Before the Apparition test in the afternoon, the trio sits in a courtyard doing homework and trying to avoid Lavender. A small girl approaches with a tear-stained letter from Hagrid, announcing that Aragog has died and begging them to come to the funeral that night. Ron is incensed, since the spider once tried to kill him, and Hermione doesn’t want to leave the safety of the castle at night. They decide not to go.
The trio has made the trip to Hagrid’s hut dozens of times, at all hours of the night. The fact that it’s too dangerous to do so now reflects the general unease growing at Hogwarts, and the lack of security afforded by traditionally safe public spaces.
The subject turns to Slughorn, whom Harry still hasn’t approached successfully. Struck by an idea, Ron suggests that Harry use his Felix Felicis to accomplish the task. Harry is reluctant to do so; he’s had vague plans for the potion involving Ginny splitting up with Dean and Ron permitting them to date. When he doesn’t say anything, Hermione briskly decides that the matter is settled.
Harry’s conviction that he needs a magic potion to facilitate a relationship with Ginny shows that he conceives of his feelings for her as shameful or unrealistic, rather than normal and actionable emotions.
As they get up to leave, two girls appear in the courtyard and Ron flinches, wary of Lavender; but it’s actually two sisters whose younger brother has just been bitten by a werewolf and died in St. Mungo’s. Hermione says “bleakly” that this sort of thing is the reason why Harry must acquire Slughorn’s memory at all costs.
Hermione’s remark underlines the fact that Harry must use the potion to serve the community by acquiring the memory, rather than serving himself by pursuing Ginny. Learning to put aside his own emotions for a greater cause is another way in which Harry grows up over the course of the novel.
Harry heads to Potions, which is mostly empty due to the Apparition test; Slughorn tells them to brew him something “amusing.” While looking across at Draco, who seems pale and sick, Harry thumbs through his book and decides to make an Elixir of Euphoria, which might put Slughorn in a mood to divulge his secrets. However, at the end of the lesson Slughorn hurries off before Harry can corner him. He returns upstairs to greet Hermione, who has passed the test, and Ron, who has failed after Splinching one eyebrow. Hermione comforts Ron over his failure.
Draco’s increasingly troubled appearance reflects his reluctance to complete the task he’s been assigned and his anxiety over his dangerous position. While Harry is always alert for signs of wrongdoing in Draco, he doesn’t pay attention to these signs, which point to the more humanizing and sympathetic aspects of Draco’s character.
After dinner, the trio climbs to the boys’ dormitory and Harry retrieves his bottle of Felix Feilicis from his trunk, drinking a tiny gulp. After a minute, a “sense of infinite opportunity” fills him and he knows he can accomplish anything. To Ron and Hermione’s consternation, he announces his intention to visit Hagrid – he has a good feeling about attending Aragog’s funeral. Pulling on the Invisibility Cloak, he confidently says that he knows what he’s doing.
In a way, taking the Felix potion allows Harry to live out his fantasy of adulthood – a world in which he’s extremely capable and always knows what to do. However, the unrealistically charmed evening demonstrates that such a life is impossible for even the most skilled wizard.
As the three emerge into the common room they meet Lavender, who only sees Ron and Hermione and immediately becomes upset. Harry breezes through the portrait hole, brushing past Dean and Ginny. Sounding annoyed, Ginny accuses Dean of trying to help her through the door and snaps that she can do it “perfectly well” by herself. In the entrance hall, Harry sees that Filch has forgotten to lock the front door. Impetuously deciding to walk to Hagrid’s through the vegetable patch, although it’s not on the way, he sees Slughorn gathering some herbs with Professor Sprout.
Harry decided to set aside his own desires and use the potion to secure Slughorn’s memory, but he seems to be achieving both aims. By brushing against Ginny he’s planted the seeds of discord in her relationship. And by remaining invisible to Lavender, he’s facilitating the breakup that both Ron and Hermione desperately desire.
Harry decides to reveal himself and confides smoothly to Slughorn that he’s on his way to comfort Hagrid over Aragog’s recent death. Slughorn perks up at the mention of giant spiders, whose venom is hard to collect but extremely valuable. Harry invites him to the funeral and Slughorn scurries off to change his tie. Harry rushes to console a puffy-eyed Hagrid, who is astounded that Aragog’s fellows have turned against him now that his leaders are dead.
Slughorn’s obvious interest in using Aragog’s funeral for his own profit is evidence of his self-centered materialism; at the same time, these negative traits help Harry achieve what he needs. Slughorn’s behavior both reveals his flaws and proves useful to Harry’s cause.
As Hagrid leads Harry out to the pumpkin patch where he plans to bury Aragog, Slughorn arrives bursting with condolences and carrying several bottles of wine. They all proceed to the grave and Slughorn bends over to examine the spider; Harry hears the clink of glass bottles, but Hagrid is oblivious. As Hagrid proves too grief-stricken to say much in Aragog’s honor, Slughorn steps up and improvises a flowery eulogy, which does much to raise Hagrid’s spirits. They return inside, where Slughorn and Hagrid begin drinking and Harry quietly abstains.
In a way, this ceremony is a foil to Dumbledore’s funeral at the end of the novel. Right now Harry is working under the headmaster’s close tutelage and feels optimistic about succeeding in the tasks he’s given. Conversely, at the end of the novel, Harry will feel starkly alone and unguided in the fight with Voldemort that faces him.
Especially once he sees valuable supplies of unicorn hair hanging from the ceiling, Slughorn devotes himself to flattering Hagrid and exchanging tales of illegal dragon egg trading. Harry refills the bottles of wine until both of them are extremely drunk and singing old folk songs. After Hagrid falls asleep, Slughorn begins to question Harry about his parents’ death and Harry recounts the details of the night in grim detail, especially his mother’s brave decision to stand between him and Voldemort. Slughorn is upset and frightened, especially because Lily was one of his favorite pupils. Harry asks why, if he liked Lily so much, he won’t help her son by giving him a memory.
Slughorn’s genuine regard for Lily is one of his good qualities – even if it expresses itself in a certain squeamishness about her brutal death. Harry is playing on both Slughorn’s affection and cowardice to induce him to give up the memory. This shows that he’s been able to read his emotions well enough to act on them, without getting caught up in moral judgments. At least while he’s under the potion’s influence, Harry is displaying heightened emotional maturity and stronger compassion for other characters’ moral complexities.
Leaning close to Slughorn, Harry whispers that he is, in fact, the Chosen One, and that he needs the memory to kill Voldemort. Slughorn is very impressed and Harry presses his advantage, urging him to “be brave like my mother.” Hesitantly, Slughorn says he’s ashamed of his past behavior, but Harry says it would be an act of nobility to share the memory, absolving his previous misdeeds. Slowly, Slughorn brings his wand to his head and extracts a silver memory, which he collects in a small bottle. Giving it to Harry, he begs him not to think poorly of him in the future and falls asleep.
As a final inducement, Harry holds out the prospect of personal redemption to Slughorn. Given his normally stringent moral judgments, it’s probable that he doesn’t quite believe that this act totally absolves the professor; rather, the potion is helping him intuit the most persuasive things to say. However, this moment shows him that believing in personal redemption can help people change themselves for the better and contribute to morally correct causes.