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Hermione Granger is muggle born. Her parents are dentists. While Harry wasn't muggle born, he was raised by muggles, which amounts to the same thing when it comes to being exposed to magic.

Harry had curious incidents, like his hair growing back or a glass partition disappearing, freeing a snake (that he talked to!). Yet he only heard he was a wizard, when Hagrid famously delivered the letter.

How and when did Hermione find out she was a witch?

Was it the letter from Hogwarts, or had there been similar incidents? Did she figure it out herself?

When we first meet her, she brags that she has tried some simple spells at home, before starting her first year at Hogwarts. Did she do that in the time between getting the letter and getting on the train?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 31 down vote accepted

Hermione found out that she was a witch when she received a Hogwarts letter, describing it as a surprise:

“Nobody in my family’s magic at all, it was ever such a surprise when I got my letter, but I was ever so pleased, of course, I mean, it’s the very best school of witchcraft there is, I’ve heard – I’ve learnt all our set books off by heart, of course, I just hope it will be enough – I’m Hermione Granger, by the way, who are you?”

Philosopher's Stone, chapter 6, The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters

Of course, that doesn’t mean that Hermione didn’t exhibit any strange behaviour before she received her letter. JK Rowling described her parents as “a bit bemused” by her in 2004:

Does Hermione have any brothers or sisters?

No, she doesn’t. […] You see so much of Ron’s family so I thought that I would keep Hermione’s family, by contrast, quite ordinary. They are dentists, as you know. They are a bit bemused by their odd daughter but quite proud of her all the same.

JK Rowling at the Edinburgh Book Festival, August 2004

It’s not clear whether they were bemused before or after learning she was a witch. Afterwards would be natural, but before would suggest she was exhibiting magic from a young age.

I don’t think canon addresses Hermione at a young age, or whether she shows signs of magic like Harry. (At least, not yet. Perhaps we'll find out more in a Pottermore update.)

ETA: Anthony Grist makes a good point in the comments that Hermione must have shown magical ability at some point, for her to be admitted to Hogwarts. On Pottermore, the process by which students are selected is described: it’s the Quill of Acceptance and the Book of Acceptance (sample content; no account required), which contains this passage:

At the precise moment that a child first exhibits signs of magic, the Quill, which is believed to have been taken from an Augurey, floats up out of its inkpot and attempts to inscribe the name of that child upon the pages of the Book.

It also notes that “no child has ever been admitted whose name has not first been inscribed on the book’s yellowing pages”, so Hermione must have shown magic at some point, at least to the degree demanded by the Quill and Book.

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It's all a bit muddled in the books, to be honest, but I feel confident in saying she'd have to have shown some signs of magical ability prior to the letter - otherwise she wouldn't have received one. Hagrid says Harry's name had been down for Hogwarts since birth, but seems safe to assume that's because he had two magical parents (so there was a very high chance of him being a wizard). Neville mentions that his family had been worried that he didn't shown any signs of magic until quite late, too - probably wouldn't have received a letter if he hadn't by 11. –  Anthony Grist Jun 24 at 15:12
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On a related note: Am I just unable to find it or have we seriously never had a question on how Hogwarts and/or the Ministry detects Muggle-born witches and wizards? –  Anthony Grist Jun 24 at 15:17
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Somoene needs to ask Rowling what Hermione's first 'accidental' use of magic was. We MUST know! –  Zibbobz Jun 24 at 15:36
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@phantom42: The Pottermore piece is more detailed and (imo) well thought-out, so I think it supercedes the interview in this case. –  alexwlchan Jun 25 at 15:49
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Worth pointing out - Hermoine may have known she was magical, without realizing that she was a witch and that there was a community of such. It could be like suddenly finding out that there are other people who share your particular <insert word here> after thinking you were the only one in the world like that. –  Bobson Jun 25 at 20:44

In addition to excellent answer from @alexwlchan, we can deduce similar things from Lily Potter's history:

  • Her family had no idea she was a witch despite her showing magic early on and them being aware of it, until Lily was told by Severus:

    “You’re . . . you’re a witch,” whispered Snape

  • Severus told her that a teacher from Hogwarts will show up and explain to the family about wizarding world and Hogwarts

    “And will it really come by owl?” Lily whispered.
    “Normally,” said Snape. “But you’re Muggle-born, so someone from the school will have to come and explain to your parents.”

    (Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33, "The Prince's Tale")

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Citation needed: where did that text come from? –  ANeves Jun 25 at 14:51
    
@ANeves - Added :) –  DVK Jun 25 at 15:16

The dubious Harry Potter Wiki states:

In the summer of 1991, Hermione was surprised to learn that she was a witch and was invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. She eagerly accepted and took to studying magic even before she began her first year at Hogwarts in the September of 1991, learning all the set spell books by heart and even managing to perform "a few spells" successfully.

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It would've been when she turned eleven and got her Hogwarts letter. "Nobody in my family's magic at all,it was ever such a surprise when I got MY LETTER"-Philosopher's Stone. We can assume that she had demonstrated magical abilities before she got her letter,though she wouldn't have realized it was magic(like Harry)because in the quote she said it was a surprise to get her letter.This however s a very vague answer because no where in the books does it give you any background prior to her receiving her letter.       

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Can you substantiate this? You seem to be posting a lot of short, low-value comments without backing them up in any way. –  Richard Jul 6 at 19:20
    
"Nobody in my family's magic at all.it was ever such a surprise when I got MY LETTER"-Philosopher's Stone. –  user29085 Jul 8 at 10:55
    
Add that quote to your answer and it'll improve it immensely. That said, how do you address Anthony Grist's point that in order to get a letter, she must have already shown some magical ability? –  Richard Jul 8 at 11:32

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