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Chamber of Secrets Chapter 9

Hermione emerged from between the bookshelves.

She looked irritable and at last seemed ready to talk to them.

“All the copies of Hogwarts, A History have been taken out,” she said, sitting down next to Harry and Ron. “And there’s a two-week waiting list. I wish I hadn’t left my copy at home, but I couldn’t fit it in my trunk with all the Lockhart books.”

“Why do you want it?” said Harry.

“The same reason everyone else wants it,” said Hermione, “to read up on the legend of the Chamber of Secrets.”

“What’s that?” said Harry quickly.

“That’s just it. I can’t remember,” said Hermione, biting her lip. “And I can’t find the story anywhere else — ”

Hermione doesn't remember what she read in Hogwarts: A History? This seems out-of-character to me. My impression of Hermione throughout the series that she knows almost everything, and certainly hasn't forgotten things she once knew.

  • Is there any explanation why she would have forgotten what Hogwarts: A History said about the Chamber of Secrets?
  • Alternatively, are there other examples of Hermione forgetting things she had read/known, that would establish a pattern of her being a normal human being that forgets things?
  • Is it possible that Hermione had not completed Hogwarts: A History, and she was just assuming that the Chamber would be discussed there (in a part that she hadn't read yet)? The statement I can't remember does imply that she had already read something about the Chamber and forgotten it, and in Goblet of Fire it is apparent that she has read the entire book (“Not once, in over a thousand pages, does Hogwarts: A History mention that we are all colluding in the oppression of a hundred slaves!”), but that might have occurred after the events here.
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    @Valorum And the presence of a muggle-born killing monster in the basement wouldn't? – Alex Jun 20 '18 at 1:13
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    Can I ask the downvoters to let me know how this question "does not show any research effort", is "unclear", or is "not useful", so that I can improve it? – Alex Jun 20 '18 at 3:01
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    She reads a lot of things, do you remember everything you've ever read? – AJFaraday Jun 20 '18 at 8:50
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    She's not some sort of super-hero with perfect memory, she's a twelve- (or thirteen-) year-old girl. – Stop Harming Monica Jun 20 '18 at 11:09
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    Nowhere in the books I got the impression that Hermione has eidetic/photographic memory. So yeah, why wouldn't she read up? the fact that she knows the legend is in there means she recalls some bit, but not details. That is quite normal. – Polygnome Jun 20 '18 at 13:34
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Yes, it is possible Hermione forgot part of what she read in it.

Hermione remembers a lot of the things she reads, but she doesn’t necessarily, or even likely, remember everything she reads. She didn’t immediately recognize Nicolas Flamel’s name, and helped Harry and Ron unsuccessfully search for him since before Christmas vacation and only figured it out after Christmas vacation was over, although she was apparently familiar with some part of the Philosopher’s Stone since she’s surprised Harry and Ron had never heard of it.

“Nicolas Flamel,’ she whispered dramatically, ‘is the only known maker of the Philosopher’s Stone!’ This didn’t have quite the effect she’d expected.

‘The what?’ said Harry and Ron.

‘Oh, honestly, don’t you two read? Look – read that, there.”
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 13 (Nicolas Flamel)

In addition, she’d learned about Devil’s Snare from Professor Sprout (presumably in class) but still had trouble remembering how to kill it, she didn’t automatically recall it. That was a more high-pressure situation than finding out who Nicolas Flamel is, but it involved something she would have actually learned in class and still couldn’t remember what she’d learned immediately.

“Stop moving!’ Hermione ordered them. ‘I know what this is – it’s Devil’s Snare!’

‘Oh, I’m so glad we know what it’s called, that’s a great help,’ snarled Ron, leaning back, trying to stop the plant curling around his neck.

‘Shut up, I’m trying to remember how to kill it!’ said Hermione.”
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 16 (Through the Trapdoor)

Hermione remembered a lot of the things she read, but she also read quite a lot - she didn’t necessarily remember everything she read, but she took in so much knowledge that what she did remember was quite a bit. So, it is possible that she didn’t remember the part about the Chamber of Secrets in Hogwarts: A History. It was a fairly large book, as Hermione describes it as being over a thousand pages long, and there didn’t seem to be any reason she’d specifically remember it over other parts of the book, especially as it seemed to be just a myth and the other parts were facts.

