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In The Half Blood Prince, Professor Slughorn froze up when

Ron got poisoned from the whiskey after he was cured from the love potion

If Slughorn is as good as people say he is and "always keeps a cure for Veritaserum" on his person, why would he then freeze up as if to not know what to do when a student would get poisoned?

And why wouldn't he immediately think to

use a bezoar to cure Ron if a bezoar is known to cure almost all poisons?

2 Answers 2

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Prof. Slughorn is an ivory tower academician.

He knows a lot, and can tell you a lot of facts under normal circumstances.

The above is significantly different from being able to act - even do basic stuff that you ought to know down pat - under tremendous pressure. Forget bezoar - he probably would have had trouble remembering his own name. The guy's a pure nerd scholar, not a fighter at all.

As confirmation, look at his reaction to Heads of Houses proposing to hold off Voldemort at the beginning of Battle of Hogwarts. Or other indications that he's not exactly a paragon of strength and bravery (his hiding when Harry and Dumbledore first visit to recruit him, his suppression of his revealing of Horcrux information to Riddle, etc...).

There's no canon related to it, but I'm fairly certain Slughorn, unlike Snape, was never a good duelist.

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  • 1
    To your last sentence, if I'm reading the character right; not from lack of ability but lack of desire to duel.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Apr 14, 2012 at 8:03
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    @Pureferret - both. Apr 14, 2012 at 10:51
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    Without ability he may still have valiantly tried. Without desire, even if he was able he wouldn't have tried...
    – AncientSwordRage
    Apr 14, 2012 at 12:35
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    From the scene where we first meet Slughorn, I think he can react even under pressure.
    – b_jonas
    Apr 14, 2012 at 16:11
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    +1 Could also add that Slughorn may have realised that the poisoned whiskey was meant for him, and that could have scared/shocked him enough to freeze him up.
    – Möoz
    May 2, 2014 at 2:06
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The current answer is mostly wrong.

Slughorn does not struggle from acting during stressful, pressure-filled, or life-threatening situations.

When Dumbledore first visits him, Slughorn reacts incredibly quickly:

“And yet you must have moved fairly quickly to prepare such a welcome for us at such short notice,” said Dumbledore. “You can’t have had more than three minutes’ warning?”

Slughorn said, half irritably, half proudly, “Two. Didn’t hear my Intruder Charm go off, I was taking a bath.

Next, on the train Slughorn also reacts incredibly quickly and calmly to save Belby from choking to death:

Unfortunately, Belby had just taken a large mouthful of pheasant; in his haste to answer Slughorn he swallowed too fast, turned purple, and began to choke.

“Anapneo,” said Slughorn calmly, pointing his wand at Belby, whose airway seemed to clear at once.

Finally, the answer stating that Slughorn was "never a good duelist" is ludicrous, considering who he dueled during the Battle of Hogwarts (and lived to tell the tale).

Voldemort was now dueling McGonagall, Slughorn, and Kingsley all at once, and there was cold hatred in his face as they wove and ducked around him, unable to finish him —

I believe a more accurate answer would be Möoz's comment. Slughorn was most likely (understandably) shocked and frightened that he came inches away from being poisoned. Under the circumstances, it is not unreasonable that most people would react in a similar fashion.

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