WARNING!The following contains spoilers for the book. (I've hidden the spoiler portion for those who haven't finished the book yet.)
So! Half-Blood Prince.
Wow, let me just say that I wasn't disappointed. I'm amazed at how tight the series has been. Ms. Rowling has maintained a strong focus of plot and matured her characters beautifully, all the while keeping the reader entertained. It was another great read.
Not surprisingly, there are still many unanswered questions, particularly regarding Dumbledore and the events surrounding his death. Was Dumbledore really wrong about Snape? Was Snape’s confession of and remorse for relaying the overheard prophecy to Voldemort, which resulted in the death of Harry’s parents, really the "iron-clad" reason Dumbledore had for trusting Snape--or was that just Harry’s assumption? And if Dumbledore was right about Snape, how will Snape's position with Voldemort benefit anybody now that the entire Order of the Phoenix knowns him as Dumbledore's murderer? Who is R.A.B, and did he succeed in destroying that horcrux? (Maybe Regulus Black, Sirius’s brother?)
Dumbledore's death was sad and disturbing, although not a surprise (by that point in the book). As Mr. Husband and I read, Dumbledore’s increased presence throughout seemed to me an ominous foreshadowing. He spent the entire year equipping Harry with information he'd need to defeat Voldemort alone. And now, as far as Voldemort is concerned, his greatest living enemy is Harry Potter. Dumbledore, the only wizard Voldemort ever feared, is out of the way. And in Dumbledore's own words in a conversation with Harry about certain theories Dumbledore held (p. 197):
"Naturally I do [think I'm right], but as I have already proven to you, I make mistakes like the next man. In fact, being--forgive me--rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger."
The day Half Blood Prince was released, Rowling gave an interview to two individuals who run Harry Potter fansites. Three pages of Q&A proved to be an interesting read, shedding more light on book six and dropping subtle hints about book seven. One of the interviewers asked Ms. Rowling was how someone as intelligent as Dumbledore be so blind in regard to certain things. Her answer:
"Well, there is information on that to come, in seven. But I would say that I think it has been demonstrated, particularly in books five and six that immense brainpower does not protect you from emotional mistakes and I think Dumbledore really exemplifies that. In fact, I would tend to think that being very, very intelligent might create some problems and it has done for Dumbledore, because his wisdom has isolated him, and I think you can see that in the books, because where is his equal, where is his confidante, where is his partner? He has none of those things. He’s always the one who gives, he’s always the one who has the insight and has the knowledge. So I think that, while I ask the reader to accept that McGonagall is a very worthy second in command, she is not an equal. You have a slightly circuitous answer, but I can't get much closer than that."
I’m having a difficult time believing that Dumbledore was really wrong in assessing Snape's character, although I will admit that it's a bit of a tug-of-war. To have someone as wise as Dumbledore misjudge evil so badly would be devastating; BUT, like Harry, I’m inclined to want an even greater reason to despise the already loathesome Snape.
So in summary, I don't have any serious theories about what will happen in book 7, just a lot of fluff and vague questions. I suppose that's a credit to J.K. Rowling and her flair for keeping her readers guessing. In the meantime, I've spent the last two days re-reading books 1 & 2. I'm hoping that going through the whole series again will give me clues that I might have overlooked the first time around. Of course, I get so caught up in the books I sort of forget to take mental notes. Hrmpf!