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When a Ravenclaw wants to enter their dorm, they have to answer a question instead of a password (which would presumably only known to house members):

“What? Isn’t there just a password?”

“Oh no, you’ve got to answer a question,” said Luna.

Deathly Hallows, chapter 29 (The Lost Diadem)

Does this mean that any student, Ravenclaw or not, can enter just by correctly answer the riddle? For instance, could Hermione (a Gryffindor) figure out the riddle and then walk right in?

The reason I ask is that it that this seems to be the only dormitory where someone unauthorized can enter without a member of the house sharing secret information. For instance, the only way a non-Gryffindor can enter the Gryffindor dorm is if a Gryffindor shares the password (or they allow themselves to be overheard). But unauthorized access to the Ravenclaw dorms does not require a Ravenclaw to share information that they shouldn't tell anyone.

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@Skooba Slytherins have a password too. But Ravenclaw is the only one where you can enter without a member of the house telling you information they are supposed to keep secret. – Thunderforge Mar 21 at 17:33
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@Thunderforge - The old pottermore welcome message strongly implies that only a Ravenclaw (or someone very very clever) could access the common room because the challenges are so devilishly clever. – Valorum Mar 21 at 17:36
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They could yes, but they'd also have to get past the Ravenclaw Battle Laser Turret once inside. The turret would fire at anyone who didn't have a wand attuned to the Ravenclaw dorm. There was a section of the book where this happened to Hermoine, but was left out of the final draft. – Ryan J Mar 21 at 18:22
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@guildsbounty I guess that's only true if the riddle changes after the last one is solved. If there's a "riddle of the week" or whatever, then it's just as insecure as the others. – Thunderforge Mar 21 at 22:29
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@Baard Kopperud: On Wikipedia. – chirlu Mar 22 at 10:00
up vote 47 down vote accepted

Yes (probably).

Professor McGonagall (a Gryffindor) enters the common room by answering the password challenge in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

‘Certainly, if you wish it,’ said Professor McGonagall, with awful coldness. There was a genteel tap of the knocker and the musical voice asked, again, ‘Where do vanished objects go?’

‘Into non-being, which is to say, everything,’ replied Professor McGonagall.

‘Nicely phrased,’ replied the eagle doorknocker, and the door swung open.

This is backed up by the article on Pottermore

For a house that thrives from bountiful brains, it is not at all surprising that to get into Ravenclaw Tower, one must complete a riddle.

Note, there's no mention of house affiliation being required to get into any of the common rooms. You simply need to fulfill the entry requirements (typically a password).


That being said, the original "Ravenclaw Welcome Message" from the Pottermore website seems wildly overconfident about the security afforded by their challenge/response password.

When you rap on the door, this knocker will ask you a question, and if you can answer it correctly, you are allowed in. This simple barrier has kept out everyone but Ravenclaws for nearly a thousand years.

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Don't professors have special permission to answer any dorm anyway? I guess I'm more wondering about students. I'll update the question. – Thunderforge Mar 21 at 17:18
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@Thunderforge - I've found a couple of other sources. For my money, none of the common rooms' security seems more than superficially effective. It's simply part of the "your house is your new family" whimsy rather than an actual barrier. – Valorum Mar 21 at 17:35
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It is possible that part of the magic of the knocker is that if the seeker-of-admittance is actually a Ravenclaw (or faculty) then it asks a question that that seeker can answer, otherwise it asks a question that the imposter cannot answer. Yes, it would have to somehow know who was a Ravenclaw, but then again, the Triwizard cup knows who is best to represent each school given nothing more than a slip of paper with the supplicant's name, so the magic "technology" exists ... – davidbak Mar 21 at 17:41
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@Thunderforge - that information clearly came from a Ravenclaw, and we know that one common fault of highly intelligent people is that they often believe in their own infallability in intellectual matters when it is not, in fact, true. – davidbak Mar 21 at 17:45
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Perhaps it's as simple as victory by definition: if you can answer the riddle, the knocker considers you a Ravenclaw no matter what the Sorting Hat says. – Morgen Mar 21 at 20:06

Professor McGonagall entered Ravenclaw Tower in Deathly Hallows by correctly answering the eagle's riddle.

There was a genteel tap of the knocker and the musical voice asked, again, ‘Where do vanished objects go?’

‘Into non-being, which is to say, everything,’ replied Professor McGonagall.

‘Nicely phrased,’ replied the eagle doorknocker, and the door swung open.

Deathly Hallows - Chapter thirty - The Sacking of Severus Snape - Page 479 - Bloomsbury

Professor McGonagall is a Gryffindor.

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Don't professors have special permission to answer any dorm anyway? I guess I'm more wondering about students. I'll update the question. – Thunderforge Mar 21 at 17:18
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@Thunderforge - Logically they ought to. However, the fact that she bothered with the riddle strongly implies she did not. – T.E.D. Mar 21 at 17:50
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Another question is: How intelligent is the knocker? McGonagall's answer is somewhat brief, also apparently self-contradicting, and in any event, requires some interpretation. How does the knocker manage it? (Potential answer: It crowdsources the answer to all (or a committee of) graduated Ravenclaws, like a magical version of Amazon's Mechanical Turk.) Anyway, has it been working off a set list of questions for the last thousand years (perhaps with repeats?) or does it generate its own questions? – davidbak Mar 21 at 17:51
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@Thunderforge - w.r.t. the professors having special permission - the Carrows were unable to get in without assistance from other faculty (hence, McGonagall's assistance). – davidbak Mar 21 at 17:55
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@davidbak Ah could be!... answer was "a circle has no beginning" – Skooba Mar 21 at 19:23

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