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Owls delivering packages for wizards via owl post

Vernon Dursley: "What does she mean, 'the normal way'?""
Harry Potter: "Normal for us, you know, owl post. That's what's normal for wizards."
Harry Potter informing Vernon Dursley about owl post[src]

Owl post was a wizarding system of sending messages or items using owls as the carriers. Besides the Owl Post Office, individuals and organisations with their own owls used them as their mail bearers — owls were employed by wizards in such numbers that was estimated that virtually all of them were either the property of the Postal Service or individual wizards.[1] Harry Potter's owl, Hedwig, was used as his primary means of communicating with his friends and his godfather, Sirius Black. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry had a number of owls that anyone at the school could use. They, along with students' personal owls, were kept in the Owlery.

History

Hogwarts use

At Hogwarts, owls live in the Owlery in the West Tower and deliver mail to students once a day, at breakfast – though more urgent messages are frequently delivered to Harry in his dormitory.

Hogwarts also has a number of school owls, which can be used by students who do not own an owl themselves. Harry used school owls on several occasions when he needed to contact Sirius without attracting attention. These owls seem to be used on occasion even to communicate across the school, such as when Hagrid sends a note to Harry at the end of his first week at Hogwarts, though this method seems to be given up by Harry’s sixth year, when notes are instead regularly delivered in the hands of students.

Beginning in Harry’s fifth year, all owl post into Hogwarts was searched and inspected as a security precaution. This was originally seen as an overbearing method of control by the Ministry of Magic and Dolores Umbridge, but once Voldemort’s return became public it was widely accepted. Intercepting owls can be done crudely or routinely. Hedwig was hurt when Umbridge intercepts her letter, but the Weasleys’ mail and Hogwarts mail is later searched as a matter of routine, with no harm coming to the animals.

Business use

Owls are also used for institutional deliveries, the first time we see an owl making a delivery is when one arrives with Hagrid’s Daily Prophet in the hut-on-the-rock. In this case, the owl had a pouch which it used to collect Hagrid’s money.[2] Hermione Granger also took out a subscription to the Daily Prophet as well, and the owls that delivered it did not seem to collect anything.

Owls were also used by some businesses for Owl Order Service, to deliver goods. This service comes into prominent use, when a Slug Club Christmas party is approaching his sixth year, and girls buy love potions from Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes through Fred and George’s Owl Order Service. Fred Weasley and George Weasley conducted much of their business for Weasley's Wizard Wheezes via an owl order service.[3]

In 1995, the British Ministry of Magic enacted several laws regarding censorship of owl post.

Use of owls

"All the kids want owls, they're dead useful, carry yer mail an' everythin'."
— Rubeus Hagrid[src]

Post owls are quite intelligent, and can usually find their mail's recipient with little to no direction.

Other birds can be used for delivering messages. Sirius Black, while in hiding, sent unspecified tropical birds as message carriers while communicating with Harry Potter. This lead Harry to speculate that Sirius was hiding in a warmer environment than England. However, the preponderant bird used for messaging was the owl. Muggles have their own form of post and therefore do not use owls, nor were they generally aware that owls or other birds could be used for correspondence.

Some magic is used by owls in finding their recipients; Hedwig, for example, is able to easily locate Sirius Black when he is on the run from the Ministry of Magic, even though Aurors are unable to do so. Hedwig also routinely hunted Harry down in Hogwarts, in Gryffindor Tower or even his classes, and Pigwidgeon successfully delivers a letter to Harry while he is on the moving Hogwarts Express. However, wizards cannot send an owl to someone they want to find and then “follow” the owl to discover the person’s whereabouts.

Owl deliveries

Letters

Year Sender Reciever Notes
1991-1992 Hagrid Dumbledore A note letting Dumbledore know he had successfully picked up Harry.[2]
Cornelius Fudge According to Hagrid, Cornelius Fudge often peppered Dumbledore with owls asking for advice as Minister for Magic.[2]
Hagrid Harry Potter Invitation to visit and Harry replied "Yes, please, see you later" — his first owl post letter.[4]
Minerva McGonagall A note along with a new Nimbus 2000.[5]
Charlie Weasley Ron Weasley Agreement to take Norbert, after Ron presumably wrote to him to ask and Ron replied.[6]
Quirrell[7] Dumbledore An urgent note, supposedly from the Ministry of Magic,[8] to lure him away from Hogwarts so he steal the Philosopher's Stone.[7]
Hagrid Various Hagrid sent owls to James and Lily's old school friends to obtain photos of them for Harry.[7]
1992-1993

