After his falling out with the family in the fifth book, Percy has walked out of a photo of the Weasley family. This suggests photographs can reflect what is happening with their subjects in real life.

A photograph of the Weasley family stood beside the in-tray. Harry noticed that Percy appeared to have walked out of it.
Order of the Phoenix - page 57 - Bloomsbury - chapter 8, The Hearing

However, in the seventh book when Harry finds a picture of the Marauders in Sirius' bedroom, all four boys are happy and laughing. One would think that the subjects of the photo would be angry/have walked out/etc in response to Wormtail's betrayal.

This was in contrast the only Wizarding photograph on the walls which was a picture of four Hogwarts students standing arm in arm, laughing at the camera.
Deathly Hallows - page 157 - Bloomsbury - chapter 10, Kreacher's Tale

What are the rules of the how subjects in magical photos act?

This is different from the question about photos and paintings because photos do not interact with real people like paintings do nor do they talk or make sounds. They seem to have a very different set of rules than paintings do. These rules seem to differ, however, depending on the portrait (which is what my question is about).

  • With regards to your last example, my understanding was that James did not know of Wormtail's betrayal. Now this is just an off-the-cuff theory, but it may be that when the subjects of the photograph were dead (or at least one), the contents cannot change (you will note that Percy was still alive). Jul 3, 2014 at 1:03
  • Maybe, magic cams capture instant sentience of beings too.
    – user931
    Jul 3, 2014 at 4:27
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    See a related question scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/58581 Why Hogwarts pictures and painting could talk and the Harry's Parents can't?
    – b_jonas
    Jul 3, 2014 at 5:41
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    Perhaps the pictures also somehow take into account the person actually viewing the photo. Harry wanted to see his own father happy? He probably was not happy with Percy? If we assume the photos use the same principles as the paintings. We know the wizard paintings are able to actually speak with the wizards, so this might make a bit of sense.
    – Zoredache
    Jul 3, 2014 at 6:13
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    In addition to (sometimes) being able to move out of the frame of the photograph, subjects of wizarding photos seem to have some amount of awareness of the outside world. Mad Eye Moody was able to get the people in his photo of the original Order to move around so that Harry could see them all. It's possible that photo-Percy heard about the argument between Percy and the rest of the Weasleys (Arthur may well have talked about it with the person he shared an office with), and decided for himself to walk out. Jul 8, 2014 at 14:35

1 Answer 1


The photo may have been taken at a time when Percy was contemplating leaving the family. His split did not come out of nowhere, but grew over the years from his willingness to toe the party line in conflict to his family. The twins were constantly butting heads with Percy while he was prefect and when he joined the Ministry he rose quickly in the organization during a period dominated by figures like Pius Thickness and Dolores Umbridge. At that time the ministry was actively oppressing muggleborn and to rise in their ranks Percy probably shared their views, in direct contrast with his father's fascination with the Muggle world.

Also, we see magical photos starting with a still then capturing the following few seconds before resetting. Percy's discomfort with his family at the time of the photo could be evidenced by him staying in the photo for the minimum amount of time that is required to fulfill family obligation. Hence the photo would constantly be showing Percy walking out.

  • I am not sure if we see this particular photo multiple times, and if so I am completely wrong. Aug 21, 2014 at 23:02

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