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In the Harry Potter series book 5 (The Order of the Phoenix), when Hagrid comes back, the three (Harry, Ron, Hermonie) go to his cabin "through the thickening snow". How could, a considerable time later, Umbridge discern their tracks and follow them? That should not have been possible, as the thickening snow would have hidden their tracks in a matter of minutes. Did Umbridge use magic, or what?

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  • Are you sure it says "rapidly thickening"? In my book I only see "thickening", in which case it would be much less surprising.
    – Alex
    Commented Apr 8, 2022 at 0:57
  • I am not sure- however, if they can see it thickening in the five minutes (aprox.) they spent going to the cabin, during the 30-60 minutes it would have certainly been enough to cover the tracks. Anyway I will edit just in case I'm wrong :). Commented Apr 8, 2022 at 6:19
  • It doesn't seem that surprising. Tracks can last in snow a significant time, particularly if the snow is compacted: even if covered by a layer of new snow, the snow underneath will be different, and footsteps will fill in differently to the surrounding snow. A lot depends on the consistency of the snow. If the scene is set in the UK, it is unlikely that large quantities of snow will fall quickly, and British snow tends to be quite wet which means it is less likely to blow or drift.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Apr 8, 2022 at 11:59
  • Or maybe Umbridge was spying on them? I don't have any evidence though. But it seems like am Umbridge thing to do - she's practically spying on Harry the entire year. Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 3:55

2 Answers 2

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It's just "thickening", which doesn't say anything about the speed. Footsteps could last a while and you don't need every track to see where it leads.

If she's working from an assumption the path was already heading cabin-wards, then just a few footsteps would do.

Thanks for the comments to form this answer.

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Normally, the answer to a question like this might simply be that the author forgot that she had described the snow as thickening, or that she didn't fully think through the implications that would have for track-following.

However, in this case, it seems from a later passage that the author had both the thickening snow and the tracks in mind while writing this. At the end of the very chapter in question, the trio return to the castle with the following description:

"I dunno if you got through to him," said Ron a short while later when, having checked that the coast was clear, they walked back up to the castle through the thickening snow, leaving no trace behind them due to the Obliteration Charm Hermione was performing as they went.

It thus seems clear that, at least in the author's opinion, thickening snow alone would not be enough to conceal tracks.

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