Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter/Characters/Horace Slughorn

Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Character
Horace E. F. Slughorn
Gender Male
Hair color Bald, formerly golden yellow
Eye color Gooseberry green
Related Family Unknown
Loyalty Albus Dumbledore



Horace E. F. Slughorn is the retired head of Slytherin House and a former Hogwarts teacher. Confronted with a shortage of teachers by the incapacitation of Dolores Umbridge and the rumours surrounding the Defence Against the Dark Arts position, Professor Dumbledore convinces him to come out of retirement and return to teaching. Slughorn is a portly older gentleman with an ebullient manner, a large moustache, and a very deep voice.

Role in the Books

Beginner warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

Professor Dumbledore collects Harry from the Dursleys' after only two weeks of the summer vacation. As they depart on their way to The Burrow, Dumbledore comments that he finds himself again one teacher short, and so they will be stopping to visit someone he hopes to coax into the job. In the town of Budleigh Babberton, they find a house that has apparently been the subject of an attack: door standing open, furniture destroyed, apparent blood spattered on the walls. Dumbledore, surveying the wreckage, pokes an overturned armchair with his wand; it turns into a very fat man, who is then introduced as Horace Slughorn. Asked what had given him away, Dumbledore comments that if the attack had been real, the Dark Mark would have been floating over the house; Slughorn admits to forgetting it, but says he had been rushed, being in the bath when his detector had gone off. The two of them clean up the house, then Dumbledore introduces Harry, and asks Slughorn if he would be interested in getting his old job back. Slughorn demurs, saying he's concerned that coming out of his concealment might make him a target for the Death Eaters. Dumbledore then departs, ostensibly to go to the bathroom.

Slughorn now engages Harry in conversation, talking about his mother, Lily Evans as she was then, and how she had been one of his favorite students despite being Muggle-born. He admits to a bias towards the Pureblood students, and mentions that it is only natural, with his having been head of Slytherin house. He then talks about his connections in the Wizarding world, with sports teams and the Ministry; Harry asks if they have been in touch since Slughorn went into concealment. Slughorn admits, reluctantly, that his standard of living has dropped since he went into hiding a year before. Harry points out that Hogwarts is probably at least as safe as anywhere else; possibly more so, as Dumbledore was the only wizard that Voldemort was believed to fear.

Dumbledore then returns from the bathroom, saying he had become intrigued by one of the magazines there, and takes his leave of Slughorn. As he and Harry head for the door, Slughorn changes his mind and accepts the teaching post Dumbledore was offering.

As they travel to The Burrow, Dumbledore tells Harry that Slughorn had previously maintained a student group at Hogwarts, called the "Slug Club", whose members were either skilled or well-connected. It is this group which had left him the connections he needed to keep him in the creature comforts he was so fond of. Dumbledore suggests that Slughorn might want to restart that club on his return, and that Harry would be the star of that club if it did re-form.

It appears Dumbledore is correct, as on the Hogwarts Express heading to school, Harry and Neville find themselves invited to a gathering in Slughorn's compartment, along with several other students who seem to have important relatives. Slughorn seems to be trying to get Harry to tell what had happened in the Battle at the Ministry, but when Harry remained silent as to details, Slughorn shifted to his own reminiscences and entertained the students almost until they arrived at Hogwarts.

At the Arrival Feast, Harry, along with many others, is amazed to hear that Slughorn has been brought in as Potions Master, and Professor Snape has been given the Defence Against the Dark Arts position that he has wanted for so long. Alarming as this may be, it provides one major advantage for Harry: Snape would only accept students at N.E.W.T. level if they receive an Outstanding grade in Potions, and Harry's grade had been merely Exceeds Expectations. Harry had seen his dream of becoming an Auror vanish. Slughorn, however, is willing to accept an Exceeds Expectations student for NEWT-level classes, so Harry is free to take Potions and prepare for his chosen career.

