Chapter 8 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Snape Victorious← Chapter 7 | Chapter 9 →


Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

Nymphadora Tonks suddenly appears in the compartment and unpetrifies Harry. Before the departing train picks up too much speed, they leap off. Tonks mends Harry's broken nose and then sends a Patronus Charm to the castle. She is not guarding Hogwarts alone; Proudfoot, Savage, and Dawlish are also there. Harry again notices her depressed and unhappy expression, and that her usual vibrantly-colored hair remains faded. Harry speculates that she was in love with Sirius and is mourning his death.

Reaching Hogwarts, they are met by Snape, who ridicules Tonks' new Patronus. Snape deducts 70 points from Gryffindor, then escorts Harry to the Great Hall without allowing him to change into his robes. Embarrassed and ashamed, Harry does not report Malfoy's actions, and when Hermione and Ron ask where he was, he tells them to wait until later.

After the feast (the main course of which Harry misses by a few seconds), Professor Dumbledore announces two new appointments. Professor Horace Slughorn is the new Potions Master, while Professor Snape is now the Defence Against the Dark Arts instructor. Everyone is stunned by Snape's appointment, one he has coveted for so long. Harry is particularly angered, though the Slytherin table enthusiastically greets the news. With Voldemort's reappearance, Dumbledore has implemented new security measures, and before dismissing them, he requests that students be patient and cooperative and to report any concerns they may have.

Hermione leads the first-years to the Gryffindor dorms, but Ron remains behind with Harry, who relates what happened on the train, and Draco's discussion. Ron believes Draco was probably just showing off for Pansy. Hagrid approaches and says they can say hello to Witherwings (Buckbeak) if they arrive early enough for Care of Magical Creatures class. When Hagrid departs, Harry and Ron wonder how he will react to the news that his three favorite students are not taking his course.



Harry's growing obsession over Draco caused him to be careless, giving Draco an advantage—he knew Harry was eavesdropping and would likely be monitoring him. Just why Draco purposely revealed so much to Harry is puzzling, however. It would also seem that Harry, having been caught eavesdropping by Draco, would now consider the information to be false and merely intended to manipulate and taunt Harry. Instead, Harry fully believes everything Draco said and continues to act to prove it. Although Ron and Hermione doubt Draco's claims and want Harry to disregard it, readers already know that Draco is being at least somewhat truthful, though exactly what his mission is, remains a mystery. Also, though the Order of the Phoenix is guarding Hogwarts, Tonks finding Harry so quickly indicates that Harry is particularly being protected. When Harry failed to emerge from the train with the other students, Tonks searched for him. Although she says the Order has stationed her in Hogsmeade, she may actually have been assigned to guard Harry; though, of course, as a friend of Harry's, she may simply have wanted to see him as he got off the Express and just wanted to be sure that he arrived safely there.

A wizard's Patronus cannot be consciously chosen, but instead reflects the person casting it. Therefore, Tonks' new Patronus form must signify her current emotional state. Although it is unknown what new form it has taken, or what shape it was before, it is a significant enough change for Snape to jeer at it. This is also the second time the Patronus has been seen as other than a defensive charm, the first time being in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when Professor Dumbledore used it to summon Hagrid.

Although Dumbledore has finally appointed Snape to the Defence Against the Dark Arts teaching position he has so long coveted, why he chooses to do so now is unclear and rather mysterious. While Dumbledore has apparently never doubted Snape's loyalty, Snape's past history and his affinity for the Dark Arts has apparently been an ongoing concern. However, both Dumbledore and Snape know there is a specific reason why no one has ever served longer than one year in that post. Ron alludes to this, saying that he believes it is jinxed. If it is, then Dumbledore and Snape must have somehow overcome this particular obstacle, or neither intend for Snape to remain in that position any longer than his predecessors. Although Harry is angry that Snape was appointed, it may actually provide an as-yet-unknown benefit.



Study questions are meant to be left for each student to answer; please don't answer them here.


