Prisoner of Azkaban

Anyway it is time to get back to what this blog is all about. Picking holes in the things I love.

1. All the O.W.Ls

Much of the plot of The Prisoner of Azkaban hinges on time travel. JK Rowling has already addressed the inherent problems with using time turners,

“I went far too light-heartedly into the subject of time travel in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. While I do not regret it (Prisoner of Azkaban is one of my favourite books in the series), it opened up a vast number of problems for me, because after all, if wizards could go back and undo problems, where were my future plots?

I solved the problem to my own satisfaction in stages. Firstly, I had Dumbledore and Hermione emphasise how dangerous it would be to be seen in the past, to remind the reader that there might be unforeseen and dangerous consequences as well as solutions in time travel. Secondly, I had Hermione give back the only Time-Turner ever to enter Hogwarts. Thirdly, I smashed all remaining Time-Turners during the battle in the Department of Mysteries, removing the possibility of reliving even short periods in the future.

This is just one example of the ways in which, when writing fantasy novels, one must be careful what one invents. For every benefit, there is usually a drawback.”

So basically I’m happy to leave the time turner things there. Oh and please note that according to the Pottermore content five hours is the maximum you get before screwing with reality as we know it. Anyway time turners are one of those ‘but what about the eagles’ issues I’m more than happy to let be.

However, there is one other problem. Hermione is the smartest and most special snowflake of them all so she is talking an almighty 12 owls.

1. Divination
2. Potions
3. Transfiguartion
4. Charms
5. Care of Magical Creatures
6. History of Magic
7.Ancient Runes
8. Arithmancy
9. Against the Dark Arts
10. Herbology
11. Muggle Studies
12. Astronomy

Hermione, Hermione, eventually decides this is too much of a strain (despite the fact that she literally had all the time in the world) and drops Divination and Muggle Studied to complete 10 O.W.L’s. Considering the whole ‘you need a device to alter time itself’ thing as well as the overwhelming workload you would have thought the number of student gaining 12 O.W.Ls would have been few to none. However, it appears that Barty Crouch Jr, Bill Weasley and Percy Weasley all managed to achieve 12 O.W.Ls. That’s three in the limited scope of people who’s O.W.L results we ever hear about. Two just in the Weasley family, and that’s a family that contains Ron (Yes, let the Ron bashing continue) who’s never exactly been the sharpest quill in the box. And evidently the time turners aren’t such a super secret important trust if they’re handing them out to a couple of students a year. Also one more little issue Hermione misses Cheering Charms (How does she miss Cheering Charms? Why can’t she just go back and not miss Cheering Charms? Is there a one hour limit she has to keep to?) which is a little odd because Charms is not an elective subject, surely any Gryffindor who did Ancient Runes/Arithmancy/Muggle Studies would have to skip Charms every week? Unless Hermione does some of her electives with a different house for timetabaling reasons?

On the Time Turner front it could be that it has recently become harder to complete all 12 O.W.Ls, perhaps each class now requires more hours than when Bill or Percy took them? Perhaps one student a year is allowed a time turner? It’s also worth noting that Mr Crouch was kind of out of his mind when he mentioned Barty Crouch Jr’s 12 O.W.Ls so he could be discounted.

Another theory: In other years there were enough students wishing to do the classes that the school put on extra after school classes and Harry’s year was just lazy? (This is believable)

I’d also like to talk about why Hemione never uses the time-turner to take naps. It always bothered me that she couldn’t make her timetable work even when she could manipulate time itself. And again, how the hell did she miss cheering charms. So this from reddit on why it might be a bad idea to overuse the time turner. I think these numbers are a bit out in places. It’s unlikely that every period is a double up and she can drop two classes and have a normal time table (also she quits Divination at Easter anyway) but it is a nice idea.

(can’t persuade comment to embed so)


She’s taking 2 or 3 classes every period, right? 8 periods per day, 5 per week, let’s say 12 turns per day. Your week is 168 hours long, hers is now 228 hours long. That’s ONLY doubling classes. In a 40 week school year, she’s doing 54 weeks minimum.

Now let’s say she takes an extra 5 hours each day to study. Finds some secluded portion of the library where nobody will see her, does 4:55 of studying, 5 turns and heads for the Gryffindor common room 5 minutes befpre her “colleague” shows up. 17 extra hours per day, 5 days per week, 40 weeks in a school year is an extra 141 days, or 20 weeks. Also, the plan was for her to keep up that class load and keep using the Time Turner for the next 4 years. Even without the studying, only the classes, she would have an extra 71 weeks by the end of seventh year. She’d be 18 years old at graduation (17 on September 1st of 7th year, and her birthday is in September) but with a body that has lived 19 years. With 5 hours of studying every night, she’d have almost 2 full years – 17 extra hours per day, 5 days per week, 40 weeks per year, for 5 years is 17,000 hours, or 708 days and 8 hours. Add on a 4 hour nap every day and that’s an additional 4000 hours, or another 166 days and 16 hours.

She’d be an 18 year old girl with a 21 year old body at graduation. So to Hermione, every turn she didn’t take was precious.