At the first Potions class, then, Harry and Ron, both of whom are now able to take Potions, are in need of textbooks. Slughorn digs a couple of used books out of a cupboard for them. Slughorn has prepared several cauldrons of potion, and asks the class to identify them. Hermione identifies all four of them, earning thirty House points for Gryffindor, and Slughorn's admiration. Slughorn then sets them the task of brewing a particular potion, the Draught of Living Death. Harry, looking at his borrowed Potions book, notes that the previous owner had annotated it; following the annotations, he finds that his results are much better even then Hermione's. Slughorn commends him for his skill at Potions, saying he was obviously his mother's son; she was easily the best potion-maker in her class year. As Harry has made the best example of the potion, he wins the prize: a phial of Felix Felicis potion, enough Liquid Luck for twelve hours.

Harry's continuing use of the annotated textbook will lead Slughorn to believe that he is extremely talented in Potions. Harry does not want to lose the benefit of the annotations in the book, so when his new copy arrives from Flourish and Blotts, he returns that book to Slughorn, keeping the annotated book for himself.

Returning from a visit with Hagrid after the Quidditch tryouts, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are met in the great hall by Slughorn, who invites Harry and Hermione to a little party, "just a few rising stars", while ignoring Ron who is standing right there. Harry pleads a previous engagement, detention with Snape. Slughorn says he will try to straighten that small matter out, and waddles away, but is ultimately not successful.

On the first Hogsmeade visit of the year, Harry, Ron, and Hermione run into Slughorn in Honeyduke's Sweetshop. Slughorn invites Harry and Hermione to another little party, again ignoring Ron. Harry again has to refuse, as he has a lesson scheduled with Professor Dumbledore for that evening. Harry continues to avoid Slughorn's parties by scheduling Quidditch practice on those days when the parties are happening. Hermione later mentions that Slughorn's parties are not as bad as all that, and that Harry should at least plan on coming to the Christmas party. She mentions that he would be allowed to bring a guest, which sparks a small row between her and Ron.

Harry manages to avoid the girls attempting to wangle an invitation to Slughorn's party with him, eventually inviting Luna Lovegood. Hermione chooses to invite Cormac McLaggen, largely to spite Ron who is very deeply involved with Lavender.

Once Harry and Luna arrive at the party, they run into Hermione, who is now actively trying to avoid Cormac. They fall into discussion with Professor Trelawney, and Harry and Hermione are very entertained by Luna's theories about conspiracies in the Ministry. Filch arrives with Draco Malfoy, who he had found wandering the halls; Professor Slughorn decides that he had been attempting to gatecrash, and magnanimously invites him to join the party. Shortly, Draco and Snape leave for a private word, and Harry departs to eavesdrop on them. If he returns to the party afterwards, we don't hear about it.

Immediately after Christmas, in one of his private lessons with Dumbledore, Harry experiences a memory of Slughorn's from the days when the Slug Club had included Tom Riddle. The memory, which shows Tom asking about Horcruxes, is very obviously edited such that none of Slughorn's responses are present. Professor Dumbledore says that Harry is uniquely equipped to retrieve the unedited memory from Slughorn, and charges him with that retrieval, saying it is quite possibly the most important thing Harry will have to do all year.

Some time later, Professor Slughorn sets them the task of determining and brewing an antidote for a mixture of magical poisons. Harry finds a scrawled note in his textbook that says "Simply shove a Bezoar down their throat." As the end of the class approaches, Harry finds a bezoar in the ingredients cupboard. As time is called, nobody has a complete solution, not even Hermione. Harry exhibits his bezoar, to Hermione's dismay and Slughorn's deep amusement. Slughorn absently tucks the bezoar into his bag. At the end of class, Harry asks Slughorn about Horcruxes, but Slughorn irritably insists that there was nothing more to that episode than what Dumbledore has seen, and leaves hastily.

So long as Harry stays away from the subject of Horcruxes, Slughorn remains amiable, but Harry, who is now waiting for one of his invitations to his little soirées, is frustrated that none are forthcoming. And so matters remain for some months, as Slughorn steadfastly avoids any situation where he might be alone with Harry.

