The Trace is supposed to report any magical activity from a young wizard.

But as is it said here, it actually reports the magic done around the young wizard, without knowing who really did the spell.

The Ministry trusts magical parents to properly discipline their children if they perform magic due to the fact that the parents' own magic will constantly interfere with the Trace. Children who grow up in the Muggle world, such as Harry Potter, are more closely monitored — any magic that was performed at or near 4 Privet Drive was assumed to have been caused by him because he was the only known magical person living in his neighbourhood. Thus, when the house-elf Dobby used magic at that location, the Ministry blamed Harry.

In the Order of the Phoenix, when Harry is about to leave, Tonks helps him pack his belongings.

"Don't be stupid, it'll be much quicker if I - pack" cried Tonks, waving her wand in a long, sweeping movement over the floor".

And a few moments later :

"... That could do with a bit of cleaning, too - Scourgify..."

"Locomotor Trunk."

Harry is already in trouble for using a Patronus Charm (first letter from the ministry) :

We have received intelligence that you performed the Patronus Charm at twenty-three minutes past nine this evening in a Muggle-inhabited area and in the presence of a Muggle. The severity of this breach of the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery has resulted in your expulsion from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.


As you have already received an official warning for a previous offense under section 13 of the International Confederation of Wizards’ Statute of Secrecy, we regret to inform you that your presence is required at a disciplinary hearing at the Ministry of Magic at 9 A.M. on August 12th.

It seems he is in trouble just for using a spell, not because it was done outside and in the presence of muggle.

So wouldn't the spells used by Tonks be the perfect excuse to expel him for good ?

EDIT : I'm adding that it seems they want to be discreet. I don't see them warning the ministry that they are going to use magic, because even that Kingsley, Arthur and Tonks are associated is a secret.

“How’re we getting — wherever we’re going?” Harry asked.

“Brooms,” said Lupin. “Only way. You’re too young to Apparate, they’ll be watching the Floo Network, and it’s more than our life’s worth to set up an unauthorized Portkey.”

  • 4
    I believe the Dursleys were sent out for the evening for a fake contest (Best Lawn in England! Or something like that), so there were no Muggles in the house when the Order came to collect Harry. All the Order members are fully qualified witches and wizards and can use magic freely. The same may not be true for Dobby, as he is a house-elf and house-elf magic is different than wizarding magic. The rules may be different for house-elves. But if it were merely about performing magic in front of an underage wizard, the Ministry would be barraging families and adults with disciplinary owls. Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 15:31
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    @Slytherincess I think you're onto something about the Dursleys being out during Tonks' use of magic. This warning, the second one in particular (that he gets about his patronus charm) seems to be explicitly about using magic in front of muggles. No muggles, no problem.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 15:36
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    @Slytherincess yes that would be interesting if the trace pings when magic is used in the presence of muggles. however since they went to the effort to get them out of the house, they could have also informed whoever matters that they were picking harry up, since it wasn't exactly a secret. Arthur weasely would have been the most likely choice as he was known to get harry already, and then brought Harry to court.
    – Himarm
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 15:41
  • 1
    i also think they did mention that in wizarding families the families themselves are held responsible and that the kids can use magic if their parents allow it because they weren't able to enforce it.
    – Himarm
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 15:46
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    Not an answer because I suspect it isn't canon, but I think the simplest explanation is that the Trace can tell whether or not an adult wizard is nearby. Commented Jun 17, 2018 at 23:08

2 Answers 2


The Patronus incident is the Ministry's (Fudge) excuse to get Harry expelled by portraying Harry as a young out-of-control wizard. Discrediting Harry would also discredit his claims that Voldemort has returned.

The patronus incident was perfect excuse to try and expell Harry because the Ministry thought there were no witnesses to the appearance of the dementors

from book 5 order of the phoenix chapter number twelve, Grimmauld Place

“And of course, they didn’t report a word about the dementors attacking you,” said Hermione. “Someone’s told them to keep that quiet. That should’ve been a really big story, out-of-control dementors. They haven’t even reported that you broke the International Statute of Secrecy — we thought they would, it would tie in so well with this image of you as some stupid show-off — we think they’re biding their time until you’re expelled, then they’re really going to go to town — I mean, if you’re expelled, obviously,” she went on hastily, “you really shouldn’t be, not if they abide by their own laws, there’s no case against you.”

also book 5 order of the phoenix chapter the hearing

“Dementors in Little Whinging?” Madam Bones said in tones of great surprise. “I don’t understand —” “Don’t you, Amelia?” said Fudge, still smirking. “Let me explain. He’s been thinking it through and decided dementors would make a very nice little cover story, very nice indeed. Muggles can’t see demen- tors, can they, boy? Highly convenient, highly convenient . . . so it’s just your word and no witnesses. . . .” “I’m not lying!” said Harry loudly, over another outbreak of mut- tering from the court.

