In Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play, when you change past, time travellers aren't immune to changes. For example, when Harry got killed in the past, the time traveller Albus also got kicked out of existence. It wasn't like Albus popped into existence in present.

So, why didn't their memories get affected?

In the first alternate timeline (in which Ron and Hermione weren't married):

  • Albus and Scorpius didn't know that Albus was in Gryffindor. Also, they remembered from original timeline that Albus was in Slytherin.

  • Albus and Scorpius didn't know that Hermione was a teacher at Hogwarts. Also, they remembered from original timeline that Hermione was Minister.

  • Albus didn't know that his aunt was Padma and his cousin was Panju. Also, he remembered from original timeline that his aunt was Hermione and his cousin was Rose.

In the second alternate timeline (in which Voldemort won the war):

  • Scorpius didn't know wizarding history regarding Battle of Hogwarts and he remembered events from original timeline.

  • Scorpius didn't know that his dad was in ministry. Also, he remembered from original timeline that his dad's position was actually Harry's.

  • Scorpius didn't know that he was 'Scorpian King' at Hogwarts. Also, he remembered from original timeline that he was a loser at Hogwarts.

I know there's no answer to this as this is a poor way of handling time paradox (why would Scorpian King go to the lake in the first place; Cedric being already alive and without Albus, there wasn't any point of time travel).

I just want to know what trope is this, out of universe. I have encountered such memory switching only once before: In X-men: Days of the Future Past movie. But, in that, Wolverine's consciousness was sent back in time, not body. So, it makes sense.

Due to which trope here in the case of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, did memory switch happen?

  • 10
    If you're gonna point out every plot hole in this play, you're gonna be very busy indeed.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 20:52
  • 3
    @user931, I am fighting the urge to post an answer on this that just says "Magic."
    – Odin1806
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 21:30
  • 1
    This is a reason why I will never buy this book or see any movie based on it. Time-travel in which the past changes always results in a plot which makes no bloody sense at all.
    – EvilSnack
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 2:36
  • You didn't like Book 3 then I assume @EvilSnack? ;)
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 19:01
  • The past did not change in the third book. Harry and Hermione do only what had already been done. One of the very few instances of time-travel that I can stand to re-read.
    – EvilSnack
    Commented Jul 7, 2020 at 20:03

2 Answers 2


There were some similar time-travel memory shenanigans in the movie The Butterfly Effect, in which main character Evan gets the memories of his current timeline forced into his brain at each jump-- while retaining the memories of all previous timelines as well. (This is shown to be quite taxing on poor Evan's brain, causing loss of consciousness and a nosebleed each time.) I'm not sure if there's a name for this trope, but I imagine the operating idea, from a writing perspective, is to keep the traveling character from forgetting why he was traveling in the first place; if you have no memories of your previous timeline, you wouldn't know whether things were better or worse or even what you changed or why.

Frankly, I think Cursed Child took a major step backward in the HP universe's treatment of time travel. The method established in Prisoner of Azkaban was concise and avoided any major paradox issues-- anything you did in the past had already happened in the present. In fiction this is known as a causal loop. Cursed Child, however, establishes that you can in fact alter your present with actions you take in the past, which, like EvilSnack pointed out, is rife with problems.

  • 1
    Despite being an excellent film The Butterfly Effect falls into this same plot hole when Evan show the scars on his hands magically appearing to a cell mate who should only remember them being there all the time.
    – Jontia
    Commented Dec 18, 2020 at 13:16

Mind replacement might be the one.

The only sense I can make of it is a separation of body and mind. When travelling back in time, a new copy of both the body and the mind are created. When leaving the past, new history takes place. If your body exists in the new world you altered, your mind is pasted inside the body, replacing the old one.

This way our travelers are the only ones remembering the original, while preserving the idea of characters being dead or never existing at first place.

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