In the book Harry Potter and the Philosopher's (Sorcerer's) Stone, why didn't Harry, Ron, and Hermione send Hedwig to Dumbledore instead of going after Snape (Quirrell) themselves? Or at least, send Hedwig to Dumbledore before going after Snape (Quirrell)?

We know Harry thought about it, as he says this to Ron and Hermione:

He lowered himself through the hole until he was hanging on by his fingertips. Then he looked up at Ron and said, "If anything happens to me, don't follow. Go straight to the owlery and send Hedwig to Dumbledore, right?"

Later, we also find out Dumbledore meant for Harry to go after the Stone himself.

“D’you think he meant you to do it?” said Ron. “Sending you your father’s cloak and everything?”

“Well, ” Hermione exploded, “if he did — I mean to say that’s terrible — you could have been killed.”

“No, it isn’t,” said Harry thoughtfully. “He’s a funny man, Dumbledore. I think he sort of wanted to give me a chance. I think he knows more or less everything that goes on here, you know. I reckon he had a pretty good idea we were going to try, and instead of stopping us, he just taught us enough to help. I don’t think it was an accident he let me find out how the mirror worked. It’s almost like he thought I had the right to face Voldemort if I could…”

However, at the time Harry did not know this and would have no reason not to send Hedwig to Dumbledore.

Obviously, there's an out-of-universe answer as to why the heroes had to do it themselves, but is there an in-universe explanation?

  • Because they are kids. 11 year olds aren't known for their excellent decision making. Commented Dec 7, 2019 at 15:00

2 Answers 2


Because Dumbledore was not at Hogwarts, and it would have been too late

When the trio rushes to find Dumbledore, they meet professor McGonagall, and she tells them the news.

Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone, Chapter 16

“Professor Dumbledore left ten minutes ago,” she said coldly. “He received an urgent owl from the Ministry of Magic and flew off for London at once.”

Why not send an owl? Because it would be too late. Consider that the owl has to reach Dumbledore, he has to read the letter, and travel back to Hogwarts. All these steps take time, even with magic, but still some hours. At the same time, the thief (Snape/Quirrel) was likely to have bypassed Fluffy. So it could have take him minutes to get to the Stone.

Send an owl before going themselves after the thief? Probably they had no time for that, either. In this question, it is detailed that the Owlery is in a different wing of the castle, and getting there may not be very quick. Also, other teachers (or Filch) could interfere and make them waste more time explaining, or getting a detention.

Yes, they did spent some time after that encounter with McGonagall: deciding whether to go for the Stone, trying to spy on Snape, etc. But given that Dumbledore returned hours later, sending an owl could not change much in this setup.

  • 1
    But they didn’t go after the thief until that night anyway: "I'm going out of here tonight and I'm going to try and get to the Stone first." From the time they left Snape at the staff room until they went through the trapdoor would have been quite a few hours, yet they still didn’t send an owl to Dumbledore.
    – Alex
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 22:09
  • As Alex says, they had plenty of time from the time McGonagall tells them APWBD already left to send an owl. Furthermore, as I mentioned in my question, Harry told them to send an owl if something happened to him so why not send an owl before rather than risk being killed? Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 23:16

For much the same reason that they take it upon themselves to first look for Hermione, second lock the troll in the girls' toilets (though they don't know it's the girls' toilets yet) and finally to rescue Hermione themselves (although in this case there is another, probably stronger, reason: supreme urgency, and also a desire to rectify their mistake).

For much the same reason that Harry and Ron choose, in the next book, to fly a car to Hogwarts.

For the same reason they then, after meeting with Lockhart, proceed straight to the Chamber of Secrets, instead of back to the staff room.

For broadly similar reasons to Hermione trying to stop Snake jinxing Harry's broom herself with her magical fire.

It's Harry, Ron and Hermione! They're Gryffindors!

Have you ever been an 11-/12- year old kid?

The light of adventure is in their eyes. They wanna save the world. Of course they don't necessarily act sensibly, they're kids.

