Chapter 6 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Draco's Detour
Frequent deaths and disappearances are occurring throughout the Wizarding world. On Harry's birthday, Lupin brings news that Death Eaters killed Igor Karkaroff. Others, such as Florean Fortescue, who owns the ice cream parlour in Diagon Alley and Ollivander, the wand maker, are gone or missing.
Harry, Hermione, and the Weasleys go shopping for school supplies in Diagon Alley, accompanied by Hagrid. Bill Weasley, who works for Gringotts, has retrieved a sack of money for Harry from his vault because security is so tight. In Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions shop, Harry, Hermione, and Ron have a nasty encounter with Draco Malfoy and his snobbish mother, Narcissa. When the dressmaker tries lifting Draco's left robe sleeve as she is measuring him, he jerks his arm away, claiming she stuck him with a pin; he and his mother quickly leave.
Harry, Ron, Hermione and the other Weasleys head for Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, Fred and George's joke shop, which is enjoying a booming trade. Not only are joke items selling well, but the Twins are also supplying spell-deflecting Shield Hats, Cloaks, Gloves, and other serious magical items to the Ministry of Magic (presumably for the war against Voldemort).
Harry spots Draco passing the shop alone. Hidden under the Invisibility Cloak, Harry, Ron, and Hermione trail Draco into Knockturn Alley and to Borgin & Burkes, the Dark magic shop. Using Weasley's Extendable Ears, they overhear Draco asking how to repair something. Draco threatens Borgin, showing him something on his arm, but the large black cabinet that Harry hid inside four years earlier partially blocks their view. Draco warns that Fenrir Greyback, a 'family friend', will be, "dropping in from time-to-time to see that you're giving this matter your full attention." Draco also reserves an item for himself, ordering Borgin to keep it secret. After Draco exits, Hermione, hoping to learn what Draco reserved, enters the store pretending to be looking for a birthday present for her "friend" Draco. Borgin, suspicious, orders her to leave and puts a "Closed" sign on his door.
They return to Fred and George's store under the Invisibility Cloak. To calm Mrs. Weasley, worried over their absence, they claim they were in the backroom.
That Death Eaters have killed Karkaroff isn't the least bit surprising, as they think nothing of killing traitors. The trip to Diagon Alley physically shows just how much Voldemort's growing power is beginning to affect the Wizarding world. Not only are once-prosperous shops being vacated, but people, including Mr. Ollivander, the wand maker, have disappeared, their whereabouts unknown. The Twins' joke shop is able to thrive in this increasingly hostile environment, though their supplying the Ministry with weapons to fight Voldemort could make them targets.
Harry, meanwhile, is suspicious that Draco's visit to Borgin & Burkes involves something sinister, though Ron and Hermione discount this. Draco threatens Borgin into assisting him by mentioning that someone named Fenrir Greyback is a "family friend." Whoever Greyback may be, the name alone is apparently sufficient to ensure Borgin's cooperation. Whatever Draco must repair, it may be related to the task Voldemort assigned him that was mentioned in the second chapter. It is particularly interesting that Draco may be performing this step of his task without his mother's knowledge – perhaps she is somehow attempting to prevent him from undertaking this mission so Snape will have to complete it for him, as he is now magically bound to do. Draco jerking his arm away from the dressmaker but threateningly showing it to Borgin is significant; his forearm may carry Voldemort's Dark Mark. Harry certainly suspects it does; if he is correct, it would be a clear sign that Draco has become a Death Eater.
Hermione's attempt to gather more information about Draco at Borgin & Burkes shows that she is learning to act more spontaneously under stressful conditions. However, her actions here were not only clumsy, they likely created suspicion that could tip off the Malfoy family that someone is investigating Draco's actions. Just what he is planning is still unclear. And unlike Harry, Ron and Hermione remain skeptical that Draco is a Death Eater, though they still support Harry, even knowing he makes emotion-driven assumptions that are as often wrong as they are right. They are at least willing to consider Harry's speculation here, while offering their own opinions to counterbalance his. Readers, having previously witnessed the encounter at Snape's home in Spinner's End, have a far better idea that Draco has indeed been assigned a significantly important task for Voldemort, though just what that might be is still unknown.
