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We know that Harry's introductory letter from Hogwarts arrived some time before his birthday, but after he had already been accepted at the school Vernon and Petunia had picked out. It's possible that first years get their letters sooner than other years, to accommodate first time attendees.

In Book 2 Harry and Ron receive their book lists on an unknown date. Harry asks if Ginny will be attending Hogwarts as well. Ginny nods in confirmation, but it's possible that having six other siblings who have already attended is what makes her certain, rather than having already received her own letter.

In Book 3 Harry receives, on his birthday, a 'thicker than usual' letter from Hogwarts, which states that his book list and Hogsmeade permission form are included.

In Book 4, school supplies are not mentioned until after the World Cup, which seems to have been in mid-August.

Book 5 is an oddity. The students don't receive their lists until the last day of their holidays. Ron mentions he was worried they would never show up, as they "usually come much earlier than this." There is a possibility that Grimmauld Place, being the Order's headquarters, has some extra magical protections that delayed the owl delivery, but given that owls themselves have magical delivery powers of their own, this is only a vague guess.

Book 6 only mentions that OWL results came in the day after Harry and Dumbledore recruited Slughorn into teaching.

Are there any other sources or information that could indicate exactly when Hogwarts book lists are sent out? Or does Dumbledore, being quirky but also a bit careless, just send them out whenever he feels like it?

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  • 8
    I would imagine the Book 5 delay is mostly caused by all the machinations with the ministry and Dumbledore arguing about the DADA position rather than anything else.
    – Muzer
    Jan 9 '20 at 9:59
  • 3
    Regarding Ginny attending Hogwarts, is there any instance of a child of a wizardling family not being able to attend Hogarts? Jan 9 '20 at 17:29
  • 2
    @MichaelRichardson I guess squibs are not invited to study in Hogwarts Jan 9 '20 at 19:54
  • @MichaelRichardson I'm confused by this too. All wizarding children in England get invited to Hogwarts. I think one of the early books sort of makes it seem like this may not be the case, but it is.
    – user428517
    Jan 9 '20 at 22:26
  • In Book 2, I think it is suggested that both Ginny (1st Year) and Percy (6th Year, having just done his OWLs) received their letters a couple of weeks before the rest of them (and that Fred & George - 4th years - received their letters at the same time as the 2nd years Harry / Ron / Hermione) Jan 10 '20 at 9:56
44

There may be a very practical explanation for the schedule variances. The school can't send out the book lists until they know what books are assigned. They don't know what books are assigned until the teachers assign them. The teachers don't assign them until they are appointed teachers. Defense Against the Dark Arts always needs a new teacher, so the lists being sent out would be dependent on how quickly a new teacher could be found.

I believe this is very implicit, if not explicit, in the following passage from Order of the Phoenix:

He then opened his letter: It contained two pieces of parchment, one the usual reminder that term started on the first of September, the other telling him which books he would need for the coming year.

“Only two new ones,” he said, reading the list. “The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 5, by Miranda Goshawk and Defensive Magical Theory, by Wilbert Slinkhard.”

Crack.

Fred and George Apparated right beside Harry. He was so used to them doing this by now that he didn’t even fall off his chair.

“We were just wondering who assigned the Slinkhard book,” said Fred conversationally.

“Because it means Dumbledore’s found a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher,” said George.

“And about time too,” said Fred.

“What d’you mean?” Harry asked, jumping down beside them.

“Well, we overheard Mum and Dad talking on the Extendable Ears a few weeks back,” Fred told Harry, “and from what they were saying, Dumbledore was having real trouble finding anyone to do the job this year.”

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    Though I'd imagine the book list doesn't change all that much - I mean, they're still using Fantastic Beasts over a half-century after it was written, and many of their books are probably even older. It's not like in real-world modern academia where some publishers put out new editions every year... Jan 9 '20 at 16:48
  • @DarrelHoffman Could be the reverse problem, if older books are acceptable but they keep publishing new ones even every 5 years--after 50 years, you have 10 competing books to choose from. Jan 9 '20 at 17:20
  • 2
    @DarrelHoffman Lockhart and Umbridge both assigned new books.
    – Alex
    Jan 9 '20 at 19:16
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    @Alex but remember Lockhart was just trying to sell his own books!
    – NiceOrc
    Jan 10 '20 at 1:34
  • 1
    @NiceOrc That may have been his motivation, but he still had the prerogative to assign a new book.
    – Alex
    Jan 10 '20 at 14:18

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