"Mysterious thing, time. Powerful, and when meddled with, dangerous."
Albus Dumbledore[src]

Time refers to the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that allows to sequence events from the past through the present into the future, to compare their durations and the intervals between them, and to quantify the speed at which objects move and things change. Regarded as a mysterious and powerful thing by even the most learned wizards, temporal investigations, exploration and exploitation was still possible by magical means.[1]

Nature

An Hour-Reversal Charm

"Just as the human mind cannot comprehend time, so it cannot comprehend the damage that will ensue if we presume to tamper with its laws."
—Professor Saul Croaker[src]

Time is governed by natural laws which magic can explore and, to a certain and limited degree, manipulate, and, as such, there is a room devoted to its study in the Department of Mysteries, the Time Room.[1] Time-related magic was unstable, however, and as serious breaches in the laws of time was widely accepted to potentially result in catastrophe if meddled with, the investigations conducted in the Department of Mysteries was largely shrouded in mystery. At one point, it was noted, however, that whereas magic made it possible to go back in time, their researched had showed that a prospective time traveller could go back for a period of no more than five hours, as any further meant that the person in question would run the risk of doing great damage to both themselves and time itself. Consequently, the use of Time-Turners, which could only take the user back in time and not into the future, since they are charmed with an Hour-Reversal Charm, were hedged around with hundreds of laws.[1]

History

Eloise Mintumble (1899)

In 1899, the Department of Mysteries conducted its last experience concerning time-travelling back in time for more than a few hours. Eloise Mintumble was sent to the year 1402, wherein she became stuck for a period of five days. When she was finally retrieved to the present, her body had aged five centuries, and, irreparably damaged, she died in St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.[1]

Her excursion to the past provoked a great disturbance to the life paths of all those she met, changing the present so dramatically that no fewer than twenty-five of their descendants vanished in the present, having been "un-born". Moreover, there were a few more alarming signs that time itself had been disturbed: Tuesday following her reappearance lasted two and a half full days, whereas Thursday shot by in the space of four hours.[1]

The Ministry of Magic had a great deal of trouble covering up the mishap and, since then, the most stringent laws and penalties have been placed around those who study time travel.[1]

Hermione Granger (1993-1994)

"The dark ward dissolved. Harry had the sensation that he was flying very fast, backward. A blur of colours and shapes rushed past him, his ears were pounding, he tried to yell but couldn’t hear his own voice — And then he felt solid ground beneath his feet, and everything came into focus again —"
Harry Potter experiencing time travel for the first time[src]

Hermione Granger and Harry Potter used a Time-Turner in 1994

Hermione Granger received a Time-Turner from Professor McGonagall in 1993, so that she could attend more classes in her third year than time would allow. Since McGonagall made her swear to not tell anyone about it, she did not mention it to Harry or Ron until the end of the school year, when she and Harry used it to travel back in time and save Sirius Black and Buckbeak from certain death. Special permission from the Ministry of Magic had to be sought to allow Hermione to use one, but her academic record ensured that permission was given.[2]

Hermione found her third year stressful with the extra class load, and therefore decided to drop Divination, which she despised, and Muggle Studies, which she did not find very useful, given that she was a Muggle-born. This allowed her to have a normal schedule once again, and she returned her Time-Turner. Ron was disappointed that Hermione did not tell her friends about it, despite her promise to McGonagall.[3]

Battle of the Department of Mysteries

"Drifting along in the sparkling current inside was a tiny, jewel-bright egg. As it rose in the jar it cracked open and a hummingbird emerged, which was carried to the very top of the jar, but as it fell on the draft, its feathers became bedraggled and damp again, and by the time it had been borne back to the bottom of the jar, it had been enclosed once more in its egg."
—Demonstration of time[src]

During the Battle of the Department of Mysteries in 1996 all the Time-Turners in the Time Room accidentally got destroyed such loosing their function to travel back in time.[4]

Death Eaters Antonin Dolohov and Jugson followed Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Neville Longbottom into this room, hitting all three with the Impediment Jinx. At some point they reached a bell jar which had a bird inside which, as they watched, continiously changed its state in life; from egg, to chick, to adult and back again. An unidentified Death Eater who had reached to them, got hit by a Stunning Spell cast by Hermione and fell with his head into the bell jar and the same happened to his head; shrinking into babyhood and back to normal again.[4]

Behind the scenes

  • The possibility of time travel within the Harry Potter universe may seem to allow many plot holes, but characters appear to use them for trivial tasks that have no effect on existence as a whole. The one notable use of a Time-Turner within canon, the Rescue of Sirius Black and Buckbeak, obeys the Novikov Self-Consistency Principle. This theory of time-travel, stating that "Nothing can be changed because anything a traveller does merely produces the circumstances they had noted before travelling," is incidentally reminiscent of J. K. Rowling's employment of self-fulfilling prophecy. However, references to catastrophes that can take place when time travelling (a reference to a wizard travelling to the past and being killed by his past self in Prisoner of Azkaban, or Eloise Mintumble's time-travelling mishap in Pottermore in which several people end up un-born in the present) seem to go against Novikov Principle, indeed creating paradoxes. Whenever these paradoxes occur, they seem to be accompanied by serious disturbances in time, such as a Tuesday lasting for two and a half full days and a Thursday shooting by in the space of four hours, immediately after the Eloise Mintumble incident.
    • Knowing that time-related magic is unstable, there might be different ways to experience time through magic. This would explain catastrophic events as with Eloise Mintumble, and also paradoxes as the result of poorly performed time-related spells.
  • In Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a restriction on standard-issue time-turners from the Department of Mysteries was introduced that was never alluded to in either the original books or in Rowling's writings, wherein time-turners could only go back five hours, as opposed to its prior appearances in previously established canon, wherein there were nothing to suggest that the time-turner used by Hermione Granger in the fifth book could not travel further back than five hours, only that it is inadvisable and quite possibly illegal use it that way. In the play, however, Ministry time-turners were contrasted by their "true" counterpart, where Time-Turners allowed the user to travel far beyond the five-hours safety boundary, the ownership of which were considered illegal to possess, due to the tremendous potential harm they can inflict onto the flow of reality. Unlike a Ministry-issued Time-Turner, the finalised version of this model was also able to go forward in time, if only to return the user safely to their present at their behest.

Appearances

Notes and references

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