Time Marches On

By Professor Nigellus

"Time is Galleons, little brother." 1 Fred Weasley said to Ron, explaining why he and George Apparated to the room below them. Percy used to do that to show off, soon after he obtained his license, but the twins did it because the time spent walking down the stairs, could be better used in growing their business. Time is precious; we only have so much of it. Once it is spent, it is forever past and cannot be used again, unless you have a Time-Turner. This paper will discuss the function, uses, limitations, and possible dangers of using these magical devices.

Time-Turners can be very useful when people need to be in more than one place at a given time or, literally, do not have enough hours in their day, they can be great time management devices that give the user the ability to do things, with their time, that otherwise they could not accomplish.

The Proper Use of a Time-Turner

In her third year at Hogwarts, Hermione Granger signed up for every course that the school had to offer; that made it impossible to schedule all of her classes at different times. On her first day, she had the following conversation with Ron while examining her schedule:

"Hermione' said Ron, frowning as he looked over her shoulder, "they've messed up your schedule. Look - they've got you down for about ten subjects a day. There isn't enough time."

"I'll manage. I've fixed it all with Professor McGonagall."

"But look' said Ron, laughing, "see this morning? Nine o'clock, Divination. And underneath, nine o'clock, Muggle Studies. And" - Ron leaned closer to the schedule, disbelieving - "look - underneath that, Arithmancy, nine o'clock. I mean, I know you're good Hermione, but no one's that good. How're you supposed to be in three classes at once?"

"Don't be silly' said Hermione shortly. "Of course I wouldn't be in three classes at once." 2

That was a lie! In her defence, she had promised to keep the Time-Turner a secret; what's a girl to do when a friend starts asking questions that are none of his business, and that threaten that secret?

In effect, Hermione would split herself into two or three parts in order to get to all of her classes, but it did not appear that way to her. To her, it seemed that she would go to Divination, turn over the Time-Turner and go to Muggle Studies, then turn it over again and go to Arithmancy; however, while she was in Divination class, more likely then not, rubies were falling into Gryffindor's hourglass due to her stellar performances in Muggle Studies and Arithmancy.

How can this be? Does the Time-Turner create a forth dimension, giving one the ability to travel back in time and attend a class that has already occurred? I do not think so, because if that were the case, the teachers and other students would have to go back in time and redo the classes, too. If it were Crabbe or Goyle, it might not make much difference if they never raised their hands or said anything, but attending a class with Hermione in it and attending a class without Hermione in it are two entirely different things; the effects could go beyond the time of the class. For example, Ernie Macmillan was in the same Muggle Studies class. Without Hermione in the class, Ernie would have had a much better chance to answer a question and win some points for Hufflepuff, than he would otherwise. It could affect the conversation in the Hufflepuff common room, if Ernie discusses lessons; the only way that Ernie could have told Ron that Hermione had "never missed a Muggle Studies class" 3 would be if his memory was modified after every class. However, Hermione's memory was not affected when she went back in time, so why would Ernie's be? (More on that later.)

I think it more likely that the Time-Turner gives one the ability to freeze time in one place while allowing it to flow freely in another. It may be important to note that Hermione would already be planning on Time-Turning at the point in time to which she would return. Just making the plan might be enough, so that when Hermione went to Divination, time would stop, and Divination class would be conducted in what might be called quasi-time: a time that does not exist, or exists only for Hermione and those with whom she interacts. When she used the Time-Turner to go to her next class, quasi-time started in that class. As Hermione started the last of her nine o'clock class time flowed freely again, and the three times were integrated into real-time.

The Illegal Application

What Harry and Hermione did the night they rescued Sirius and Buckbeak was dangerous and illegal. "But remember this", [Dumbledore warned them when he sent them on their mission,] "both of you: you must not be seen. Miss Granger, you know the law - you know what is at stake..." 4 Whatever Hermione would normally do to freeze time, she did not do in this case. Dumbledore's behavior in Hagrid's hut was very suspicious; he did everything he could to stall and distract Macnair and the Committee member. When Buckbeak's escape was discovered, and Macnair thought of searching the forest, Dumbledore suggested that he search the air. It cannot be proven, but it is my belief that Dumbledore knew that Buckbeak's rescuer would be hiding in the forest.

