12

‘Second problem: you’re under-age, which means you’ve still got the Trace on you.’

‘I don’t –’

‘The Trace, the Trace!’ said Mad-Eye impatiently. ‘The charm that detects magical activity around under-seventeens, the way the Ministry finds out about under-age magic! If you, or anyone around you, casts a spell to get you out of here, Thicknesse is going to know about it, and so will the Death Eaters.’

Deathly Hallows - page 45 - Bloomsbury - chapter 4, The Seven Potters

Why didn't Harry hear that the detection of underage magic was called "The Trace" until he was almost seventeen and slated to go into his seventh year at Hogwarts? Surely Ron and Hermione knew of this term, and it would seem Harry might have heard other students talking about the Trace at Hogwarts. Especially since Harry was formally disciplined for under-age magic twice (Aunt Marge in PoA and the Patronus Charm in OotP), he ought to have known about the Trace long before year seven.

Why didn't Harry know about the Trace prior to Deathly Hallows? Why wasn't this moniker introduced until the seventh book?

  • 7
    Not sure if this is very constructive, doesn't it just come down to him not asking/caring for the name of the charm that they use to detected the underage magic? There is plenty that Harry still doesn't know even after the seventh book, and in the case of the Trace, he never has Hermione right there at the time it happens to quote Hogwarts, A History, or Underage Wizardry; Detection, Selection, and Coercion: A Field Guide to Developing Dumbledore's Army. – NominSim Sep 10 '12 at 4:26
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    The way Mad-Eye says it "impatiently" seems to imply that it's something he should know about. My guess is that it was covered sometime during Professor Binns' History classes. – NiceOrc Sep 10 '12 at 4:49
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    @NiceOrc - make that an asnwer. Harry wasn't exactly an A- student – DVK-on-Ahch-To Sep 10 '12 at 13:20
22

You know that your phone calls inside the USA can be bugged and lisened to by Law Enforcement (hopefully with a warrant).

Quickly: what's the actual name of the program used to do that?

  • If you answered "no idea", now you know why Harry didn't know the name of the spell. It was more than enough for him to know the charm existed and its effects on him.

  • If you answered "Echelon", I hereby award you a Conspiracy Theorist badge. Echelon could not be used for domestic surveillance[1]. You're STILL no better off than Harry.

  • If you answered with a real program name, you are hereby declared to be Hermione :)


Why didn't Harry hear that the detection of underage magic was called "The Trace" until he was almost seventeen and slated to go into his seventh year at Hogwarts?

Mostly, because he was not Hermione. He had a practical appreciation of magic.

It was enough for him to know that yes, he can be traced. The name of the charm does him no good so why bother researching?

Surely Ron and Hermione knew of this term, and it would seem Harry might have heard other students talking about the Trace at Hogwarts.

This was mostly an internal Ministry charm. People would talk about the effects of it, but it's not at all clear that non-DMLE[2] wizards would easily know what it's called.

Ron (IIRC) told Harry about the underage magic restriction. Dumbledore definitely did. Neither ever used the term "Trace".

Moody was impatient but it doesn't necessarily imply he was annoyed at Harry not knowing a common fact as opposed to simply wanting to not be interrupted and get a move on.

Especially since Harry was formally disciplined for under-age magic twice (Aunt Marge in PoA and the Patronus Charm in OotP), he ought to have known about the Trace long before year seven.

But he did know. He just didn't know (or need or care to know) what the charm was called.

[1] OK, technically there were rumors that Echelon may have been used to minotor domestic calls in terrorism related investigations in 2000s. I don't know if it was true, but this is a minor specific case not applicable to most phone taps by domestic law enforcement

[2] DMLE=Department of Magical Law Enforcement

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    pedantic note: ECHELON is used by more than the US; the NSA isn't (supposed to be) using it domestically but nothing's stopping Canada or the UK from doing it (and funneling the information to the NSA who will conveniently forget to get angry about it...) – KutuluMike Sep 11 '12 at 14:53
  • @MichaelEdenfield - from vague remembrances, using that info even if obtained that way is illegal. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Sep 11 '12 at 16:02
  • @DVK - Is it necessarily illegal if one party is aware of how the information is being gathered? Anyhow, regarding the Trace, yeah, I get what you're saying, but it's still a bit of a stretch for me. It's like not knowing that "Kleenex" is a brand name for tissue. Who doesn't know that by 17? Regardless, accept. :) – Slytherincess Oct 3 '12 at 16:55
  • @Slytherincess - frankly, I didn't know that by 17. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 3 '12 at 17:06
  • @DVK - Fair enough. There are lots of things I didn't know at 17. :) – Slytherincess Oct 3 '12 at 17:44
4

‘The Trace, the Trace!’ said Mad-Eye impatiently.

I think the key word here is "impatiently". The way Mad-Eye says this gives me the feeling that it is something Harry should have known. It would probably be a topic covered in Professor Binns' History classes, that no-one listens to. So it is a subject that is covered in the curriculum, a professor or other adult would see it as common knowledge, the students have been told about it, but the actual information has just floated past Harry.

  • I definitely agree with you that the Trace would be a topic covered in Hogwarts lessons. I tend to think it would be taught in Charms or Defence Against the Dark Arts, though, more so than History of Magic. +1 :) – Slytherincess Oct 3 '12 at 16:57

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