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It's been a while since I read the books, so forgive me if this was explicitly stated in bold text with rainbow accents, but:

Were the time turners in Harry Potter able to move a user forward in time? This doesn't necessarily need to be forward from the wizard's "current time", although this would be good to know as well, but could it return the wizard to their "current time" from the past (say a wizard needed a couple of extra days for some reason, so they go back a week and when they were finished they wanted to return to the present without re-living the rest of the time).

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    Time travel forward isn't particularly different from a stasis spell. If a wizard can safely sleep for 1000years and wake up unaged, is that any different from travelling into the future? You can then return to your old present with a time-turner. I can't remember if there were any such spells/potions in harry potter, but it seems likely they could have existed. – Nick Oct 11 '12 at 14:29
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It could go either way.

On the one hand, there’s nothing in canon to suggest that the Time Turners could go forwards in time. They’re only explicitly used to travel backwards in time (in PoA, methinks), and they also reversed the age of the Death Eaters in the Dept. of Mysteries. It also causes hideous complications, and is probably much riskier, and creates paradoxes. Bit of a reverse Grandfather paradox.

Consider: you travel forward in time, learn that you die in some preventable way. Back in the present, you make sure that you don’t die. But now you were never able to see yourself die, so how did you know to prevent your death? It gets complicated.

Jumping out-of-universe, I also think it would be difficult to do within the books. It would obviously tell us what was going to happen, but unless it was done in an extremely clever way, it would probably tell us too much information that we might not want to know. (Spoilers!) It could certainly make a nice read, but I don’t think there’s much JKR could accomplish by doing it.

Perhaps you could go forward in time, to predict Voldemort’s moves? But then did nobody use it the first time he was in power? (Suppose it wasn’t invented/developed then.) Go backwards to save the Potters, the Longbottoms, Dumbledore and Sirius? It’s an incredibly powerful weapon: if only one side had it, the war would be over in seconds. You also open up complex moral dilemmas. For example, we travel forwards and learn that a hitherto unknown Death Eater commits a vicious murder. Can we punish him in the present for the crime we know he’ll commit, if the punishment means he won’t ever commit said crime? And other such complications.

So there’s no explicit reference to Time Turners having forward-going abilities in canon, and even if there were, JKR probably wouldn’t have used it.

However…

I think it should be possible. We know from OotP that the Ministry were doing research with the Time Turners, and probably into time travel itself. It's plausible that they tried to make the Time Turner travel forwards, as well as backwards. Both as an experiment in intellectual curiosity, and to ensure that they could do it if somebody else like Voldemort managed to (Cold War-esque precaution). (You could conversely argue that they’d have shied away from it, to avoid it being stolen. Let nobody have the power to travel forwards.)

As a slight digression into real-world physics, we know that wizards and witches have ultra-fast travel. In the real world, there's a phenomenon called time dilation. In a nutshell, if you're travelling really fast, you move through time ever so slightly faster than everybody around you.

The classic example is the twin paradox. Suppose Fred hops on his broomstick and travels around the universe for what he thinks is forty years at near the speed of light. When he returns, he’ll be forty years older than when he begun. But George will have aged by eighty years, because time moved about twice as fast for him as it did for George.

So if wizards can travel quickly (apparition, portkeys or the Floo network), it’s conceivable that they could have near light speed travel (even superluminal), and graft that effect onto Time Turners (or use it some other way). That allows them to travel forwards, but then they have no way of travelling back. Hmm…

Zapping the Time Turner with a powerful reversing spell might do the trick. Other ideas are scattered across the web; a search for time travel in Harry Potter will turn up plenty of stuff.

In summary, the canon doesn’t give us an answer either way, but it’s possible to make a case either way. Personally, I think a Time Turner could be used to travel forwards (albeit at great difficulty), but there’s no definitive yes/no answer.

