Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power Politics and Pesky Poltergeists Read online
Prisoners were mostly insane and a graveyard had been established to accommodate those that died of despair.
Back in London, Diggory established a committee to explore alternatives to Azkaban, or at least to remove the Dementors as guards. Experts explained to him that the only reason the Dementors were (mostly) confined to the island was that they were being provided with a constant supply of souls on which to feed. If deprived of prisoners, they were likely to abandon the prison and head for the mainland.
This advice notwithstanding, Diggory had been so horrified by what he had seen inside Azkaban that he pressed the committee to find alternatives. Before they could reach any decision, however, Diggory caught dragon pox and died. From that time until the advent of Kingsley Shacklebolt, no Minister ever seriously considered closing Azkaban. They turned a blind eye to the inhumane conditions inside the fortress, permitted it to be magically enlarged and expanded and rarely visited, due to the awful effects of entering a building populated by thousands of Dementors. Most justified their attitude by pointing to the prison’s perfect record at keeping prisoners locked up.
Nearly three centuries passed before that record was broken. A young man was successfully smuggled out of the prison when his visiting mother exchanged places with him, something that the blind and loveless Dementors could not detect and would have never expected. This escape was followed by another, still more ingenious and impressive, when Sirius Black managed to evade the Dementors single-handed.
The weakness of the prison was demonstrated amply over the next few years, when two mass breakouts occurred, both involving Death Eaters. By this time the Dementors had given their allegiance to Lord Voldemort, who could guarantee them scope and freedom hitherto untasted. Albus Dumbledore was one who had long disapproved of the use of Dementors as guards, not only because of the inhumane treatment of the prisoners in their power, but because he foresaw the possible shift in loyalties of such Dark creatures.
Under Kingsley Shacklebolt, Azkaban was purged of Dementors. While it remains in use as a prison, the guards are now Aurors, who are regularly rotated from the mainland. There has been no breakout since this new system was introduced.
J.K. Rowling’s thoughts
The name ‘Azkaban’ derives from a mixture of the prison ‘Alcatraz’, which is its closest Muggle equivalent, being set on an island, and ‘Abaddon’, which is a Hebrew word meaning ‘place of destruction’ or ‘depths of hell’.
BY J.K. ROWLING
Cedar and dragon heartstring, ten and a quarter inches, fairly flexible
Accomplished Occlumens, expert Potioneer, advanced self-transfiguration
Wizard father, witch mother (family one of the so-called ‘Sacred Twenty-Eight’)
Never married, no children (although the Slughorn family continues through a collateral line)
The Slug Club, corresponding with famous ex-students, fine wines and confectionery
Horace Eugene Flaccus Slughorn was born into an ancient wizarding family, the only son of doting and wealthy parents. Although a fundamentally good-tempered boy, he was educated to believe in the value of the old boys’ network (his father was a high-ranking Ministry official in the Department of International Magical Co-operation), and encouraged to make friends ‘of the right sort’ once he arrived at Hogwarts. The Slughorn family is one of the so-called ‘Sacred Twenty-Eight’, (a select list of the only families designated ‘pure-blooded’ by an anonymous author in the 1930s) and while Slughorn’s parents were never militant in their pure-blood beliefs, they encouraged a quiet belief in the family’s innate superiority.
Horace was sorted instantly into Slytherin upon arrival at Hogwarts. He proved himself an outstanding student, and while he did not follow his parents’ implied instructions to the letter (numbering among his friends several talented Muggle-borns), he practised his own brand of elitism. Horace was drawn to those whose talents or backgrounds made them in any way distinctive, revelling in reflected glory, and dazzled by celebrity of any description. Even as a boy he was an embarrassingly loud name-dropper, and would often refer to the Minister for Magic by his Christian name, happy to imply that the family were on closer terms with him than was really the case.
Early Teaching Career
In spite of his considerable abilities, his admiration of those who enjoyed the limelight and his parents’ ambitions for him at the Ministry, Horace Slughorn was never drawn to the cut and thrust of politics. He enjoyed his creature comforts and revelled in the vicarious delights of having high-achieving friends, without much wanting to emulate any of them. Perhaps he knew in his heart of hearts that he was not the stuff of which great Ministers are made, aware that he preferred a less taxing and more comfortable existence. When offered the job of Potions master at Hogwarts he was delighted to accept, having a great flair for teaching and a deep fondness for the old school.
Subsequently promoted to Head of Slytherin house, Slughorn remained a good-tempered and easy-going man. He had weaknesses – vanity, snobbery and a certain lack of judgement when it came to the good-looking and talented – and yet he was devoid of cruelty or malice. The worst of which he could be accused during his teaching career is that he made far too great a distinction between those students whom he found amusing and promising, and those in whom he saw no flicker of future greatness. The institution of the ‘Slug Club’ – an out-of-hours dining and social club for his selected favourites – did nothing to assuage the feelings of those who were never invited.
Slughorn undoubtedly had a good eye for latent talent; over a fifty-year period numerous members of the Slug Club, hand-picked by him, subsequently had dazzling careers in the wizarding world, in fields as diverse as Quidditch, politics, business and journalism.
Relationship with Voldemort
Unfortunately for Slughorn, one of his very favourite students, a handsome and exceptionally talented boy called Tom Marvolo Riddle, had ambitions that were far removed from the likes of the Ministry or proprietorship of the Daily Prophet. Manipulative and charming when he chose, Riddle knew exactly how to flatter and cajole his doting Potions master and Head of House into parting with forbidden information: how to create Horcruxes. Most ill-advisedly, Slughorn gave his protégé the knowledge he had been lacking.
Although it is not shown in the novels, we may deduce, from what Professor Dumbledore tells Harry Potter about his own suspicions about Tom Riddle during the latter’s school days, that Dumbledore would have warned his colleague Slughorn against allowing himself to be used by the boy. Slughorn, secure in his own judgement (which had been vindicated so many times), brushed off such warnings as paranoia on Dumbledore’s part, believing the Transfiguration teacher to have taken an unaccountable dislike to Tom from the moment he had fetched the boy from the orphanage in which he had been brought up.
Slughorn remained in thrall to Riddle right up until the latter’s departure from the school, when Slughorn was disappointed to discover that his prize pupil had not only turned down every wonderful job offer made to him, but vanished, showing no desire to keep in touch with the master with whom he had seemed to feel such an affinity. Slowly, over the ensuing months, Slughorn had to admit to himself that the affection Tom Riddle had seemed to feel for him might, after all, have been a pretence. Slughorn’s guilty feelings about having shared a piece of dangerous magical knowledge with the boy intensified, but he suppressed them more determinedly than ever, confiding in no one.
When, a few years after Riddle’s departure from the school, a Dark wizard of immense power called Lord Voldemort became active in the wizarding world, Slughorn did not immediately recognise him as his old pupil