The Underground Lake #35: Cryptic Characters, Part 3: Slug Repellant

by Brandon

No folks, I’m not dead, and I haven’t forgotten you. I have been deep in an unscheduled re-read of Book Six. You see, when I decided to undertake my “Cryptic Characters” series, I knew I wanted the third entry to concern a new character. However, I didn’t realize that my skim-through of Book Six would turn into a full-blown re-read! I hope you will forgive and indulge me.

Horace Slughorn: a most enigmatic character. The non-Defense Against the Dark Arts, Potions teacher (admit it – you were so faked out the first time you read it). A man of mystery. A man of secrets. Who is he working for? What is his agenda? I attempt to answer these questions and more. I submit for your entertainment and consideration: SLUG REPELLANT!

Slughorn – An Analysis… though not definitive

Okay, I have to say that I used to read the famous MuggleNet Editorials religiously. Then I became a columnist and, out of professional courtesy and fear that I would be accused of plagiarism as many people have similar HP related ideas, I stopped reading other editorials (though I do peep over at Maline’s North Tower just to make sure we don’t have a repeat of the Dumbledore double deal – where I was preparing a definitive Dumbledore entry only to find that Maline beat me to it). I don’t want to go so far as to call this the definitive Slughorn editorial; however, I did do a complete re-read of Book Six in preparation. Also, if I called this a DEFINITIVE editorial on Slughorn, I would be bombarded with a hailstorm of emails telling me what I got wrong and what I screwed up on, so I shall instead call this an Analysis… which is exactly what it is. In exhaustive detail, I shall attempt to unravel the mystery of Slughorn, as well as determine what part he will play in the final confrontation.

Slughorn – Back in the Day

I believe that Slughorn was a bad motor scooter back in the day. In our first meeting of him, recall how he and Dumbledore stood back-to-back and used “an identical wand motion” to instantly repair the room. It is the “back-to-back” part that intrigues me. We have no evidence to his age. We can infer from the Horcrux flashback that Slughorn was already balding during Tom Riddle’s attendance at Hogwarts, after the opening of the Chamber of Secrets. Recall also that since Voldemort was still attending in 1943-1944 when the Horcrux flashback takes place (we know this because Voldemort killed Myrtle and his parents sometime in mid-1943; therefore, he would have had the ring in late 1943 to 1944), then Dumbledore had not yet defeated the Dark Lord Grindelwald. I mention this because I believe that Slughorn was instrumental in aiding Dumbledore in this victory. He would have been old enough and certainly experienced enough at the time. Also, there is the curious line regarding the Felix Felicis potion: Slughorn took it twice, once at 24 years of age and once at 57 years. It is not at all unreasonable to assume that Slughorn was 57 at the time Grindelwald was defeated. Concluding this, he would currently be 107 years old. Dumbledore himself is well into his 150’s and would have been about 100 at the time Grindelwald was defeated. Add to that the baldness clue, and we have a reasonable assumption.

Now all this is strictly guesswork and speculation, but it leads somewhere. Slughorn was, in his prime, a great wizard. Wizards would not flock to him and wish to be respected by him simply because he fawned on them. He had to have done something to endear himself to the greater wizard population. He has neither money nor any discernable link to famous or regal parentage. That, I think, is where his imbibing the Felix Felicis potion at age 24 comes into play. I think whatever happened that day he took Felix Felicis at made him someone worth knowing and respecting, even at the young age of 24 years old. Consequently, he began to travel in better circles. Later, he took up the post at Hogwarts, which in the 1940’s, I believe, became a base of operations for the battle against Grindelwald. During his long tenure at Hogwarts, he collected contacts like Voldemort collected objects: people he could use, manipulate, and nurture to, one day, return the favor. I think this is why he reacts so strongly when he discovers TFPWWNBN (The Former Professor Who Will Not Be Named) is Dumbledore’s killer: a man whom he set aside no doubt as an exemplary potions maker and uncanny in his knowledge of the Dark Arts could besmirch his “Slughorn Seal of Approval.”

The Slug Club seems to function as a fraternity of sorts – Beta Eta Pi, if you will – in light of Slughorn’s rotundity. How many ministry jobs and internships do you think have been gotten in recent memory as a result of a single owl from Slughorn? He takes pride in the effect he has on people and the unofficial power he wields. This is why he wanted nothing to do with Malfoy. Had Malfoy’s father not been in Azkaban, I feel Draco would have been second on Slughorn’s recruiting list right after Harry. But anything that threatens to associate Slughorn with the Death Eaters must be cast away.

D.E.A. – Death Eater Associations

It has been said several times in Book Six that Slughorn was on the run from the Death Eaters for a year. Incidentally, that means he has been on the run since the end of Book Four when Voldemort returned. Why would he be on the run? What reason would he have to fear Voldemort? Voldemort – who regarded him above all the teachers he ever had at Hogwarts?

