A Sluggish Memory (HBP)

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A Sluggish Memory is the seventeenth chapter of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.


Percy Weasley leaves The Burrow after Fred, George and Ginny throw parsnip at him. Fanart by reallycorking.

A few days after New Year's, Harry, Ron and Ginny return to Hogwarts by Floo Powder—a connection with the Floo Network has been arranged so that students can find their way back safely and quickly. Everyone else is at work; only Molly sees the children off, and is crying profusely. Not much is needed to make her cry since Percy's Christmas visit (HBP16). That day, he left the house wearing glasses splattered with mashed parsnip (Fred, George and Ginny claim authorship of the prank).

Ron and Ginny try to soothe their mother. She begs Harry to stay out of trouble ("I always do, Mrs. Weasley. I like a quiet life, you know me."), and he's off to McGonagall's office. The teacher barely looks up before asking him not to get too much ash on the carpet.

The two brothers follow shortly afterwards. They go to Gryffindor Tower; looking out the window, Harry sees that the sun's already set, and the grounds are covered in deep snow. Hagrid feeds Buckbeak in front of his cabin.

Ron says 'Baubles' to the Fat Lady when they arrive at the portrait hole but she, paler than usual, winces at the sound of his voice and refuses to let them enter; there's a new password. Hermione arrives moments later (she had been visiting Hagrid and Witherwings), and says the new password, 'Abstinence.' The Fat Lady's overindulged over Christmas; she and Violet drank all the wine in the drunk monks' painting in the Charms corridor.

She thoroughly ignores Ron, and announces to Harry that she has a present for him: a note from Dumbledore, scheduling a new lesson for the following night.


Right then, Lavender Brown appears, squealing, "Won-Won!" and throwing herself into Ron's arm. Several people snigger. Ginny leaves to meet Dean, and Harry leads Hermione to a spare table. She asks him about the important news he'd been meaning to tell her (HBP15); he tells her about the conversation between Draco and Snape.

Hermione reacts much like Harry had predicted, but she, too, cannot deny that Draco is up to something. Nevertheless, since neither Death Eater mentioned Voldemort's name (only "your master"), she considers the possibility that they are talking about Lucius or someone else instead.

When she asks him about Remus, Harry mentions Fenrir Greyback, and Hermione remembers what Draco said at Borgin and Burkes (HBP6). Harry is triumphant—he believes this proves Draco to be a Death Eater—but Hermione ponders that it could have been an empty threat.

They spend the rest of the evening abusing Rufus Scrimgeour for having the nerve to ask Harry for help after the events of the previous year.


The next morning, a large sign has been pinned to the common room notice boards, announcing Apparition lessons for all those who are or will be seventeen years old by August 31, costing 12 Galleons, from a Ministry of Magic instructor.

The Trio signs the list. Lavender shows up from behind them; Harry and Hermione speed forward, but Ron soon caches up with them. Hermione hurries to walk with Neville.

Harry and Ron talk about Apparition. Harry mentions that he did not enjoy Apparating with Dumbledore much (HBP4). Ron says that Fred and George passed their test first time around; Charlie failed ("So Fred and George didn't go on about it much ... not to hus face, anyway."), but he is bigger than Ron.

Several people are excited at the prospect of Apparition, among which Seamus, whose cousin Fergus Disapparates in front of him all the time just to annoy the Gryffindor ("You wait till I can do it back... He'll never have another peaceful moment...").

Seamus accidentally flicks his wand too enthusiastically; instead of producing a fountain of pure water—the object of the Charms lesson they were in—, a hoselike jet came out of his wand, which knocked Flitwick flat on his face. The teacher dries himself with a wand of his wand and sets Finnigan do do lines: "I am a wizard, not a baboon brandishing a stick."

Ron tells Seamus that Harry's done Side-Along-Apparition; he is awed, and so are Neville and Dean. The five Gryffindor boys put their heads together to hear what Apparition feels like. For the rest of the day, Harry replies to fellow sixth-years' questions about Apparition; the students' marvel does not diminish when he tells them how uncomfortable it can be.

At ten to eight that evening, he lies and says he has to go to the library to return a book: it is time for his lesson with Dumbledore.


When Harry enters, Dumbledore says he's heard that Harry met Scrimgeour over Christmas. The boy confirms it, adding that the Minister is not very happy with him.

"No," Dumbledore sighs. "He is not very happy with me either. We must try not to sink beneath our anguish, Harry, but battle on."

Harry grins. The headmaster informs him that asking for the boy's collaboration was Fudge's idea, during his last days in office. Dumbledore argued the impossibility of such an event; when Rufus replaced Cornelius, he met Albus and reiterated the request. That is the reason that the two argued for the first time; Harry saw it in the Daily Prophet (HBP3).

"The Prophet is bound to report the truth occasionally, if only accidentally," the headmaster says.

When Harry mentions Scrimgeour's accusation that he was 'Dumbledore's man through and through,' Dumbledore notes, "How very rude of him." Harry, however, confirms that he is.

This chapter summary is not done yet. Please be patient.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
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