Harry had been given a box of Chocolate Cauldrons by Romilda Vane who, at the time, had been angling for an invitation to Slughorn's Christmas party. Warned by Hermione to suspect love potion, Harry had set them aside in his trunk. Hunting through his trunk, he had pulled them roughly out, and Ron, whose birthday it was, had mistaken them for a gift for himself and had eaten two. Harry, finding Ron infatuated with Romilda, had taken him to Slughorn's office for an antidote. Slughorn expressed some surprise that as talented a potion-maker as Harry had not simply whipped up the antidote himself, but quickly puts together a potion, and gives it to Ron who is abruptly cured, and badly shaken. Slughorn then pours out some "oak-aged mead" which he says he had gotten as a Christmas gift for Dumbledore, but had forgotten to give him. Harry, watching Ron as he downs the entire glass in one, sees the poison in the mead affecting him. Slughorn, shocked, can only stutter and stammer as Ron falls; Harry, remembering the Bezoar that Slughorn had tucked into his bag, rummages through Slughorn's bag to find it and forces it into Ron's mouth, just in time.

In the Hospital Wing afterwards, where Harry is visiting with Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and the Twins, the Weasley family speculate on why Slughorn would have had poisoned mead in the first place, and wonder exactly who he would be trying to poison. The suggestion is aired that Slughorn may be a Death Eater, or sympathetic to them, and be trying to poison Harry; but Harry points out that Slughorn had said the mead was intended for Dumbledore.

On the day of the testing for Apparition in Hogsmeade, Slughorn finds that only three students remain in his Potions class: Harry, Draco Malfoy, and Ernie Macmillan. He decides to set them an open lesson, having each of them create a potion of his own choice. Harry, thinking to perhaps lighten Slughorn's mood and loosen his tongue, chooses to make up a Euphoria Elixir. Slughorn, when it is complete, looks at Harry's potion and scents it, but departs almost at the run before Harry can convince him to try tasting it.

That morning, Harry, Ron, and Hermione had been discussing how to get the memory from Slughorn, and had hit upon the idea of using some of the Felix Felicis potion that Harry had won on the first day of class. While they were discussing this, Harry had received a note from Hagrid that said that Aragog had died, and asking Harry to come to the funeral. Having failed to convince Slughorn to grant him the memory that afternoon, Harry takes the Felix Felicis potion, and promptly decides to attend Aragog's funeral, much to Ron's and Hermione's horror. On the way there, he decides to detour past the greenhouses, where he luckily runs into Slughorn. He chooses to tell Slughorn the truth about why he is out there; Slughorn, thinking avariciously of the value of Acromantula venom, not only fails to punish Harry for being out of the school, but chooses to join Harry at Hagrid's, bearing a number of bottles of mead. After Aragog is buried, Slughorn, pouring generously, manages to get himself and Hagrid drunk; Harry, luckily, moderates his drinking, magically refills the bottles without either of the other two noticing, and finally convinces Slughorn, who is so drunk that he will remember nothing in the morning, to retrieve the memory that Dumbledore has been seeking.

Viewing the memory with Dumbledore shortly afterwards, Harry learns that in that particular episode, Tom Riddle had managed to receive some information about Horcruxes from Slughorn, and had asked about the possibility of making multiple Horcruxes. In particular, Tom had suggested that seven was a particularly magical number, and wondered whether seven pieces of soul might not provide even better immortality than two. Slughorn had been horrified at the thought.

Harry loses access to the textbook that had belonged to the Half-Blood Prince, leaving it in the Room of Requirement to keep it from being confiscated by Professor Snape, and as a result his skill in Potions falls off rather sharply. However, as he has at the same time rather publicly started going out with Ginny, Slughorn attributes his decreased ability to distraction, quite understandable in one Harry's age.

