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Complete, detailed, and amazing Reader's Guides
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Chapter Six:
Draco's Detour


Notes by Steve Vander Ark and Michele L. Worley
Synopsis and links by John Kearns

U.S. hardcover edition: pages 105 - 128
U.K. hardcover edition: pages 103 - 123
Timeframe: Wednesday, 31 July - Saturday, 3 August, 1996 [Y16]

In which we learn of several disappearances including Florean Fortescue and Mr. Ollivander, and Harry, Hermione, and the Weasleys go shopping at Diagon Alley, escorted by Hagrid.  There they discover a much-changed atmosphere and an empty Leaky Cauldron, have a run-in with Draco and Narcissa Malfoy in Madam Malkin's, tour Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, and sneak out to follow Draco into Borgin and Burke's, where they overhear a mysterious conversation between him and Mr. Borgin.

Draco's Detour

Interesting facts and notes about the text of this chapter:

Harry remained within the confines of the Burrow's garden over the next few weeks.

This gives us a very rough idea of how much time passes between Harry's arrival at the Burrow and his trip to Diagon Alley: more than one week, less than one month.

He spent most of his days playing two-a-side Quidditch in the Weasleys' orchard (he and Hermione against Ron and Ginny; Hermione was dreadful and Ginny good, so they were reasonably well matched)

So Hermione can fly a broomstick well enough to at least try to play pickup Quidditch games, but she's not very good. It's interesting that Harry teamed with a bad Quidditch player is reasonably well matched playing against Ginny teamed with Ron, given that Ron's actually a decent player.

well, frankly, I'm surprised he stayed alive for even a year after deserting the Death Eaters; Sirius' brother, Regulus, only managed a few days as far as I can remember

Interesting.

He used to give me free ice creams.

This was during the summer before Harry's third year, while he was staying at the Leaky Cauldron.

The day after this rather gloomy birthday tea, their letters and booklists arrived from Hogwarts.

That is, on the first of August.

Harry's included a surprise: He had been made Quidditch Captain.

So whoever selects the Quidditch Captain - Professor McGonagall as Head of House seems likely, since there has been no mention of the team voting on the matter - has not chosen the most senior player on the team as was done the previous year.

You can use our bathroom now and everything!

This explains why Harry and Ron are using the same bathroom later on.

We'll go on Saturday

So the trip to Diagon Alley takes place on a Saturday in early August.

the nearest apothecary

The phrasing implies that there is more than one apothecary on Diagon Alley.

We'll do better at Twilfitt and Tatting's.

Nice name for a clothing store, although it's not clear if it's on Diagon Alley (probable) or Knockturn Alley (possible).

we can pop in at the Apothecary

This phrasing (in contrast to the earlier line) suggest that only one Apothecary has a shop on Diagon Alley.

Neither Harry nor Ron bought any ingredients at the Apothecary, seeing that they were no longer studying Potions

Apparently the Apothecary's primary business is to sell potion ingredients.

U-NO-POO - THE CONSTIPATION SENSATION THAT'S GRIPPING THE NATION

Here's a joke that will have difficulty surviving translation. The whole business of the Ministry of Magic posters reminds me (MLW) of the posters that were commonplace in the U.K. and the U.S. during World War II.

trick wands

The trick wands are apparently triggered when someone attempts to use them. The cheap variety transforms into some other item when waved (such as a rubber chicken or a pair of briefs), while the most expensive variety attempts beat the user around the head and neck. This implies that the transformation spell is easier to build into the trick wand than the attack spell.

A beaming Fred stood before them, wearing a set of magenta robes that clashed magnificently with his flaming hair.

As we see later when we encounter one of the twins' employees, these are the staff robes for the shop. Possibly we have a clue here as to why Molly has a mental block about Ron not liking maroon, if the twins like magenta well enough to pick it as the colour of their staff uniforms.

thick yellow paste

It's not clear whether the bruise-removing paste is a WWW product or just something the Weasley twins managed to locate elsewhere.

"Right you are, Verity, I'm coming"

"Verity" means "truth", but it's also a (rather uncommon) girl's name in the English-speaking Muggle world (along the lines of other "virtue" names such as Charity or Mercy). It's interesting that what with her colouring and the staff robes, Verity's description is reminiscent of Rita Skeeter.

range of love potions

Fred's description of the effectiveness the effectiveness of the love potions is geared to explain how they'll work when consumed by a boy and geared toward a girl. The weight of the boy is a factor on how long it will take a dose to run through his system, while the attractiveness of the girl is a factor because it determines how much work the potion has to do in the first place.

Pygmy Puff

A miniature puffskein that looks like a round ball of fluff. A Pygmy Puff may be either pink or purple in colour.

Turning left?

So from Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes heading down Diagon Alley, the entrance to Knockturn Alley is on the left.

large black cabinet

The large black cabinet at Borgin and Burkes in which Harry hid from Lucius and Draco Malfoy the summer before his second year is presumably the Vanishing Cabinet that figures later in the story.

Is this necklace for sale?

This is, as Harry indicates later (HBP12) the cursed opal necklace we last saw four years ago; at 1500 Galleons, no wonder it hasn't sold.

Characters introduced in this chapter:

  • (surname unknown) Verity

  • (unnamed) driver of the Ministry of Magic car the Weasleys take to Diagon Alley

  • (unnamed) wizard trying to sell amulets in Diagon Alley

Characters returning in this chapter:

Characters mentioned in this chapter:

Settings and locations introduced or returning in this chapter:

Settings and locations mentioned in this chapter:

Exceptional character moments:

  • Still to come....

Spells and Potions:

Links and Resources:

Memorable lines:

  • "WHY ARE YOU WORRYING ABOUT YOU-KNOW-WHO?
    YOU SHOULD BE WORRYING ABOUT U-NO-POO -
    THE CONSTIPATION SENSATION THAT'S GRIPPING THE NATION!"

  • "And our Decoy Detonators are just walking off the shelves, look," said Fred, pointing at a number of weird-looking black horn-type objects that were indeed attempting to scurry out of sight.

  • "Whatever you've heard from Ron is a big fat lie."

Strictly British:

Timelines/Calendar:

This chapter zips through much of July, then spents a bit of time on Harry's birthday, 31 July. Booklists arrive on 1 August, the next day, and "a few days" later, which we know to be a Saturday, they all go to Diagon Alley. There is a relatively small inconsistency here: according to the calendar the rest of the year is based on, 1 August should be a Thursday, which doesn't really allow for 'a few days' to pass prior to Saturday (which would be 3 August). But it's certainly not a big enough discrepency to merit changing the whole calendar around.

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