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Harry Potter Headcanon

By Taure

Accompanying documents:
Best HP fanfiction
Best HP smut

I ve been a Harry Potter fan since 1999, when Prisoner of Azkaban was released, an
d a reader of Harry Potter fan fiction since 2005. I ve spent a ridiculous amount
of time thinking about Harry Potter, and have written a fair amount over the yea
rs on how I think the Harry Potter world works.

This document is intended as a consolidation of all the evidence I can find in H


P canon about how the HP universe works.

Binding canon will be defined as Harry Potter and the Philosopher s Stone through
to Deathly Hallows, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Quidditch Through t
he Ages, Tales of Beedle the Bard, JK Rowling s old website (accessible via the Wa
y Back Machine) and Pottermore. JK Rowling s statements in interviews, which are n
ot published in official materials, are considered persuasive but not binding as t
hey sometimes contradict.

Each section will begin with a series of observations from canon, then a series
of conclusions. The majority of the reasoning presented is inductive. Sections o
n Charms, Dark Arts and wizarding society to be added in the future.
?
Magical Framework
The Nature of Magic
Observations
Conclusions
Wizardry and Witchcraft
Observations
Conclusions
The Nature of Spells
Observations
Conclusions
Transfiguration
Observations
Conclusions?

Magical Framework
The Nature of Magic
Observations
1. We have seen magic cast on people and animals, objects, buildings, places, li
nguistic items (names), job positions, memories, and items of abstract knowledge
(secrets).
2. Magic is generally predictable. A spell cast in the same way will behave in t
he same way.
3. Magic is sometimes unpredictable. An example is the spontaneous gaining of se
ntience by the Weasleys Ford Anglia.
4. JKR has said on Pottermore:
"... broadly speaking, wizards would have the power to correct or override 'mund
ane' nature, but not 'magical' nature."
5. We have seen wizards create relatively large amounts of matter (at least kilo
grams) out of nothing (for example, aguamenti).
6. According to Snape in OotP, time and space matter in magic .
7. Harry could summon his broom from a significant distance, the Taboo was able
to affect an entire nation.
8. Events have magical power, according to JKR s old site:
It is important to state that I always saw these kinds of magic (the very deepest
life and death issues) as essentially un-scientific; in other words, there is n
o Elder Wand + Lily s Blood = Assured Survival formula. What count, ultimately, are
Harry and Voldemort s own choices. They have each been given certain weapons and s
afeguards, but the power of these objects and past happenings lie in how they ar
e understood, and how they are used or enacted upon. Harry has a deeper and true
r understanding of the meaning of the objects and past events, but his greatest
powers, those that save him, are free will, courage and moral certainty.
9. A killing curse is completely unblockable by magic, no matter what amount of
magic is put against it.

10. Ron Weasley, though inexpert, was able to levitate a troll s club just as easi
ly as he could a feather.
Conclusions
1. Magic does not work with the rules of the universe known to Muggles, nor is i
t not some as-yet-undiscovered part of physics. Magic is apart from mundane natur
e and able to override it. (From 4).
2. While magic of the sort taught at Hogwarts and used in daily life is in gener
al predictable enough to be relied upon, at its most fundamental level magic is
not tightly rule-bound or formulaic. (From 2, 3, and 8). There remains a signifi
cant element of mystery and fairy tale logic to the deepest magic.
3. Magic is not a form of energy (from 4 and conclusion 1). If magic were energy
, wizards would have access to absurdly huge quantities of it, as they are able
to create kilograms of matter (from 5). A single aguamenti spell would use more
energy than the largest nuclear bomb ever exploded. (See here for the calculatio
ns).
4. As far as magic is concerned, human concepts are real existing things which c
an be interacted with (from 1).
5. It can be said that magic is best understood as conceptual, not physical (fro
m all the above). Physical analogies will often be inappropriate for understandi
ng the way magic works. For a start, magic does not always follow conservation
rules (from 9). Nor does mass seem to have an effect on spells (from 10). Superi
or analogies may be linguistic concepts, or even set theory.

6. Magical power has a diverse range of sources. It may be that everything in th


e world has some measure of magical significance (from 8).

