends when they don't support his theory.
Katie is taken to St. Mungo's Hospital for treatment, and the whole school is abuzz with gossip about her brush with death. No one is able to find out who gave her the dangerous package, but Harry still remains convinced of Malfoy's guilt.
When it comes time for his lesson with Dumbledore, Harry questions him on where he goes when he leaves the school, which is often as of late. While Dumbledore doesn't tell him straight away, he does say that he'll tell Harry everything in time, which surprises Harry very much.
Their lesson this time is centered on a memory of Dumbledore's from years ago. He goes to a Muggle orphanage and visits a boy, Tom Riddle, who has magical powers and has been invited to attend Hogwarts. Harry knows that the boy is Voldemort, but it's still unnerving to see him as a child. When Dumbledore interviews Tom and tells him he can do magic the boy is proud and self-absorbed. He's full of mischief, and Dumbledore finds out he steals and is cruel to other children in the orphanage.
When Harry and Dumbledore are back in Dumbledore's office they discuss the boy Riddle and his tendency to collect "trophies" from his crimes.
When Harry tells Ron and Hermione everything he learned from Dumbledore, they're awed by the thought of Voldemort as a child. Hermione and Ron get into a row about Slughorn's parties. Hermione keeps getting invited, but Ron is jealous that she always gets to go. He's taken aback when Hermione tells him that she was planning on asking him to the next one as her guest, and Harry is confused about how he feels about this. He always knew that Hermione and Ron getting together might happen one day, but he's afraid if it doesn't work out he'll lose his two best friends. He decides to just wait and see what happens between them.
After Quidditch practice that night (during which Ron played horribly) Ron and Harry are walking back to the common room when they stumble on Ginny and her boyfriend Dean making out in the corridor. Ron is furious, and Harry is astonished to realize he is too. He doesn't want anyone touching Ginny, and quickly realizes he really likes her, that he has for a long time but he never knew it.
The first Quidditch match is upon them before they know it, and Ron has never played worse. To bolster his spirits, Harry pretends to pour the lucky potion Felix Felicis into Ron's drink right before the game, and lets Hermione catch him doing it. When Ron suspects he drank the potion his confidence soars, plus a key Chaser and Malfoy are found to be missing from the team. They almost lose, but Harry distracts the reserve Seeker and catches the Snitch. Gryffindor wins spectacularly, 210-0. When Hermione confronts them both, she and Ron get into another huge fight and she storms off in tears. Ron retaliates against Hermione later that night by kissing Lavender Brown for hours at a time. Hermione is devastated, and a feud begins.
Meanwhile, Harry wonders why Malfoy, as a prefect and the most important player on the Slytherin team, would take off a game.
Christmas is approaching fast. Ron and Hermione's feud is still going strong, and Ron's involvement with Lavender Brown is not helping matters. Hermione is still trying to get to the bottom of who the Half-Blood Prince is, and she's livid that Harry is still using the Prince's tips to excel in Potions. When Slughorn announces that he's giving a Christmas party, Harry is dismayed at the number of girls who are dying to go with him. He ends up asking Luna Lovegood to go, as friends, and gossip spreads fast about the two of them.
The party isn't so bad, but when Malfoy gets dragged in by Filch for gate-crashing Harry is overjoyed. Snape drags Malfoy outside to reprimand him, and Harry follows under his Invisibility Cloak so he can eavesdrop.
He hears Snape questioning Malfoy about what Malfoy is up to. Malfoy won't tell him, however, and Snape tells him he only wants to help, that he made the Unbreakable Vow to Malfoy's mother that he would protect him. Malfoy scoffs at him, saying he doesn't need Snape's help and he's not going to tell anyone what his plan is. When they stalk out of the empty classroom Harry's head is reeling from the conversation.
Harry and Ron are at the Burrow for Christmas. As they're helping make dinner, Ron and Harry discuss Snape's conversation, and Ron tells Harry that if anyone breaks an Unbreakable Vow they die. This leads Harry to believe that whatever Snape promised to Draco's mother was serious business. Harry is convinced that Snape is still working on the side of the Death Eaters.