Ron Weasley

Harry Potter A "thick wad of envelopes" were sent over the summer, but Dobby intercepted them.[9]
Hermione Granger
Hagrid
Mafalda Hopkirk A warning against doing underage magic, shortly after Dobby performed a Hover Charm.[9]
Hogwarts Second years Booklists arrived from Hogwarts, while Harry was staying at The Burrow.[10]
Ron Weasley Hermione Granger Ron used Errol to wrote to Hermione, and she replied with plans to meet them in Diagon Alley.[10]
Dumbledore Weasleys A letter regarding Harry and Ron crashing a car into the Whomping Willow.[11]
Dursleys
Molly Weasley Ron Weasley A Howler when she finds out he took the car.[12]
Fans Gilderoy Lockhart Harry addresses envelopes while in detention
Sir Patrick Delaney-Podmore Nearly Headless Nick A letter rejecting his application to the Headless Hunt.
Dumbledore Azkaban Letter to secure Hagrid's release
Governers of Hogwarts Dumbledore The eleven governers of Hogwarts, other than Lucius Malfoy, barrage Dumbledore with owls asking for his return to Hogwarts
1993-1994 Ron Weasley Harry Potter Letters to wish Harry a happy 13th birthday
Hermione Granger
Hagrid
Third year Hogwarts letter arrives with Hagrid's birthday gift
Hogwarts
Augusta Longbottom Neville Longbottom Hogsmeade letter directly to Professor McGonagall
A Howler after he loses the Gryffindor Tower passwords
Hagrid Harry Potter Ron Weasley An invitation to visit him and to discuss Hermione
Hermione Granger A letter to inform her that Buckbeak lost at his trial
Ron Weasley A letter to inform him that Buckbeak's lost his appeal as well
Sirius Black Harry Potter Receives a letter on the Hogwarts Express, explaining the Firebolt, giving him permission to go to Hogsmeade, and giving Pigwidgeon to Ron
Firebolt Company Sirius says that Crookshanks took his Firebolt order to the Owl Office, where presumably it was then sent in
1994-1995 Harry Potter Sirius wrote to Harry twice from his hiding place; the letters were sent not with owls, but tropical birds.[13]
Harry Potter Sirius Black Harry writes to Sirius for the first time to let him know that his scar twinged.[13]
Ron Weasley Harry Potter Ron sends his first letter with Pigwidgeon to invite Harry to the 1994 Quidditch World Cup.[14]
Various Ministry A large number of people sent Howlers to the Ministry of Magic to complain about Quidditch World Cup security.[15]
Sirius Black Harry Potter Sirius writes Harry to let him know he's flying north, worried about Harry's safety
Harry Potter Sirius Black Harry responds to Sirius to ask him not to return to Britain, and sends the note with Hedwig
Sirius Black Harry Potter Sirius writes back to Harry with Hedwig to let him know he's hidden in Britain
Harry Potter Sirius Black Harry sends a school owl to inform him that Harry's name was picked for the Triwizard Tournament
Sirius Black Harry Potter Sirius replies and asks for a face to face meeting on November 22
Pigwidgeon delivers congratulations on Harry's getting past the Hungarian Horntail
Sirius sends a brown owl with a very short letter: "Send date of next Hogsmeade weekend by return owl."
Sirius asks Harry to bring him food and meet with him on the next Hogsmeade weekend
Trio Percy Weasley To ask whether he's seen Mr Crouch; he responds irritably
Various Hermione Granger After Rita Skeeter's article defaming Hermione, she gets hate mail; Hagrid says he'd received some too
Harry Potter Sirius Black Harry continues to regularly write Sirius in the cave near Hogsmeade
Fred Weasley Ludo Bagman They demand their money, though the trio doesn't figure it out until later
George Weasley
Harry Potter Sirius Black Sends an owl to tell Sirius about his excursion into Dumbledore's Pensieve
Sirius Black Harry Potter Sirius berates Harry for walking the grounds with Viktor Krum and starts sending daily owls
1995-1996 Various

Mafalda Hopkirk expells him from Hogwarts and informs him that his wand will be snapped

