While this question answers how Snape knew Harry and Hermione were in the Forest of Dean, how did he know exactly where to send his patronus so that Harry would see it and be led to the sword of Gryffindor? Wikipedia indicates the area is over 110 square kilometers in size, so it would not have been an insignificant task to locate one small tent.

Did Snape over come the protective spells that Hermione would have cast or did he use another method to locate Harry? Or did Hermione forget to cast the protective spells (perhaps because of Harry's state at the time), which would account for Harry and Ron finding their way back in this question?

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    Purely speculating here, but Ron used the Deluminator to find them, and it seemed to guide him quite precisely to their location. It's possible that Dumbledore had another similar magical item (or another Deluminator) that he'd created, which Snape used to locate them as well. – Anthony Grist Jun 4 '12 at 15:11
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    Possible duplicate of How did Snape know how to find Harry? – apollo Feb 19 '16 at 14:24
  • @apollo Clearly not a duplicate—that’s the question that inspired this one, and as this question mentions, it only answers how Snape knew they were in the Forest of Dean, not how he knew where in the Forest of Dean they were. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 19 '16 at 14:48
  • @apollo ‘Related’ doesn’t mean ‘duplicate’. They very clearly are related, and the other question appears in the Linked section in the sidebar on the right as it should; but they are not the same question, and their answers differ quite fundamentally. There would have to be some extensive editing to make it one question, and that editing would invalidate several answers already given, which is considered a big no-no. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 19 '16 at 15:15
  • Surprised you accept Steam’s answer rather than Slytherincess’ – would you care to say why? – PJTraill Jan 1 '19 at 12:48

Depending on how the Patronus charm works, Snape has at least one method of locating Harry. As we have seen in several instances, the Weasley wedding and Harry's return to Hogwarts, the Patronus Charm can be used to deliver messages. In this case, the spirit guardian flies off toward the intended recipient. Considering that Snape has shown the ability to fly, it would not be inconceivable for him to Apparate to the Forest of Dean (to avoid tails) and proceed to cast and follow his Patronus to wherever Harry is.

  • But do we know that the Patronus can always locate the target, or only when one knows where they are anyway? – PJTraill Jan 4 '19 at 21:24
  • If the Patronus located the target, then e.g. Voldemort could only send Patronus to find Harry. Or vice versa, Dumbledore could track down Voldemort long before the Second wizarding war... – byk7 Dec 24 '19 at 23:46

Snape was tipped off by Phineas Nigellus, who was moving between his portraits in Hermione's bag and Hogwarts. Phineas overheard Hermione talking about their location in the Forest of Dean because Hermione forgot to close her enchanted beaded bag. Phineas then reported the location information to Snape in the Headmaster's office.

And now Snape stood again in the Headmaster’s study as Phineas Nigellus came hurrying into his portrait.

‘Headmaster! They are camping in the Forest of Dean! The Mudblood –’

‘Do not use that word!’

‘– the Granger girl, then, mentioned the place as she opened her bag and I heard her!’

‘Good. Very good!’ cried the portrait of Dumbledore behind the Headmaster’s chair. ‘Now, Severus, the sword! Do not forget that it must be taken under conditions of need and valour – and he must not know that you give it! If Voldemort should read Harry’s mind and see you acting for him –’

‘I know,’ said Snape curtly.

Deathly Hallows -- page 553 -- Bloomsbury -- chapter 33, The Prince's Tale

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    I think he is looking for how Snape found them within the forest itself. Hermione didn't give the exact location within the (as the OP points out) extensive forest. He is asking how in the large forest Snape managed to find the relatively small area where they happened to be. – NominSim Jun 4 '12 at 18:30
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    @NominSim - Ah, okay. Thank you for clarifying. Well, there's no canon answer to that, but surely someone will give a good subjective answer that will be a good fit. :) – Slytherincess Jun 4 '12 at 18:56
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    I don't have my book here but if you do, around that area there is a quote about the movement of the doe, where if I remember correctly it stands still for quite a while before moving off. I always imagined that Snape would put the doe in an area of the woods, wait for someone to appear(as they were wont to do if a brightly lit doe were to suddently appear to investigate), and if they didn't he would move to another area. Kind of like going fishing, using the doe as a lure. Don't have the quote on me though so I may be wrong in that assumption. – NominSim Jun 4 '12 at 19:01
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    @Xantec I credit that to the ubiquitous gaze. If muggles like Leonardo da Vinci(assuming he issss a muggle) can do it with paint I've no doubt that magic can produce a similar effect. – NominSim Jun 4 '12 at 19:53
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    In the world of magic anything is possible. Then again, in the dead of night when surrounded by a velvety darkness, coming out of a half-sleep and being approached by a glowing doe a second could feel like an eternity. – Xantec Jun 4 '12 at 20:05

Ron got there because of the deluminator. He was probably the only human wandering the forest in the freezing cold. Maybe Snape searched and found Ron. Ron never says he used any enchantments to hide himself while he was trying to find Harry & Hermione.