On Christmas Eve night he tells Mr. Weasley and Lupin about what he overheard, but they trust Snape and believe that it was on Dumbledore's orders that he questioned Malfoy.
During Christmas Dinner the next day things get interesting when Rufus Scrimgeour and Percy Weasley show up. Scrimgeour asks Harry to walk him around the garden while Percy "catches up" with his family. Harry sees at once that this is the real reason why they have stopped by. When he's outside with Scrimgeour, the Minister makes it clear that he wants Harry to start working for the Ministry, to give people a "boost" that The Chosen One is helping out the fight against Voldemort. Harry is stunned that they would have the audacity to ask him to do this, and refuses point-blank to help the Ministry.
When Harry and Ron get back to Hogwarts after the Christmas break, Harry is dismayed to discover that Hermione is still refusing to speak to Ron. He doesn't waste any time, however, filling her in on Snape's conversation the night of the party. Notices go up the next morning letting everyone know that Apparition lessons will be starting soon. Everyone is excited except Harry, who isn't that thrilled to learn to Apparate.
The night of his next lesson with Dumbledore comes quickly and Harry fills Dumbledore in on Snape's conversation. Dumbledore insists that Snape is trustworthy, but Harry still does not believe Snape is on their side.
Dumbledore shows Harry two more memories that he thinks are most important. The first shows Voldemort returning to the hut where his mother lived so many years ago. He goes in there and finds Morfin, his uncle. Voldemort goes into the village that night and kills his Muggle father, Tom Riddle, and his family. Voldemort modifies Morfin's memory so that Morfin believes he committed the crimes. When he confesses to the whole thing he's sent to Azkaban, and no one ever suspects that Voldemort was even there.
The second memory Dumbledore feels is even more important. It shows a much younger Horace Slughorn, surrounded by a circle of students, one of them being Tom Riddle. Riddle waits until all the other students leave, and then asks Slughorn what Horcruxes are. The memory gets foggy suddenly, and Slughorn shouts that he doesn't know anything about Horcruxes. Harry is confused until Dumbledore tells Harry that Slughorn has modified his own memory, and he sets Harry the most important task of retrieving the true memory from Slughorn.
When Harry tells Ron and Hermione (separately, of course, since they're still not speaking) about his task with Slughorn they're both baffled as to what Horcruxes are. When Harry hangs back after Potions and questions Slughorn, he gets very upset and yells that he has no idea what Horcruxes are. Harry is further annoyed when even the library can't tell them what this mysterious thing is.
Their first Apparation lesson takes place in the Great Hall, and Harry can't manage to Apparate once. He does overhear Malfoy yelling at his friend, Crabbe, and Harry realizes that Malfoy is using his friends as lookouts for something.
When Ron's birthday arrives Harry is checking the Marauder's Map for Malfoy and doesn't see Ron accidentally eat a bunch of candy spiked with love potion from some of Harry's admirers. Harry drags a lovesick Ron to Slughorn's office for an antidote, and when Ron comes back down to Earth he's devastated about his erratic behavior. Slughorn gives them all a drink in celebration of Ron's birthday. Ron is the first to drink the mead and he collapses immediately, foaming horrifically at the mouth and twitching violently. Harry knows he's been poisoned and rushes to Slughorn's bag where he knows a tiny bezoar stone is kept. He shoves it down Ron's throat, praying that it works.
Later that night Ron's family, Hermione, and Harry are all in the hospital wing waiting for Ron to come to. They talk incessantly about who could have poisoned Ron, but come to no conclusions.
Harry is quickly becoming obsessed with Draco Malfoy. Convinced he's up to something, Harry constantly checks the Marauder's Map, but has no explanation of why Malfoy disappears every now again off the map. Ron is making a quick recovery in the hospital wing, but he won't be allowed out until after the next Quidditch game, which means Harry has to take on the next-best player to fill his place. He grudgingly lets Cormac McLaggen on as Keeper.
When the day of the game arrives, Harry is instantly annoyed with McLaggen, who tells everyone how to play their position. During the game Harry streaks across the field when he sees McLaggen showing one of the Beaters how to hold their bat. He makes it just in time for McLaggen to hit him across the head, knocking him out cold.
