"He's at perfect liberty to kiss whomever he likes."
-- Hermione Granger
Hermione remains angry with Ron, but Harry tries to stay friends with both of them. He finds that girls are trying to seduce him and Romilda Vane tries to slip him a Love Potion. Harry asks Luna Lovegood to Slughorn’s Christmas party, and Hermione invites Cormac McLaggen to upset Ron. After some general mingling at the party, Draco Malfoy is caught prowling the corridors and Professor Snape takes him away to an empty classroom, where Harry overhears Snape’s offers to help Malfoy and Malfoy’s refusals.
Calendar and Dates
An unspecified amount of time passes at the start of the chapter, but finally we are put back on track: it takes place the final two days of classes prior to Christmas break. According to the calendar as we have thus far (based on the date and day of Ron's birthday in HBP18), these two days should fall on Thursday and Friday, 19-20 December.
Interesting facts and notes
I thought Filch had banned anything bought at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes?
As part of their Owl Order Service, Fred and George send love potions disguised as perfumes and cough potions, and make sure to put this information on the back of the bottles.
Snow was swirling against the icy windows once more; Christmas was approaching fast.
The action in this chapter takes place during the week of the fifteenth of December, 1996. The chances of snow in the Highlands in December are actually quite low. It’s much more likely to be overcast, cold, and wet. Maybe the castle is enchanted outside as well as inside to make it more wintery.
Hagrid had already singlehandedly delivered the usual twelve Christmas trees to the Great Hall;
garlands of holly and tinsel had been twisted around the banisters of the stairs; everlasting candles glowed from inside the helmets of suits of armor and great bunches of mistletoe had been hung at intervals along the corridors.
"It's not my fault she's barking mad, Hermione. Or d'you think she overheard you being rude about Filch? I've always thought there might be something between them..."
Not surprisingly, this mystery has captivated many fans over the years. Are they a couple or not? At the end of the book, Filch and Pince are standing together in the Entrance Hall before Dumbledore’s funeral:
...and when they reached the Entrance Hall, they found Madam Pince standing beside Filch, she in a thick black veil that fell to her knees, he in an ancient black suit and tie reeking of mothballs (HBP30)..
"You could've taken anyone!" said Ron in disbelief over dinner. "Anyone! And you chose Loony Lovegood?"
"Don't call her that, Ron!" snapped Ginny, pausing behind Harry on her way to join friends. "I'm really glad you're taking her Harry, she's so excited."
Ginny is glad that Harry chose someone to take who clearly wasn’t a romantic interest.
Whether it had been built that way, or because he had used magical trickery to make it so, Slughorn's office was much larger than the usual teacher's study. The ceiling and walls had been draped with emerald, crimson, and gold hangings, so that it looked as though they were all inside a vast tent. The room was crowded and stuffy and bathed in the red light cast by an ornate golden lamp dangling from the center of the ceiling in which real fairies were fluttering, each a brilliant speck of light. Loud singing accompanied by what sounded like mandolins issued from a distant corner; a haze of pipe smoke hung over several elderly warlocks deep in conversation, and a number of house-elves were negotiating their way squeakily through the forest of knees, obscured by the heavy silver platters of food they were bearing, so that they looked like little roving tables.
"Harry, I'd like you to meet Eldred Worple, an old student of mine, author of Blood Brothers: My Life Amongst the Vampires - and, of course, his friend Sanguini."
Worple, who was a small, stout, bespectacled man, grabbed Harry's hand and shook it enthusiastically; the vampire Sanguini, who was tall and emaciated with dark shadows under his eyes, merely nodded. He looked rather bored. A gaggle of girls was standing close to him, looking curious and excited.
Vampires in the Harry Potter world are portrayed as something other than human. The behavior of Sanguini, whose name is derived from the Latin word for blood, sanguin, is described in an animal-like way. He moves toward the girls watching him as if stalking his prey. He is a living stereotype.
The behavior of the girls is also calling on a stereotype: that of teen-aged girls swooning over the romantic and tragic idea of vampires. Coincidentally, this book was published the same year as the first of the Twilight novels which set off a pseudo-competition between Harry Potter fans and those of that extremely popular vampire series.
"Oh, of course," said Professor Trelawney with an angry, drunken titter. "Or Dobbin, as I prefer to think of him. You would have thought, would you not, that now I am returned to the school Professor Dumbledore might have got rid of the horse? But no ... we share classes. . . . It's an insult, frankly, an insult ...
Trelawney’s indignation is understandable since she would never have used the word "Divination" to describe what the Centaurs believed. In many ways, she is correct -- it is an entirely different discipline, which perhaps explains why Dumbledore kept Firenze on as a teacher. The fact that Firenze might have been viciously attacked if he returned to his herd might also have something to do with it as well. The Headmaster is protecting his staff.
It was easy, once out of the party, to pull his Invisibility Cloak out of his pocket and throw it over himself, for the corridor was quite deserted.
The fact that a Cloak of Invisibility big enough to fit over three people can be tucked away in a pocket speaks to its thoroughly magical nature.
"If your friends Crabbe and Goyle intend to pass their Defense Against the Dark Arts OWL this time around, they will need to work a little harder than they are doing at pres —"
So it would seem that Crabbe and Goyle failed at least one of their exams in their fifth year and are doing them over again at the end of this year. We are never told whether they are taking remedial classes or whether they are taking classes with the fifth year students.
Exceptional character moments
Draco shows a complete lack of respect for Professor Snape. Harry is surprised to hear Draco speak so rudely to a Professor whom he had always esteemed.
Harry had to put up with the frequent presence of Lavender Brown, who seemed to regard any moment that she was not kissing Ron as a moment wasted.
It seemed extraordinary that Hermione's mania for upholding rules could have abandoned her at this crucial juncture.
"What have you been doing to that book, you depraved boy?"
There was a noise like a plunger being withdrawn from a blocked sink and Ron surfaced.
"Wow, you like your Quidditch players, don't you? First Krum, then McLaggen..."
"I like really good Quidditch players," Hermione corrected her, still smiling.
Harry was left to ponder in silence the depths to which girls would sink to get revenge.
"The Aurors are part of the Rotfang Conspiracy, I thought everyone knew that. They're working to bring down the Ministry of Magic from within using a combination of Dark Magic and gum disease."
Words and phrases
From the Web
Harry Potter Wiki:
WizardingWorld (Pottermore): The chapter that made us fall in love with... Horace Slughorn