Harry and Hermione excitedly reported to Dumbledore that they had been successful (saving Sirius, e.g.) during their time-traveling adventure in The Prisoner of Azkaban. In the movie, this occurs outside of the infirmary.

Dumbledore had moments earlier recommended that Hermione use the time-turner, before exiting the infirmary and closing the door. Why did Dumbledore feign to not understand what they were alluding to?

Is there something special about being inside the infirmary that makes it impossible to eavesdrop (at least according to the movie / screenwriters)?

Ostensibly, he would deny / repudiate that the time-turner was used / "abused" (in the eyes of the Ministry) for any other reason not formally proffered to Hermione (in studying; taking simultaneous classes). This is especially relevant in the event that such use explicitly contradicts the rulings of the Ministry (such as Buckbeak's execution).

Was the hallway just outside of the infirmary room a particularly more vulnerable location than inside of the room itself? After all, the door was wide open (at least in the movie) the entire time he was speaking and giving them advice ("time is dangerous when meddled with", "Sirius is located at...", "more than one innocent life can be saved", "3 turns should do it", "return before the last chime", etc). He all but explicitly spells out what they should do in gratuitous details, as those details were for them to figure out with Hermione's intelligence and Harry's resourcefulness. But the high-level idea of using the time-turner was his.

Why suggest them to time-travel and break Ministry rulings and then two seconds later refuse to recognize their achievement? Was it out of an abundance of caution? Did being inside the infirmary shield their conversation moments earlier? Was he afraid of being overheard in the hallway?

Or was being outside of the time-travel loop a reason somehow?

NOTE: I realize this is a deviation from the book. I'm asking about the movie version Dumbledore. What were the screenwriters trying to imply?

  • 3
    It should be noted that he did not outright tell them to use the time-turner. He suggested it in a very vague and roundabout way. Clearly, he saw the whole incident as something that should not be explicitly vocalized, with as little discussion as possible.
    – JLRishe
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 4:34

2 Answers 2


By leaving the room when the actual crime occurs (and encouraging Harry/Hermione to remain out of sight during the heist), Dumbledore has created a state of plausible deniability for himself. If he's asked, he can say with absolute truth that he didn't see anything untoward.

When Harry starts to spell it out for him, he stops him dead in his tracks. Note the stage direction says that he's got a "twinkle in his eye". He knows perfectly well what's occurred, but he didn't see 'nuffin, which is what he'll tell anyone who asks him. He's also indicating that they (Harry and Hermione) also need to keep this their little secret too.

HARRY: He's free -- Sirius. We... we did it.


[With a twinkle in his eye, Dumbledore swings open the door. As Harry and Hermione enter.]

  • 31
    "Dumbledore, do you know who let Buckbeak go?" "I couldn't say". "Do you know who released Sirius Black" "I certainly didn't see anything untoward", etc etc
    – Valorum
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 6:33
  • 25
    @FluffyFlareon - you might want to note that Veritaserum generated testimony isn't admissable as evidence in Wizard court precisely because it is so easy to falsify. I would imagine that for a powerful wizard like Dumbledore (especially given his great experience of memory spells), that it would be almost completely useless
    – Valorum
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 7:20
  • 24
    @FluffyFlareon - It's a lot easier to lie if you're telling the strict truth.
    – Valorum
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 7:58
  • 14
    okay, that makes sense. I'm also thinking that he said that in order to reinforce in their minds that they also should pretend that they did and know nothing. (i.e., they shouldn't talk about it). Commented May 10, 2021 at 8:01
  • 14
    I'd add perhaps that he's also walking a certain line being a teacher and role model (with a certain lenience known to the viewer not necessarily all his students), he's making clear that what they do is officially illegal but he inofficialy approves. It's at the core the same as you already have in the answer but from a different point of view - not to be able to pass a lie test but to keep his image as authoritative figure intact while accepting this rule subversion. He acts similarly when he hands Harry the invisibility cloak knowing all too well Harry will use it for some rule breaking. Commented May 10, 2021 at 18:01

I think this is Dumbledore having fun with the whole mess. Dumbledore has always been characterized as irreverent and easily amused by himself — and he's just used two fourteen-year-olds to outsmart the entire magical bureaucracy! He knows that Harry and Hermione know that he knows that they were successful, so there's no need for praise; just a nod and a wink.

  • 1
    Can this be considered Dumbledore's idea? He's just spent the past hours observing (and making sure others weren't observing) the seemingly impossible events involving five instances of three students.
    – aschepler
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 23:53
  • Whether or not we think it's Dumbledore's idea (from our privileged third-person perspective), he's been the one conducting. He's been putting the pieces together, directing people's attention, and put the idea in Hermione's and Harry's heads just a moment ago to tie up the loop. And he's just found out that it worked. Commented May 17, 2021 at 19:04

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