When the execution party arrived at Hagrid's, "Harry watched the grass flatten in patches all around the cabin and heard three pairs of feet retreating." 5 It is my opinion that Dumbledore saw and heard this too, and easily deduced who had just left under an Invisibility cloak. I believe that is when Dumbledore made his plan that he would later suggest to Hermione: that she return to this time; that activated Hermione's Time-Turner, froze time in Hagrid's hut and put everyone on the grounds into quasi-time.

It is also interesting to note that Dumbledore did not suggest that Harry and Hermione go back in time to do something that they had not thought of at the time, but only sent them back in time so that they could think of it themselves. During the period they were using the Time-Turner, they never acted on their knowledge of the future; Harry wanted to on several occasions but Hermione, being smart enough to take instructions on the use of dangerous Magical implements seriously, always stopped him. They would have rescued Buckbeak even if they did not need him to rescue Sirius; by the time they did rescue Sirius, they had passed the time where, over in the Shrieking Shack, they had learned the truth.

The most difficult part of this sequence of events is how Harry made it to the hospital wing without having his soul sucked out by the Dementors. If this is happening in quasi-time, it does not matter, because nothing counts until it is integrated into real time. Harry may have seen himself being saved in the only manner possible; as Harry said to Hermione, shortly before his successful attempt to conjure the Patronus, it was the only thing that could "make the dementors go." 6

What would have happened if Harry had carried out one of his ill thought ideas? Taking the Invisibility cloak probably would not have changed anything important. Snape used it because it was there, but had it not been, he could have just stood behind the door and heard what he heard. Taking Scabbers, however, might have changed many things that Harry did not want to change. The events in the Shrieking Shack had not happened yet; if Harry prevented his father's betrayer from escaping, he would have prevented Peter Pettigrew's exposure as the real traitor.

Professor Dumbledore told Harry that his experience with the Time-Turner should have taught him that: "The consequences of our actions are always so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult business indeed." 7 If, at that point, Harry had changed what had happened in quasi-time, then everything that happened in quasi-time after that would have to be redone; no one can predict how it would have turned out. I think that Harry would still know that Sirius was innocent, because I do not believe that Time-Turners affect one's memory. Nevertheless, Fudge thought Harry was telling tall tales when Harry told him about events that had happened; if those events had been changed, Fudge would have been right.

Time and Fate

However, there is another possibility. Personally, I don't believe in the kind of fate that contradicts free will, as though your path is laid out for you by Fate itself; I believe we make our own fate. At the point where Harry wanted to grab Scabbers, Lupin had neither looked at the Marauder's map and seen his old friend Peter going into the Shrieking Shack with Sirius and Ron, Harry and Hermione following them, nor had Snape brought Lupin his potion and followed him. However, they had already happened; Harry was simply in a time before they had happened to him. I can believe in the kind of fate where everyone in the Shrieking Shack that night made his or her own fate. If Harry had taken Scabbers, the details of the story might be slightly different from the one that we read (and a subject for fan fiction); I believe that Fate would have intervened to ensure that everyone who was ˜fated' to be in the Shrieking Shack would be there, and what was done was not undone.

I believe this intervention would come in the form of guidance rather than coercion. The purpose of everyone on the grounds would not have been changed by Harry's action: Sirius would still have been trying to kill Pettigrew, Crookshanks would still have been aiding him, and Ron would still have been trying to protect Scabbers. I think that Fate would simply remind people of their purpose, so they would do the same things that they did on their first journey through that time, for the same reasons.

The Limits and Risks of Time-Turning

The warnings that Professor McGonagall gave Hermione as she issued her the Time-Turner would have been very brief, for Hermione would not have needed much convincing to follow the rules. All Hermione reported was that people have "ended up killing their past or future selves." 8 I think that Professor McGonagall might have simplified it a little because, if my analysis is correct, there are no past or future selves but two present ones. There were two Harrys on the grounds that night; one created thirteen years ago when he was born, and one created a few hours ago when he used the Time-Turner. My best guess would be that if either one killed the other, than Harry would be dead; at that point quasi-time would end, and everything that happened in it would be negated; real time would resume there.

