Chapter 4 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Horace Slughorn
After leaving the Dursleys', Dumbledore asks Harry to keep his Invisibility Cloak with him, but sends his trunk on to the Burrow. As Harry clings to Dumbledore's arm, Dumbledore Apparates them to a small village. Having never Apparated before, Harry finds the sensation slightly disorienting. Dumbledore explains now that once again, Hogwarts is one instructor short, and Dumbledore has come to Budleigh Babberton to recruit a new faculty member. They arrive at a wrecked house, finding what appears to be destruction and blood-splattered walls within; after examining the wreckage, Dumbledore pokes an armchair with his wand. The armchair grunts and transforms into Horace Slughorn, Dumbledore's old colleague and a former Hogwarts professor. Slughorn created the false destruction to convince intruders that Death Eaters had killed him. However, Dumbledore knew the attack was staged because there was no Dark Mark looming over the building. Dumbledore helps Slughorn repair the house, then attempts to persuade Slughorn to return to Hogwarts. On Slughorn's refusal, Dumbledore excuses himself, leaving Harry and Slughorn alone together.
Slughorn mentions that he taught Harry's father and mother. Lily was a favorite student, always top in Slughorn's class, and he believes she ought to have been sorted into his House—he was head of Slytherin. Observing Harry's reaction, he correctly guesses that Harry is a Gryffindor. Slughorn suggests his reluctance to take a post at Hogwarts is partly because it would be seen as declaring allegiance to the Order of the Phoenix. Harry reminds him that teachers are not required to join the Order and that Hogwarts is safe (as Dumbledore is the only wizard Voldemort has ever feared). The only teacher who died there is Professor Quirrell.
Slughorn remains reluctant to leave his comfortable retirement, though, as Dumbledore points out upon his return to the room, he has essentially been in hiding since Voldemort's return. After adroitly manipulating Slughorn's ego and attracting him to Harry's celebrity, Dumbledore finally convinces him to resume his old post. As they depart, Dumbledore tells Harry that Slughorn relishes his creature comforts and likes being the power behind a multiplicity of thrones. He also enjoys being among the rich and influential, and Harry, being famous, is someone he will attempt to cultivate.
Dumbledore then transports himself and Harry to The Burrow, and, before departing, says he and Harry will be having private lessons during the year. Dumbledore also suggests that Harry share the Trelawney prophecy with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, and requests that Harry keep his Invisibility Cloak with him at all times.
Dumbledore's suggestion that Harry reveal Trelawney's prophecy to Ron and Hermione emphasizes Dumbledore's understanding that Harry's strength and abilities are enhanced by his friends' assistance and support. Clearly, Dumbledore realizes that Harry has often refused help from others. Although Harry is a talented wizard, it is also Ron's and Hermione's loyalty, support, and their individual skills that have helped him overcome many adversities; each is at their best when they work together. Harry realizes that he cannot remain shut away in response to Sirius' death; it is time to reconnect with his friends and the wizarding world. Dumbledore chooses this moment to reinforce that thought.
Until now, we have seen Dumbledore as an extremely wise wizard genius, but this is the first time he has been observed manipulating someone. He knows Slughorn is vain and likes being connected with powerful and influential people who can provide him favours and allow him to bask in their reflected glory. When Dumbledore offers Slughorn the Hogwarts position, using Harry as bait, he knows Slughorn will be irresistibly intrigued by and attracted to Harry Potter's fame, and will want to hitch his own wagon to Harry's star; Dumbledore cleverly positions himself and Harry so that Slughorn will be fully exposed to Harry's presence. When his initial attempt to recruit Slughorn fails, Dumbledore excuses himself, leaving Slughorn and Harry alone, allowing Slughorn to convince himself that Harry is a celebrity he wants to collect. Finally, as Slughorn is considering the offer, Dumbledore re-appears, snatches Harry from under Slughorn's nose, and departs. His prize about to vanish, and, somewhat desperate, Slughorn accepts Dumbledore's offer. This is a very neat bit of coercion by Dumbledore, particularly in that it allowed Slughorn to convince himself – Harry, unprimed for this, never participated in any coercion.
Although Slughorn is an excellent teacher (otherwise Dumbledore would have been unlikely to recruit him) he could prove problematic for Harry. Slughorn has a vain personality and is attracted to other wizards' celebrity and influence. The astute reader may see some similarity to Gilderoy Lockhart, at least insofar as attitude to celebrity goes; Gilderoy, however, has managed his own way to fame, while Slughorn, apparently accepting that he will never be famous, still likes to bask in reflected glory, and we suspect may be inclined to push Harry into prominence for his own ends. Harry, who tries to avoid the limelight, may resent having yet another person fawning over him to serve their own purposes. This may put further stress on Harry. Also, Harry's mother, Lily, was among Slughorn's favorite and most talented pupils. He may have an unrealistic expectation that Harry has the same abilities, putting undue (although perhaps somewhat needed) pressure on Harry, a rather lazy student, to perform at a higher level than he currently does.