7. While magic can override physical law, it is not without limits, which are de
scribed as magical law. Time and space is one such limit (from 6) and it is nota
ble that, with few exceptions (see 7, but consider that the Taboo is a spell on
a word, not a place), we only see wizards casting magic on their immediate surro
undings. So while magic can override physical law, it cannot override magical la
w, and accordingly we won t see a wizard summoning Mars any time soon.

Wizardry and Witchcraft


Observations

1. We have never seen a wizard become tired from casting a spell (the exhaustion
Harry feels in his Patronus lessons is from the effects of the Dementor, not th
e casting of the spell, as can be seen from his lack of exhaustion in later inst
ances of casting the spell).
2. We have never seen a wizard run out of magic, despite having seen extended pe
riods of intense spell casting.

3. Neville Longbottom went from being almost a squib to casting spells of moderate
power.
4. Tonks lost her ability to transform when she was depressed.
5. Merope Gaunt lost her powers when Tom Riddle Sr. abandoned her.
6. The phrase magical skill is often used to indicate a person s entire ability with
magic. For example, at the end of Deathly Hallows Voldemort comments to Harry: W
e duel on skill alone .

7. The boat in Voldemort s horcrux cave could measure the magical power crossing t
he lake (HBP).

8. There was a lot more to magic, as Harry quickly found out, than waving your wa
nd and saying a few funny words. (Philosopher s Stone, Chapter 8)
9. Many wizards cannot cast the shield charm. (Half-Blood Prince, conversation
about Shield Hats).
10. There is a wide gulf in magical ability between even a highly competent wiza
rd like an Auror and a wizard like Dumbledore (Dumbledore s escape from Hogwarts i
n OotP).
11. We have seen experienced and skilled wizards cast spells without wand moveme
nts, or with very lazy wand movements (see especially Dumbledore in OotP).

12. "Professor Severus Snape, master of this school, commands you to reveal the
information you conceal!" - Prisoner of Azkaban

13. High academic ability is repeatedly associated with magical greatness (Dumbl
edore and Tom Riddle are especially praised for being brilliant students).
14. Knowing and understanding magical theory allows you to cast more advanced sp
ells, and makes spell casting easier (Hermione s magical ability resulting from st
udy).

15. Practice improves your ability to cast a spell (Harry s practice of the summon
ing charm in GoF).
16. We have seen children without any formal magical training or knowledge of th
eory be able to control their magic in a primitive way (Lily Evans and Tom Riddl
e).

17. Some wizards specialise greatly, even to the point of specialising in a sing
le spell (Lockhart and memory charms in CoS).
18. Other wizards are able to reach the top levels of ability in multiple, or al
l, areas of magic (Dumbledore, Voldemort, to a lesser extent Snape).
19. A matched wand reflects a wizard s character, and will almost always provide a
wizard with the best results (Ollivander in PS).
20. Wands have predispositions to perform well in certain areas of magic. (Olliv
ander in PS, Pottermore on wands)

21. Wands have differing levels of power. (DH, especially the Elder wand)
22. Tom Riddle developed an ability in legilimency before Hogwarts, and was late
r to be known as the best legilimens in the world (HBP, OotP).

23. The forcefulness with which a spell is cast affects its outcome (disarming cha
rms blowing people off their feet in CoS and PoA).
24. Harry is good at duelling and DADA more generally, despite not being as stud
ious as Hermione.
25. Harry has a strong will, allowing him to resist the Imperius curse and overc
ome Voldemort s will in priori incantatum (GoF).
26. Tom Riddle was also said to have a strong will, and his forceful command tell
me the truth had the ring of magical power to it (HBP).

27. In GoF, fake Moody comments that none of the kids in his class would have th
e power to cast a Killing Curse, despite the fact that they are a varied cross s
ection of magical ability.
28. We have seen adult Death Eaters cast the Killing Curse without them being p
articularly great wizards.
Conclusions
1. Wizards do not have a quantifiable source of power which is depleted by casti
ng spells (from 1 and 2). Supported by magic is not energy .
2. Wizards do not have differing amounts of magic (from 1, 2, conclusion 1)
3. As wizards do not have differing quantities of magic, the large differences i
n magical ability must be explained in other terms. Since we cannot look to magi
c for such an explanation, we look to human nature -- just as we explain the dif
ference between an average scientist and Albert Einstein. These human factors de
termining magical ability can be referred to as skill (from 6), though as we will
see, this term encompasses more than the word skill traditionally indicates.
4. Magic is difficult and complex, of equivalent complexity to its Muggle parall
els. (From 9, 10, 13 and 14, and see below: spell flexibility )
5. Incantations and wand movements cannot account for the difficulty of magic (f
rom 8, and common sense: can differences in pronunciation really account for the
difference between Dumbledore and the average wizard, especially considering no
n-verbal magic?)
6. Substantial changes in a person s character (or long-term mental state) can res
ult in substantial changes in their ability to use magic (from 3, 4, 5).
7. Magical skill (or magical ability) can then be said to have two types of comp
onents: active (short term) and passive (long term).
8. Active components in the case of spells consist of the incantation, wand move
ment, and any particular mental performance at the time of casting, such as happ
y memories for the Patronus, or sadistic pleasure for the Cruciatus.