Arthur Weasley tells Harry not to leave his house or surrender his wand;
Mafalda Hopkirk again writes, rescinding Harry's expulsion and notifying him of a hearing
Sirius writes to tell Harry not to leave the house
Dumbledore Petunia Dursley Mysterious message, "Remember my last"
Hogwarts Various Hogwarts booklists —  and prefects' badges —  arrive at number twelve, Grimmauld Place
Harry Potter Sirius Black Sends a cryptic message to Sirius about Umbridge and Hagrid; Filch accuses him of placing dungbomb orders but Cho backs Harry up
Cho Chang Her Mother Sends a birthday message, as she meets Harry in the Owlery
Percy Weasley Ron Weasley Percy sends an unexpected letter, urging him to distance himself from Harry
Sirius Black Harry Potter A note —  "Today, same time, same place" —  but Hedwig is intercepted and injured en route to Harry
Hermione Granger Viktor Krum We see Hermione write a letter to Krum, but never get confirmation that it is sent
Molly Weasley Various A letter to Sirius, Harry, and her children that Arthur is alive after the snake attack, though it is sent with Fawkes rather than by owl post
Gilderoy Lockhart Gilderoy Lockhart announces that he still receives fan mail
Various Harry Potter When his Quibbler interview is released, Harry receives a number of letters from those agreeing and disagreeing with him
Percy Weasley Daily Prophet Sent an owl to the Daily Prophet when Dumbledore "confessed" to forming an army against Fudge.[16]
1996-1997 Dumbledore Harry Potter Sends Harry a note to let him know he would be coming to pick him up at Privet Drive.
Ministry Sixth years Owls deliver O.W.L. results to Harry, Ron, and Hermione at The Burrow.[17]
Hogwarts Trio Booklists arrived at the Burrow, with news that Harry was made Quidditch Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team.[17]
Ginny Weasley
Bob Ogden Gaunts Sent an owl to notify the Gaunts he would be coming, but they ignored it.[18]
Parents Students

Parents sent regular owls to their children at Hogwarts, to make sure they were okay after Voldemort's return.

Items

Year Sender Receiver Notes
1991-1997 Daily Prophet Various Daily Prophet for Hagrid and delivered to Malfoy, Hermione, Harry, and others in many places.
Malfoys Draco Malfoy Packages of sweets, routinely delivered from home via the Malfoys' eagle owl[19][20]
Augusta Longbottom Neville Longbottom A Remembrall[19]
McGonagall Harry Potter A Nimbus 2000 broomstick
Augusta Longbottom Neville Longbottom Forgotten items
Kwikspell Company Argus Filch The Kwikspell course, though not explicitly stated, seemed to have been sent via owl.[21]
Ron Weasley Harry Potter A Pocket Sneakoscope, 13th birthday present sent with Errol and nearly killing him.[22]
Hermione Granger A Broomstick Servicing Kit, 13th birthday, which Hedwig showed up to pick up[22]
Hagrid A copy of The Monster Book of Monsters, 13th birthday present, sent with a school tawny owl[22]
Fred Weasley Percy Weasley Dragon dung, which Fred and George had delivered to Percy's office[23]
George Weasley
Harry Potter Sirius Black A ham, a dozen cakes, and some fruit, that Harry sends to Sirius when he's hiding in Hogsmeade[24]
Various Hermione Granger Bubotuber pus, enclosed in hate mail[25]
Molly Weasley Trio Easter eggs, though Hermione's was very small.[25]

Hogwarts

Ron Weasley

Prefects' badges[26]
Hermione Granger
Xenophilius Lovegood Harry Potter A copy of the Quibbler, received after he gave an interview[27]
Harry Potter Various Molly Weasley sends Easter eggs for her children and Harry[28]
Flourish and Blotts

Harry Potter

A copy of Advanced Potion-Making, which Hedwig brought Harry from Flourish and Blotts.[29]
Ron Weasley
Fred Weasley Students Love potions, a part of the Owl Order Service[3]
George Weasley

Behind the scenes

See also

Appearances

Notes and references

  1. Writing by J.K. Rowling: "Owls" at Wizarding World
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 5 (Diagon Alley)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 15 (The Unbreakable Vow)
  4. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 8 (The Potions Master)
  5. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 10 (Hallowe'en)
  6. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 14 (Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback)
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 17 (The Man with Two Faces)
  8. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 16 (Through the Trapdoor)
  9. 9.0 9.1 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 2 (Dobby's Warning)
  10. 10.0 10.1 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 4 (At Flourish and Blotts)
  11. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 5 (The Whomping Willow)
  12. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 6 (Gilderoy Lockhart)
  13. 13.0 13.1 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 2 (The Scar)
  14. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 3 (The Invitation)
  15. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 10 (Mayhem at the Ministry)
  16. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 27 (The Centaur and the Sneak)
  17. 17.0 17.1 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 5 (An Excess of Phlegm)
  18. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 10 (The House of Gaunt)
  19. 19.0 19.1 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 9 (The Midnight Duel)
  20. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 13 (Mad-Eye Moody)
  21. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 8 (The Deathday Party)
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 1 (Owl Post)
  23. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 5 (Weasley's Wizard Wheezes)
  24. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 27 (Padfoot Returns)
  25. 25.0 25.1 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 28 (The Madness of Mr Crouch)
  26. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 9 (The Woes of Mrs Weasley)
  27. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 26 (Seen and Unforeseen)
  28. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 29 (Careers Advice)
  29. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 11 (Hermione's Helping Hand)
  30. F.A.Q. Question on J. K. R. Official Site
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