“House-elves!’ said Hermione loudly and proving Harry right. ‘Not once, in over a thousand pages, does Hogwarts: A History mention that we are all colluding in the oppression of a hundred slaves!”
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 15 (Beauxbatons and Durmstrang)

Even if she’d read the whole thing already, she didn’t necessarily memorize its entire contents. They didn’t seem to have studied the Chamber of Secrets in History of Magic, as Professor Binns was reluctant to even talk about it when asked. When the class insisted, he emphasized that it wasn’t true, and that evidence disproved it. It was considered an already disproved myth.

“The whole thing is arrant nonsense, of course,’ he said. ‘Naturally, the school has been searched for evidence of such a chamber, many times, by the most learned witches and wizards. It does not exist. A tale told to frighten the gullible.”
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 9 (The Writing on the Wall)

Hogwarts: A History wasn’t even a necessary textbook (we saw the booklist and it wasn’t on it), so she was reading it in addition to everything she had to read and absorb for her classes. Reading and memorizing its contents would be lower priority than reading her textbooks and memorizing the information required for her classes, as well as the general information she’d need to remember about the wizarding world still entirely new to her. In addition, the Chamber of Secrets was likely only a small portion of the over a thousand page book, especially as it was considered a legend not thought to be true, as Professor Binns clearly doesn’t think it has any chance of being true. Until it was actually opened, the story of the Chamber would seem fairly low priority to memorize.

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    @Alex She’d heard of the Philosopher’s Stone, and it’s likely that wherever she’d read about that would have also mentioned Flamel at least once since he’s the only one known to successfully have made one. – Bellatrix Jun 19 '18 at 23:36
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    I always thought Hermione learned about the philosopher's stone in the Muggle world, where it is part of general knowledge. – sgf Jun 20 '18 at 7:43
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    @sgf Yes, but in the muggle world the rumour/legend that Nicholas Flamel manufactured one and became immortal with it is also fairly common knowledge. – Cubic Jun 20 '18 at 10:01
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    @Cubic Honestly I thought he was just a Harry Potter character until you made me look him up right now. – sgf Jun 20 '18 at 10:36
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    I also think that Hermione is the type of person who would wish to pass on accurate information. If she only remembered bits of what she had read, but knew she would mess up some details, she would have gone back to the source to refresh her memory. – scott Jun 20 '18 at 15:33
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Is there any explanation why she would have forgotten what Hogwarts: A History said about the Chamber of Secrets?

  • Well, if it's clearly written that she can't remember ... maybe she can't remember it ? Or maybe she just wants to be SURE. One of her biggest fear is failure

Hermione did everything perfectly until she reached the trunk with the Boggart in it. After about a minute inside it, she burst out again, screaming. ‘Hermione!’ said Lupin, startled. ‘What’s the matter?’ ‘P-P-Professor McGonagall!’ Hermione gasped, pointing into the trunk. ‘Sh-she said I’d failed everything!’

(Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, chapter 16, Professor Trelawney's Prediction)

So she maybe wants the exact information, rather than a vague memory. A way to reassure herself and don't say something stupid (her self-confidence is not really high at this point of the story, because of the mudblood thing)

  • In this world, the Chamber of Secrets is considered as a myth. She probably paid more attention to real things, like rules, castle protection, magic roof, ...

  • The book maybe just mentions the Chamber of Secrets in an anecdotic way, without details. The book, for example, doesn't mention the presence of house-elves working for the school:

"It's all in Hogwarts: A History. Though of course, that book's not entirely reliable. "A Revised History of Hogwarts" would be a more accurate title. Or "A Highly Biased and Selective History of Hogwarts, Which Glosses Over the Nastier Aspects of the School"." "What are you on about?" said Ron, though Harry thought he knew what was coming. "House-elves!" said Hermione loudly and proving Harry right. "Not once, in over a thousand pages, does Hogwarts: A History mention that we are all colluding in the oppression of a hundred slaves!"

(Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 15, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang)

and no concrete details about the Sorting Ceremony :

How exactly do they sort us into houses?" he asked Ron. "Some sort of test, I think. Fred said it hurts a lot, but I think he was joking." Harry's heart gave a horrible jolt. A test? In front of the whole school? But he didn't know any magic yet -- what on earth would he have to do? He hadn't expected something like this the moment they arrived. He looked around anxiously and saw that everyone else looked terrified, too. No one was talking much except Hermione Granger, who was whispering very fast about all the spells she'd learned and wondering which one she'd need. Harry tried hard not to listen to her.

(Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, chapter 7, The sorting hat)

So if the Chamber of Secrets is only mentioned in a footnote, there is probably quite nothing to remember ...

Alternatively, are there other examples of Hermione forgetting things she had read

She takes many books she had read for their Horcrux's quest. So she knows that she can't remember everything. She takes "Hogwart: A History" with her and many other books.

“What are you doing with all those booksanyway?” Ron asked, limping back to his bed. “Just trying to decide which ones to take with us,” said Hermione, “When we’re looking for the Horcruxes.” “Oh, of course,” said Ron, clapping a hand to his forehead. “I forgot we’ll be hunting down Voldemort in a mobile library.” “Ha ha,” said Hermione, looking down at Spellman’s Syllabary . “I wonder . . . will we need to translate runes? It’s possible. . . . I think we’d better take it, to be safe.” She dropped the syllabary onto the larger of the two piles and picked up Hogwarts, A History. “Listen,” said Harry. He had sat up straight. Ron and Hermione looked at him with similar mixtures of resignation and defiance. “I know you said after Dumbledore’s funeral that you wanted to come with me,” Harry began. “Here he goes,” Ron said to Hermione, rolling his eyes. “As we knew he would,” he sighed, turning back to the books. “You know, I think I will take Hogwarts, A History. Even if we’re not going back there, I don’t think I’d feel right if I didn’t have it with –“

(Harry Potter and the Deatly Hallows, Chapter Six, The Ghoul in Pajamas)

Is it possible that Hermione had not completed Hogwarts: A History ?

  • The book doesn't figure in the list of books Harry recieves in his first year at Hogwarts, so Hermione might not have read it all at the end of the first year. But I assume that she read all the book, because she's mad at Harry and Ron and even other students for not having read it yet at some points of the serie. I can't find the first appearance of this reprimand, so maybe it's after the events of the Chamber of Secrets. We don't know exactly when she finishes the book, but she clearly read it all.
  • Is it better like this ? – Professeur Dronte Jun 20 '18 at 1:04
  • It's better. However, I think the context indicates that she's not afraid of not remembering the exact details, but that she doesn't remember anything about it. Also, she paid enough attention to remember that it's in the book. Is there any evidence that she didn't care to read about myths? (She read Beedle the Bard, though that was at least in part due to thinking that Dumbledore had hidden something there.) The first appearance of the reprimand is after this. – Alex Jun 20 '18 at 1:23
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    She takes many books she had read for their Horcrux's quest. So she knows that she can't remember everything. She takes "Hogwart: A History" with her and many other books. Is there evidence that the books she took are ones she had read [in their entirety]? As for taking Hogwarts A History, the quote sounds more like she took it for sentimental reasons then as a memory aide. – Alex Jun 20 '18 at 3:15
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    I agree that, the Chamber of Secrets, being a myth, it was probably only mentioned in passing, making it a) easy to forget, and b) there not being much information in the first place she could remember. She might even misremember there having been more information than the footnote (or whatever) that actually covered the topic. – Llewellyn Jun 20 '18 at 8:46
  • She does't care about unproven subjects, such as divination and Nargles. So yes, she probably doesn't care too much about the Chamber when a book of facts says it's a myth. She takes Rune classes during their 3rd year (and she had the time returner at this point), so she probably have read her book about runes that she takes for the Horcrux quest. I posted that to answer the question "Is there any other examples of Hermione forgetting things she had read ?". If she takes this particular book with her, it's to have the informations with her, because she knows she forgets things sometimes – Professeur Dronte Jun 20 '18 at 8:58
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If you read the Flamel incident quoted by a few others, you can see that Hermione clearly forgets to apply some parts of her reading to the current situation.

