In Harry Potter, the first book, Harry receives a letter from Hogwarts after he turned eleven. Due to the interception of his uncle, he didn't get to read the first letter.

They then began to send him dozens of letters, and then they sent Hagrid since they could not reach him by mail.

How did they know that he hadn't read the first letter?

  • 27
    They used magic!
    – CHEESE
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 0:35
  • 3
    Magic in the Harry Potter universe, who could have guessed!
    – Phiter
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 0:36
  • 3
    Harry was eleven not twelve.
    – user76394
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 3:56
  • Surely there is the magical equivalent of a read-receipt, like in email.
    – Seeds
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 21:30
  • 2
    @Seeds More specifically a read by intended recipient-receipt. The first letter was read, just not by Harry. Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 22:03

5 Answers 5


He didn't reply.

Dear Mr Potter,

We are pleased to inform you that you have a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.

Term begins on 1 September. We await your owl by no later than 31 July.

Yours sincerely,

Minerva McGonagall

Deputy Headmistress

Quite why they started mithering him before the deadline is another question, possibly because they normally get responses back earlier?

  • 2
    He is their star attraction. Probably didn't want to risk him throwing his letter out as junk mail. Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 11:01

If you remember they appeared to be monitoring him at all times. Remember how Hagrid was the one sending the letters. And when they noticed them not reading the letters they sent more.

Edit: Yeah as the other answer said he didn't reply. But also they sent another before the deadline.

  • Sorry about not having a source. I am unable to get a book right now.
    – user70441
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 0:59

Actually what Hagrid says In H.P.S.S is this

"It's them who should be sorry! I knew yeh weren't gettin' yer letters but I never thought ya wouldn't even know about Hogwarts, for crying out loud! Did you never wonder where your parents learned it all?" Blockquote

So no... They knew Harry was NOT getting to read his letters. How they knew this was because Harry never replied. Also the letters are magical. Showing up in eggs and such, Hagrid Bewitched them.

Be grateful if yeh didn't mention that ter anyone at Hogwarts. he said "I'm not supposed to do magic, strictly speaking I was allowed to do a bit ter follow yeh an' get your letters to yeh and stuff--- one o' the reasons I was so keen to take on the job.

H.P.S.S chapter 4 page 45

So the letters themselves could be marked as unread by the person they were meant for.

  • 2
    I never thought that Hagrid was involved in bewitching the letters into eggs, or even in delivering any of the earlier letters at all - I always thought that was a very Dumbledore thing to do (similar to how the glasses of oak-matured mead were bouncing on the Dursleys' heads in Half-Blood Prince). Instead, once Dumbledore saw that all of the other methods of getting Harry a letter had failed, he asked Hagrid to swing by and pick him up before visiting Gringotts.
    – Adam V
    Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 15:17
  • 1
    He says he was allowed to do a bit of magic " getting Harry's letters to him and getting to the hut on the rock" I can get a quote from the book if you'd like
    – Flitoangel
    Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 15:39

I believe Mrs Figg, Harry's neighbor, (seen in the Order of the Phoenix) tipped Dumbledore off. She's a Squib and a member of the Order of the Phoenix and she was stationed to live near Harry in order to keep an eye on him and the Dursleys.

  • 3
    Is that just a guess, or is there specific evidence that Mrs. Figg A) knew Harry hadn't read the first letter, and B) told Dumbledore about that? Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 0:42

The thing is, is that they actually thought he got the letters. When Hagrid first Came to visit Harry on the island, and he was telling him everything he needed to know, he was talking about magic, and Harry didn't know about them. then Hagrid said Something like " Havn't you been getting the letters?" and then Harry said that he didn't. So to sum it all up Hagrid actually thought that Harry got the letters.

  • 1
    But how did they know Harry hadn't got the first letter? The dozens of letter followed after they notoced Harry had not read the first letter.
    – Invoker
    Commented Jan 30, 2017 at 20:53
  • This is not the case - Hagrid expected the Dursleys to have explained to Harry the contents of the original letter (left with Harry on the doorstep by Dumbledore) but the letters sent by Hogwarts didn't explain anything about magic.
    – Adam V
    Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 15:17
  • @Darth Theory Ok.. but Hagrid says he knew Harry wasn't getting his letters as I said before... Harry didn't know anything about the wizarding world. Hagrid assumed the Dursley s told Harry what was in his letter from Dumbledore.
    – Flitoangel
    Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 16:29
  • @Darth Theory are you thinking about the second book? Chamber of Secrets. Because Dobby steals all of Harry's letters and he doesn't reply to Hagrid because of Dobby? Because I can't find anywhere in that chapter where Hagrid says to Harry " haven't you been getting your letters?" Can you give a quote?
    – Flitoangel
    Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 18:57

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