  1. Why does Harry refuse to report Draco's actions?
  2. Why did Tonks find Harry so quickly?

Further Study

  1. Why might Harry, Ron, and Hermione have decided to not take Hagrid's class this year? Why haven't they told him? What might his reaction be?
  2. What new form might Tonks' Patronus have taken and what could have caused it to change?
  3. Why would Snape ridicule Tonks' new Patronus, even though a witch or wizard cannot consciously choose its shape?
  4. Why would Dumbledore appoint Snape as the new Defence Against the Dark Arts instructor after repeatedly denying him the position and knowing that no one has held it for more than one year?
  5. Why is Tonks so depressed? Is there some reason other than what Harry thinks?

Greater Picture

Intermediate warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

It is revealed later that Voldemort probably did cast a curse on the Defence Against the Dark Arts position – at least, Professor Dumbledore strongly suspects so. Ever since Dumbledore rejected him for the job, no teacher has remained in that position for more than one school year. Knowing this, it is curious as to why Snape continually applied for the position each year, or why Dumbledore chooses to appoint him now. It will be learned in the next book that Dumbledore, as a youth, was briefly attracted to the Dark arts when he befriended Gellert Grindelwald, who later became a notorious Dark Wizard that Dumbledore defeated in a famous duel. Dumbledore fully rejected Dark magic, though he never trusted himself to be in a position of power, choosing instead to teach at Hogwarts. One reason Dumbledore may have repeatedly denied Snape the position is because he similarly feared that Snape could be tempted by teaching a subject so closely linked to his Death Eater past. He also knew it was pointless to appoint Snape, assuming he was unlikely to hold the position any longer than his predecessors, and it would risk losing his talented potions instructor. As it turns out, Snape will also only hold the position for the one year. Both Snape and Dumbledore know, however, that Dumbledore's life expectancy is less than a year at this point, and Dumbledore has, as we see in the final book, required Snape to promise that he will take over as Headmaster at Hogwarts after Dumbledore's death, to protect the school and the students. Dumbledore also needed to vacate Snape's position so he could bring back Professor Horace Slughorn, Hogwarts' former potions master, solely to obtain an important memory Slughorn has guarded that is related to Voldemort and his Horcruxes.

Also, Harry notes that Tonks' Patronus is "something large and hairy", and, reviewing recent events, decides that it may be related to Sirius' death (based on Sirius' Animagus, a large dog), and that her ongoing melancholy is probably due to this as well. The reader may wonder why Tonks will still seem so sad, months later, when Harry sees her inside the castle. In fact, her depression is because Lupin repeatedly rejects her affections. He apparently does love her, but feels he is too old for her, times are too dangerous, and, being a Werewolf, believes it is too risky to father children. As a result of Tonks' love for him, her Patronus has assumed a wolf shape.

Although Snape jeers at Tonks for her new Patronus form, understanding what it represents, it will be revealed in the final book that his own Patronus is its current shape for similar reasons. It is entirely possible that Snape, consciously or otherwise recognizing the reason Tonks' Patronus has changed, feels the need to denigrate it to somewhat salve his own feelings.


  • Tonks' sad appearance over the summer, and now, is an indication of how her relationship with Lupin is going. This is not made clear until the end of this book, when Tonks manages to convince Lupin that they should try to make the relationship work despite the external strife. Their relationship will continue in the final book, where they get married and have a child.
    • Harry observes that Tonks' Patronus is "something large and furry". Hearing Snape's comment that it is new, Harry assumes it is a large dog, and related to Sirius Black's death. In fact, it is a wolf, and reflects her attachment to Lupin.
  • Like every Defence Against the Dark Arts professor we have seen until now, Snape's tenure in that office will only last a year. We are never told this explicitly, but later in this book, Professor Dumbledore will say he suspects that the position is jinxed.
    • It will turn out that Dumbledore expected Snape's tenure to be short. This is part of Dumbledore's succession plan for Hogwarts, he wants Snape to be free of encumbrances so that he can become Headmaster after Dumbledore passes. This is revealed, somewhat, in the final book.