"They're not birds!" Harry said suddenly. "They're keys! Winged keys -- look carefully. So that must mean..." he looked around the chamber while the other two squinted up at the flock of keys. "... yes -- look! Broomsticks! We've got to catch the key to the door!" (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 16, Through the Trapdoor).

Is there any canon information as to why Hermione didn't just Accio the proper key, avoiding the necessity of flying all over the room to catch it?

  • Were the keys charmed to not be accioable?

  • Was it a spell too advanced for even Hermione during First Year? (I didn't see a single instance of its use in HP1).

  • Was it impossible to Accio a specific key in a room full of them?

  • Else?

I'm looking for a canon in-universe explanation only[1] (e.g. books/JKR interviews/pottermore).

As a note, a simple guess of "Accio wasn't invented till Book N" is not a good enough reason - JKR explicitly stated that she had the details of many books and the universe planned far ahead while writing the first one.

[1] It's obvious what the reason is from 4th wall perspective (Harry got to show off his 3L337 Quidditch Mad Skillz, just like Ron and Hermione did on "their" tasks)

  • 9
    I've no canon to support it, but I always assumed they were counter-charmed to prevent that; we've seen (and been told) that Accio can be countered when Harry tried 'Accio Horcrux' in one of last few books. Given that the broomsticks were left to be used, I would assume any halfway competent challenge creator would have rendered the keys impervious to any remote recall that they would have been aware of. Since that was (if I recall correctly; don't have my copy handy) Flitwick, I suspect he'd be pretty familiar with the possibilities. Even if Hermione had know it, that path was foreclosed.
    – K-H-W
    Commented Oct 14, 2012 at 22:18
  • 1
    The key had wings, so maybe it would resist summoning by flying away.
    – b_jonas
    Commented Oct 15, 2012 at 8:30

4 Answers 4


Hermione didn't know how to do a Summoning Charm until year four:

Several of their friends looked in on them as the afternoon progressed, including Seamus Finnigan, Dean Thomas and Neville Longbottom, a round-faced, extremely forgetful boy who had been brought up by his formidable witch of a grandmother. Seamus was still wearing his Ireland rosette. Some of its magic seemed to be wearing off now; it was still squeaking ‘Troy! Mullet! Moran!’, but in a very feeble and exhausted sort of way. After half an hour or so, Hermione, growing tired of the endless Quidditch talk, buried herself once more in The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 4, and started trying to learn a Summoning Charm.

Goblet of Fire - pages 148-149 - Bloomsbury - chapter 11, Aboard the Hogwarts Express

She does learn it because she teaches Harry Accio before the first task of the Triwizard Tournament.

The first instance of Accio I can find is in Goblet of Fire in the chapter The Portkey. Mrs Weasley summons all kinds of Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes products from the twins' pockets as they're preparing to leave for the Quidditch World Cup.

Expelliarmus will sometimes return an item to a person, though. Harry performed Expelliarmus on Draco Malfoy in Chamber of Secrets to get Tom Riddle's diary back. But I don't think the right circumstances existed in the key chamber for Expelliarmus to have been the right spell to catch the right key. I.e. the key itself wasn't being held as something to be disarmed.

  • I think this answer might be incomplete. Hermione not knowing the spell is certainly one reason, but probably not the whole reason. In retrospect, why did it appear that Quirrell also avoided using Accio? The key for the door was clearly damaged by the time the trio arrived. And if Accio can bypass this puzzle, why even bother with supplying brooms when you can ensure authorized personnel would just use the correct spell?
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 19:41
  • 6
    @Ellesedil: Who's to say Quirrel didn't Accio the key? The damage could have come from gripping the key in his hand when it was summoned to him.
    – Jeff
    Commented Mar 22, 2015 at 13:23
  • Talking about Expelliarmus, Harry's a master of that spell. It makes sense that he can do some really sick stuff with it.
    – Jeutnarg
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 14:22
  • 1
    I find it difficult to believe that Hermione waited until her fourth year to learn a fourth-year spell...
    – EvilSnack
    Commented Nov 19, 2018 at 15:45

Accio only works on inanimate objects

Why couldn’t Newt use ‘Accio’ to retrieve all his beasts?
‘Accio’ only works on inanimate objects. While people or creatures may be indirectly moved by ‘Accio-ing’ objects that they are wearing or holding, this carries all kinds of risks because of the likelihood of injury to the person or beast attached to an object travelling at close to the speed of light.
J.K. Rowling's new website - FAQ

Seeing that the keys were clearly animate, Accio would not have helped.

Also, as Slytherincess points out, they hadn't yet learnt the spell.

  • 6
    Close to the speed of light? I didn’t know Accio was that fast. Neither did Rowling, apparently, since (as one example), Harry heard a crash before he saw Fred and George’s brooms (the speed of light is certainly greater than the speed of sound).
    – Adamant
    Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 5:22
  • 1
    Harry summons a mosquito in his hand while practicing Accio. He also states that it might be because that the mosquito is dumb though. Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 14:38
  • 2
    @Adamant this is probably exaggeration on Rowling’s part. Harry waits for firebolt to arrive to him, if it was close to the speed of light it would be instanly there. Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 14:42

Aside from the other excellent answers, there is the very simple fact that Hermione does not always think of everything.

"Are you a witch or not?"

Sometimes you just forget things.


Another good example to cite in regards to this question is Harry and Dumbledore's adventure into the cave in The Half Blood Prince. Harry suggests to Dumbledore that they could just use a summoning charm to retrieve the horcrux, but it is magically protected against such an action. The same was true of the treasure in the Lestrange vault in Dealthly Hallows. So while it isn't explicitly stated that the keys were charmed to prevent this (and as mentioned by Slytherincess, they didn't learn summoning spells until Year 4, so it would have been odd to mention that the keys were bewitched so they couldn't be summoned in Book 1), it's not unreasonable to assume that was the case.

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