The Hogwarts castle is hard enough to navigate during the day. With one hundred and forty-two staircases that like to change, the subjects of portraits visiting each other’s frames, and Peeves the poltergeist causing havoc left, right and centre, it’s frankly surprising any Hogwarts student would even think about leaving their nice cosy common rooms after a long day of all that. But navigational difficulties aside, we’ve got plenty of other arguments for why it is never a good idea to sneak around the Hogwarts castle at night.
It’s no use trying to deny it, there are scary surprises hidden just about around every corner of the castle. In fact, the very first time Harry, Ron, Hermione and Neville ventured out in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, they came face-to-face with a monstrous three-headed dog. No matter what Hagrid says, Fluffy is not something you’d want to come across on a midnight stroll of a ghost-filled castle. And let’s not forget the Basilisk in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, that dwelt in the bowels of the castle and would kill you if it looked you straight in the eye. Imagine coming across that?
If the Monster of Slytherin isn’t enough to worry about, then what about the wrath of your fellow students the following morning, when they realise that you’ve lost them a ton of house points? Harry Potter might have ended the first Wizarding War, but even that wasn’t enough to save him from the whole school giving him the cold shoulder when he, Hermione and Neville lost 150 points in one night for being out of bed. Okay, so he helped Hagrid out with Norbert, but was it worth it? And since he had an Invisibility Cloak, wouldn’t things have gone so much more smoothly if he and Hermione had taken Norbert up the top of that tower during the day?
Harry and Hermione were caught out in Philosopher’s Stone, because they left the Invisibility Cloak at the top of the tower, but your average student doesn’t own one of the Deathly Hallows. And even with the cloak, there’s so much risk of being caught – there are eyes everywhere. A portrait could see you and gossip – Sir Cadogan isn’t exactly a quiet soul, is he? Or what about a ghost, particularly Peeves or an unfriendly one like the Bloody Baron. Then, of course, there’s Filch, with his feline side-kick Mrs Norris to contend with, and Snape often seems to be out and about at night. And then, there’s Dumbledore. In Philosopher’s Stone, it becomes clear that even though Harry used the cloak to get to the Mirror of Erised, Dumbledore knew exactly what he was up to:
‘He’s a funny man, Dumbledore. I think he sort of wanted to give me a chance. I think he knows more or less everything that goes on here, you know.’
So in summary, sneaking around the castle at night is never a good idea because you’ll probably come up against a terrifying creature, you’ll almost definitely get caught – and if you don’t get eaten by said terrifying creature – your fellow students will never speak to you again if you lose them about a hundred house points. Case closed.
Now, hold on a minute. Obviously, we’re not encouraging general rule-breaking here... But this is no ordinary rule-breaking! This is exploring a magical castle full of secrets and mysteries rule-breaking!
Of course, we know all about the consequences of roaming the castle at night, such as losing substantial amounts of house points, detentions or quite simply incurring Filch’s personal wrath – but that is only if you get caught. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the full scope of Hogwarts, a magnificent, sprawling building bursting with surprises at every corner, inexhaustible magic seeping from its very crevices. Of course, it’s dangerous, but if you took the right precautions, think of the wonders you could discover. Fred and George Weasley collected detentions like others collect stamps for their exploits, but you can’t deny they uncovered a number of amazing things during their time at Hogwarts. They followed in the footsteps of the Marauders, another group of Hogwarts explorers, who loved sneaking around the school so much they made a handy map all about it.
It is no surprise that the naturally inquisitive Harry developed a penchant for trips around the castle after-dark. After all, he had spent eleven years at Privet Drive, and for the vast majority of that time, cooped up in a tiny cupboard. Give this young lad an entire castle full of riddles and hidden passageways, and no wonder he slowly became addicted to the thrill of it. Usually, Harry was wandering the corridors for mystery-solving purposes, but there were also other perks, such as how he was able to finally find a way to visit Hogsmeade (psst, just look behind the one-eyed witch statue!) when cruel Uncle Vernon wouldn’t sign his permission slip.
Roaming the castle gave Harry the freedom he so often desired, and if he hadn’t, half of his adventures wouldn’t have happened. Roaming the castle was genuinely required to thwart Voldemort in his attempts to obtain the Philosopher’s Stone. Roaming the castle allowed Harry to research Nicolas Flamel in the Restricted Section of the library. Roaming the castle was paramount so Harry could sneak into the Prefect’s bathroom and figure out the mysteries of the golden egg in Goblet of Fire. Roaming the castle meant Harry found the Mirror of Erised, and got to see a glimmer at the family he would never know. So many memorable moments happened at Hogwarts in the dead of night, and, if anything, the castle invites you to go and explore it! Think of rooms like the Room of Requirement, which is just itching for you to find it, so it can magically assist you. The staircases literally change direction, enticing you to get lost.
You only live once. And if, in that lifetime, if you find yourself with magical powers, living in one of the wizarding world’s most enchanting buildings for only a handful of years, are you really going to spend all that time cooped up in your common room, reading your Ancient Runes textbook? Yes, we hear the armchairs are very cosy and squishy, but you can sit in armchairs whenever you like.
What do you think? And remember, you can remind yourself of one of Harry’s more...unsuccessful late-night Hogwarts trips in Chapter Fourteen, 'Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback', narrated by Jason Isaacs, Tom Felton, and Helen McCrory here.