Considering that dire events in the Wizarding world are unfolding at an alarming rate as Voldemort's power grows, it may seem that Ron and Hermione are being unrealistically dismissive regarding Harry's suspicions. However, despite the Malfoy family's affiliation with Voldemort and their affinity for the Dark Arts, Ron and Hermione simply believe that Draco is just too young and inexperienced to be a Death Eater or to have been entrusted with an important mission.
Not only was Harry disappointed (and also jealous) the previous year when Ron was made a Gryffindor Prefect and he was not, but he was also rather offended. However, at the end of the previous book, it is revealed that this was a deliberate decision by Professor Dumbledore. His stated reason was, "I must confess... that I rather thought you had enough responsibility to be going on with." Selecting Ron as Prefect was possibly, in part, to allow Ron an opportunity to assume an independent role apart from Harry's celebrity and influence so he could develop his own abilities and identity. When Harry becomes Quidditch captain, Hermione points out that he now has equal status to a Prefect and shares similar privileges.
This revelation that the house Quidditch Captain has equal privileges to Prefects feels a bit like the author's afterthought. While it is mentioned that Cedric Diggory was Quidditch Captain, nowhere in that book is it mentioned that he is a Prefect, a fact that would have been significantly important to the students. Thus, we must conclude that he was not a Prefect. And yet, he knew about the Prefects' bathroom and was able to give Harry the password to enter it. Likely, we will never know the author's intent, but it seems that granting Quidditch captains access to the Prefects' bathroom could be a means to rationalize Cedric's knowledge about that privilege, knowledge that could not be explained otherwise.
- What prompted Harry, Ron, and Hermione to go to Knockturn Alley? What do they learn?
- How will Harry becoming Quidditch captain affect his relationship with Ron, who was made a Prefect the year before, causing Harry to be jealous?
- Why would Draco jerk away when Madam Malkin attempts to lift his sleeve but he willingly shows the same arm to Borgin?
- What task might Voldemort have assigned Draco? Why would he choose Draco, an under-age and still unqualified wizard?
- Why does Draco go to Borgin & Burkes alone?
- Why would Draco order another item from Borgin for himself, and what might that item be?
- Why do Ron and Hermione doubt Harry's suspicions about Draco?
- Why is the Ministry of Magic ordering magical items from the Weasley twins' joke shop? What are they buying?
Harry will remain convinced that Draco is involved in a sinister plot throughout the entire year. To uncover what that is, he will continually trail Draco, piecing clues together leading to a definitive answer. Harry will become nearly obsessed by this quest.
Items that we see in the Weasleys' shop will prove important in this story and later. In particular, Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder will be used in this book against Ron, much to his dismay; and in the next book, the Trio will have use for Puking Pastilles, Extendable Ears, and Decoy Detonators.
While Harry, Ron, and Hermione are spying on Draco, they are unable to see what he shows to Borgin because Draco was behind a Vanishing Cabinet. This cabinet apparently matches one in Hogwarts, which is seen later when Harry hides his Potions textbook in the Room of Requirement. The Hogwarts Vanishing Cabinet was broken during Harry's second year at the school. When Filch took Harry into his office, Nearly Headless Nick convinced Peeves to drop the cabinet over the office as a diversion so Harry could escape. Apparently the Weasley twins once forced Montague into it, before it was hidden away in the Room of Requirement. The cabinet turns out to be a key part of the task Draco has been set, and plays a significant role in the book's conclusion.
Even though Hermione's attempts to learn what Draco was doing at Borgin & Burkes could have inadvertently alerted the Malfoys that Draco's secret mission was being investigated, it will be Draco himself who deliberately allows Harry to eavesdrop on a conversation where Draco boasts that he has been assigned an important task for the Dark Lord.
Readers will learn that Fenrir Greyback, who Draco mentions is a "family friend", is a particularly vicious Werewolf pack leader who serves Voldemort. It was Greyback who attacked Remus Lupin when he was a young boy, turning him into a werewolf. Lupin will eventually infiltrate Greyback's pack as a spy for Dumbledore.
Mr. Ollivander's disappearance will play an important role in the final book. While we never see Fortescue again, it will turn out that Ollivander has been captured by Voldemort, specifically for his knowledge of wand lore.