At the end of the book, following Snape's departure, a meeting of the four Heads of House must be called. As Snape is no longer available, Slughorn is called in as acting head of Slytherin house. Slughorn is in shock at Snape's actions, saying that he had thought he had known Snape. He suggests that with Dumbledore gone, people might not want to send their children to Hogwarts, but that he was in favour of keeping the school open.

Professor Slughorn's temporary appointment as head of Slytherin house was continued, as we see him responding (albeit sluggishly) to Professor McGonagall's summons to the heads of Houses. As Snape is departing, Professor McGonagall tells Professor Slughorn in no uncertain terms that he must decide whether he stands with the school or with the Death Eaters. Slughorn chooses to stand with the school, and is seen with McGonagall and Kingsley Shacklebolt, dueling Voldemort, just before Harry's final confrontation. He was determined to protect the school and stood with the other professors to defend Hogwarts in order to defeat Voldemort.



He has an uncanny ability to pick students who have a promising future, giving him many good contacts. He is also highly skilled at potion-making and is, according to Dumbledore, an extremely accomplished wizard. He is good natured and occasionally generous to the people he likes.



His health is bad, as he has a weak chest. He also shows a favoritism to talented people. In addition, he is slightly greedy. He is self-indulgent, enjoying an excess of expensive liquor, good food and fine clothing.

Relationships with Other Characters


Horace Slughorn is portrayed as the classic social climber. In the first meeting of the Slug Club, we see him dismissing a student because he is estranged from his famous relative. We see his perpetual wrangling, masked in amiability, to bring Harry into his orbit. We hear that he has continuing contacts with the more famous people in the Wizarding world, and we see some of them at various Slug Club meetings. We also see that all of these relationships are based on what they can bring to Slughorn; it seems that what he can bring to a relationship is less well defined.Slughorn seems to be intent only on raising his own status by associating with high-status individuals, and the fact that this allows some of his guests to make connections with others is possibly incidental, although we do see him playing up that aspect of his meetings to a small extent.

It is hard to determine whether Slughorn's relationship with Dumbledore is based on Dumbledore's social position, or on respect for Dumbledore's abilities. Dumbledore does seem to like Slughorn, but sees fit to warn Harry indirectly about Slughorn and the Slug Club.

We note in passing that Tom Riddle was a member of an earlier edition of the Slug Club. This would suggest that Slughorn was not, perhaps, the keenest judge of character. In mitigation, though, we have already heard from Dumbledore that Tom was very personable, and both from Dumbledore, and from Tom himself, that Dumbledore was the only one of the teachers who did not accept him at face value.



In the articles on Avery, Rabastan Lestrange, and Rodolphus Lestrange, we note that in Slughorn's memory of the episode where Riddle asks about Horcruxes, Slughorn addresses someone named Avery and someone named Lestrange. Obviously, these are fellow students of Riddle's, and so must be about sixty-five years old as of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, if they are still alive. Lily Evans mentions at one point that Avery is a friend of Snape's, which we assume means he is a student at the time, making him about thirty, Snape's age. Determining Rabastan and Rodolphus' age is slightly more complicated, but Rodolphus married Bellatrix, who apparently is Narcissa Malfoy's sister. Narcissa is, of course, married to Lucius Malfoy, who was a Prefect when Snape was Sorted on his first arrival at Hogwarts. From this we can determine that Rabastan and Rodolphus are at least of the same generation as Snape, making them also about thirty, give or take possibly ten years. From this we infer that the Avery mentioned by Slughorn is likely the father of the Avery who plays an active role in this story, and that the Lestrange mentioned may be the father of Rabastan and Rodolphus.



Study questions are meant to be left for each student to answer; please don't answer them here.

  1. Is it better to hide things you have done wrong or to try to solve them right away? Illustrate your answer with events from Professor Slughorn's life. (Hint: Slughorn's memory)
  2. What things does Slughorn look for in people he wants to join the Slug Club?

Greater Picture

Intermediate warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.