9. As a wizard gains experience, wand movements can be reduced or entirely elimi


nated (from 11).
10. Passive components are the background conditions of the wizard, including th
eir character.
11. A third component of magical skill can be identified, which is situational c
ontext (Nature of Magic 8). This component is external to the caster and largely
outside of their control.
12. Included in this third component of situational context are positions of aut
hority, which can apparently influence magic in certain situations (from 12: Sna
pe seemed to think including his position within the school would increase the l
ikelihood of the spell succeeding. Also see Ministry powers below). This should no
t be surprising, as we already know job positions have magical reality.

13. Another external component affecting the result of magic is the wand a wizar
d is using, if they are using a wand. Some wands are more powerful than others (
from 21). Some wands are better at certain types of magic than others (from 20).

14. However, this external factor is mitigated by the fact that a wizard will ge
t the best result from a wand which matches him (from 19). Therefore in most cir
cumstances the wand will neither raise nor detract from a spell s success or power
, as it reflects the wizard using it.
15. The passive components of magical skill can be said to define a person s magic
al strength(s), in so far as they are long-term properties of the caster which p
ersist between spells and which, from the short-term perspective, are as good as
permanent.
16. One passive component of magical skill is knowledge of magical theory (from
14). This can be both knowledge of magical theory in general (which affects all
magic), and knowledge of the theory underlying a particular spell (which affects
just that spell and other spells which may share a similar theoretical basis).
17. The knowledge component appears to be an extremely significant influence on
magical ability, given the correlation between powerful wizards and wizards of h
igh academic achievement (from 13), and the fact that the main distinguishing fe
ature between wizards like Dumbledore and ordinarily competent wizards is the Du
mbledorean s knowledge of how magic works (see 10).
18. To reiterate, this is a passive component. We know that wizards do not have
to think of magical theory while they cast a spell (which would be an active com
ponent). But nonetheless the knowledge they possess appears to have great influe
nce on what spells a person can cast, and how powerful those spells are. The kno
wledge is somewhere in their mind, and that s enough.
19. It is possible to do some magic without knowledge of theory (from 16). This
implies that different people have magical instincts of different qualities.
20. Practice improves one s magical ability (from 15).
21. Conclusions 19 and 20 imply that knowledge is not an absolute requirement of
using magic. Rather, these three related factors (knowledge, instinct, practica
l experience) all point to a single more fundamental basis of magical ability: i
nternalised understanding of magic.
22. Understanding of magic, regardless of how that understanding is reached, is
the single most significant passive component of magical ability (and thereby th
e single most significant factor in determining a person s magical strength).
23. Another passive component of magical ability is a person s force of will. From
24, 25 and 26, it can be seen that people with a strong will are skilled in mag
ical combat, which includes casting powerful spells. From 23, it can be seen tha
t force of will directly influences the power of spells.
24. Willpower doesn t just allow a person to use powerful magic, it also allows th
em to resist the magic of others (from 25).
25. As stated above, long-term emotional states (such as insecurity, depression)
also significantly influence magical ability.
26. Wizards have natural predispositions towards certain branches of magic as a
result of their character (from 19, 20 and 22). They have magical instincts (fro
m 16). These predispositions are also passive influences on magical ability.
27. From conclusion 26, it is not strictly correct to refer to a person having m
agical strength (singular) but rather magical strengths (plural). While some wiz
ards may be generalists (as Dumbledore and Voldemort appear to be), others may b
e very strong in some areas but weak in others (from 17, and conclusion 26).
28. When taken together as a collective, these long-term passive influences on m
agical ability are referred to by wizards as power. Power has magical reality: i
t can be measured (from 7) and backs up spell-casting (27).
29. Power is not fixed (from 3). As the factors which influence it change, so do
es a person s power, though the nature of these factors is such that they only cha
nge in the long term and by degrees.
30. Another significant factor affecting magical ability (aka power) is age (fro
m 27 and 28: since some of the students in fake Moody s class grew up to be highly
competent wizards, and since we have seen extremely average wizards cast the Ki
lling Curse, only their youth can explain the class inability to cast the Killing
Curse).
31. Some measure of this will be the increased knowledge gained with age, but ag
e itself has a significant effect on its own.