When he comes to he's in the hospital wing, in a bed right next to Ron's. He's furious with McLaggen, who cost them the game, and has a hard time going to sleep because he can't stop thinking about Malfoy. He gets a stroke of genius, however, and tentatively calls Kreacher to him to order him to follow Malfoy.
When Kreacher appears he's fighting with Dobby, who attacked Kreacher in the kitchens when Kreacher was insulting Harry. Harry asks both of the house elves to follow Malfoy and find out what he's up to.
When Harry and Ron get out of the hospital wing they're pleased to find that Hermione has buried her grudge against Ron and is friends with him again. Harry feels hopeful when he hears Ginny and Dean had an argument, although he's disappointed they didn't break up.
Harry's next lesson with Dumbledore is upon him before he knows it, and his heart sinks when he realizes that he forgot all about his task of getting Slughorn's true memory. Dumbledore seems very disappointed in him until Harry apologizes and promises to get the memory.
Dumbledore shows Harry two more memories. The first is a memory showing Voldemort as a young man working for Borgin and Burkes. He goes to an old woman's house to persuade her to part with some of her treasures, and finds that she owns two objects that are of extreme interest to him; a cup of Hufflepuff's, and a locket of Slytherin's. Voldemort comes back days later and kills the old woman for those two treasures, and the house elf, Hokey, is blamed for her death.
The last memory is of Voldemort years later, when he arrives at Hogwarts to ask Dumbledore for a job. He wants to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts, and is furious when Dumbledore refuses the post to him.
Harry leaves with nothing but questions about the significance of all these memories, and Dumbledore promises to fill him in when Harry retrieves the memory from Slughorn.
Harry racks his brain over the next few weeks as to how he's going to get the memory from Slughorn. He's sitting in the Common Room one night with Ron and Hermione when Kreacher and Dobby show up to make their report on Malfoy. Harry finds out that Malfoy has been using the Room of Requirement to do whatever he's been doing, and is stunned he didn't figure it out sooner.
Harry tries numerous times over the next few weeks to get into the room to see what Malfoy is doing, but he's unable to penetrate the magic and come up with the right string of words to let him in.
Harry's obsession with Malfoy is driving both Ron and Hermione crazy. While they're outside one day they receive a note from Hagrid who sobbingly tells them that Aragog died during the night, and asks them if they would come to the burial. They're all stunned that he would ask them to do something they'd surely get detention for, and resolve not to go. Ron suddenly gets a brilliant idea and tells Harry he should take a swig of Felix Felicis and try to get the memory from Slughorn after that. Harry is a bit reluctant because deep down he was saving the Felix in the hopes that he could ask Ginny out.
He decides in the end to use the potion, and once he takes a swig he ambles down to Hagrid's, feeling like the luckiest, most confident guy in the world. He bumps into Slughorn in the garden and persuades him to attend Aragog's funeral as well.
Later that night, with Felix's help, Harry is able to procure the memory from Slughorn.
Harry races to Dumbledore's office in spite of the late hour. When Dumbledore hears that Harry has gotten the memory he's ecstatic, and they both jump into the Pensieve quickly to have a look at it.
The memory shows Slughorn telling the young Voldemort about Horcruxes, which is the act of splitting your soul by murdering someone and putting half of the soul away in an object so you cannot be killed. Slughorn looks very uncomfortable talking about it, but he ends up telling Voldemort what he needs to know.
When Dumbledore and Harry get back to his office, Dumbledore fills Harry in on the meaning of all the memories. He tells Harry that he believes Voldemort split his soul into seven parts, storing six pieces in Horcruxes to grant himself immortality, while leaving the seventh in his body. Harry is horrified, but relieved somewhat when Dumbledore explains that, by now, there are only 4 more Horcruxes to be found. Two of the Horcruxes have been destroyed, one -- Marvolo Gaunt's ring -- by Dumbledore, and one -- Tom Riddle's diary -- by Harry in his 2nd year at Hogwarts. One part is still in Voldemort's body, and Dumbledore believes that Voldemort placed the other 4 Horcruxes in some of the objects he stole, like Hufflepuff's cup and Slytherin's locket. Dumbledore promises Harry that if he finds out where the next Horcrux is, Harry can come with him to help him destroy it.