Let’s address first why the Death Eaters would want to recruit him:

  1. He was Voldemort’s mentor
  2. He was a Slytherin
  3. He is highly influential and has so many connections that he would be ideally placed to be able recruit new people to the Death Eaters as well as use his vast connections to find people in hiding
  4. He used to roll with Dumbledore, so you know he’s got skills
  5. He is not now nor was he ever in the Order of the Phoenix

Slughorn is indignant when Dumbledore suggests that the Death Eaters might want to recruit him; he “demands” to know why Dumbledore would think so. What is intriguing is that he has the same indignant reaction when questioned about his knowledge of Horcruxes. He reacts harshly to Tom Riddle when it isn’t even insinuated that he knows A LOT about how to create a Horcrux. He is indignant in his fake memory, and he is indignant when Harry asks him.

It is his indignation that gives him away. If he is SO shocked and shaken that Dumbledore would insinuate that the Death Eaters would be after him to recruit him, then why would he say that he has been in hiding for a year? It makes no sense. On page 68, he says an old man like him deserves some time to rest and relax and a few “creature comforts,” yet he has, according to him, been on the run for a year. If the Death Eaters would have no reason to recruit him (as he gets so offended at the prospect that they would want him), why would he be on the run? And even more so, if he is so good at hiding, how is it Dumbledore is able to find him so easily? I believe he’s running but not for the reason he claims.

What I think gives it away is his reaction upon seeing the ring on Dumbledore’s hand. He knows instantly to whom that ring belongs having no doubt seen it all throughout Voldemort’s seventh year at Hogwarts. He “frowns” upon seeing it. Is it a frown of recognition or regret?

Repellant Personality

Before I assert my extremely controversial theory at this editorial’s end, I must continue to paint my picture of the man. Harry and most of his contemporaries find Slughorn’s personality slightly repellant. He has a FANTASTIC memory for even the slightest details and remembers all the students that he deems worthy (poor Ron). For things he marks as important to remember – like who works for whom, who has what job, and who is related to whom – he has an uncanny recollection.

The man is an alcoholic in the broadest sense of the word. He’s a boozehound. It’s part of his charm. Upon breaking into his hiding house, he is about to throw Dumbledore unceremoniously out when Dumbledore asks if he wants a drink, to which he responds unflinchingly, “yes.” In fact, it is this trait of his that prevents Dumbledore from receiving the poisoned mead.

He has a love of wealth, and he is a socialite. He likes having friends in high places and helping those he deems worthy ascend to high places. But hanging out with the crème de la crème doesn’t come cheap, and that’s where selling things like acromantula blood and unicorn hair come in handy. He can stay in the lifestyle to which he is accustomed as well have the means to entertain important guests in order to forge contacts.

The R.A.B. Conspiracy

I’m just going to come out and say it: Slughorn’s part in this is not over. Something Dumbledore said in the cave has been bothering me of late, and it makes this R.A.B business hard to swallow.

Dumbledore told Harry, “One could not do it alone.” He was not using the royal “one” in reference to himself; rather, he was saying that it was a job for at least two people. Now like most of you, I believed that R.A.B. was Regulus Black and that the second gunman was Kreacher. I believed that somehow Regulus, in accordance with Sirius’ description, got cold feet, somehow discovered the existence and location of the locket Horcrux and, with Kreacher, retrieved the Horcrux, hid it at 12 Grimmauld and, sometime thereafter, was killed either by Voldemort or one of his followers.

Somehow, I don’t buy it. If Regulus drank the potion, I doubt that Kreacher would have been willing enough to continue to force the potion down his throat, grab the locket, and either leave Regulus for dead (which he couldn’t have done unless ordered and even then Regulus’ mother would have certainly killed him) or given him water, thereby unleashing the Inferi. I believe Voldemort was smart enough to take house elf magic into account. I think there is a way to stop house elf Apparation. Hogwarts could not function without house elves so I think the magical protection of Hogwarts allows for house elves. Voldemort, I believe, was smart enough to think that if someone was clever enough to discover his secret they might also be able to think ahead to bring an expendable creature (like Kreacher) to either drink the potion or Apparate out of his ‘funhouse.’

One thing that puzzled me was why Dumbledore and Harry didn’t instantly Apparate in and out when they had to leave. Dumbledore mentioned how Voldemort made the boat so that he himself would be able to get across. Now, house elves have their own brand of magic, but I have to believe that Voldemort would have thought that of the people who would know about the Horcruxes, that at least one of them would have brought a house elf. I don’t know, and time will tell. It could now be as simple as Harry asking Kreacher if he ever took the Horcrux. I’m just not confident any longer that Kreacher was there.

Whoever penned the note had to have done so after the potion had initially been drunk. Dumbledore says it would have taken two people to do it. I do believe that one of them was Regulus, but how did Regulus even find out about it? Was he really in deep enough with Voldemort to have discovered such a guarded secret?

