At the very start of the movie adaptation of Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry attempts the spell Lumos Maxima in his bedroom. He then inflates his Aunt Marge and makes her float in the air.

How come he is doing this outside of Hogwarts as an underage wizard? The Trace is clearly still on him!

I understand the quote by the Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge, "Oh, come now, Harry. The Ministry does not send people to Azkaban for blowing up their aunts." But isn't that pretty much saying that casting any smaller spell is something that an underage wizard or witch can get away with?

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    I have the vague recollection that the lumos part was movie-only, and blowing up his aunt was an accident (similar to the stuff before he got the Hogwarts letter in the first book)
    – Izkata
    Jan 24, 2013 at 14:10
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    Lumos Maxima is only in the movie Prisoner of Azkaban. Harry does not cast this spell, or any other spell, in the book. He accidentally blows up Aunt Marge with magic caused by uncontrolled anger. He would obviously have the Trace on him -- he's thirteen in Prisoner of Azkaban. The Trace doesn't drop until a witch or wizard is seventeen. You've crossed the movie with the book here. Jan 24, 2013 at 15:21
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    It is a puzzle of some level, but this specifically was a movie only thing. However, we are told that the trace is on all underage wizards but at the same time, they cant tell the hover charm of dobbie, from something harry potter does, and yet, children of pure wizarding families are expected to keep their own children under control, and yet, petunia complains that lilly was doing transfiguration spells..
    – BugFinder
    Aug 16, 2015 at 19:14
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    The Lumos spell WAS used in the book. Harry used Lumos when he saw the figure of the dog before the Knight Bus picked him up.
    – user54054
    Oct 7, 2015 at 13:44
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    According to the books, casting any spell (minor or major) is forbidden outside of Hogwarts. Although Harry doesn't cast this spell in the book, he should be reprimanded for it in the film. This is a mistake on Alfonso Cuarón's part and a plot hole, as far as I'm concerned. In the ministry's eyes, Harry has cast a total of three spells outside of school yet nobody seems to care. This bugs me immensely, special treatment or not. Edit: If you account for the vanishing glass in the first book, this brings the total number of spells to four; people tend to forget about nonverbal spells ;-)
    – Imagin
    Jul 8, 2017 at 9:08

9 Answers 9


You answered your own question.

The Trace alerts the Ministry of any underage wizard/witch performing spells outside of school. They're not supposed to be doing any, but they're not just going to lock up every kid who decides to practice a little bit - or in this case, inflate his aunt. It's just not practical, nor is it really necessary. Admonish the wizard/witch and warn them not to do it again, and hope they learn their lesson.

There are tons of laws even in our world which require repercussions and which law enforcement will often turn a blind eye towards or just let slide with a warning, much as the minister did here.

From the movie script:

                             CORNELIUS FUDGE
               So that's that, and no harm done.
              Pea soup?
 Harry glances warily from the steaming TUREEN of GREEN to
 Tom, who works a grimy thumb into his gum, frees a walnut
               No thank you. Minister... I don't
              understand. I broke the law.
              Underage wizards aren't allowed to
              use magic at home --
                              CORNELIUS FUDGE
                       (dishing up a bowl)
              Oh, come now, Harry. The Ministry
              doesn't send people to Azkaban for
              blowing up their aunts! 
  • 29
    You also have to bear in mind that at that time Harry was getting extra special treatment because of Sirius's recent escape. Everybody, the Ministry included, wanted to keep him happy so he wouldn't run off again and put himself in danger. Compare that to his treatment at the beginning of Order of the Phoenix, when the Ministry is trying their best to deny Voldemort's return and discredit him. Jan 24, 2013 at 14:52
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    @AnthonyGrist that really should be the answer. I think this is the only reason Harry does not get punished. As he says in the book Last year [he] got an official warning just because a house-elfe smashed a pudding
    – Simiil
    Sep 30, 2013 at 13:38
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    As if Azkaban is a universal punishment for all transgressions? First, Fudge was implying that there are less severe punishments than Azkaban, even though he never elaborates. Second, he was letting Harry off with a warning.
    – Anthony X
    Jun 22, 2015 at 2:08
  • In the book it also states that Hogwarts students are given homework for the summer--in essence--to practice. This seems to countermand the original order of NO magic while outside of school.
    – Ryan Perry
    Aug 10, 2015 at 17:02

The Lumos Maxima spell was not in the book, only the movie. (I don't think the movie writers read the book because they have so many things wrong.) As for blowing Marge up he would not have been sent to Azkaban for underaged wizardry, but he would have been expelled. He was not expelled, though, because the Ministry feared for his safety since Sirius had escaped and they wanted him at Hogwarts, where he was safe.