32. It is likely that age ceases to have an effect after the age of 17 is reache
d.
33. There is some measure of cross-over between active and passive elements, esp
ecially when it comes to willpower (aka mental focus ). This is best seen in non-ve
rbal magic, which is an active component of skill (relating to incantations) but
depends heavily on passive components. Another example is experience with magic
(practice), a passive component which nonetheless affects spells in individual
ways (from 15).

For a summary of all the above, see the following diagram:

The Nature of Spells

Observations

1. Hogwarts has a huge library.

2. In fourth year, Harry had to read three books about summoning charms as part
of his Charms homework.

3. Also in fourth year, Harry had to write an essay on Cross-species Transfigura


tion.

4. In sixth year, Harry had to write an essay on the Imperius curse.

5. Gamp s Law of Elemental Transfiguration is a piece of magical theory specific t


o the field of Transfiguration.

6. The shield charm (incantation: protego) is referred to as the shield charm (not
a shield charm ).
7. The summoning charm (incantation: accio) is referred to as the summoning charm
(not a summoning charm).

8. When we first see Harry cast the shield charm in GoF it s so flimsy that it can
barely stop jinxes.

9. When Harry casts the shield charm in HBP and DH it s capable of repelling the m
ost powerful of curses.

10. Sometimes the shield charm blocks a spell (GoF), sometimes it reflects a spe
ll (HBP).

11. We have seen the shield charm used to block people s physical movements withou
t any change to the incantation (in Deathly Hallows).

12. We have seen the shield charm used to cover a wide area without any change t
o the incantation (in Deathly Hallows, Battle of Hogwarts).

13. We have seen the shield charm cast over a wide area with the incantation pro
tego totalum.

14. We have seen the shield charm cast in a method with unknown results, with th
e incantation protego horribilis.

15. Snape appeared to improvise a spell in PoA: Reveal your secrets!

16. Tonks appeared to improvise a spell in OotP: Pack!

17. In HBP, we saw in the Half-Blood Prince s Potions book that spell creation/dis
covery involved the crossing out of various incantations before settling on levi
corpus.

18. According to Flitwick in Philosopher s Stone, mispronouncing an incantation ca


n result in an entirely different spell being used.

19. In HBP, Harry successfully used the spell Sectumsempra without knowing what
it did.
Conclusions

1. In addition to general theory of magic, branches of magic have their own spec
ialised theory (from 5).

2. Within branches of magic, spells with similar function (a spell family) have
common theoretical elements (from 3).
3. Individual spells have a significant amount of complex theory behind them (fr
om 2 and 4). (I have fleshed out what this might look like here, but this is jus
t fanon speculation and is for illustrative purposes only).

4. These facts demonstrate the above assertion that magic is difficult, academic
ally complex, and they explain how it is that Hogwarts library is so large: entir
e books can be devoted to a single spell (1, 2).

5. Generally speaking, redundant spells of similar effect but of varying power d


on t exist. For example, there are not multiple shield charms of varying strength.
Rather there is one shield charm that can be cast weakly or strongly (from 8 an
d 9).

6. Generally speaking, redundant spells with small variations on the same funct
ion don t exist. For example, there is not a separate shield charm for blocking an
d reflecting spells, but rather one shield charm cast in different ways (from 10
and 11).

7. Generally speaking, the function of a spell can be adjusted significantly whi


le it remains the same spell (from 10, 11, 12, 13, 14).

8. Therefore: generally speaking, redundant spells don t exist. Spells represent b


road concepts (e.g. I protect ) and are flexible within that range.

9. These variations and how to achieve them make up a (perhaps significant) part
of the theory behind a spell. Knowing this theory is necessary to be able to ad
just the spell (following the above description of knowledge as a passive compon
ent of magical skill), otherwise the spell will just act in its default function (
e.g. how the shield charm appeared in GoF).

