In the summer of 1996, Horace Sluhorn is persuaded into coming out of retirement by Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore. Around two months later, he greets his students with potions such as Felix Felicis, the Polyjuice Potion, etc.

Felix Felicis takes six months to prepare, as mentioned later in The Half-Blood Prince:

"Blimey, it's seriously complicated," he said, running an eye down the list of ingredients. "And it takes six months... you've got to let it stew..."
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, chapter 24: "Sectumsepra"

How did Horace Slughorn manage to prepare the potion for his class?

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    This might fall into speculation, but a man who lives in isolation and is somewhat described as a coward is usually looking for ways to feel safer. Muggles use Alcohol, who's to say Slughorn didn't enjoy his Felicis on ocasion? (hence he could've had it already stashed). He did want to save Aragog's venom for later usage (or sale). – Oak May 25 '15 at 14:45
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    @Oak - Slughorn makes it clear that he hasn't used felix all that much. – Valorum May 25 '15 at 14:55
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    Magic? ... I'll get my coat. – Jaydee May 25 '15 at 15:36
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    @Richard Not possible, since those had already been destroyed during the Battle at the Ministry a few month before. – BMWurm May 25 '15 at 16:39
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    Since we are speculating, I think there may be an overlooked obvious solution to this ... who's to say he didn't already have it made prior to him going to Hogwarts? Weasel and coward though he may be, he is a man of renowned talents. It is a small bottle. Easily kept, easily stored. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 May 25 '15 at 19:12
up vote 40 down vote accepted

To me this seems obvious:

The potions weren't prepared by Slughorn.

  • They may have been prepared by Snape the previous year. There's no reason to think Slughorn deviates much from the syllabus Snape would have followed had he continued teaching Potions, so it makes sense for Snape to have prepared these potions each year for use in teaching sixth-years the next year.

  • There may always be a store of these potions in the school's Potions cupboard. In OotP, Umbridge uses Snape's "entire store" of Veritaserum in order to question Harry, and Snape tells her that it takes several weeks or months to prepare. So it doesn't sound as though he brewed it for her on request, but rather as though there was a store of it which she got him to empty for her.

Either way, no contradiction (or necessity for Time-Turners as Richard suggests).

  • Although Felix is mentioned in the textbook, there's no mention of the other students making their own. – Valorum May 25 '15 at 16:53
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    This is a simple and very interesting answer! Let us not forget that Snape himself, during the first Potions lesson, says: "I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death". As a minor variation in this theory, Snape maybe just started the brewing procedure during the previous school year, while he thought he would continue teaching Potions, and Slughorn finished it after his arrival (as throwing away a very complex potion someone else made seems quite disrespectful to me). – lfurini May 25 '15 at 19:23
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    I very much doubt that Snape would have given it out as a prize though ;) – starsplusplus May 25 '15 at 19:57
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    Re-reading chapter "The Half-Blood Prince", I see that Slughorn says "I've prepared a few potions for you to have a look at" ... Possible explanations to reconcile this with the Snape theory: (a) Slughorn contributed to the preparation; (b) someone made the potions, Slughorn put them on display for the lesson; (c) Slughorn just lied to boast about his potion making abilities; (d) ? – lfurini May 25 '15 at 20:18
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    I'd say that Option B from @ifurini is a safe bet: if I just gathered a bunch of supplies for the lesson, I could easily say "I've prepared it" even though the supplies were already made. Especially if I was a hobnobbing networker in search of self-aggrandizement. :P – Nerrolken May 26 '15 at 16:30

On the face of it, this does seem a bit of a goof. Slughorn is laying low at the Muggle house, then turns up at Hogwarts and within "a few weeks" has access to Felix Felicis.

Off the top of my head, this could be accounted in one of two ways:

  • There's no special reason to assume that it needs to be made in a single sitting. It's certainly possible that some of the ingredients may take up to six months to prepare but that the final assembly can be done in a shorter amount of time.

Couldn’t we make some more?’ Ron asked Harry, ignoring Hermione. ‘It’d be great to have a stock of it … have a look in the book …’

Harry pulled his copy of Advanced Potion-Making out of his bag and looked up Felix Felicis.

‘Blimey, it’s seriously complicated,’ he said, running an eye down the list of ingredients. ‘And it takes six months … you’ve got to let it stew …’

  • There's a strong possibility that although Slughorn was hiding in the house, his belongings (including his potion-making equipment) were somewhere else entirely. Note that his personal effects include a grand piano so it's not like he's exactly 'traveling light'.

There is no indication that the bottle came from the cauldron at all. Even though there were four prepared cauldrons upon entering class, Slughorn pulled the prize out of his pocket:

"One tiny bottle of Felix Felicis," said Slughorn, taking a minuscule glass bottle with a cork in it out of his pockent and showing it to them all. "Enough for twelve hours' luck. From dawn till dusk, you will be lucky in everything you attempt.

He is not shown filling the bottle, so there is no reason to believe that the potion in the cauldron is finished. Also, considering that the Veritaserum is still boiling, it seems likely that none of the potions are actually complete at this time:

He indicated the cauldron nearest the Slytherin table. Harry raised himself slightly in his seat and saw what looked like plain water boiling away inside it.

Also, specifically when talking about the cauldron of Felix Felicis:

"Sir, you haven't told us about what's in this one," said Ernice Macmillan, pointing at a small black cauldron standing on Slughorn's desk. The potion within was splashing about merrily; it was the color of molten gold, and large drops were leaping like goldfish above the surface, though not a particle had spilled.

Given the size and location of the bottle, and the fact that he had at most a couple of months at the school, it is most likely that the prize was from Slughorn's personal stash, and the cauldron on display was a batch he began preparing to restock.

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    Hermione'served' the Polyjuice Potion while it was still boiling. Also, Slughorn could have filled the bottle before class. – Mithrandir May 26 '15 at 16:03

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