Re-Reading Harry Potter: Prisoner of Azkaban ch. 13

Many people joke about needing more hours in a day, but can you imagine what it would really be like? Hermione doesn’t seem to be handling it too well, and if anyone can be counted on to manage a crazy schedule, it’s her. But it’s not hard to see why. She’s been living for months now on at least 26-hour days!

And that’s assuming as little time-turning as possible. It’s assuming that – since the other kids seem to be taking 2-3 new classes and she’s taking 5 – she has to travel back in time twice each day. It doesn’t take into account the “double” class periods Hogwarts students often seem to have, and it doesn’t take into account the time allotted for homework.

Most people have a natural body clock that runs on a 24-hour schedule. They go to sleep, wake up, and go about their daily routine. Hermione is pushed out of that sort of schedule and into an unnaturally long day, meaning it’s probably impossible for her to get into any kind of predictable rhythm. Her body isn’t expecting all the repeated hours, delayed meals, and longer days.

Speaking of meals, for that matter, how long is she going without eating? If most of her overlapping classes are in the morning (which seems to be the case), is she eating lunch before or after she goes back in time? If before, that’s a long time until dinner; if after, that’s a long time between breakfast and lunch. Either way, it doesn’t seem like a healthy schedule.

And how much sleep is she really getting? She has not only extra classes but extra homework as well. It seems as if she’s constantly tired and miserable. Even if she’s using the time turner to make sure she gets 8 hours of sleep, that would only make her day longer, meaning she’s sleeping 8 hours out of … 27? 28? 30? Just how long have her days become?

If Hermione’s days are 28 hours (2 extra hours to sleep + 2 extra hours for classes), and if she’s sleeping 8 hours a night, she’s awake 20 hours. If she’s also time turning another 2 hours for homework, that makes 30 total, and 22 hours awake in a row. Most people who are awake that long would be falling asleep on their feet.

Is it any wonder, then, that Hermione is working instead of celebrating after Gryffindor’s Quidditch victory? Is it any surprise that she doesn’t have the patience and energy to make amends with Ron when they squabble? And is it shocking that she loses her temper and storms out of Divination? Maybe not.

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The Unlikely Heroes of Harry Potter

One thing that I love about the Harry Potter series is how easy it is to identify with the characters. They jump off the page as if they were real people, with real personalities, problems, and quirks. I’m sure I’m not the only one who sometimes thinks of Hermione, Ron, Neville, and the rest of them as if they were old friends instead of fictional characters. And one thing that makes them seem so lifelike is that they aren’t superheroes. They live in a magical world, perform larger-than-life heroic actions, and that’s part of the escapism of Harry Potter, but the best part is that they’re flawed humans like the rest of us. It’s easy to imagine being in their world, at Hogwarts because it’s easy to put ourselves in the shoes of the characters, or imagine standing among them.

Neville starts out as a clumsy, forgetful boy who keeps losing his pet toad and can barely keep from tripping over his own feet, let alone fly on a broom or cast complicated spells. Luna is a weird outcast with no friends, frequently bullied by her classmates. Ron and Ginny are the youngest in a big family, with hand-me-down clothes and five older brothers’ achievements to live up to. Hermione is a nerdy, bossy girl whose parents are both muggles. And Harry himself had nothing before he came to Hogwarts. He was literally sleeping in the cupboard under the stairs and barely tolerated by his family. All of them grow up to be so much more than that. All of them grow up to be heroes.

It means a lot more to me to see where they begin, see them struggle, and see them grow into the heroes they become, than it would to simply have them be amazing from the start. Part of the magic of the Harry Potter series is that it takes awkward, misfit kids who anyone can relate to and slowly transforms them into the best versions of themselves.