10. Variation can be achieved with or without a change in incantation (from 12 a


nd 13), though it seems that the greater the change, the higher the likelihood o
f an incantation change.

11. Greater variations in spell effect leading to greater changes in the incanta
tion suggests that spells exist on a continuum rather than as discrete entities:
if you varied the function of a spell enough then the incantation changes that
followed would result in you casting an entirely different spell.

12. The idea of spells existing as part of a continuum is backed up by the idea
of spell families which share a common theoretical foundation (conclusion 2), an
d those families in turn would share a common theory which made up the theory of
that branch of magic (conclusion 1).

13. Different spells and spell families sharing common theoretical foundations m
eans that spell knowledge is transferable, to varying extents (depending on how
closely the spells are related). This explains how Harry could cast Sectumsempra
without knowing anything about that spell in particular (19). Because Harry has
by sixth year a very good understanding of Defence Against the Dark Arts (and i
n turn an understanding of the Dark Arts), his knowledge of the theoretical basi
s of the Dark Arts transfers to underpin his casting of Sectumsempra.

14. As stated above, knowledge is not the only way to increase understanding of
magic, though it is the most systematic, comprehensive and explicit. But practic
e/experience also improves ability to cast a spell (from 8, 9 and Witchcraft and
Wizardry).

15. As stated in conclusion 8, spells represent general concepts. This makes spe
lls very closely tied with linguistic phenomena, as can be seen when people impr
ovise spells, especially in their native language (15, 16). A spell, like a word
, is a kind of symbol that represents a certain abstract concept (the magical na
ture of which is described by theory), and improvised spells attempt to invoke t
hat concept.

16. Spell discovery/creation involves, perhaps among other things, a process of


finding the right incantation to represent the spell s concept (17).

17. Improvised spells and the method of spell creation/discovery indicate a cert
ain subjectivity to incantations, where they are what the spell creator/discover
er considers the best representation of that concept.

18. However, once a spell has been created/discovered it seems that the incantat
ion becomes somewhat fixed (from 18, 19), though still subject to the manipulati
ons of the caster involved in variation.

18b. This might be justified on the fact that language does have a collective me
aning beyond the dictates of the individual speaker, and thus there is such a th
ing as mispronunciation, even in a system of essentially arbitrary symbols.

19. The fact that spells share a common theoretical framework suggests a solutio
n to this apparent contradiction of subjectivity in incantation but objectivity
in result. We may say that the theoretical framework is objective but the incant
ation (essentially a label for that framework) is subjective until fixed (by the
process of spell creation) to be invokable by other wizards.

20. This also explains how spell improvisation can work: because these wizards u
nderstand the objective theoretical basis of what they are doing, they can impro
vise labels to perform specific work. This also provides us with a neat explanat
ion of how magic would work between nations with different languages: the theore
tical basis (and thus the magic in effect) is constant, but the incantations wou
ld be different.

21. Finally, this (admittedly increasingly speculative) theory of spells explain


s the absence of redundant spells: if you want to do the same work you re going to
be basing your spell on the same theoretical framework and it is therefore esse
ntially the same spell, even if you create a new incantation for it.

Transfiguration
Observations

1. From JK Rowling s old site:

Every now and then somebody asks me for the difference between a spell, a charm
and a hex. Within the Potter world, the boundaries are flexible, and I imagine t
hat wizards may have their own ideas. Hermione-ish, however, I've always had a w
orking theory:

Spell: The generic term for a piece of magic.

Charm: Does not fundamentally alter the properties of the subject of the spell,
but adds, or changes, properties. Turning a teacup into a rat would be a spell,
whereas making a teacup dance would be a charm. The grey area comes with things
like 'Stunning Spells', which on balance I think are Charms, but which I call sp
ells for alliterative effect.

2. Wizards believe that it is possible that the Quintaped (a magical creature) w


as originally created by Transfiguration a long time ago (Fantastic Beasts). The
y consider this credible enough that government officials have attempted to Untr
ansfigure them.

3. The Dursleys had to take Dudley to hospital to have his pig s tail removed by s
urgery.

4. We have seen untransfiguration three times: Lupin on Pettigrew (PoA), McGonag


all on Malfoy (GoF), and Dumbledore on Slughorn (HBP).

