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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince  - J.K. Rowling I remember when this book was originally released. I'd gotten into the Harry Potter phenomenon late, after the 5th book was out, and during the time before Half-Blood Prince was out, I'd read and re-read the first 5 books... A LOT.

So then comes the 6th book's release, and by this time, I'm just as rabid for it as everyone else. I need to know what's happened. I need to know whether Sirius... but no. What I really need to know is What Will Harry Do Now? The day comes, and, at the time, I was working a late shift. I got out of work at 11:15pm, raced to the bookstore for the midnight release... and found it closed, dark, and the parking lot nearly empty when I got there at 11:30.

OH! I was LIVID. I immediately, literally standing in the parking lot, called the bookstore and ripped the manager a new one. The book releases at MIDNIGHT. I HAD A PRE-ORDER!! You don't get to sell it early just because you don't feel like being there into the early hours of the morning! I was so angry that Mr. Sheepishly Apologetic Bookstore Manager even offered to reopen the store for me.

I refused on principle. (What? He made me mad and I just wanted him to know it. Though, honestly, if I was really feeling vindictive, I should have made him re-openThe summumabeech.)

What does this story have to do with anything? Nothing much, except to establish my almost desperate frame of mind... I NEEDED that book. But I knew they'd be available everywhere. That night, there were so many copies of Half-Blood Prince around that I could practically have snagged one off of a passing owl.

And just as an aside, I'll tell you that when the 7th book came out a couple years later, that bookstore was open and selling them properly. I take personal credit. Not that I was there... I went to a different store, again on principle. Because I hold grudges like that. ;)

Anyway, with my new acquisition, I raced home, told my boyfriend he had to go out with his friends so that he didn't disturb me, and I devoured the book in hours. And it was like... a cool drink of water after you've been thirsty for a long time. I HAD A NEW HARRY POTTER BOOK!

But after finishing, I was like, "Eh, it's just a filler, bridge to the last book, book." I wasn't disappointed - don't get me wrong. I had loved it. But I am admitting that it took me a couple reads to really, REALLY appreciate it properly.

All the things that we learn, all the ways that this book brings all the things that we'd seen in the first 5 books together, how Harry finally realizes what it all means and what he'll have to do, how he can't just hope to keep defending himself and those he loves, but knows he'll need to go on the offensive if he hopes to win... It was all amazing, brilliantly woven together into this awesome next-to-last book.

When Harry tells Ron and Hermione about the real prophecy, and he is grateful to them for not shrinking away from him as though he'd suddenly turned leprous, it hits home just how alone Harry truly is. I never expected them to do differently... but Harry feared they might. It shows how much of a complex Harry has about his role in everything - he's always been alone, separate, so it surprises him that his friends would stick by him. And even at the very end, he is again surprised when they refuse to let him shrug them off and take the Horcrux Hunt onto his own shoulders completely.

Harry. Harry... You have better friends than you can possibly know. What I wouldn't give for friends that would stand with me like that, time after time after time, and in the face of such danger and fear.

Silly boy.

I also love Snape in this book. He's as much of a jerk as always, but in the chapter where he's running from Hogwarts, when he screams at Harry not to call him a coward, how his voice is described, how he's STILL trying to teach Harry, but Harry is too full of blind rage to hear, to think, to learn... It's... brilliant. Harry reaches his conclusions and refuses to see any other alternative, despite what Dumbledore has exemplified year after year - openmindedness, trust, understanding.

Damn, I love this book. Just amazing.