When Harry fills in Ron and Hermione on the night's events, they're in awe at the thought of Voldemort having a 7-part soul. Harry is thrilled to discover that Ginny and Dean broke up the night before, and he immediately starts wondering if Ron would kill him for asking her out. He's also thrilled when Katie Bell gets out of the hospital, which means his Quidditch team is all back together again. As the days slip past, he can't stop himself from staring at Ginny, and is in constant turmoil about asking her out.
One afternoon he slips into a bathroom to escape Filch and is shocked to see Malfoy in there crying. When Malfoy sees Harry in the mirror they both whip their wands out and start dueling. Before Harry knows what he's doing he shouts a curse that the Half-Blood Prince made up, sectumsempra. He's terrified when blood starts pouring out of Malfoy. Snape hears the ruckus from outside and storms in. He quickly heals Draco with a spell and helps him to the hospital wing. When he returns for Harry wants to know where Harry learned such Dark magic. When Harry tries to close his mind against Snape he's unable to, and Snape demands that Harry bring him all his schoolbooks immediately.
Harry is resolute that Snape not get his hands on the Half-Blood Prince's Potions book, so he switches books with Ron and quickly runs to the Room of Requirement to hide his book. When he races back to the bathroom to give them to Snape he's given detention every weekend until school lets out, which means he'll miss the final game of the Quidditch season.
After his detention he's on pins and needles to know whether or not they won the game, and when he gets to the Gryffindor Common Room he's amazed to find out they had a stunning victory. Before he knows what's happening he's kissing Ginny in front of everyone. When he looks up Ron gives a shrug, letting him know it's all right. Harry's heart explodes with gladness and he and Ginny go outside for a long talk.
The fact that he's finally going out with Ginny makes Harry very happy over the next few weeks. Hermione is still trying to find out who the Half-Blood Prince really is, and is disgruntled when Harry refuses to give up the book in spite of the Dark spells that are in it.
Harry is excited one night when he receives an urgent message from Dumbledore asking him to meet him in his office. He's racing to his office when he bumps into Professor Trelawney, who was just thrown out of the Room of Requirement. After hearing her account of what happened, Harry realizes that Malfoy is in there celebrating, which fills his heart with dread.
He drags Trelawney to Dumbledore's office, and as they walk she talks about one thing or another. Harry is barely listening until she starts talking about the night she made the prophecy about him and Voldemort. His ears perk up then, and she reveals that it was Snape who told Voldemort about the prophecy in the first place, which resulted in the deaths of Harry's parents.
Harry is so furious he can't even think. He runs to Dumbledore's office, who tells him that he's found a Horcrux and he wants Harry to come with him to destroy it. When Harry tells Dumbledore what he learned from Trelawney, Dumbledore assures an irate Harry that Snape feels terrible about what happened, and it was this event that caused him to leave the Death Eaters and come to Dumbledore's side. Harry is not convinced, and now hates Snape worse than ever.
Harry races back to the Common Room to get his Invisibility Cloak and tells Ron and Hermione quickly what he's about to do with Dumbledore. He also tells them about Malfoy celebrating, and gives them his bottle of Felix Felicis, urging them to keep an eye on Malfoy while he's gone.
Harry and Dumbledore walk quickly into the night, and once they step off the Hogwarts grounds they Apparate away to find the Horcrux and destroy it.
When they land Harry finds himself on a rocky ledge at the ocean's edge. Dumbledore leads him down a steep cliff, and through the water to a dark cave. When they get inside Dumbledore is quiet, and finally finds the doorway that is concealed by magic. They walk inside and Dumbledore searches for the means to cross a vast lake, where he believes the Horcrux is hidden. Clues have been left, craftily concealed by Voldemort's magic, but Dumbledore finally unveils a small boat, which they use to cross the lake. Harry is horrified to discover that the lake is actually teeming with dead bodies, which will come to life if either one of them touches the water.