The Ministry (Fudge) even went as far as changing the time of the hearing in the hope that Harry would miss it and not be able to defend himself.

from book 5 order of the phoenix chapter the ministry of magic

“Oh Arthur!” he said desperately, without looking at Harry. “Thank goodness, I didn’t know what to do for the best, whether to wait here for you or not, I’ve just sent an owl to your home but you’ve obviously missed it — an urgent message came ten minutes ago —” “I know about the regurgitating toilet,” said Mr. Weasley. “No, no, it’s not the toilet, it’s the Potter boy’s hearing — they’ve changed the time and venue — it starts at eight o’clock now and it’s down in old Courtroom Ten —”....

....“Why have they changed the time?” Harry said breathlessly as they hurtled past the Auror cubicles; people poked out their heads and stared as they streaked past. Harry felt as though he had left all his in- sides back at Perkins’s desk. “I’ve no idea, but thank goodness we got here so early, if you’d missed it it would have been catastrophic!”

For the Tonks' spells i agree with Himarm and Anthony Grist

I suspect Ministry employees file some report when they perform magic in the vicinity of young wizards. Otherwise you'd get all sorts of false trace positives when Ministry employees do their jobs.

Arthur or Molly Weasley can admit to doing Tonks' spells in privet drive. Under the guise of visiting their son's friend.

There is also a precedent for the Weasleys visiting Harry in his home.

The Ministry cannot use the Tonks incident. The Ministry needs to pin a foolproof crime on Harry in order to discredit him

not a crime that can be explained by an "adult wizard family friend" visiting him in his home.

from book 4 goblet of fire chapter: Back to the burrow

“Ah, right,” said Mr. Weasley. “Better get cracking then.” He pushed up the sleeves of his robes and took out his wand. Harry saw the Dursleys draw back against the wall as one. “Incendio!” said Mr. Weasley, pointing his wand at the hole in the wall behind him. Flames rose at once in the fireplace, crackling merrily as though they had been burning for hours. Mr. Weasley took a small draw- string bag from his pocket, untied it, took a pinch of the powder inside, and threw it onto the flames, which turned emerald green and roared higher than ever.

Harry did not receive a letter when Mr. Weasley performed this magic in front of Harry and the Dursley's when he visited Harry to take him to the Quidditch cup

Also there would be no additional danger to Arthur or Molly because Fudge already suspects the Weasley family.

from book 5 order of the phoenix chapter number twelve, Grimmauld place

“Trouble is, Fudge suspects Dad, he knows he’s friendly with Dum- bledore, and he’s always thought Dad’s a bit of a weirdo because of his Muggle obsession —” “But what’s this got to do with Percy?” asked Harry, confused. “I’m coming to that. Dad reckons Fudge only wants Percy in his office because he wants to use him to spy on the family — and Dumbledore.”

As for Moody, Tonks, Lupin, Shacklebolt etc. being discreet. The reason for the discretion was that they did not want anyone to know the location of the order of the phoenix headquarters,

Tonks' spells were performed in privet drive - far from the location of headquarters. Any magic done in Harry's vicinity when they arrived at Grimmauld place would have triggered the trace and have the Ministry wondering what Harry was doing in Grimmauld place

from book 5 Order of the phoenix chapter: the advance guard

“We ought to double back for a bit, just to make sure we’re not be- ing followed!” Moody shouted. “ARE YOU MAD, MAD-EYE?” Tonks screamed from the front. “We’re all frozen to our brooms! If we keep going off course we’re not going to get there until next week! We’re nearly there now!”

Also, additional enchanted items that wont trigger the Trace

from book 7 Deathly Hollows

“We’re going to use the only means of transport left to us, the only ones the Trace can’t detect, because we don’t need to cast spells to use them: brooms, thestrals, and Hagrid’s motorbike.”

and from book 2 chamber of secrets chapter: the burrow

Dad came home and said you’d got an official warning for us- ing magic in front of Muggles —” “It wasn’t me — and how did he know?” “He works for the Ministry,” said Ron. “You know we’re not sup- posed to do spells outside school —”

“You should talk,” said Harry, staring at the floating car.

“Oh, this doesn’t count,” said Ron. “We’re only borrowing this. It’s Dad’s, we didn’t enchant it. But doing magic in front of those Muggles you live with —

Maybe as long as an item was enchanted with no children in the vicinity, then that item can be used later on by underage wizards without activating the trace.


I believe there is no definite answer to this in the book. However, we can reasonably assume that since we have multiple ministry employees currently in Harry's house, that someone dropped a memo to someone in the department that tracks the use of magic in underage wizards. We can assume this is true because this has happened before, when Arthur Weasley pulled some strings to allow Harry's fireplace to be connected to the Floo powder network in book 4 , and he also performs a few spells, while there. Simply having Tonks or Shacklebolt tell the Auror office they were heading to Harry's place could have been enough.

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    It seems highly unlikely that Tonks or Kingsley would have mentioned that, considering they seemed to be keeping the fact they were working with Dumbledore a secret. It's possible Dumbledore or one of the other Order members informed the Ministry. Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 15:32
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    the real question is why weren't they sending notifications when mungdungus fletcher is apparating right next to Harrys house.
    – Himarm
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 15:34
  • Harry is not of age and can't apparate. So it would be hard to blame him for that. Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 16:04
  • @StephaneMathis yes, but a 15 year old also shouldnt be able to do a corpreal patronous charm.
    – Himarm
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 16:05

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