Podcast Question of the Week: Episode 229

Sirius might be gone, but Harry is still feeling the pangs of loss.

In this chapter, there are a few brief mentions of Sirius Black’s death and how Harry is coping. How do you feel Half-Blood Prince deals with Sirius’s death and its affect on Harry?

You can hear our discussion of the topic over on our Patreon! Let us know what you think in the comments below, and listen to our next recap episode for some answers!


  • SlytherinKnight

    If I were giving it a grade, I would give HBP between a T and a D. The book essentially glosses over Sirius’ death and Harry’s reaction, especially compared to Harry’s reaction to Cedric’s death in the beginning of Order of the Phoenix. There, Harry is catatonic for some stretches, he is having constant nightmares about Cedric’s death, a textbook case of severe PTSD/survivor’s guilt, I believe. And Cedric was only a friend who Harry knew for a little over a year. Sirius was one of Harry’s main father figures, one of the only people who gave him a link to his parents, and yet Harry’s reaction to Sirius’ death is much more muted. Sure, one can make the case that Harry has matured, but you also have to remember that this is a kid who is extremely emotionally stunted thanks to his upbringing with the Dursleys.

    And also, why is Harry so cordial with Dumbledore when Dumbledore takes Harry from Privet Drive? Less than two weeks ago, Harry was absolutely furious with Dumbledore, and rightly so. There are five people who are to blame for Sirius’ death; Bellatrix (for actually killing Sirius), Voldemort (for sending Harry the fake vision), Sirius (for not really taking the fight seriously, haha), Dumbledore (for not trusting Harry, or at least telling Harry that Voldemort might have the ability to send him fake visions) and Harry (for falling for the fake vision). And here, Harry is all polite and embarrassed about his destroying Dumbledore’s office, when he had a completely valid and understandable reason for doing so.

    • Harry trusts and respects Dumbledore. He is a father figure as well as a mentor to Harry. If you get in a big fight with your parents, it might be weird and shaky for a few days, but eventually you get over it, whether it’s spoken or not. I think that applies here.

  • daveybjones999 .

    Commenting again because of original one being detected as spam.
    I think that the book handles the way Sirius’s death affects Harry pretty well, but I think that they could have spent a bit more time exploring that. However one of the reasons why I think this book doesn’t dwell to heavily on this is because we just spent an entire book on Harry going through grief and PTSD. As well written and important for Harry’s character development as this was, it could at times become a little too much. It really reminds me of how they handled Buffy’s depression in season 6 of Buffy The Vampire Slayer (one of my Top 10 TV Favorite Shows) In both cases it’s handled with a lot of depth and realism and is probably the best written part of both series, but that sometimes makes it hard to watch/read. So after having to go through that for an entire book I feel that Rowling may have felt that spending a ton of time on Harry trying to cope with Sirius’s death would be a bit redundant. While I agree with the decision to dial back on exploring Harry’s grief compared to the last book, I think that it should have had a bit more focus this aspect of Harry’s development.

    • I feel like another reason for this is that a majority of the book is discovering who the HBP is. I feel like once that is introduced, that sort of takes precedent in Harry’s thoughts

  • Paigers

    I think that the book deals with it very well actually. We see Harry grieving pretty badly at the end of OotP, and then we skip about a month don’t see him again until the beginning of his HBP. And by then, he’s pretty sure that he’s fine, but not good. Everyone’s grief is different, of course, and I’m about six years older than Harry was in HPB. But I lost my dad very unexpectedly last year, and my experience was that I, like Harry, did actually start feeling like a normal human being again after about a month, even if everything was different. So I think we skip a good deal of the terrible but ultimately very mundane process of working through grief.

    The everyday demands of Harry’s — and anyone’s life — necessitate that he has to let himself go back to normality. He probably goes through the motions of being okay until he is, but there are always little things, like seeing Buckbeak and realizing that the his only correspondent is dead. Ultimately, I think HBP portrays a very realistic and reasonably healthy about what happens a little bit after a loved one has died.

  • Rosmerta’s Turquoise Shoes

    Whilst not directly answering the QotW, let’s examine Sirius Black timeline for the next discussion:

    Rebelled against his family tradition, to the extent that he was removed from the family records
    (the family tree wall paper at Grimmauld Place!)

    Up to age of 17 – at Hogwarts, a true Gryffindor (again, against his Syltherin lineage) bit of a glamorous wide boy in the coolest school gang

    After school, joined the anti-terrorised group Order of the Phoenix (if you think about it, it
    wasn’t so much of a full out war with Voldemort and his followers, more of trying to stop his
    terroristic acts, countering his indoctrination – there were no open battles,more guerrilla tactics and murderous actions)

    At the age of 21, he was accused of mass murder and had to deal with the death of his dearest friends. Sent to Azkaban. For life. Without a trial.

    Aged 33 escapes 1993 and is partially reconciled to the Wizarding World. Is member of OoTP again but restricted to Grimmauld Place unable to fully participating in the continue war against returned Voldemort.

    Decides to join in the action but is killed (1996) by his cousin.

    I think there is a lot to forgive Sirius, on his suitability or otherwise as Harry’s godparent, as a young man with a troubled life.

    And yet, compare him to Harry; Is Harry an unrealistically paragon though?!

  • The overall tone of HBP is bleak and moody. It just feels gray and cloudy to me. The movie conveys that perfectly despite it’s plot flawsI feel that, since we are reading from Harry’s immediate perspective 95% of the time, the overall tone of the book reflects Harry’s emotions rather than diving deep into them in a detailed manner. It makes sense that Harry doesn’t want to think or talk about it, hence the lack of text about it, but Harry can’t just turn his emotions off. He’s going to feel a particular way about it. The somber vibe of the book IS his emotion. Even though it’s not explicitly stated, you can pick up on it easily, and therefore I think HBP handles it pretty well.

  • HowAmIGoingToTranslateThis

    People cope with grief in so many different ways. The state in which we find Harry at the beginning of the book, holed up in his messy room, not really believing that Dumbledore will come and pick him up – totally believable. Being a little overwhelmed about the change of pace when Dumbledore arrives and about meeting Slughorn – yup, there’s the moment when Sirius is mentioned and it stings, but there’s enough going on that the focus is not on Harry’s grief. Later on Harry finds somethings to obsess about – Malfoy and what he’s up to, the HBP book, captaining the Griffindor Quidditch team – so the five stages of grief are mostly through by that time. He’s had the fast version of them at the end of book five. Harry will revisit the memories of Sirius in DH again, so the subject is not completely done, but moves to the background after a while, as it does for many people after a loss.

    • YoureJustAsSaneAsIAm

      There’s also the bit where Snape walks Harry up to the castle after being rescued by Tonks from the Hogwarts Express. Snape is being nasty to Harry, as usual, and here you’re reading Harry’s thoughts how about his anger towards Snape has only increased because of his role in Sirius’ death. It’s easier for him to hate and blame Snape for happened instead of looking to himself, which something I think we all are familiar with. And in our own way, we see such blame as okay because Snape is being awful to Harry in that moment. Is it fair? Probably not, but we’ve seen too much of Harry blaming himself at the end of OOTP. I think HBP does of good job of balancing out the bleak moments with the lighthearted ones, for you can’t have one without the other.