A valuable memory

Harry, with the help of some liquid luck and several bottles of mead, finally gets a chance to pick at Slughorn's memories

Extract from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

by J.K. Rowling

Slughorn sang plaintively:

‘And Odo the hero, they bore him back home To the place that he’d known as a lad, They laid him to rest with his hat inside out And his wand snapped in two, which was sad.’

‘... terrible,’ Hagrid grunted and his great shaggy head rolled sideways on to his arms and he fell asleep, snoring deeply.

‘Sorry,’ said Slughorn with a hiccough. ‘Can’t carry a tune to save my life.’

‘Hagrid wasn’t talking about your singing,’ said Harry quietly. ‘He was talking about my mum and dad dying.’

‘Oh,’ said Slughorn, repressing a large belch. ‘Oh, dear. Yes, that was – was terrible indeed. Terrible ... terrible ...’

He looked quite at a loss for what to say, and resorted to refilling their mugs.

‘I don’t – don’t suppose you remember it, Harry?’ he asked awkwardly.

‘No – well, I was only one when they died,’ said Harry, his eyes on the flame of the candle flickering in Hagrid’s heavy snores. ‘But I’ve found out pretty much what happened since. My dad died first. Did you know that?’

‘I – I didn’t,’ said Slughorn in a hushed voice.

‘Yeah ... Voldemort murdered him and then stepped over his body towards my mum,’ said Harry.

Slughorn gave a great shudder, but he did not seem able to tear his horrified gaze away from Harry’s face.

‘He told her to get out of the way,’ said Harry remorselessly. ‘He told me she needn’t have died. He only wanted me. She could have run.’

‘Oh dear,’ breathed Slughorn. ‘She could have ... she needn’t ... that’s awful ...’

‘It is, isn’t it?’ said Harry, in a voice barely more than a whisper. ‘But she didn’t move. Dad was already dead, but she didn’t want me to go too. She tried to plead with Voldemort ... but he just laughed ...’

‘That’s enough!’ said Slughorn suddenly, raising a shaking hand. ‘Really, my dear boy, enough ... I’m an old man ... I don’t need to hear ... I don’t want to hear ...’

‘I forgot,’ lied Harry, Felix Felicis leading him on. ‘You liked her, didn’t you?’

‘Liked her?’ said Slughorn, his eyes brimming with tears once more. ‘I don’t imagine anyone who met her wouldn’t have liked her ... very brave ... very funny ... it was the most horrible thing ...’

‘But you won’t help her son,’ said Harry. ‘She gave me her life, but you won’t give me a memory.’

Hagrid’s rumbling snores filled the cabin. Harry looked steadily into Slughorn’s tear-filled eyes. The Potions master seemed unable to look away.

‘Don’t say that,’ he whispered. ‘It isn’t a question ... if it were to help you, of course ... but no purpose can be served ...’

‘It can,’ said Harry clearly. ‘Dumbledore needs information. I need information.’

He knew he was safe: Felix was telling him that Slughorn would remember nothing of this in the morning. Looking Slughorn straight in the eye, Harry leant forwards a little.

‘I am the Chosen One. I have to kill him. I need that memory.’

Slughorn turned paler than ever; his shiny forehead gleamed with sweat.

‘You are the Chosen One?’

‘Of course I am,’ said Harry calmly.

‘But then ... my dear boy ... you’re asking a great deal ... you’re asking me, in fact, to aid you in your attempt to destroy –’

‘You don’t want to get rid of the wizard who killed Lily Evans?’

‘Harry, Harry, of course I do, but –’

‘You’re scared he’ll find out you helped me?’

Slughorn said nothing; he looked terrified.

‘Be brave like my mother, Professor ...’

Slughorn raised a pudgy hand and pressed his shaking fingers to his mouth; he looked for a moment like an enormously overgrown baby.

‘I am not proud ...’ he whispered through his fingers. ‘I am ashamed of what – of what that memory shows ... I think I may have done great damage that day ...’

‘You’d cancel out anything you did by giving me the memory,’ said Harry. ‘It would be a very brave and noble thing to do.’

Hagrid twitched in his sleep and snored on. Slughorn and Harry stared at each other over the guttering candle. There was a long, long silence, but Felix Felicis told Harry not to break it, to wait.

Then, very slowly, Slughorn put his hand in his pocket and pulled out his wand. He put his other hand inside his cloak and took out a small, empty bottle. Still looking into Harry’s eyes, Slughorn touched the tip of his wand to his temple and withdrew it, so that a long, silver thread of memory came away too, clinging to the wand-tip. Longer and longer the memory stretched until it broke and swung, silvery bright, from the wand. Slughorn lowered it into the bottle where it coiled, then spread, swirling like gas. He corked the bottle with a trembling hand and then passed it across the table to Harry.

‘Thank you very much, Professor.’

‘You’re a good boy,’ said Professor Slughorn, tears trickling down his fat cheeks into his walrus moustache. ‘And you’ve got her eyes ... just don’t think too badly of me once you’ve seen it ...’

And he, too, put his head on his arms, gave a deep sigh, and fell asleep.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

by J.K. Rowling