Hermione jumped to her feet. She hadn’t looked so excited since they’d gotten back the marks for their very first piece of homework.

“Stay there!” she said, and she sprinted up the stairs to the girls’ dormitories. Harry and Ron barely had time to exchange mystified looks before she was dashing back, an enormous old book in her arms.

“I never thought to look in here!” she whispered excitedly. “I got this out of the library weeks ago for a bit of light reading.”

“Light?” said Ron, but Hermione told him to be quiet until she’d looked something up, and started flicking frantically through the pages, muttering to herself.

At last she found what she was looking for.

“I knew it! I knew it!”

“Are we allowed to speak yet?” said Ron grumpily. Hermione ignored him.

“Nicolas Flamel,” she whispered dramatically, “is the only known maker of the Philosophers’s Stone!”

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 13 (Nicolas Flamel)

You can see from here that she clearly had read the book before, because she knew exactly where to look, but hadn't noticed Flamel's name at the time.

What happens by the Chamber of Secrets could be something similar - she might not remember some of the specifics of what she's read and want to brush up before saying anything she's not 100% sure of.

  • How do you know that's what happened? Maybe she knew the book had a chapter on alchemy, and when Harry mentioned Flamel's involvement with alchemy she assumed he would be mentioned in the book. – Alex Jun 20 '18 at 17:13
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    I think it's a reasonable implication because the book says specifically she was flicking through the pages, and not that she started reading anything. It sounds to me like she knew exactly where it was already. – Aaron Jun 20 '18 at 17:38
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"I forgot" is easier to say than "I was wrong".

The only previous mention of Hogwarts: A History is during the Sorting ceremony in Chapter 7 of The Philosopher's Stone, when Hermione mentions having read about the enchanted ceiling of the Great Hall. Therefore, the only time we can be certain that she read History before the events of Chamber was during that confusing in-between time after she learned about her magical potential but before she became a Hogwarts student.

In her enthusiasm to learn about magic — and to catch up to those other prospective Hogwarts students who'd had the good fortune to be born into the magical world — Hermione may have initially skimmed every book she could. Books with techniques to memorize and practice would have received a second, thorough reading, while any seemingly unreliable collections of fantastic, exaggerated legends went onto the discard pile.

Once Hermione realized that there was substance to the tales in Hogwarts: A History — especially when other students had already recognized the value of that book and signed out all copies from the library — she would have had a difficult time overcoming her pride to admit that she'd been wrong about the book's reliability.

This is speculation, but I believe it is consistent with Hermione's rational outlook and her pride in her academic talents.

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    Hogwarts: A History seemed to be generally a fact-based informational book rather than one of just myths. It explains the ceiling in the Great Hall, for example. It’s unlikely she’d dismiss the entire book. – Bellatrix Jun 20 '18 at 5:18
  • @Bellatrix — Who trusts outlandish claims without evidence? Not Hermione. When Hermione had motive and opportunity to investigate and confirm the book's claims about the Chamber, she did, and she accepted the book readily enough at that point. – Gaultheria Jun 20 '18 at 5:29
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    I fully agree - but I think the legend of the Chamber of Secrets was likely just mentioned as a legend, and the rest of the book seemed to have concrete facts like that people can’t Apparate inside Hogwarts, that electronic devices don’t work in Hogwarts, and that Hogwarts is enchanted to hide it from Muggles. She’d have no reason to dismiss the entire book that contains a lot of factual information because it mentions a legend, especially if it’s not saying the legend is true. – Bellatrix Jun 20 '18 at 5:35
  • " Who trusts outlandish claims without evidence? Not Hermione" Well, in the 2nd book, she was totally believing what Gilderoy Lockhart was claiming in his books, despite his constant incompetence. But yeah, maybe it's a "it's written in a book, so it's true" effect – Professeur Dronte Jun 20 '18 at 10:45
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There is no evidence that Hermione had read the entire book by this point. The only mention of the book prior to this incident is when Hermione quotes it in Philosopher's Stone as her source that the ceiling in the Great Hall is bewitched.