In all honesty, given what the Ministry thought was an issue with Sirius being escaped and after Harry, I think that the reason they Ministry didn't punish him was they thought it was more important to protect Harry than to punish him.


At the end of the 1992-1993 school year, Professor Filius Flitwick assigned his second year students this charm to practice in the summer before their third year.

---Taken from Harry Potter Wikia.

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    The Harry Potter wikia is not the best source, it combines a lot of non-canon stuff (as most community managed wikis do). This also doesn't really answer the question, just adds relevant info.
    – Kevin
    Dec 8, 2014 at 12:15

Harry is not punished because in book cannon, it never happened. It is in the film as a mistake, as we all know the Dursleys at this point do not let Harry have his school things, they are kept in a trunk under the stairs. We all know that underage magic (performing it in the presence of a muggle is a additional charge) is against wizarding law. He is not punished for Aunt Marge's incident as it was accidental magic. He is not punished for practicing the spell as it simply was an ornamental movie beginning and never actually occurs as part of the story itself. The movie director Alfonso Cuaron took some liberties.

  • This doesn't fully answer the question because there were similar magic performed by Harry in book canon.
    – ike
    Jan 13, 2014 at 20:04

I would say it was because blowing up aunt Marge was accidental. That said, politics (would have cost Fudge many brownie-points in the press if the Boy Who Lived died on his watch) and the fact he was believed hunted by an escape convict probably played a part too - or rather, politics played a huge part for him being prosecuted for doing magic in later books (after The Minister of Magic and Umbridge turned against him for speaking out about Voldemort).

Reading under the cover was not in the books, but it's possible they would anyway be lenient for such a minor - but very useful - spell... at least as long as it was in his room in his house. Also remember Hermione saying she'd tried several spells from her books and made them work, when she first see Harry and Ron on the express.

  • Magic before school doesn't really count.
    – cst1992
    Sep 7, 2017 at 20:34

Well the blowing up the aunt but was accidental magic as the Minister said she had been recovered by the Dept of Accidental Magic so Harry could not have been blamed.

In relation to Lumos Maxima, I have had the same query. When Dobby used the levitation charm Harry was warned as it was in his place of residence the use of magic was detected. It's nothing to do with the presence of muggles. The only thing I can think of for Lumos Maxima is that while it is magic it's simply a light with no real results. It's not a spell or hex. In the books Harry uses magic outside school all the time with no repercussions so I feel it may be because of who he is with or where he is (such as the cave with Dumbledore in The Deathly Hallows or on school trips to Hogsmeade/on the Hogwarts Express).

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    In the book, Harry is reading by torchlight, not by wandlight. Apr 18, 2015 at 8:34

The reason Harry isn't punished in Prisoner of Azkaban is because he is the Chosen One. Throughout the first four books, Harry gets special privileges the other students at Hogwarts don't, and he is held to an entirely different standard. In addition, during the events of Prisoner of Azkaban, Cornelius Fudge is still on Dumbledore's side, respecting his wishes. Fudge knows Harry can't be kicked out of Hogwarts because Dumbledore said so.

I believe this instance is a lot more interesting considering the fact Harry was on trial for using a patronus charm in Order of the Phoenix. The trial meant Fudge no longer trusted Dumbledore (After Dumbledore and Harry claimed Voldemort was back) and was punishing Harry to punish Dumbledore.

Since the incident at the beginning of PoA is not at all essential to the pot of the book, I think it happened for us to further understand the change in Fudge's character in OotP.


The underage wizard trace notifies the ministry of magic being used by underage wizards, and as we see in Harry's trial in Book 5 (Order of the Pheonix), they know the exact location in which it occurred.

In Chamber of Secrets, magic is purposely used against a muggle (by dobby, but as we later learn, the trace can trigger if magic is done NEAR an underage wizard as well), so Harry gets a warning.

When Harry uses Lumos to do homework, no doubt the ministry would have been alerted, but I believe the circumstances of him being in his room (which I think they'd know... creepy) and outside the presence of any muggles would have led to them letting it slide (they may even know it's homework assigned by Flitwick. The books don't state whether or not the ministry is alerted to summer homework assignments).

Add that to the fact that Sirius Black is on the loose and the priority is keeping him safe and bam... no trouble.


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