5. In the case of McGonagall s untransfiguration, she did not know that it was Dra
co Malfoy specifically ( Is that a student? ).

6. Magic always leaves traces (Dumbledore, HBP).

7. Hermione, speaking about dragons in GoF: I d say Transfigure it, but something t
hat big, you really haven t got a hope, I doubt even Professor McGonagall

8. When students start learning to vanish objects they start on invertebrates th


en advance to vertebrates (OotP).

9. McGonagall changed her desk into a pig (similar size)

10. First years transfigure a matchstick into a needle (similar size and shape).

11. Part of the first year transfiguration exam was turning a mouse into a snuff
box (similar size, decrease in complexity).
12. Second year students turn a beetle into a button (similar size, colour, and
name, decrease in complexity).

13. Second year students turn white rabbits into fluffy slippers (similar size,
shape, appearance, texture).

14. Third year students turn a teapot into a tortoise (similar size and appearan
ce, increase in complexity).

15. Fourth year students turn hedgehogs into pincushions (similarity in size, sh
ape).

16. Cedric transforms a rock into a dog (no similarity, possibly not even in siz
e)

17. Fourth year students change guinea fowl into guinea pigs (similarity in name
).

18. Switching spells, which exchange physical structures between objects, are pa
rt of transfiguration and studied in fourth year (GoF).

19. Though students practice specific spells, it is expected that they will be a
ble to perform other, similar transfigurations. Vanishing mice, for example, hel
ps you advance to vanishing kittens (OotP).

20. Human transfiguration is studied in 6th year. (HBP)

21. Making inert objects come to life (animation) is part of Transfiguration (McGo
nagall s chess set). This is not studied at OWL level, nor during 6th year.

22. Conjuration is part of transfiguration and studied at NEWT level (essay for
McGonagall in OotP).

23. Is it possible make a transfiguration act with delay (Fred and George s fake w
ands).

24. It is possible to cast a transfiguration spell which affects anything within


a certain area (spell giving beards to those who cross the age line in GoF).

25. It is possible to use transfiguration to alter substances to act like living


flesh (Pettigrew s silver hand).

26. It is possible to use transfiguration to heal people (healing careers leafle


t in OotP).
27. In the Order of the Phoenix we saw Dumbledore transfigure a snake into smoke
. In Deathly Hallows we saw McGonagall transfigure smoke into a number of dagger
s.

28. It may be possible to use transfiguration to conjure and control fire, thoug
h it s possible that these belong to another area of magic (OotP fire whip, HBP fi
restorm in cave).

29. Transfiguration can be used to give yourself extra powers (Hermione, GoF, Th
e First Task).

30. Transfiguration can create new magical creatures (Quintapeds)

31. An exception to Gamp s Law of Elemental Transfiguration describes a class of o


bjects that cannot be created with transfiguration, meaning that Gamp s Law is a s
tatement of what can be created with transfiguration (apparently everything exce
pt the exceptions, but the law probably has a more complex statement).

32. Hermione in DH: It's impossible to make good food out of nothing! You can Sum
mon it if you know where it is, you can transform it, you can increase the quant
ity if you've already got some --"

33. The water conjuration spell (incantation: aguamenti), which conjures water w
hich is good to drink (HBP, The Cave), is a charm.

34. In first year Charms, students learnt a spell to make objects dance of their
own volition.

35. Conjuration (of inanimate objects) in transfiguration is performed with the


spell with the incantation Inanimatus Conjurus (OotP). This spell is studied at
NEWT level.

36. Dumbledore made branded mead appear out of thin air in HBP.

37. Where do vanished objects go? Into nonbeing, which is to say, everything. (D
H)

38. Something that you conjure out of thin air will not last. (JKR, South West Ne
ws Service, 8 July 2000)

39. The wizarding world has an economy, which means some measure of scarcity.

Conclusions

0. For convenience, the following terminology will be adopted: the anterior obje
ct of a transfiguration is the object before it is transformed. The resultant ob
ject of a transfiguration is the object after it is transformed.

1. Transfiguration works in a different way to Charms because it fundamentally a


lters the properties of the object of the spell (from 1).

2. From conclusion one, transfiguration changes the actual physical structure of


the object. It is not a kind of tactile, dimension-bending illusion, as that wo
uld be a charm.