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    The twin paradox is interesting to me. As I was looking into this answer, I remembered a previous question on SE asking how much Hermione had aged through the use of the Time-Turner in PoA, and I believe the answer was like 21 days or somesuch, and it made me wonder if she technically turned 17 twenty-one days earlier than expected, thus breaking the Trace 21 days before her actual birthday. Hmm, am pondering. :) – Slytherincess Jan 9 '12 at 23:00
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    Issues arising out of someone going forward in time are only conceivable if said person can also return to the present. If they are stuck in the future then there is little they could do affect the past and thus continuity is maintained. Since the person wouldn't be able to just live up to present time, as they could by going backwards, this might be a possiblity (no ones come back to say it works because they can't). – Xantec Jan 9 '12 at 23:04
  • @Slytherincess that’s an interesting problem. She must have done, wouldn’t she? And then, I suppose you could raise the bigger question of how Time Turners factor into the law. Not just extra ageing, but solving the problem of dual alibis: if I commit a crime, then use a Time Turner to get a cast-iron alibi, the reliability of alibis falls into question. Or if you commit a crime, then I use a Time Turner to stop you from committing it, are you still guilty or liable to be charged? – alexwlchan Jan 9 '12 at 23:25
  • @Xantec presumably you still have to deal with the issue of where the forward-going person disappears to (assuming it’s done clandestinely, like Hermitian in PoA). You’d also have to deal with the mismatched ages when they turn up. 21 days is passable, but a difference of years might not be (ahem, film actors). Finally, in the fan fic I quoted, Hermitianone goes back by using “Finite” — they might build in something similar, for long trips into the future. – alexwlchan Jan 9 '12 at 23:33
  • @AlexChan -- Yes, more good points that you make. Alibis are tricky anyway -- there's so many ways to establish a false alibi without magic, I can only imagine the havoc that would wreak if Time-Turners were used to affect crimes. As to intent, I believe it becomes intent once the crime is actually committed; otherwise, it's ideation. What was that Tom Cruise (UGH) movie where he's on some kind of squad that goes back in time to pre-emptively arrest individuals who in the future are slated to commit a crime? That's a whole 'nother can of worms! :) – Slytherincess Jan 9 '12 at 23:55
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As far as I can recall (and please correct me if I am wrong) canon does not address whether a Time-Turner can go forwards as well as backwards in time.

Not knowing much about the theories behind time-travel (aside from the Theory of Relativity, which kind of addresses time concepts). . . I think it's possible that the Time-Turner could also move someone forwards into the future.

One thing that I don't consider to be proper canon are the replica Time-Turners that are sold, which have an inscription on them that says I mark the hours every one nor have I yet outrun the sun. My use and value unto you are gauged by what you have to do.

Does this imply that Time-Turners cannot take a person into the future? Or does it imply that a Time-Turner cannot take one to the end of time (which would be impossible to achieve anyway, because of how many turns it would take -- it's a complete unknown, what with the universe constantly expanding.)

It occurs to me that terrible things could happen because wizards tamper with time, whether time is tampered with in the past or the future. It's just that the consequences would be unique and different to each situation (i.e. Back to the Future versus Prisoner of Azkaban)

Although it's not explicitly stated, I'm kind of leaning towards the possibility of time travel into the future via a Time-Turner existing.

  • Not just "terrible things could happen", I think I remember Hermione actually saying as much about wizards who did encounter themselves when using a Time Turner. Can't quite remember if it was theoretical or if she had an actual example in mind, though. – Izkata Aug 31 '12 at 20:56
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No. Time Turners were explicitly mentioned for use in going back in time. But their use for going forward in time has never been noted. Besides, if they WERE used that way, the consequences would be DIRE. Imagine putting that kind of power in the hands of a student, brilliant as she might be, and trusting that she won't go to the future to get the answers of the next NEWT exams, or prophesy the downfall of Voldemort.

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The limited information we have on Time-Turners suggests that it is impossible to use them to travel forwards in time.

In the old Pottermore entry on Time-Turners (which has been lost in the recent update; the Pottermore wiki has the text archived), we learn that the Time-Turner works thanks to an "Hour-Reversal Charm" (emphasis mine):

According to Professor Saul Croaker, who has spent his entire career in the Department of Mysteries studying time-magic:

As our investigations currently stand, the longest period that may be relived without the possibility of serious harm to the traveller or to time itself is around five hours. We have been able to encase single Hour-Reversal Charms, which are unstable and benefit from containment, in small, enchanted hour-glasses that may be worn around a witch or wizard’s neck and revolved according to the number of hours the user wishes to relive.

Although this isn't conclusive evidence, two things in this passage suggest to me that travelling to the future would be impossible:

  1. Why would they call it an Hour-Reversal Charm? This seems facetious, but if you had an omni-directional time travel spell, why would you name it in such a way that implies uni-directional travel?

