A time-turner conundrum
I'm surprised no one has asked this. I hate time paradoxes in general, but the one in Harry Potter always got me. Just how did Harry save himself? How is it possible that future Harry (who had to be alive) managed to save past Harry (who was about to die)? My brain hurts trying to think about it. Any thoughts?
This has always confused me too, so I'm not sure if this answer is going to actually make sense, but I'll give it a go! :)
As I understand it, as long as you don't screw up massively and get killed by your past self, using the time turner doesn't actually change the past. Whatever happened in the past has always happened that way. When Harry, Ron, and Hermione are about to go down to Hagrid's, they hear "a last pair of people hurrying across the hall and a door slamming" (PoA327), which is time-turner Harry and Hermione. And even though they think they hear Buckbeak being beheaded, all they actually hear is "the unmistakable swish and thud of an axe" (331), which turns out to be this: "The executioner seemed to have swung [the axe] into the fence in anger" (402). Buckbeak was never killed; they didn't bring him back from the dead, even though the past trio believed him to be dead.
So time-turner Harry and Hermione are present in the scene even the first time that we, as readers, experience it. Just as they were always there saving Buckbeak, Harry was always there to save himself. Does that make sense? Since time-turner Harry was in the scene the whole time, past Harry didn't need to first survive the dementors on his own in order to go back in time and defeat the dementors. Time-turner Harry was present to save him, even when we experience the scene from dying Harry's point of view.
I agree, this is a super convoluted topic! Every time I think I've wrapped my head around it, I think of something else that doesn't quite make sense with the rules I've figured out. But I hope this helps somewhat!
I think that's a pretty good explanation, Eliza. The bottom line is, the time turner doesn't CHANGE anything, it just takes someone to realize that the time turner was used and to get everyone to follow through and do everything they've already done.
Haha, it's probably better not to think too hard about it, otherwise your brain will hurt. My guess would be the same as Eliza's, that using the time turner makes it so the event would always happen that way. I find it probably the easiest of time travel situations to understand if you don't think too hard about it and try to apply science type thoughts. You go back in time and it's like it always happened that way. There is no going and erasing something you screwed up because you are a second you. It's not redoing something, it is literally going back in time and being an observer. As long as you stay out of view of your other self, there is nothing really to worry about. This time travel isn't the time travel of Back to the Future :)