2b. This is further supported by a JKR interview from The Herald in 1998: With a
charm you add properties to something. With a transfiguration you change its nat
ure completely; the molecular structure alters.

3. Transfiguration is normally permanent (from 2) even when the transfiguration


is incomplete (from 3). This makes sense due to conclusion 2: as the object s actu
al physical structure is changed, it is not the case that magic has to constantl
y be at work to maintain the transfiguration. And in the absence of magic, physi
cal structures obey physical laws and do not spontaneously change into other str
uctures. A resultant object spontaneously turning back into the anterior object
is about as likely as a regular physical object spontaneously transforming.

4. The exception to the permanency of transfiguration is where a wizard actively


intervenes to untransfigure the resultant object back into the anterior object
(from 4).

5. As transfiguration is not an illusion covering up the anterior object, untransf


iguration is not the removal of a transfiguration, but rather its reversal, chan
ging the physical structure back to what it was in the past. This can be seen as
similar to the mending charm (incantation: reparo).

6. It is possible to perform untransfiguration even if you don t know exactly what


the anterior object is (from 5). This can be explained without recourse to any
idea of the anterior object existing underneath the resultant object by the fact t
hat magic always leaves traces (6). As such, there is a magical line of breadcrum
bs back to the anterior object.

7. Absolute factors affecting the difficulty of a transfiguration to achieve are


size (from 7) and complexity (from 8). Absolute factors means factors which do no
t concern the similarity of the anterior and resultant objects, but rather the s
pell as a whole.

8. An object the size of a dragon appears to be around the upper limit of transf
iguration, as Hermione doubts McGonagall (a master of the art) could do it, but
is not entirely sure that she couldn t.

9. Relative factors affecting the difficulty of a transfiguration are those fact


ors which concern the relative similarity of the two objects. The more similar t
he objects, the easier the transfiguration (subject to absolute factors). Relati
ve factors include: relative size, relative shape, relative appearance and textu
re, and even similarities in name (from 9-17)

10. An important relative factor is the relative complexity of the objects. A tr


ansfiguration which loses complexity is easier than a transfiguration which crea
tes complexity (from 11, 12, 14: animal to object transfigurations are studied e
arlier than object to animal).

12. Size appears to primarily relate to volume. Mass/density do not appear to be


important factors affecting the difficulty of transfigurations (consider the re
lative differences in mass and density between wood and metal, the very first tr
ansfiguration students are expected to perform).

13. Substance (i.e. chemical substance) does not appear to be a significant fact
or affecting difficulty. However, substance cannot be completely irrelevant as c
ertain substances cannot be made with transfiguration (see Gamp s law below, and a
lso consider the high likelihood that gold cannot be created with transfiguratio
n).

14. It is possible to perform transfiguration on multiple objects simultaneously


(from 27), but as students always practice with a single object, number presuma
bly increases difficulty.

15. As there is no way that students could know detailed chemical and biological
information about the objects and animals they are transfiguring, this knowledg
e cannot be a requirement for transfiguration.

16. Knowledge of transfiguration theory, however, is a requirement for transfigu


ration (from the above argumentation regarding the role of magical theory).

17. Mastering one transformation enables students to perform other transformatio


ns of the same, or similar, type (from 19).

18. This is explained by the above section Spells where similar spells exist on a
continuum sharing a common theoretical framework. Mastering one spell means you
have understood and internalised the magical theory underlying that spell, and so
allows you to perform other spells sharing the same (or similar) theoretical bas
is.

19. A common dispute in transfiguration: is there a separate spell for every pos
sible transfiguration, or just a few general spells, each one performing a class
of transfiguration?

20. The continuum approach says both . There exist general spells (such as the Inan
imatus Conjurus spell, which conjures inanimate objects) but these general spell
s change by degrees in a process of variation. The greater the difference in the
type of transformation, the greater the change in the spell, and to some extent
this will be reflected in a change in incantation.

21. In this sense it could be said that a part of mastering transfiguration is b


ecoming fluent in the language of transfiguration : being able to improvise adjustm
ents to the incantation, based off the core incantation of that class of transform
ations (e.g. Inanimatus Conjurus). Something similar can be seen in the Locomoto
r charm, though this is rather more narrow.

22. We can deduce the Hogwarts transfiguration curriculum (and thus the families o
f transfiguration) from the information above.

