In the 6th book/movie, Dumbledore went on great lengths to retrieve correct memories of Slughorn. Instead of recruiting him and using Harry Potter to persuade him, why didn't he simply use the Imperius Curse on Slughorn and order him to reveal his true memories?

Talking about ethics, he had a war to win. For the greater good, such things can be considered fair, especially when Slughorn wouldn't go through some permanent damage. Talking about the illegality of Imperius Curse, I doubt that the Ministry could find out about it. In case of complaint by Slughorn, I doubt anyone could catch Dumbledore.

Why didn't Dumbledore simply use the Imperius Curse on Slughorn to retrieve his correct memories about Horcrux and Riddle?

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    Isn't this one practically spelled out in the book? – ibid Feb 27 '18 at 18:15
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    The imperius would be probably an overkill (besides being illegal it would've also allienated a possible ally). Also S. is a skilled wiz and occlumens. Probably would've resisted it. Dumbledore says as much in book 6 when Harry asked a similar question. Note that in that conversation Dumbledore mentions no moral problems, only technical ones. – user68762 Feb 27 '18 at 18:18
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    The last book makes quite clear that old Dumbledore would not approve of doing something bad "for the greater good". – lfurini Feb 27 '18 at 19:40
  • instead of a downvote, I'll just say: this question makes more sense if you say the "Legilimency Spell" (the one that reads minds), the "Imperius Curse" is for mind-control – LevenTrek Feb 28 '18 at 3:26
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    @LevenTrek Books have clearly mentioned that Legilimency and Veritaserum were out of question against Slughorn: scifi.stackexchange.com/a/182423/931 – Harley Quinn Feb 28 '18 at 7:12

Using the Imperius curse was illegal. Even during the war, members of the Order of the Phoenix refrained from using them to the extent they could.

With regards to Dumbledore, he had already suffered greatly in his younger days when he believed that anything was acceptable "for the greater good", which led to the loss of his sister. His conscience would certainly not permit him to delude himself that way again. More detailed answers on this are given here and here.


The Imperius Curse mightn’t make someone give information.

The Imperius Curse basically turns its victim into a puppet, while also filling them with a feeling of bliss so they’re less likely to fight its effects. It’s never seen as being used to get information from someone, so it seems like it might not work in that way. (Barty Crouch Jr. did keep Moody alive under the Imperius Curse so he could get hair and information, but he seems to Imperius Moody to subdue him and it’s never said that using the Imperius Curse is how he got the information.)

Dumbledore also didn’t want to use force to get the information.

Harry suggests that Dumbledore use Veritaserum or Legilimency to get the memory from Slughorn. Dumbledore says no to both, for practical reasons that they wouldn’t work, as well as not wanting Slughorn to leave Hogwarts.

“But surely, sir,’ he said, keeping his voice as respectful as possible, ‘you don’t need me – you could use Legilimency … or Veritaserum …’

‘Professor Slughorn is an extremely able wizard who will be expecting both,’ said Dumbledore. ‘He is much more accomplished at Occlumency than poor Morfin Gaunt, and I would be astonished if he has not carried an antidote to Veritaserum with him ever since I coerced him into giving me this travesty of a recollection.

‘No, I think it would be foolish to attempt to wrest the truth from Professor Slughorn by force, and might do much more harm than good; I do not wish him to leave Hogwarts.”
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 17 (A Sluggish Memory)

Therefore, it’s unlikely he’d want to try any other way of forcefully getting the information.

In addition, Dumbledore avoided using Dark magic.

Over the course of the series, we never see Dumbledore resort to Dark magic to fight the Dark Lord. McGonagall refers to this when she and Dumbledore are outside the Dursleys’ house.

“I know you haven’t,’ said Professor McGonagall, sounding half-exasperated, half-admiring. ‘But you’re different. Everyone knows you’re the only one You-Know – oh, all right, Voldemort – was frightened of.’

‘You flatter me,’ said Dumbledore calmly. ‘Voldemort had powers I will never have.’

‘Only because you’re too – well – noble to use them.”
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 1 (The Boy who Lived)

It’s incredibly unlikely that Dumbledore would resort to using an Unforgivable Curse, especially when he’s fairly sure he has another way that would work.

Having Harry retrieve the memory was likely the best plan overall.

The way Dumbledore chose to retrieve the information not only avoided him needing to use magic that was against his “code”, but it also retained Slughorn as an ally. There was no drawback to doing it the way he had, so it doesn’t really make sense (both for someone who wanted to avoid using Dark magic and just as a practical matter) to try force first off.


It was not worth the effort

Use of Imperius curse is a most serious crime. It could lead to the following consequences:

  • Dumbledore being suspended from Hogwarts, condemned by the Wizarding community and having to live on the run
  • The whole Order of the Phoenix, centered around Dumbledore, would likely fall apart
  • Harry could stop trusting Dumbledore (he already had a degree of resentment towards him after Sirius died)

Slughorn is not a bad person, more to that, he is an ally. Losing him could be disasterous, and I doubt that he would forgive someone using Imperius on him.

Another consideration: Imperius would not guarantee that the memory retrieved in such a way would be intact. As we learn in GoF, many wizards can resist it to a certain degree. So Slughorn could possibly present another corrupt memory.

Finally, these costs are not worth the result, as Dumbledore suspected the use of Horcruxes all along, since Harry's second year (the Diary). He needed to confirm it, and Slughorn was not the only person or way to do it.

  • +1. But "Slughorn was not the only person or way to do it."? What was the other option? – GoodDeeds Feb 27 '18 at 18:12
  • @GoodDeeds we do not know. Dumbledore clearly did not have much time to explore all available options. In book 7, Hermione learns a great deal about Horcruxes from the secret library books, and it all fits. There could be more witnesses or hidden evidence (notes, letters, etc) to confirm the theory. – TimSparrow Feb 27 '18 at 18:16
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    @GoodDeeds perhaps ask the portraits or study the diary. .. – user68762 Feb 27 '18 at 18:36
  • @Lt.Ortega the Diary was destroyed - no longer an option – TimSparrow Feb 27 '18 at 18:41
  • @TimSparrow but perhaps the remains could've served to do a few tests... – user68762 Feb 27 '18 at 18:43

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