Since Hermione already admitted that they were breaking the Law. Would it be safe to conclude that the Ministry cannot instantly (by magic) detect illegal time-tampering?

(Both before and during the events of Prisoner of Azkaban.)

“Hermione,” said Harry suddenly, “what if we — we just run in there and grab Pettigrew —”

“No!” said Hermione in a terrified whisper. “Don’t you understand? We’re breaking one of the most important wizarding laws! Nobody’s supposed to change time, nobody! You heard Dumbledore, if we’re seen —”

Prisoner of Azkaban, chapter 21 (Hermione’s Secret)

  • 1
    Nice Question. I don't know how there's a law in existence if its violation can't be detected.
    – user931
    Commented Nov 27, 2014 at 5:35
  • @SachinShekhar - Exactly!
    – tls
    Commented Nov 27, 2014 at 6:00
  • 3
    Honestly, I always assumed it was less an enforced Ministry law and instead it's one of those things you just don't do, because obviously it's an incredibly bad idea. Commented Nov 27, 2014 at 13:38

1 Answer 1


Not unless it’s very severe.

They can’t detect when a Time-Turner has merely been used, or there’d be much more suspicion on Hermione after Sirius had escaped. So I think they can’t detect minor infractions. With no way to audit every use of the Time-Turner, it has to be a trust-based system. Or rather, trust augmented with the fear of the consequences.

Major damage is easier to spot. For example, Pottermore tells the tale of Madam Mintumble, who travelled back from 1899 to spend five days in 1402. Her tampering was so severe, 25 people were “un-born”, and time was severely disrupted in the present:

Finally, there were alarming signs, during the days following Madam Mintumble’s recovery, that time itself had been disturbed by such a serious breach of its laws. Tuesday following her reappearance lasted two and a half full days, whereas Thursday shot by in the space of four hours. The Ministry of Magic had a great deal of trouble in covering this up and since that time, the most stringent laws and penalties have been placed around those studying time travel.

Madam Mintumble aged five centuries in the process and died shortly after returning to the present. I expect that would scare anybody feeling more reckless.

And any major breach of the law would probably cause similarly noticeable effects on time in the “present”. Your list of suspects is fairly small, and that would be both detectable and punishable. It sounds like Time-Turners are fairly difficult to manufacture, so the Ministry effectively monopolises the stock (at least in Britain), hence a short suspect list.

  • Thanks, insightful. Just to be sure I'm on the same page as you, the Ministry cannot detect time tampering using magic. Detection is based on observation, logic and deduction.
    – tls
    Commented Nov 27, 2014 at 9:08
  • Was the time travel in the Cursed Child detected?
    – user35971
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 18:35

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