Some content in this article is derived from information featured in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and, as such, spoilers will be present.
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Time is the magic 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.
Time is one of the most complex and strongest kinds of magic and, as such, there is a room devoted to its study in the Department of Mysteries, the Time Room. Time is governed by natural laws which magic can manipulate to a certain and limited degree — although time-related magic is unstable, and serious breaches in the laws of time result in catastrophic events, the investigations conducted in the Department of Mysteries make it possible to go back in time for a period of no more than five hours (and, even so, the use of a time-travelling device such as a Time-Turner is hedged around with hundreds of laws).
It is only possible to travel back in time with a Time-Turner, and not into the future, since they are charmed with an Hour-Reversal Charm.
There exists two known "true" Time-Turners, which allows the user to travel far beyond the five-hours safety boundary, but such devices are considered illegal to possess, due to the tremendous potential harm they can inflict onto the flow of reality, as Delphini's plot has proven.
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.
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.
Hermione Granger (1993-1994)
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.
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.
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]
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. Jugson, 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.
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.
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child