Happy Birthday, Horace Slughorn!

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Apr 28, 2018

Posted by: Dawn Johnson | Comments

Birthdays, Books, Character Birthdays, Fandom, Fans, Films, Fun, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling, Movies, News

Horace Slughorn was a man of contradictions. He was, at times, both cowardly and brave, naïve and shrewd, uninspired and ambitious. But he was at all times an immensely talented and powerful wizard, and his inherent idiosyncrasies made him an interesting contribution to the Harry Potter story, which would be most gratifying to him. As someone who desired the attention and connections of the glamorous and the gifted, he would be quite pleased with a birthday piece revisiting the arc which rendered him one of the most revered wizards in Slytherin House.

Slughorn first took up the post of Potions Master in 1931, which was, according to Molly Weasley, about the same time that Albus Dumbledore became the Transfiguration professor. (That being noted, it will be interesting to see if J.K. Rowling intends for them to interact during the Fantastic Beasts storyline. What might that backstory reveal about Slughorn’s character and the years leading up to Tom Riddle’s tenure at Hogwarts, which affected Slughorn deeply and altered the course of wizarding history!? Would Slughorn have been sympathetic to Grindelwald’s cause–or called on to consult over ways to combat the dark wizard? Interesting questions all…)

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When we meet Slughorn during the 1940s, he is enamored with his latest star pupil, the aforementioned Tom Riddle. He has already established his mentoring social group, affectionately known as the Slug Club. Slughorn’s ambition drives him to surround himself with the connected, the popular, the wealthy, the powerful and, of course, the talented. He relishes all the benefits these associations bring, providing him with influence and perks without the risks or effort of achieving greatness himself. Unlike many of his Slytherin cohorts, he delights to find prowess in unexpected places, and though it is always a surprise to see Muggleborns or half-bloods surpass the skill of their pureblood peers, he is not opposed to aiding in their success. His uninspired ambition attracts him to talent in all its forms, ruling out the temptation to discriminate, but blinding him in other ways…ways which would later prove significant.

When met with a talented student, he was often afflicted with tunnel vision. Though extremely shrewd in other dealings, such as bartering his expertize with other professors for valuable resources and ingredients, even marketing some on the side–Aragog’s venom, for example, which was worth a pretty penny!–he was naïve to the faults of his favorites. Though Dumbledore cautioned Slughorn about Tom Riddle’s motives, Riddle was able to exploit Slughorn’s weaknesses, massaging his ego and manipulating him into divulging the darkest of magical secrets. The truth about horcruxes. When Slughorn realized what he had done–and later suspected what Tom Riddle had done–he was distraught and ashamed, to the point of altering his memory.

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When Voldemort vanished after unsuccessfully attacking The Boy Who Lived, Slughorn entertained the reluctant hope that he had been wrong about what transpired after that fateful night in 1943. He thought it would be safe to retire, leaving the security and protection of Hogwarts. His peace was relatively short-lived, however, for rumors swirled in Harry Potter’s fourth year that the Dark Lord had resumed bodily form. Slughorn then resorted to a fear-filled life on the run, as Voldemort’s Death Eaters pursued him.

When Dumbledore finally approached him during the summer before Harry Potter’s sixth year, Slughorn was pitiful. His seeming cowardice was only trumped by his irrepressible Slytherin ambition. He returned to Hogwarts as Potions Master at Dumbledore’s behest, hoping to “collect” Lily Potter’s son and add him to the ranks of Slug Club members. These contradictions, these dueling desires, continued to plague him up until the Battle of Hogwarts.

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When Voldemort stormed the castle, Slughorn was nowhere to be found, and many assumed that he had succumbed to his fear and fled. Not long after, however, he returned to the castle, leading a contingent from Hogsmeade, determined to fight his former pupil until the last, exhibiting bravery that would fall into legend and absolving his conscience.

In the end, Slughorn’s internal battles became the proving ground for one of Dumbledore’s most profound statements of wisdom: “It is our choices that show what we truly are.” Slughorn encompassed all the best of Slytherin House, rightly restoring its reputation and earning a place of honor for his portrait in their common room, an inspiration for many future students–including Albus Severus Potter.

We raise our wands–and mugs of butterbeer–to Horace Slughorn. Happy Birthday, professor! May you enjoy being the center of attention on this great day of celebration!





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