'You ... this isn't a criticism, Harry! But you do ... sort of ... I mean - don't you think you've got a bit of a - a - saving-people thing?' she said.

He glared at her.

'And what's that supposed to mean, a "saving-people thing"?'

'Well ... you ...' she looked more apprehensive than ever. 'I mean ... last year, for instance ... in the lake ... during the Tournament ... you shouldn't have ... I mean, you didn't need to save that little Delacour girl ... you got a bit ... carried away ...'

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - p.646 - Bloomsbury - Chapter 32, Out of the Fire

'Oh, you don't know Potter as I do, Bellatrix,' said Malfoy softly. 'He has a great weakness for heroics; the Dark Lord understands this about him.'

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - p.690 - Bloomsbury - Chapter 35, Beyond the Veil

That's, to me, the nub of it. But there are other points.

They, like us, are relatively new to the magical world. Of course, when we read this book, we don't know anything about Apparition, and it is a bit of a shame that the end of this book gets a little harder to swallow when you re-read it and you do know that Dumbledore could zip to and from Hogsmeade (if not Hogwarts) in an instant, but they're probably a bit naive about how long it would take to alert Dumbledore and get him back. Ron and Hermione should know about Apparition (Ron from growing up in a wizarding family, Hermione from reading any book that comes under her nose), but Harry probably had no clue. Leaving Apparition to one side, though, owl post is still slow. The snowy owl "generally [flies at] less than 30 miles per hour (48 km/hr) but they can reach speeds exceeding 50 miles per hour (80 km/hr)." (http://environmentalaska.us/snowy-owl.html). Edinburgh (which is almost certainly way too far south for Hogwarts) is over 400 miles from London by road. Now admittedly Hedwig can travel as the owl files, but that's still 8 hours at top speed (which she'd never ever be able to maintain, but let's allow for a little bit of magic). Now it's true that the exact mechanics of owl post aren't fully fleshed out in the books, but owl post, we can safely say, is slow.

Then there's the matter of convincing him.

"Dear Professor Dumbledore,

You know that teacher you've been trusting to guard the Philosopher's Stone with you, well he's going to steal it. Honest. Trust us.

Yours sincerely, 3 first years"

It would be different if he was there. When they thought they could talk to him, convince him, that was different. But what do you put in a letter?

Also, I mean, they put 2 and 2 together. They know that it's not a coincidence. It's safe to assume Snape has done something to get Dumbledore out of the way and keep him there. I think they just kind of subconsciously take for granted that he can't make it back in time, because it confirms their worst fear, and it also unleashes their inner heroes, you know, it licenses them to do what they kinda wanna do anyway!

So, why bother sending a letter afterwards?

Well what else are you gonna do at that stage? I suppose they could indeed have already sent the letter. But they don't really think like that, and clearly when you read that book you did think like that, but I didn't. I don't think many people did. Dumbledore's gone. You take for granted he's not coming back. So there's no choice left, right? They have to go through the trapdoor themselves. They then focus on preparing for that. Then once they're there, okay, they now think, right, backup time, if we can't do it, we'll send something to Dumbledore and at least alert him, at least let him know. At least it's something. A plan C.

Also, you know, I don't think what's going through Harry's mind is "this, at last, is the time to send an owl to Dumbledore, so let's make sure Ron and Hermione send the owl", I think it's "if anything happens to me, how do I make sure my friends don't follow me to their deaths, and instead get out of here"? You know, he's mainly telling Ron not to follow and sending an owl to Dumbledore is a way for him and Hermione to do something nominally more useful than plunging after Harry to near-certain death.

Seeing the open door somehow seemed to impress upon all three of them what was facing them. Underneath the Cloak, Harry turned to the other two.

'If you want to go back, I won't blame you,' he said. 'You can take the Cloak, I won't need it now.'

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - p.200 - Bloomsbury - Chapter 16, Through the Trapdoor

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