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How did Dobby the house-elf intercept Harry's mail during Harry's summer holiday between Philosopher's Stone and Chamber of Secrets?

‘See what it’s like here?’ [Harry] said. ‘See why I’ve got to go back to Hogwarts? It’s the only place I’ve got – well, I think I’ve got friends.’

‘Friends who don’t even write to Harry Potter?’ said Dobby slyly.

‘I expect they’ve just been – hang on,’ said Harry, frowning. ‘How do you know my friends haven’t been writing to me?’

Dobby shuffled his feet. ‘Harry Potter mustn’t be angry with Dobby – Dobby did it for the best...’

Have you been stopping my letters?’

‘Dobby has them here, sir,’ said the elf.

Chamber of Secrets - page 19 - UK - chapter 2, Dobby's Warning

I saw a similar topic at another Q&A site while I was looking for a JKR interview link and thought this question might be a good fit for SE. I hadn't thought about it before, but it does seem like tracking Harry's mail would be a full time job that would've pulled Dobby away from his indentured servitude for the Malfoys. How did he manage it?

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  • A new tag for house elves? Lots more questions in the pipe I take it?
    – Xantec
    Apr 23, 2012 at 17:51
  • 1
    You seem upset. Have I done something offensive? Apr 23, 2012 at 19:04
  • No. More curious than anything else.
    – Xantec
    Apr 23, 2012 at 19:18
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    I was rather hoping for a SPEW tag, instead :)
    – K-H-W
    Apr 23, 2012 at 19:25
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    Ah, okay. Well, I tagged my house-elf question with "house-elf" for identification purposes. Nothing more nefarious than that, I promise :) Apr 23, 2012 at 19:28

1 Answer 1

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Unfortunately this answer is going to be largely supposition based off known magic as I don't believe there is an in-universe explanation as to how it was definitively done.

My guess would be that Dobby could place a variant of an Intruder Charm (the spell that Slughorn uses to let him know of visitors when he's squatting) to let him know when an owl arrives at Privet Place. When that occurs, Dobby can Apparate there and intercept the mail prior to Harry receiving it. This would only require a short Apparation each time Harry receives a mail which, all things considered, would still not be frequently (just by virtue of how often people write mail, maybe once or twice a day at the very very most).

This shouldn't have an impact upon his servitude for the Malfoys unless the mail arrives at the same time that Dobby is waiting on them. Given the Malfoys' attitude towards Dobby, it's not unreasonable to guess that they would not have Dobby sitting in the room with them at all times and hence leave him free to steal mail.

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  • One problem: how did Dobby get a wand to cast that spell?
    – user112267
    May 7, 2019 at 17:44
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    @InventPalooza The answer does say "a variant of an Intruder Charm". House elves have their own magic that doesn't need wands. For instance, Dobby made the cake float without a wand. May 7, 2019 at 20:32
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    House Elves are ridiculously powerful. Remember that Kreacher was force-fed that horrible drink by Voldemort to test out the defenses on his Horcrux, then left for dead on an island shielded from apparition and most other magic, with a horde of inferi in the lake, and he apparently waltzed right through all of it because "Master told Kreacher to come back home" and he doesn't understand why the Trio is having trouble wrapping their minds around this...
    – Shadur
    Dec 17, 2019 at 21:19

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