If I understood chapter 3 of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone correctly, the first time he got a letter it must be the 24th of July, when the other letters must have been sent out. (There is no reason to assume Harry was treated any differently, so all letters are sent out simultaneously. If counting back the days from when Harry finally gets his letter to the first day he got one, it’s the 24th.) In the following seven days ever greater numbers of letters start arriving at 4 Privet Drive, so many that first of all, Harry gets a new room, Dudley’s second bedroom, and then the Dursleys move out altogether on something what can be called an improvised camping trip. Only on the 31st of July does someone from Hogwarts get a hold of Harry to hand him his letter personally and to further inform him about Hogwarts.
Now, last time we saw Harry was on Dudley’s birthday, The 23d of June 1990. Straight after the zoo visit Harry was locked back into his cupboard and wasn’t left out until several weeks later, when school vacations had already begun. The intermittent time had apparently conveniently been forgotten, except for the part that Harry was still attending school at that time, so they must have missed him there.
Why nobody picks up on this bothers me to no end. It seems that either there is no such thing as a compulsory education in the world of Harry Potter, or somehow the school refrains from reporting this grave error and hiatus in the education of Harry James Potter. Just like in my blog “Harry Potter and the Lack of Social Services“, I am afraid I cannot give a satisfactory solution, leading only into the same guesswork as then, with either Vernon Dursley interfering to keep too prying minds away from his house, thus siphoning off his savings, or Dumbledore was in the loop to keep Harry with his relatives, at all costs to keep up the blood wards. Thus, the situation persists.
Yet, the Dursleys still care for Harry’s secondary education, as he still gets a school uniform for Stonewall High, even though it consist of Dudley’s hand-me-downs with a grey wash, as properly fitting for a Dursley style donation to Harry. As Harry was kept in his cupboard for days at an end, I cannot help but wonder how sanitary problems were solved if he wasn’t allowed out. The same problem goes for meals.
This problem becomes even more apparent when you consider how guests would have reacted to Harry’s presence and the cupboard under the stairs where he was kept. I presume that in most cases Harry was sent upstairs and told to pretend not to exist, as happened in part two of the Harry Potter series, but as we can read in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, his existence was still noticed by some visitors, such as Aunt Marge.
Anyways, back to the original intended topic: the Hogwarts letters. Although it is more evident in the film material, the letters have the addresses hand-written on them. This indicates either that the writer of said letter must have had some awareness of the situation at 4 Privet Drive, or that it is yet another gimmick that wizards have outsourced.
The former situation is obviously a worse predicament, as the writer must have been such a dimwit that the Boy-Who-Lived had presumably been properly housed at a cupboard. Now, according to the wikia, there is this magical quill, that writes down every single magical birth in Great-Britain, after which Minerva McGonnagall would check for eligible students for Hogwarts, namely those having turned 11 since last school year. All of these magical births are recorded in a book by that magical quill, with McGonnagall sending the individual letters.
Ah, there’s the rub! Minerva already had the opinion that 4 Privet Drive wasn’t a good choice to deposit the Boy-Who-Lived, because of what she saw on the day she posted there as a cat. Yet, no complaints were known to have been issued to Albus Dumbledore, nor did she react when the address and recipient were written down, nor is there any other reaction pertaining to an abnormal procedure.
Now, there is no direct reaction, and considering my own response time with regards to post, I think that is quite fair and Hogwarts should give some more leeway before sending in ever larger masses of extra letters.
Now that we’re on the topic anyway, that must be an enormous amount of parchment an ink used in that short an amount of time, as well as the owl capacity, that must have quite a drain on it as well. Parchment is very expensive as a means to write on, although it is very durable and probably of high quality. Even if wizards had a spell to instantly create parchment, they still need the skins to come off animals. As livestock is expensive to maintain as well, I daresay that Harry Potter must have been one of the most costly operations to get him his acceptance letter.
Now apart from that, somebody still has to sign all those letters and must have noticed that some things got a little repetitive over the days. Considering the small number of students in Harry’s year it would have been very quickly very obvious that something has gone wrong with the Potter case.
Only after a week is his Hogwarts acceptance letter finally delivered. Vernon isn’t pleased by the arrival of the first letter and decides to ignore it and the contents, after which the letter is destroyed. The following day several more letters come in and appear through creaks in the mailbox, from inside a carton of eggs and lots of other places.
Vernon has had enough of it and takes the entire Dursley family, including Harry on a lengthy trip, first to Cokeworth, where Lily used to live. Now, this wasn’t a very good way of eluding the grasp of the Wizarding World, as Lily and Petunia lived there as children, so the letters would have gotten there as well, and there lived another wizard Severus Snape, of which Vernon may or may not have heard. In any case it wasn’t succesful, as at least 100 letters were deposited there for Harry Potter as well. Suffice to say after this that wizards are very wonky creatures.