We report straight from the set of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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Jul 4, 2015, 12:26 PM EDT

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth film in the hugely popular franchise, is wrapped and nearly ready for its July 17, 2009, debut. It shot last winter at Leavesden Studios outside London (it was originally slated to come out in Thanksgiving 2008), and SCI FI Wire was among a handful of reporters on set to watch the filming and speak with the cast and crew.

"I think this one certainly has got a greater sense of comedy than any of the other ones have, and I suppose you could say that it's more adult humor, but you know, it's not all a light sort of romp in the park," Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) said during a break in filming last January. He added: "In this film, when it's light, it's much more comic than it has been before, but when it's dark, it's as dark if not darker than we were in, say, five or three."

We toured the movie's sets. One of the key sets we view is the hallway of the orphanage where Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) first meets the young Tom Riddle (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), a scene that takes place in flashback. The walls are paved with brown "tile," and Riddle's narrow cell is bare and bleak.

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We also visited a new set representing the interior of the Weasley house. It's a ramshackle farmhouse interior without a single right angle: The low ceiling, timbered walls and floors are all canted in weird ways, as if the house hasn't quite settled. But it's very cozy, with its overstuffed ratty furniture, grandfather clock and big fireplace in the center of the room.

We learn that the house is central to a scene in the movie that is not in J.K. Rowling's book (spoilers ahead!): It burns, and Harry, Lupin, Tonks and Mr. Weasley narrowly escape. The scene was added to the movie only with Rowling's approval.

We also observed the filming of a scene in the Great Hall, which is filled with Hogwarts students at breakfast (big platters of sausages, racks of toast). It's the day of Ron's (Rupert Grint) big Quidditch match, and he's nervous as heck. Ron enters the hall, kitted out in full Quidditch gear.

Students call out encouragement: "Good luck, eh, Ron?" "Countin' on you, Ron!" "I've got two galleons on Gryffindor!"

The camera, on a crane, tracks Ron as he walks into the hall and down the central aisle. He encounters a towering student; they stop, do that left-right dance. Ron edges around him, then emits a big sigh. Not happy.

Radcliffe adds that romance blooms between Harry and Ginny Weasley, played by Bonnie Wright. "Yes, I've got everything with Ginny, which ... has been fun. It's good fun scenes, and hopefully that'll come across on screen," he says. He adds: It's slightly odd, though, with Bonnie, because when Katie [Leung] came in to play Cho on the fourth film, it was very much the case when she came in, we always knew she was going to be as a love interest. Whereas, of course, when I first met Bonnie, she was just another character; she was, I think, 9-10 years old when I first met her, and so it's very strange. I've sort of grown up with Bonnie, and now suddenly having to play love interest scenes is very, it's kind of odd."

SCI FI Wire will post more from its set report closer to the movie's July release.