The title is pretty straightforward.

Sirius Black was still believed by everybody in the wizarding world, save six, to be a crazed mass murderer. We can reasonably assume that Dumbledore never told McGonagall. That's just not how he operates. Besides, in book 4 Dumbledore sent McGonagall for Sirius while he was in his Animagus state and she didn't know it was him.

I know that Harry said Sirius's permission would be good enough for Dumbledore but McGonagall's the one that collects and verifies the forms.

Whose oversight is this? McGonagall's? JKR's? Mine?

  • 6
    Lazy witch didn't actually check who signed them, just that signatures exist on the form ;) Feb 27, 2015 at 6:54
  • 9
    Why do you think Dumbledore wouldn’t tell McGonagall? He trusts her, and it wards off lots of other potentially awkward questions.
    – alexwlchan
    Feb 27, 2015 at 7:14
  • 32
    Murderer or not, he was made legal guardian of Harry by James and Lilly.
    – Don_Biglia
    Feb 27, 2015 at 7:20
  • 3
    Exactly, the form would still be valid even if she did notice ? So what consequences could there be ? Harry could be asked to tell them where Sirius is, he wouldn't tell even if he knew at that time. And he can't exactly be prosecuted for receiving a permission form by his legal Guardian.
    – Dagon313
    Feb 27, 2015 at 7:40
  • @alexwlchan Besides the reason I gave already as to why it's unlikely that he would tell her, if he trusts her so much why didn't he think she was worthy of other secrets? Feb 27, 2015 at 8:10

5 Answers 5



Anthony Grist's answer completely answers this, I recommend you upvote his instead. I'd forgotten the exact way Sirius gives his permission (dummy David, how the hell would Sirius have gotten one of the forms anyway!?).

(Original answer)

Good question! Since there isn't any canon explanation, all we can really do is speculate on the possible answers to this problem.

1) Oversight by JK.

Unlikely, considering both her track record and the fact that this isn't a minor detail that slipped by, it's an actual plot point.

2) McGonagall knew about Sirius.

I find this rather unlikely. Considering her confusion at the order to go fetch the large black dog at the end of the next book, she seems unaware of Sirius Animagus state. Without knowing this bit of info it's hard to imagine she figured anything out on her own at the end of POA. And it seems very unlikely Dumbledore could explain to her the situation in any satisfactory way without mentioning this fact, since it's crucial to the narrative of his innocence.

3) McGonagall doesn't check WHO signed, just that it's signed.

For any normal student I'd consider this the most likely option, since these forms are really just a liability thing. But in this specific case, it's not only Harry Potter, but the same Harry Potter who complained last year about not being able to get a signature for Hogsmeade during all that commotion with his murderous godfather. Seems quite likely she'd be curious who signed it this year. Maybe you could get round this by having the forms magically sealed so that anyone who signs MUST be a parent or guardian, so the teachers really wouldn't need to check?

4) Dumbledore intervened somehow

By far the most likely answer. Remember that Dumbledore is in contact with Sirius all summer, so he likely knows about the Hogsmeade permission. Perhaps he directly intercepted the permission form, or perhaps he told McGonagall that he himself got Sirius to sign it while he was talking with Sirius at the end of POA (as a kind of penitence thing or something). The most important thing here is that McGonagall trusts Dumbledore above all others, including the Ministry of Magic. If he acts shifty and tells her to overlook something, it's most likely she will.

These are the options I can see, maybe there are others. Of course, if anyone has any quotes from JK or anything that would certainly solve the problem!

  • 1
    Personally I think this is the better answer Feb 27, 2015 at 11:02
  • 1
    +1. I think option 1 is most likely, followed by option 4.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Feb 27, 2015 at 12:02
  • 1
    Yeah, disagree with the 'unlikelihood' of the first answer.
    – Waterseas
    Feb 27, 2015 at 15:45
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    @Waterseas (and rand al'thor) - Oh ye of little faith, check Anthony's answer :P
    – DavidS
    Feb 27, 2015 at 15:55
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    I appreciate that. BUT I don't see how my scenarios are more likely since Anthony has given a fully canonical answer, rather than my speculations that were based on the stupid notion Sirius signed a Hogsmeade permission form. The very fact that it was just a letter from Sirius clearly indicates to me it wasn't given to McGonagall, but was passed straight to Dumbledore. With all due respect I formally object to my answer being accepted :P
    – DavidS
    Feb 27, 2015 at 17:02

I think the answer is that she simply wasn't involved in the process for Harry. Professor McGonagall was responsible for collecting permission slips from the third years in her House:

“One moment, please!” she [McGonagall] called as the class made to leave. “As you’re all in my House, you should hand Hogsmeade permission forms to me before Halloween. No form, no visiting the village, so don’t forget!”
Chapter 8, Flight of the Fat Lady

But not for checking who had permission to leave the castle when it actually came time to go to Hogsmeade:

He accompanied them to the entrance hall, where Filch, the caretaker, was standing inside the front doors, checking off names against a long list, peering suspiciously into every face, and making sure that no one was sneaking out who shouldn’t be going.
Chapter 8, Flight of the Fat Lady

Sirius also didn't sign the official permission form, he just wrote a letter on a piece of parchment stating that he'd given his permission for Harry to visit Hogsmeade:

Harry looked eagerly inside the envelope. There was another piece of parchment in there. He read it through quickly and felt suddenly as warm and contented as though he’d swallowed a bottle of hot butterbeer in one gulp.

I, Sirius Black, Harry Potter’s godfather, hereby give him permission to visit Hogsmeade on weekends.