  2. How would you tell it which way to go? From a user-interface perspective, there appears to be no way to distinguish between "forward" turns and "backward" turns; trying to distinguish between the direction of turns would be a ludicrous design, and there's no incantation accompanying the device

However, there does appear to be evidence that it is possible to travel forwards in time in the Harry Potter universe; the same Pottermore text goes on to discuss one of the early time travel experimenters (emphasis mine):

All attempts to travel back further than a few hours have resulted in catastrophic harm to the witch or wizard involved. It was not realised for many years why time travellers over great distances never survived their journeys. All such experiments have been abandoned since 1899, when Eloise Mintumble became trapped, for a period of five days, in the year 1402. Now we understand that her body had aged five centuries in its return to the present and, irreparably damaged, she died in St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries shortly after we managed to retrieve her. What is more, her five days in the distant past caused great disturbance to the life paths of all those she met, changing the course of their lives so dramatically that no fewer than twenty-five of their descendants vanished in the present, having been "un-born".

Two things interest me here:

  1. The word "trapped" suggests that Miss Mintumble expected to be able to return to the year 1899, presumably not by taking the long way round. Then again, since she was clearly only experimenting with time travel, it's possible that her return method failed (or would fail)

  2. The word "retrieved", coupled with the clear assertion that she only spent five days in 1402 and died upon her return, suggests that the Department of Mysteries was able to short-circuit her return trip somehow. How this was achieved is unclear; they evidently couldn't send another wizard back, or else they would have died as well. But whatever means they used, it would appear that they did have one

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    Another interesting question from your quote is, how did they know that people were unborn, since their never having existing should have rippled out and updated everything else. Apparently the universe simply doesn't care about paradoxes in the world of Harry Potter. – Xantec Sep 28 '15 at 19:50
  • @Xantec It's maaaaagic – Jason Baker Sep 28 '15 at 19:52
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It's a great question that I'm very much interested in myself but sadly I haven't found much information on this either.

However, it seems that Time Turners serve to travel backwards in time. This comes from the description itself:

I mark the hours, every one, nor have I yet outrun the Sun. My use and value, unto you, are gauged by what you have to do

The line "outrun the Sun" shows that Time-Turners can only travel backwards in time.

I think this is supported by the fact that during the fight at the DoM the Time Turners reversed the age of the wizard.

However, given that it was being studied it could suggest that perhaps the DoM was looking into methods by which they could make forward time-travel a possibility? But it's only a suggestion, a possibility.

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Possibly no.

In HP and the Cursed Child Albus and Scorpius get trapped in the past when their time-turner is destroyed.

Their parents do actually

come back in time to rescue them

but before this, they have a brief conversation in which they discuss the fact that they have no way of returning to their previous timeframe.

SCORPIUS: Albus. Really? I mean, really really? We’re — trapped — lost — in time — probably permanently — and you’re worrying what your dad might think about it? I will never understand the two of you.

...

SCORPIUS: Let’s not think about that. Let’s focus on the fact that we have no wands, no brooms, no means of returning to our time. All we have is our wits and — no, that’s all, our wits — and we have to stop her.

This would at least imply that a time-turner can't be used to send someone forward in time.

  • I don't see the implication. They felt trapped because they didn't have a time-turner. – ibid Jul 31 '16 at 17:22
  • @ibid - And that they can't use a time-turner to get back seems the clear implication – Valorum Jul 31 '16 at 17:23
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    Only because it was smashed. – ibid Jul 31 '16 at 17:24
  • @ibid - I felt that the fact that his immediate concern wasn't getting another Time-turner (e.g. to go in the opposite direction) was pretty clear. – Valorum Jul 31 '16 at 17:24
  • The ministry's time turners only did one hour at a time. – ibid Jul 31 '16 at 17:26
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Well, in prisoner of Azkaban, Hermione tells Harry that many time travelers ended up killing their past or future selves. Killing your future self makes sense since if you see your future self visit you, you’d probably freak out, kill him, and a few hours later, be killed by your past self. However, I don’t understand how while visiting the past, it be possible to kill your past self, since that would change the past, and that is impossible (as demonstrated by the fact that Harry could only save his past self from the dementors after his future self had saved him), so I conclude that you could only kill your past self if he visited you In the present. Therefore, forward time travel is possible.

The only problem with this theory is that if you kill your past self, you don’t exist (as you have been killed by your future self) so how did you kill your past self? Dead men can’t kill. I am guessing forward time travel is impossible and Rowling didn’t really think when she had Hermione make that statement.

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    Could you add the relevant quotes from the books in your answer, please? Also, most of your answer is conjecture on your part and that is not what this site is about; we're looking for canon answers. Please edit your answer to keep only the relevant parts that do answer the question. Thank you. – Sava Nov 19 '18 at 3:06

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