I’m putting this down here because it was a notion that struck me during this reread, and I’ll analyze it more later: I think (at present) Regulus may have been coerced into revealing the location of the Horcrux by Horace Slughorn who was present with him at the time.

It’s absolutely ludicrous and yet not so ludicrous. During my reread, I had to answer two questions:

  1. Is Slughorn good or bad?
  2. If he is good, why would he be concerned about the Death Eaters trying to find him?

Is he good or bad? The answer is Good. Why? Lily Potter. During Aragog’s funeral and the ‘party’ afterwards, Slughorn was given a choice: he could stand by and watch the son of his favorite student struggle fruitlessly for a chance of defeating Voldemort, or he could help him. He didn’t have to, but he chose to help. What intrigued me was the fact that he was SO concerned at the implication of that memory. In truth, all it really shows is that he knows what a Horcrux is and told a student, and that he has since regretted that decision. Dumbledore said ages ago that hardly anyone actually knows that Tom Riddle and Voldemort are the same person. I think Slughorn is one of those few people. I don’t think he shared his suspicions with anyone, but Slughorn would know one of his star pupils. Perhaps a young Voldemort paid Slughorn a visit and they had a chat. The point is this: at some point, Slughorn discovered that Voldemort was ACTUALLY making Horcruxes. That is the only explanation as to why he should be so ashamed at having given Tom Riddle that information. Again, Dumbledore is not broadcasting these Horcruxes – he doesn’t want Voldemort to catch wind. Horcuxes could have been taught in Defense Against the Dark Arts (as a concept and not a practice) based verbatim on what Slughorn told Tom Riddle, and I’d bet no one would rush out to go and make one. He sensed as soon as he told him that he had made a mistake, but there is a vast difference between regretting teaching a student to do something and doctoring a false memory to hide your shame.

I believe he discovered the secret. I also believe Regulus was on good terms with Slughorn. I think Regulus did get in too deep and needed somewhere to turn. He couldn’t go to the Order, they’d most likely kill him; he needed a neutral party, someone not a Death Eater but also not an Order member – someone that he could trust. I think he went to Slughorn and told him what he knew.

I think Voldemort believed he could entrust certain people with the whereabouts of his Horcruxes. Think about it for a moment. If Voldemort dies, then he’ll be a floating “Vapormort” (as the kids all say these days), but he himself would be unable to create a new body as was evidenced in his plight in Books One through Four (unless that was an extenuating circumstance, which it might have been: consult the future editorial, UNDERGROUND THEORY). One of his trusted Death Eaters would have to be on hand to pull a Wormtail and get him back with his body, again, assuming that’s how they worked. He foolishly trusted one Horcrux to Lucius, but I think one of the reasons he was so angry with his Death Eaters was that certain select few of them knew, at least vaguely, that should he die, they needed to spring into action.

It is my contention that these Death Eater ‘Guardians’ were not aware that there was more than one Horcrux (each thought there was only one Horcrux and that only they knew its location).

Slughorn realized that this would be his chance to undo the mistake he made that fateful day. Without really getting involved, he could destroy the Horcrux, knowing that Voldemort would go into a battle thinking he had his Horcrux safely hidden away. What a nasty shock for Voldemort to die… and actually die. Oh snap! Another possibility for the Felix Felicis potion… Slughorn could have used Felix to get the Horcrux. If we want to stay with the ‘lone gunman’ theory, he could have given Felix to Regulus and Regulus could have done it alone (with Felix as the ultimate guide).

Now here is where my idea starts to unravel: the letter. There are several options. Slughorn is quite powerful; Regulus, being younger than Sirius (I believe fresh out of Hogwarts upon his death – 18 years old), I believe wouldn’t have set off the boat’s power meter. The two arrived. Slughorn, being an expert Potions man, knew exactly what that potion was and what it was for. I think Regulus may have realized that having already left the DEs, he would be killed for sure, regardless of the outcome. It is the letter that has given me the most trouble. It’s so ‘braggy’ and boastful, and I can’t see how he would have had time to plant it himself. Not unless he wrote the letter and stuck it in the locket and told his accomplice to replace it once he had the Horcrux locket. Then it becomes tricky because why would Slughorn return the locket to the Black house? In that case Regulus may have called Kreacher to him and told him to take the locket and sacrificed himself in the cave so that Horace could escape. But why wouldn’t Slughorn give it to Dumbledore or destroy it himself? It’s all very curious. I can’t explain it, but I just have a gut instinct that Slughorn was somehow mixed in with this whole R.A.B. business. Maybe he MADE the potion or taught it to Voldemort, but I just don’t know. I just think he needs a better motivation to be running from Death Eaters. What better motivation than the constant looming threat that Voldemort will discover you removed his Horcrux without permission with the aim of destroying it?

That was pretty controversial… though admittedly less conclusive. I want to spark discussion. I think a deep analysis of Slughorn and a deep probing of “The Cave” is necessary for all the “Lost Day” Legioneers. Until my next, remember… THE WHEELS ARE IN MOTION!