fiction

Harry Potter Mystery: How Could Almost Every Sixth-Year in “The Half-Blood Prince” Turn 17 by April, When the Cutoff Wasn’t for Several Months?

Everyone who is familiar with “Harry Potter” knows that a young wizard or witch can start Hogwarts when he or she is 11 and is expected to attend 7 years there. That means that by the time a student reaches his or her 6th year, he or she will turn 17 either during the school year or summer.

However, when Harry is a 6th year in “The Half-Blood Prince”, many of his classmates turn 17 by April, and only a few remain 16 by then. Sounds crazy, huh? Only Harry, Ernie, and Draco (as well as Neville, who wasn’t in that scene for some reason), remain under 17 by April, and therefore, have to stay behind while the others in their year can take their apparition tests.

I remember how shocked I’d felt when I’d read that scene, at age 13. Even then, that felt very odd and unbelievable to me. I recall thinking, That’s supposed to mean every other student’s birthdays are close together? No other 6th-years who aren’t 17? That can’t be. I’d also come up with my own theory where maybe there were students with birthdays between April and August in Harry’s year, but were all expelled during the previous years.

But it was not until recent times when I discovered that Harry’s year is quite small. A lot of fans guess that fewer babies were born in the magical world during the late 70’s and early 80’s, when Harry’s peers entered the world, because of the dark times and first wizarding war. Maybe it became worse by the spring. I don’t know.

Another thing that I learned recently is that the cutoff for Hogwarts is August 31st, not September 1st. People on Quora said that if a child turns 11 on September 1st, he or she has to wait another year before he or she can start Hogwarts. Crazy, right? It would make more sense if a child who turns 11 on September 1st could start Hogwarts that day. I mean, that does technically count as being 11. If it’s your birthday, you are your next age. For example, if you turn 18 on Election Day in the US, you can vote. It’s if you turn 18 after when you have to wait.

However, in the UK, cutoffs in August are typical and standard. If there are schools in Britain that start in August, then a cutoff of August 31st makes sense. But for those that start after that, a cutoff no later than the first day of school, would be more rational. In New York, it’s usually the opposite. The cutoffs are often in December. I was born November 22nd, 1993, but graduated high school in 2011. So that meant I turned 5 a couple of months after starting kindergarten. I used to hate being the youngest in my grade and would say, “I’m too young for this grade. I belong in the grade below me.” That would have been true for me if I lived in many other states where the cutoffs are before my birthday, like in September. It’s rare for American school’s cutoffs to be earlier than September, though.

Anyway, now that I’ve gotten to learn these things, maybe it makes sense for almost every 6th-year in HBP to turn 17 prior to mid-April.