23. First year teaches what might be termed simple transformations : transfiguratio
n of one inanimate object into another. First year also introduces transfiguring
living creatures into inanimate objects, the first part of living transformation
s . (10, 11)

24. Second year continues with living transformations, and is entirely living cre
atures into objects transformations. (12, 13)

25. Third year introduces the next stage of living transformations, which is tur
ning objects into living creatures. (14)

26. Fourth year covers switching spells and the final stage of living transforma
tions, which is cross-species transfiguration (one living animal into another li
ving animal). (From 17 and 18). Fourth year also involves some revision of previ
ous years, practicing the same material but increasing the difficulty (15).

27. Fifth year covers vanishing (8) and also revision for their OWL, which tests
all of the material covered in years 1-5.

28. Sixth year covers human transfiguration (20).

29. Seventh year covers conjuration (22).

30. Other uses of transfiguration either not covered at Hogwarts, also covered i
n 7th year, or slotted into previous years are: animation (21), time-delayed tra
nsfiguration (23), transfiguration fields (24), creation of living substances (2
5), use of transfiguration in healing (26), the transfiguration of complex subst
ances like smoke (27), and possibly the transfiguration of fire (28).

31. Another advanced form of transfiguration is the ability to transfigure/creat


e magical properties (29, 30). Students have to know about this for OWLs, but it s
not clear when/if they learn how to perform it.

32. An object that is vanished is not destroyed and can be retrieved again, from
any location (36, 37). The reason why this is so is explained by McGonagall: va
nished objects are in non-being and so are everywhere (having no particular loca
tion).

33. Conjuration is the reverse of vanishing, creating objects out of non-being.


This is why conjured objects don t last: their essential nature is that of non-bei
ng, not being (38).

34. Transfiguration can be used to create animals which, on the face of it, coul
d be eaten to satisfy hunger (9, 16).

35. As stated above, these created animals are both permanent and have the same
physical/chemical structure as real animals. As such, from a physical perspectiv
e, they should be able to satisfy hunger.

36. However, transfiguration cannot be used to make food (31). This is explained
by Hermione, with two qualifications: transfiguration cannot make good food, an
d this is only the case where the wizard is attempting to make said good food out
of nothing (32). Good food is taken to mean food that can satisfy hunger . If you w
ere to eat a transfigured pig, it would not provide your body with energy.

37. To summarise, transfiguration can create food that is physically identical t


o naturally occurring food but cannot satisfy hunger.

38. From conclusion 37, we can say that the satisfaction of hunger (nutrition) h
as non-physical properties.

39. This is explained by the fact that magic leaves traces (6) and so these magi
cal traces must prevent the transfigured food from being nutritious, despite goi
ng through the physical digestion process.

40. This is only the case where you are trying to make food out of nothing (32). I
f the anterior object of the transfiguration is also nutritious in some sense, t
hen the resultant object will also be capable of nutrition. You can even increas
e the amount of nutrition (32), you just can t create nutrition out of nothing. We
can therefore say that nutritive capacity is a binary magical property in trans
figuration.

41. There is sometimes redundancy between charms and transfiguration. The water-
conjuration charm (aguamenti) creates drinkable water out of nothing (33), but i
s not part of transfiguration, which also teaches its own form of conjuration (3
5). Similarly, there are charms to animate objects with specific behaviour (34)
but transfiguration can also be used to bring objects to life (21).

42. This is a redundancy is appearance, not magical process. For example, the wa
ter conjuration charm, as it is part of charms, is not subject to Gamp s law and s
o can make nutritive water from nothing (just as the Philosopher s Stone, as part
of alchemy, is not subject to magical rules from other disciplines).

43. Similarly, in charms there are specific spells to bring about narrowly defin
ed animation under the guidance of the caster (e.g. making objects dance), which
is fundamentally different to animation in transfiguration, which essentially g
ives objects their own intelligent will (but not necessarily free will or sentie
nce).
44. The simultaneous existence of transfiguration and scarcity in material goods
(39) is explained by the extreme difficulty of transfiguration, preventing the
large majority of wizards from using it to supply their needs, the five exceptio
ns to Gamp s Law, and the level to which even wizards competent in transfiguration
may specialise in a certain area of the art. Generalist masters of the field s
uch as Dumbledore, Voldemort and McGonagall are rare.