2. O.W.L Post Again

A small continuation on the O.W.L theme, right at the end of the Prisoner of Azkaban it says, ‘The exam results came on the last day of term.” This is directly in reference to the third year exam results but the next paragraph states, “Percy had got his top-grade N.E.W.Ts, Fred and George had scraped a handful of O.W.Ls each.” I would say this suggests that all of the exam results come on the last day of term whereas in The Half-Blood Prince O.W.L results don’t come until some way into the summer holidays. I have heard one theory that Fred and George might have stolen a peak at there results but I’m not in favour of it for two reasons, firstly, as I’ve already stated, the wording would seem to suggest that all the exam results were announced on the last day of term. Secondly, if they were going to look at the exam results before they were announced I rather think Fred and George might have been tempted to upgrade them. Even though they don’t personally care a great deal about exam results but it would have caused less friction with their mother and annoyed Percy so I feel they would have been tempted. The only real explanation is that Hogwarts’ changed the procedure for marking in the intervening two years.

3. The Monster Book of Monsters

If you will excuse a little jump in time (which I feel is rather appropriate to the theme) I’d now like to discus the Monster Book of Monsters. Bane of booksellers everywhere. Care of Magical Creatures is an elective subject. Harry, Ron and Hermione choose to take it. It seems that a great many other Gryffindors do as well but it is extremely unlikely that every third year student would choose to take it. The same would apply to those in higher years and anyone below third year could not take Care of Magical Creatures. So all in all that’s probably more than 50% of Hogwarts students not taking Care of Magical Creatures and not needing the Monster Book of Monsters. With that in mind please consider this exchange:

‘As Harry entered Flourish and Blotts, the manager came hurrying towards him.

“Hogwarts?” he said abruptly. ‘Come to get your new books?’

“Yes,” said Harry “I need – ‘

“Get out of the way,” said the manager impatiently, brushing Harry aside. He drew on a pair of very thick gloves, picked up a large, knobbly walking stick and proceeded towards the door of the Monster Books’ cage.’

In short there is no reason for the manager to assume that just because Harry is at Hogwarts he needs the Monster Book of Monsters. Even if he thinks he looks like a third year or above (although Harry is short and skinny for his age so this would seem unlikely) he might well be taking a different subject. Does the manager enjoy pain? This one is baffling.

And while we’re here I might as well point out that the manager morphs into an assistant on the next page.

‘”Here you are,” said the manager, who had climbed a set of steps to take down a thick, black-bound book. “Unfogging the Future. Very good guide to all your basic fortune-telling methods – palmistry, crystal balls, bird entrails…’

But Harry wasn’t listening. His eyes had fallen on another book, which was among a display on a small table: Death Omens: What to Do When You Know the Worst is Coming.

“Oh, I wouldn’t read that if I were you.’ said the assistant lightly,’

So there we are demotion in one paragraph.

4. Sirius Black

Ok, first off in some editions Sirius says Voldemort’s been in hiding for 15 years rather than 12. Which, coming from a man who’s been busy going half mad in Azkaban for those 12 years, strikes me as fairly excusable. (Do you know I have lost my older edition of Azkaban? Which means I’m now on about my third.) Secondly the motorbike issue, why exactly does Sirius give up his bike? Surely if he wants to hunt down Pettigrew effective, if somewhat obvious, transportation is probably a plus. But then he can apparate and Hagrid can’t (or shouldn’t) so I guess it is a pretty good gift in the keeping Harry safe scheme.

More interesting is the issue of Sirius’s wand. Clearly Sirius would not have been allowed a wand in Azkaban. His wand was almost certainly destroyed. He even refers to his wandlessness, ‘I had no hope of driving them (the Dementors) away from me without a wand…’

In the Shrieking Shack he uses Ron’s wand, then Snape’s. However, Snape later retrieves his wand when he captures Black and returns everyone to the castle after the Dementor attack. BUT in later books Sirius definitely has a wand. So at some point he must either steal one (which would give away his location) or buy one (just stole into Diagon Alley) or have someone else procure one for him (Most likely but then it will be a wand with no allegiance to him). Possibly Dumbledore somehow managed to sneak him into Ollivander’s at some point while they were in London. However, this relies upon Ollivander being extremely discreet. If you remember in the first book Ollivander expresses disapproval at the idea that Hagrid might still use his wand pieces so I’m not sure how he would feel about outfitting the wizarding worlds most wanted outlaw.

5. A History of Magic

First off the first chapter says that A History of Magic was written by Adalbert Waffling rather than Bathilda Bagshot which is somewhat important given the role Bathilda Bagshot will go on to play. Adalbert Waffling, as you may remember from the Philosopher’s Stone actually wrote Magical Theory.

More important to my mind is what Ms Bagshot/Mr Waffling has to say about medieval witch burnings, to whit:

‘Non-magic people (more commonly known as Muggles) were particularly afraid of magic in medieval times, but not very good at recognizing it, On the rare occasion that they did catch a real witch or wizard, burning had no effect whatsoever. The witch or wizard would perform a basic Flame-Freezing Charm and then pretend to shriek with pain while enjoying a gentle tickling sensation’

The point is that witches in England were never burnt they were hanged. In addition Harry’s essay was titles ‘Witch Burning in the Fourteenth Century was completely pointless – discuss’. The witch trials took place between the 15th and 18th centuries. In short young wizards and witches are being taught from faulty textbooks and it is hoped this will be amended shortly.


Next up Goblet of Fire. I am re-reading in preparation.


One thought on “Prisoner of Azkaban

  1. Having a textbook be out of date or flat out wrong would be pretty much on par with reality. History books are particularly susceptible to it given that history, as the saying goes, is written by the victors and given that new books would have to be published every year to be even mostly up-to-date.

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