“That’ll be good enough for Dumbledore!” said Harry happily.

I suspect that as long as Harry made it on to the list - something that Dumbledore could easily make happen - there would be nothing to prevent him from visiting, without McGonagall ever needing to see his "permission slip" and know that Sirius gave permission rather than the Dursleys.

  • 8
    @MermishEssence Actually, I'd have assumed the list goes off to Dumbledore first, so he can check everything is in order from each house. If that's the case then he has no problem adding in a name. And even if not, he could simply intercept this list under those terms (checking everythings alright, or such). Unless you think Harry's giving the letter from Sirius to McGonagall? That last quote (to me) heavily implies to me he's going to go entirely around her to Dumbledore.
    – DavidS
    Feb 27, 2015 at 16:52
  • 3
    @MermishEssence It's not a permission form, it's a letter from a convicted serial killer. Why on earth would he give it to McGonagall?
    – DavidS
    Feb 27, 2015 at 17:11
  • 2
    @MermishEssence Usually in administrations stuff like this goes off to a higher manager for a seal of approval, but that's besides the point, since we agree it's not a permission form. Your entire question is based on the idea that McGonagall was given the letter from Sirius and accepted it with no problems, but we've just agreed that we don't know she ever saw it, for the reasons Anthony gave. So the question doesn't work anymore (or it has been answered, depending on your point of view)
    – DavidS
    Feb 27, 2015 at 17:58
  • 4
    Harry's statement at the bottom of this answer seems to strongly imply that Harry is turning in Sirius's approval to Dumbledore himself. Whether McGonagall handles all of the other Hogsmeade forms herself or not (she likely does according to the first quote of this answer) is immaterial in Harry's case because Harry is (understandably) bypassing her. So, Harry gives letter to Dumbledore, Dumbledore adds Harry's name to Filch's list, and then Harry and friends get into all sorts of trouble in Hogsmeade.
    – Ellesedil
    Feb 27, 2015 at 22:05
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    I can confirm that in many real-world organizations, when someone at the very top wants something done discreetly or immediately, they go to the person who will do the thing, not pass it down the chain of command. This answer makes perfect sense to me - as a security officer, if I were at Hogwarts, I'd be the one at the door with the Probity Probe and poorly-sorted list of approved students. And if the Headmaster said "Put this person on the list", they'd be on there, bolded and underlined, if only because the additions normally come from the Heads of House. Feb 28, 2015 at 5:26

The form needed to be signed by a parent/parents or legal guardian. Sirius was made Harry's legal guardian by James and Lilly, he tells him so at the end of Prisoner of Azkaban.

Normally these rights do not change if someone is sent to prison(although not impossible i think, and not canon supported. I'm not a (magic) lawyer), so Sirius and Harry have every right to use Sirius' signature. It would be legal, and thus 'good enough' for McGonagall.

Besides that, my feeling is that McGonagall knew perfectly well who signed the form. But was aware of what happened at the end of the third year. Just because she didn't know he was an animagus does not mean she wasn't told he was innocent.

  • 1
    I'm sorry, but you've completely missed my point in the question. I was not questioning the legality of Sirius's permission as Harry's legal guardian. But: A) It would prove that Harry must have been in touch with Sirius. B) Nowhere does it say that she was let in on the secret, which I highly doubt. Dumbledore likes to keep his secrets close to his chest, ask Aberforth. Feb 27, 2015 at 8:20
  • 1
    In the colonies, parental rights are often terminated in long prison sentences. In Sirius case, he was imprisoned for allegedly killing Harry ' s parents, which would cause any state or court would quickly terminate any legal relationship to Harry, in the child's best interests.
    – user16696
    Feb 27, 2015 at 8:30
  • 8
    McGonagall is not stupid, Sirius is in custody and about to get his soul sucked out. A couple of minutes later he's magically(no pun intended) disappeared. And so is Buckbeak. She's also one of the few that knew Hermione had a time traveler. She could have put one and one together. It's never said that she's told, but there's never said either that she was not. Your question is why does she not notice his signature, I answer in my last two sentences she did recognize it. But is (could be) in on the secret. And Aberforth has a biased opinion and a more troubled relationship with his brother.
    – Don_Biglia
    Feb 27, 2015 at 8:42
  • 5
    @cde, he's not the killer of Harry's parents. He's imprisoned for the murder of Pettigrew (and some muggles?). But if his guardianship would have ended by some court/trial he would have known, so we can assume it didn't.
    – Don_Biglia
    Feb 27, 2015 at 8:44
  • @ThomasDB ... I think you're pretty close with your answer. Since we are speculating, I'd suggest Minerva knew Serius was innocent in the first place. She knew Harry's relationship with him as well. What more do you need. Valid signature and valid pass to Hogsmead. Feb 27, 2015 at 10:53

She probably did notice. Think about it this way- Harry's parents were allegedly betrayed by , Sirius. Harry hated him. Even if McGonagall didn't know his feelings, she could guess. If she did notice, her first thought (if she didn't already know he was innocent) would be "Why would Harry treat him like family?" The only answer, to me, is that he found out that Sirius was innocent.

But I suspect she knew he was innocent already. She's pretty smart. Either way, she'd let it slide because she knew he needed family. And as Dagon313 said, if she did have an objection she'd take it to Dumbledore and he would certainly let it slide.


I would say that she only checked that it was signed by Harry's legal guardian. Since it happened in a magical universe, it might have been more apparent than who actually signed it - for similar examples think of unbreakable vows.

  • Care to edit on the downvote?
    – Edheldil
    May 5, 2015 at 11:21

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