When Harry and Ron woke up Hermione in the Gryffindor common room and asked her why she was not in Charms class, she did not turn time back again and catch the end of the class. Part of the reason might have been that she was already exhausted from putting twenty five plus hours worth of activity into twenty four hour days; but turning time back to go to the class, at that point, would have created the paradox of Hermione ˜forgetting' and ˜remembering' to go to class at the same time. She might have been able to use the Time-Turner and go to the class, but when she returned to the point in time that Harry and Ron reminded her to go, they would not have reminded her if she had already attended the class. The paradox would have to be resolved, because if Hermione had just forgotten to go to class again when the times should have integrated, they could not have done so. There is the possibility of a Time Loop, where Hermione would be pulled back to the time that the paradox was created; she would be trapped in that hour until she finally accepts the fact that she made a mistake, and does what she actually did in the first place.

From the above analysis, and the little that Professors McGonagall and Dumbledore said on the subject, it is my conclusion that Time-Turners are not meant to be used to change history or correct a mistake, and that it is against Wizarding law to attempt to do so. However, it can also be seen from Hermione's statement that "Professor McGonagall told me what awful things have happened when wizards have meddled with time" 9 that it has been tried. I will not speculate on what happened to them, for I have too little information on which to base a guess. I will only say to those who would like to go back seventy years, and disrupt the wedding of Tom Riddle and Merope Gaunt so that Lord Voldemort is never born, that it took seventy years to write the history of the Wizarding World from that point, and it seems logical to me that it would take another fifty years for the change to have any effect on the present. Over in Middle Earth, the great wizard Gandalf the White once said, "Perilous to us are the devices of an art deeper than we possess ourselves." 10 I know a lot of witches and wizards who would do well to heed that advice.

Other Uses of Time-Turners

In the Time Room in the Department of Mysteries, there were Time-Turners of various shapes. It is likely that Hermione, being a third year student, had a very basic model. It might be possible for a student, like Justin Finch-Fletchley, to attend both Hogwarts and Eton if he could get a Time-Turner that would turn back time in increments of a week. It would be difficult, considering the strain that adding a few hours a day put on Hermione. Nevertheless, part of the reason might be that Hermione normally puts twice as much effort into her schoolwork than the average student; if a student put in a normal amount of effort, it might be possible. It would take some careful planning, such as making sure that sleep occurred at the same time, so that the user is effectively sleeping in two different beds at once. Meals would also have to be coordinated; if one ate lunch at Hogwarts, one would read a book at that time at Eton, so that the user is reading a book while having lunch, which is what Hermione usually does.

A Daily Prophet reporter, who is covering late breaking news and has a deadline to meet, might be able to use one to be out in the field gathering facts and interviewing witnesses, and be in his office writing the article at the same time.


Security must have been a little lax after the battle in the Department of Mysteries for some Daily Prophet reporter to find out that the Ministry's supply of Time-Turners had been smashed, for their very existence had been a closely guarded secret. The Minister of Magic, himself, did not know that Hermione had been issued one or Dumbledore's comment to Snape, "Unless you are suggesting that Harry and Hermione are able to be in two places at once, I'm afraid I don't see the point of troubling them any further' 11 would not have gotten past even Cornelius Fudge. I think that the Unspeakables were wise to do this, for though Time-Turners can be very useful in the right hands, they can be very dangerous in the wrong ones; the temptation to misuse them would be very great.
1. Rowling, Order of the Phoenix, 68.

2. Ibid., Prisoner of Azkaban, 98.

3. Ibid., 244.

4. Ibid., 393.

5. Ibid., 400.

6. Ibid., 406.

7. Ibid., 226.

8. Ibid., 399.

9. Ibid., 399.

10. Tolkien, The Two Towers, 203.

11. Rowling, Prisoner of Azkaban, 420.


Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Arthur A. Levine, 2003.

”””. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic, 2001.

Tolkien, JRR. The Two Towers. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965.

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