Hogwarts Inquisitorial Squad
Canon discussion / Harry Potter Minute

Who Can Take Away Points?

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Who Can Take Away Points?

The continuity editors of the Potter books surely earned their wages – other than things like math and dates, there are remarkably few inconsistencies in the Potter series.  But there is a small one in Order of the Phoenix that proved to be a lot of trouble for Jo.

In the original Order of the Phoenix, when Draco begins abusing his power as a member of the Inquisitorial Squad, Ernie Macmillan declares “It’s only teachers who can dock points from houses!”  It didn’t take long for eagle-eyed fans to notice that Percy Weasley did in fact dock points from Ron in Chamber of Secrets, so this was a contradiction.

Unfortunately, when Jo tried to address this on her website, she only dug herself a deeper hole.  She said, “Ron got it wrong in ‘Phoenix’, from which we deduce that he hasn’t been a very authoritarian prefect thus far; he clearly hasn’t been taking points from anybody.”

Except it wasn’t Ron who made the claim, it was Ernie Mac – who, we can all agree, is the type of prefect who would know the system backwards and forwards.

Fans spent considerable energy coming up with better explanations.  Maybe only prefects in sixth year and above could take points?  Maybe prefects could only take points from underclassmen?  Maybe prefects could only take points from their own House?

In the end, Jo chose to change the offending passage in the next edition of Order of the Phoenix: Ernie now says, “You can’t take points from fellow prefects, Malfoy.”  That is at least consistent with Percy’s actions, though it still seems a system ripe for abuse – with Draco as a prefect, how does Gryffindor have any House points left?

In general, Jo seems to not have thought through the prefect system as diligently as she did most things.  Another potential issue was circumvented when Order of the Phoenix revealed that James Potter had never been a prefect, but Sorcerer’s Stone said that he had been Head Boy.  It seemed like the former should be a prerequisite to the latter.  But in Half-Blood Prince, Harry is made Quidditch captain, and Hermione says that it affords him the same privileges as prefects (namely, use of the prefects bathroom).  So the assumption is that James became Head Boy by way of Quidditch captaincy.

And an inconsistency that remains in the books is the form of the prefect pins – shiny silver in Sorcerer’s Stone, House colors in Order of the Phoenix.  Let’s just assume there was a redesign of the badges in the early ‘90s to reflect more House pride, and leave it at that.

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In the Harry Potter Lexicon Minute podcast you’ll hear the voices of our editors sharing some of the many little things which delight us about the Wizarding World. In each podcast, one to two minutes in length, we’ll talk about anything from cool trivia and interesting canon passages to the latest Wizarding World news. We hope you’ll join us! And we’d love to hear from you as well. Feel free to use the comment section on the blogpost for each podcast to post your thoughts.

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