Harry's assertion that Quirrell is the only teacher that ever died at Hogwarts is an over-simplification. Hogwarts has been a school for a long time, over a thousand years, with teachers in residence year round; it is certain that at least a few teachers have died there, one being, of course Professor Binns, whose spirit is still teaching there. However, it is true that the only teacher who has died there as a result of Voldemort's actions was Quirrell, though he likely will not be the last.
We note that Dumbledore does not Apparate into the Burrow, landing fairly near the house but neither in it, or even adjacent to it. While this might be considered simple courtesy, as when Dumbledore Apparated into Slughorn's village rather than onto the doorstep, and when he appeared near the Dursley home rather than on the doorstep there, we will learn that by the start of the next book, the Weasley home had been made a "safe house" and Apparition onto the property was no longer permitted. Though it is not discussed in this book, it is possible that the apparition-prevention charm is already in place as Harry and Dumbledore arrive. The timing would seem to be reasonable: until the end of the previous book, Voldemort would have wanted to remain concealed, and so would not have moved openly against the Order of the Phoenix. With the revelation of his return, however, that constraint could be lifted, and the opening chapter of this book clearly indicates that he has started operations targeting the Order and its allies.
- Why does Dumbledore take Harry to Budleigh Babberton Village?
- Why was Slughorn hiding? How does Dumbledore see through his disguise?
- Why does Slughorn think Lily Potter, a Muggle-born, should have been sorted into Slytherin House? What was Harry's reaction to that suggestion?
- Why does Slughorn finally agree to leave his comfortable retirement and accept the teaching post at Hogwarts?
- Why is Dumbledore giving Harry private lessons, and what might they be? Why is he teaching Harry this time, unlike when Snape taught him Occlumency?
- Why does Dumbledore ask Harry to take his Invisibility Cloak with him when they go to the village?
- Why would Dumbledore ask Harry to always keep his Invisibility Cloak with him?
- Why does Dumbledore encourage Harry to reveal Trelawney's prophecy to Ron and Hermione?
- Dumbledore comments, somewhat unfavorably, on Slughorn's desire to be the power behind a multiplicity of thrones. Are there similarities to Dumbledore's own behaviour? If so, is this a veiled self-criticism, or has Dumbledore failed, this one time, to put two and two together?
Harry believes (and readers assume) that Slughorn has been hired as the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher to replace Dolores Umbridge. However, Slughorn has actually been recruited to fill another position; this change will significantly affect Harry's future.
Some believe that this chapter contains direct evidence that Horace Slughorn is or was a Death Eater. When Slughorn asks Dumbledore how he knew that he had faked his own kidnapping/death, Dumbledore replies, "My dear Horace, if the Death Eaters really had come to call, the Dark Mark would have been set over the house," to which Slughorn answers, "The Dark Mark. Knew there was something . . . ah well. Wouldn't have had time anyway . . ." While nothing has been said directly about this, we have been led to believe that only Death Eaters can create the Dark Mark – or perhaps it may be that only they would want to. However, Horace Slughorn neither denied nor asserted that he could do it, he just stated that there wasn't enough time before Dumbledore arrived.
It is unlikely that Slughorn is an active Death Eater. He enjoys his creature comforts far too much to relinquish them, and yet, he has gone into hiding. He seems rather taken aback, in fact, to realize that he has been hidden and incommunicado for a year. If he is a Death Eater, he may have refused to answer the Dark Mark summons; in that case, he likely fears for his life should he be found. This would explain him hiding, and his actions upon detecting a wizard Apparating into his current home village. However, Dumbledore asks if the Death Eaters have "come recruiting"; the implication is that Slughorn is seen as a potential or past ally, rather than an actual Death Eater. Additionally, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we will see that Slughorn continues to teach at the school even after the school has become a Death Eater stronghold. With Voldemort's tendency to exact revenge on those who failed to respond to the initial summons (for instance Karkaroff), it is unlikely that Slughorn, if he had been a Death Eater the first time Voldemort was in power, would have survived the Ministry's fall.
The apparent ease with which Dumbledore manipulates Slughorn into agreeing to be a teacher at Hogwarts should be noted by readers. This shows a side of Dumbledore's character which we have not been aware of until now. An astute reader might wonder, given Dumbledore's skill at convincing Slughorn to come out of hiding, whether Dumbledore might not be using this same skill on Harry. Is he being as forthright with Harry as he seems? If not, what would be Dumbledore's intent? This concern will be brought out in the final book in the series, where Harry will discover that Dumbledore had apparently been concealing his younger life. Dumbledore's brother, Aberforth, will tell Harry that this pattern of manipulation was one that Dumbledore had followed for much of his later life.
- The blood spattered around the walls of the house where Slughorn is hiding is, in fact, dragon's blood. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, we saw that Dumbledore's fame comes in part from a treatise on the Twelve Uses of Dragon's Blood. That treatise is mentioned here, amid banter about this being a thirteenth use.