In Chapter Fourteen of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban we have the following passage:

Neville was in total disgrace. Professor McGonagall was so furious with him she had banned him from all future Hogsmeade visits, given him a detention, and forbidden anyone to give him the password into the tower. Poor Neville was forced to wait outside the common room every night for somebody to let him in, while the security trolls leered unpleasantly at him.

I am trying to understand the logistics of this punishment. Even if no one was allowed to tell Neville the password, he would still hear it when someone let him in. Why then would he need someone to let him in every night? After the first night he would already know the password himself.

  • It's been a while, but, as I recall, he was in trouble for losing (well, Crookshanks actually snagged it for Sirius) a list of the weeks passwords, which he had put together because they were being changed daily. So, you don't need one to leave, and, coming back, it would only last for that night, if he heard it... assuming they didn't lean in to the picture and whisper it specifically because he wasn't to be trusted with such things.
    – K-H-W
    Jul 5, 2021 at 0:02
  • @K-H-W That was under Sir Cadogan, who indeed changed the passwords daily. At this point, though, the Fat Lady had been restored, so presumably the passwords were no longer changing on a daily basis.
    – Alex
    Jul 5, 2021 at 0:04
  • The Harry Potter wiki states that the password changes every week, but I couldn't find a source for that
    – MBEllis
    Jul 5, 2021 at 11:26
  • @MBEllis scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/247730/…
    – Alex
    Jul 5, 2021 at 12:10
  • Harry tells him the password a few pages later when he's trying to sneak to Hogsmeade. Also, if someone opens the door to the common room from the inside there's no password needed, no worries in that case
    – fez
    Jul 6, 2021 at 12:37

1 Answer 1


There's no reason to think that Neville definitely heard the password at any point. Allowing Neville to hear the password would effectively be giving him the password, which the other Gryffindor students were forbidden from doing. Assuming that they were all intending to comply with that instruction, they would not allow Neville to hear the password.

To accomplish this, they could either lean in and whisper the password so that Neville is unable to hear it, as K-H-W mentioned in their comment, or they could have Neville wait down the hallway while they give the password, then hold the portrait open for him to enter afterwards.

There is also the possibility that Neville did overhear the password, but simply didn't want to risk using it. Either to avoid getting in (more) trouble with Professor McGonagall himself for knowing the password when he's not supposed to, or to avoid getting another student in trouble for giving him the password when they're not supposed to.

  • It may not be that Neville was not allowed to know the password ever, but that he could only be sure of it immediately before being let into the common room, as to not be given any temptation to try and memorise it by making a note (which was what got him in trouble in the first place).
    – user93707
    Jul 5, 2021 at 11:52

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