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    Good point. But Ron didn't show up until after Harry had already jumped in the water. – Xantec Oct 14 '14 at 18:52
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    @Xantec Well… he didn’t find Harry until just before Harry jumped in the water, but he had been close by for hours. Assuming Dumbledore knew (perhaps through other hints from Nigellus) that Ron had gone off and that he had by now figured out how to use the Deluminator to get back to Harry and Hermione, he would also know that the Deluminator would bring Ron much closer than just a huge, 110 km² area. So it is possible that Snape sought out Ron first, to get the general area right, and then sent his Patronus off to sniff around and see if it didn’t come across Harry somewhere. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 19 '16 at 14:59
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    We never see how sending Patronuses off to other people works from inside the sender’s head, so we don’t know exactly how cognisant the sender is of what the Patronus sees. If you can see/feel what your Patronus sees/feels when you send it off on a mission, Snape would know the moment the Patronus found Harry and would be able to hide the sword in the lake in time for Harry to find it when he arrived, minutes later. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 19 '16 at 15:01

It will get covered in the chapter with Snape's memories, but Hermione tells Harry where they are as her bag is open. Phineas Nigellus is in the bag, so he hears her and then he tells Snape.

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    Welcome to the site! Ordinarily I would strongly recommend you include a passage from the chapter (or at least the name of the chapter!) to back you up, but Slytherincess already did so 4½ years ago and I'm not sure what your new answer really adds if anything? – Au101 Dec 24 '16 at 2:53
  • Yes, this and Slytherincess' answer is correct. All the rest are really just speculations, Rowling does indeed answer this. – Mat Cauthon Jun 22 '17 at 9:46

I always assumed a Patronus works like a text message. You don't need to know where the recipient is, only whom you are sending a message to. This would answer the question of how Snape found Harry's exact location - he didn't but the Patronus did. Another example to support this: Mr. Weasley couldn't have known where Harry, Ron and Hermione escaped to after the wedding but they got his message about the family being safe anyway.

Harry had to walk quite a while after he decided to follow the doe to the spot where the sword was presented to him. This makes sense if you think he could have been anywhere in the vast forest of Dean as far as Snape knew. He had to lure Harry to the sword from wherever he was in the forest.

I belive Ron's appearance had nothing to do with Snape's actions. Ron later explains how he was looking for his friends with the help of the Deluminator but in the end he only found Harry because he left the location guarded by their protective charms after following the doe. Very lucky!

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    Canon doesn't suggest this though. It was Phineas Black who helped him. You're right that Ron finding Harry has no connexion to Severus though; it was indeed the Deluminator but that's quite different. He had been in the area for quite some time but couldn't find Harry until he happened to show up. And a question: how could have Severus put the sword there if only he didn't know where he was and only the Patronus did? – Pryftan Jun 16 '18 at 0:42

No offence but Snape's no Muggle, he's probably the third most powerful wizard in the book, he's already shown he can get inside Harry's head and we all know what the power of love can do in the magical world!!! Or it could just be magic! 😉

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    Yes, Snape is a very skilled wizard. :) This doesn't really answer the question of how he found Harry and Hermione though. – Bellatrix Oct 2 '17 at 2:37
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    @Bellatrix He even deceived you! But you're right too. Of course love is part of it at least insofar as Severus being able to cast a Patronus (etc.) but that's irrelevant without the portrait that Hermione took into her bag. How interesting and ironic that her distrust of both Phineas and Severus helped them tremendously! – Pryftan Jun 16 '18 at 0:45
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    @Pryftan I questioned him quite intensely though, and only believed him after he’d made the Unbreakable Vow. That’s true, love is basically a part of nearly everything major in the events of the series. Yes, that is indeed ironic that Hermione’s distrust actually helped them. – Bellatrix Jun 20 '18 at 18:28
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    @Bellatrix Well he also had rather good arguments. Yet something tells me he didn't really deceive you: fully. He didn't did he? But what could you have done? The Dark Lord trusted him and Cissy was desperate for her son, understandably, as most would be, if they were sent on a suicide mission. In the end you trusted - but only just. And yes love is important and it's something I've only learnt in the last couple years and I read the books long ago (and I'm in the end of my mid 30s). – Pryftan Jun 20 '18 at 23:06
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    @Pryftan No, he never truly deceived me, but there was as you say, nothing I could really do. The Dark Lord trusted him and was still angry about the prophecy being broken, he wasn’t going to listen to me. All Narcissa cared about was her precious son, she valued him more than the Dark Lord’s cause. Snape acted suspiciously and I was right indeed to doubt him! Well, I wasn’t saying I personally believe love is important, I was saying the Harry Potter series does. – Bellatrix Jun 20 '18 at 23:26

Dumbledore can sense places that have known magic and sense magical concealment. He could have explained that to Snape.

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    Please add evidence to back your answer. – HBhatia Nov 27 '15 at 8:02
  • Even if he did explain it to Severus - assuming that he actually needed it (it was he after all who points out that wand waving and incantations isn't the only kind of magic) - the fact of the matter is it was Hermione's mistrusting Phineas Black and Severus that helped Severus find them. Imagine indeed if Hermione didn't bag the portrait! What would have happened then? – Pryftan Jun 21 '18 at 23:23

JKR is hardly known for intricate flawless plots, no fantasy novels are flawless. I would personally say it’s the power of snapes life be for lily and the unknown force of a powerful patronus carrying a powerful sword that appears to those who need it that finds them 😊

  • You mean nothing is perfect. But even so Rowling actually talked about how Severus - out of spite - deliberately placed the sword in the frozen lake. The Patronus didn't carry the sword; it merely guided Harry to the sword. – Pryftan Jun 16 '18 at 0:47

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