Valuable venom

Professor Slughorn accompanies Harry to Aragog's burial, in the hope of procuring some Acromantula venom

Extract from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

by J.K. Rowling

Seized with an immediate desire to reveal himself, Harry pulled off the Cloak with a flourish.

‘Good evening, Professor.’

‘Merlin’s beard, Harry, you made me jump,’ said Slughorn, stopping dead in his tracks and looking wary. ‘How did you get out of the castle?’

‘I think Filch must’ve forgotten to lock the doors,’ said Harry cheerfully, and was delighted to see Slughorn scowl.

‘I’ll be reporting that man, he’s more concerned about litter than proper security if you ask me ... but why are you out here, Harry?’

‘Well, sir, it’s Hagrid,’ said Harry, who knew that the right thing to do just now was to tell the truth. ‘He’s pretty upset ... but you won’t tell anyone, Professor? I don’t want trouble for him ...’

Slughorn’s curiosity was evidently aroused.

‘Well, I can’t promise that,’ he said gruffly. ‘But I know that Dumbledore trusts Hagrid to the hilt, so I’m sure he can’t be up to anything very dreadful ...’

‘Well, it’s this giant spider, he’s had it for years ... it lived in the Forest ... it could talk and everything –’

‘I heard rumours there were Acromantula in the Forest,’ said Slughorn softly, looking over at the mass of black trees. ‘It’s true, then?’

‘Yes,’ said Harry. ‘But this one, Aragog, the first one Hagrid ever got, it died last night. He’s devastated. He wants company while he buries it and I said I’d go.’

‘Touching, touching,’ said Slughorn absent-mindedly, his large droopy eyes fixed upon the distant lights of Hagrid’s cabin. ‘But Acromantula venom is very valuable ... if the beast has only just died it might not yet have dried out ... of course, I wouldn’t want to do anything insensitive if Hagrid is upset ... but if there were any way to procure some ... I mean, it’s almost impossible to get venom from an Acromantula while it’s alive ...’

Slughorn seemed to be talking more to himself than Harry now.

‘... seems an awful waste not to collect it ... might get a hundred Galleons a pint ... to be frank, my salary is not large ...’

And now Harry saw clearly what was to be done.

‘Well,’ he said, with a most convincing hesitancy, ‘well, if you wanted to come, Professor, Hagrid would probably be really pleased ... give Aragog a better send-off, you know ...’

‘Yes, of course,’ said Slughorn, his eyes now gleaming with enthusiasm. ‘I tell you what, Harry, I’ll meet you down there with a bottle or two ... we’ll drink the poor beast’s – well – not health – but we’ll send it off in style, anyway, once it’s buried. And I’ll change my tie, this one is a little exuberant for the occasion ...’

He bustled back into the castle, and Harry sped off to Hagrid’s, delighted with himself.

‘Yeh came,’ croaked Hagrid, when he opened the door and saw Harry emerging from the Invisibility Cloak in front of him.

‘Yeah – Ron and Hermione couldn’t, though,’ said Harry. ‘They’re really sorry.’

‘Don’ – don’ matter ... he’d’ve bin touched yeh’re here, though, Harry ...’

Hagrid gave a great sob. He had made himself a black armband out of what looked like a rag dipped in boot polish and his eyes were puffy, red and swollen. Harry patted him consolingly on the elbow, which was the highest point of Hagrid he could easily reach.

‘Where are we burying him?’ he asked. ‘The Forest?’

‘Blimey, no,’ said Hagrid, wiping his streaming eyes on the bottom of his shirt. ‘The other spiders won’ let me anywhere near their webs now Aragog’s gone. Turns out it was on’y on his orders they didn’ eat me! Can yeh believe that, Harry?’

The honest answer was ‘yes’; Harry recalled with painful ease the scene when he and Ron had come face to face with the Acromantula: they had been quite clear that Aragog was the only thing that stopped them eating Hagrid.

‘Never bin an area o’ the Forest I couldn’ go before!’ said Hagrid, shaking his head. ‘It wasn’ easy, gettin’ Aragog’s body out o’ there, I can tell yeh – they usually eat their dead, see ... but I wanted ter give ’im a nice burial ... a proper send-off ...’

He broke into sobs again and Harry resumed the patting of his elbow, saying as he did so (for the potion seemed to indicate that it was the right thing to do), ‘Professor Slughorn met me coming down here, Hagrid.’

‘Not in trouble, are yeh?’ said Hagrid, looking up, alarmed. ‘Yeh shouldn’ be outta the castle in the evenin’, I know it, it’s my fault –’

‘No, no, when he heard what I was doing he said he’d like to come and pay his last respects to Aragog too,’ said Harry. ‘He’s gone to change into something more suitable, I think ... and he said he’d bring some bottles so we can drink to Aragog’s memory ...’

‘Did he?’ said Hagrid, looking both astonished and touched. ‘Tha’s – tha’s righ’ nice of him, tha’ is, an’ not turnin’ you in, either. I’ve never really had a lot ter do with Horace Slughorn before ... comin’ ter see old Aragog off, though, eh? Well ... he’d’ve liked that, Aragog would ...’

Harry thought privately that what Aragog would have liked most about Slughorn was the ample amount of edible flesh he provided, but he merely moved to the rear window of Hagrid’s hut where he saw the rather horrible sight of the enormous dead spider lying on its back outside, its legs curled and tangled.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

By J.K. Rowling