When they get to the small island in the middle of the lake, they find the Horcrux contained in the middle of a basin that is full of a watery substance. Dumbledore deduces that the only way to get it out is to drink the water, and makes Harry promise that if the substance incapacitates him, that Harry will force Dumbledore to drink the rest so they can get the Horcrux. Reluctantly, Harry agrees. When Dumbledore starts drinking he quickly collapses in agony, and Harry has to force him to drink the rest of the potion. Dumbledore screams in pain, and still Harry makes him drink, hating himself. When the basin is empty, Dumbledore cries for water, and Harry has to dip from the lake, which awakens the dead bodies. There are too many for him to fight off, and he's about to be dragged into the lake when Dumbledore comes to and fights them off. They head back out to the sea, and Harry Apparates a very weak Dumbledore back to Hogwarts.
Once they're back in Hogsmead, Harry and Dumbledore are horrified to see the Dark Mark hovering over the school, meaning Death Eaters have attacked. They race back on brooms loaned by Madam Rosmerta and land on top of the
. Dumbledore urges Harry to go find Snape, but before he can, Draco Malfoy opens the tower door. Dumbledore uses his split-second advantage to immobilize Harry, who's still under his Invisibility Cloak, and Draco disarms Dumbledore. Harry can't move, and watches in agony as Dumbledore is cornered and wandless. He tries to talk Malfoy into coming over to the good side, and Malfoy pretends to be brave, saying Voldemort gave him the task of killing Dumbledore and now he's going to do it. His bravado starts to waver, however, when Dumbledore says he's not really a killer, that the Order can hide Draco and his mother. Just as Malfoy is about to lower his wand, other Death Eaters show up and start taunting Dumbledore. Astronomy Tower
Snape shows up soon after and, pushing everyone else aside, kills Dumbledore with the Avada Kedavra curse without a second thought.
Devastated does not even come close to what Harry is feeling. He can't believe that Dumbledore is dead, and after the Death Eaters escape back down the steps he can't move. He knows Dumbledore really is dead because the spell that froze him has been lifted, but it just doesn't seem real.
Suddenly, Harry takes off down the steps, determined to kill Snape once and for all. He races through the battle that is taking place downstairs. Many members of the Order,along with Ron, Hermione, Neville and Ginny, are there fighting Death Eaters. He runs as fast as he can after Snape and Malfoy, who are headed for Hogsmead so they can Disapparate. Two other Death Eaters follow Harry, shooting curses at him left and right.
Harry finally catches up with Snape and starts dueling with him, wanting to kill him. Snape screams that he is the Half-Blood Prince that Harry has been depending on all year. Snape does not curse Harry, however, only deflects his spells. Snape manages to escape, and Harry feels lower than he ever has in his life.
When he walks back up to the castle with Hagrid, Harry kneels over Dumbledore's body and sees the Horcrux they went out to find that night. He opens the locket and sinks when he realizes that it is a fake -- the real Horcrux has been taken by someone else a long time ago.
Harry stays by Dumbledore's body until a warm hand leads him away. It's Ginny, and he follows her up to the hospital wing, where most of the Order, Ron, and Hermione are all being treated. He finds out that a werewolf viciously attacked Bill, and although he won't turn into a werewolf each month, he's still going to be disfigured for life. Fleur shocks everyone by her devotion to Bill, saying she doesn't care what he looks like and that the wedding will go on as planned.
When Harry tells them all that Snape killed Dumbledore, everyone is shocked and devastated by the terrible news. They are comforted, however, when Fawkes, Dumbledore's phoenix, starts singing a song that seems to put their despair over the loss into music. It's haunting, sad, and beautiful all the same time, and brings a measure of peace over the school, at least for a while.
Dumbledore's funeral brings in witches and wizards from all over the world. He's laid to rest in a white tomb on the grounds, and the funeral is a somber affair that seems to rip Harry's heart out.
He makes up his mind about a few things. He tells Ginny that he can no longer be with her, even though he cares about her more than anything. He's afraid that Voldemort will use Ginny to get to Harry, and he doesn't want to see that happen.
He also decides he's not coming back to Hogwarts. His new mission is to find the rest of the Horcruxes and destroy them so that he has a fighting chance of killing Voldemort for good. He's comforted more than he can say when both Ron and Hermione say they won't leave his side and that they're coming with him on his journey. They do have one stop to make before they begin, however. They have to go to the Burrow first for one last day of peace at Bill and Fleur's wedding.