If she had not read the entire book and was looking for information about the Chamber of Secrets, she might have naturally assumed that the book discussed it in a part she hadn't read yet. Alternatively, she may have seen that so many others were checking there so she wanted to check there as well.

As for the fact that she says "I don't remember" when Harry asks her what the Chamber of Secrets is, I don't think that necessarily means she once knew but forgot. It could be that she never knew what it was and when she searched her memory for information and found nothing she assumed that she had forgotten.


Additionally, there are a number of instances throughout the series where Hermione forgot something, either by her own explicit admission or by an explicit statement from the narrator:

Prisoner of Azkaban

He and Hermione had finally forgotten their squabble about Crookshanks in the face of Harry’s difficulties.

Prisoner of Azkaban

“What? Oh no!” Hermione squeaked. “I forgot to go to Charms!”

Order of the Phoenix

“I’d forgotten Wood had left,” said Hermione vaguely, sitting down beside Ron and pulling a plate of toast toward her.

Order of the Phoenix

“Oh, I forgot to ask you,” said Hermione brightly, glancing over at the Ravenclaw table, “what happened on your date with Cho? How come you were back so early?”

Order of the Phoenix

“Oh gosh, I forgot!” said Hermione, watching the eagle flapping its wings as Luna walked serenely past a group of cackling and pointing Slytherins. “Cho will be playing, won’t she?”

Half Blood Prince

Meanwhile, the Hogwarts library had failed Hermione for the first time in living memory. She was so shocked, she even forgot that she was annoyed at Harry for his trick with the bezoar.

Deathly Hallows

The one good thing about her exasperation with Xenophilius was that it seemed to have made her forget that she was annoyed at Ron.

Deathly Hallows

“Hermione, we know,” said Ron sternly. “And I thought we were supposed to open the door before she got here?”

Hermione squealed.

“I nearly forgot! Stand back — ”

Deathly Hallows

“The Deluminator?” she asked, so surprised she forgot to look cold and fierce.

Deathly Hallows

They explained what had happened, and as the story of the silver doe and the sword in the pool unfolded, Hermione frowned from one to the other of them, concentrating so hard she forgot to keep her limbs locked together.

Deathly Hallows

“Accio Cup” cried Hermione, who had evidently forgotten in her desperation what Griphook had told them during their planning sessions.

These examples certainly establish a pattern of being able to forget things. However, this doesn't quite address the question because these are examples of a different type of forgetting.. The question is about being unable to recall a piece of information, whereas these examples are all cases of a state of mind in which she was not consciously thinking of something. That does not carry over to being unable to recall information.

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There is another instance where it seems clear that Hermione forgot something that she read in a book. In Prisoner of Azkaban Chapter Eleven we find the following:

“I’m sure I’ve read about a case of hippogriff-baiting,” said Hermione thoughtfully, “where the hippogriff got off. I’ll look it up for you, Hagrid, and see exactly what happened.”

Here it is clear that Hermione read something about hippogriff-baiting but she does not remember what it was (or at least does not remember the details). This seems to parallel the case of her not remembering what she read about the Chamber of Secrets in Hogwarts: A History.

Additionally, Hermione admits to a mistake on one of her exams in Order of the Phoenix:

“I mistranslated ‘ehwaz,’ ” said Hermione furiously. “It means ‘partnership,’ not ‘defense,’ I mixed it up with ‘eihwaz.’ ”

Presumably, this means that she forgot something.

Thus, to answer the question here of:

Alternatively, are there other examples of Hermione forgetting things she had read/known, that would establish a pattern of her being a normal human being that forgets things?

The answer is yes.

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